Rosalie’s testimony proves the beauty, wisdom and closeness of the Lord to those who trust Him.
I believe my wonderful journey to become even closer to God began when I was 22.
At this age I had 2 young boys, Chad, who wasn’t quite 2 years old, and Liam only 6 months old.
With children so young, the only place that I felt I had a few minutes of quiet time to myself was in the toilet of all places! So, one particular day, this is where I took the opportunity to pray. Yes, I can honestly say it’s OK to pray to God anywhere!
I can remember feeling very emotional and crying as I thanked God for these two precious little boys. I felt so happy to be a mother!
As I longed for a large family, I asked God to please bless me with more children, with my request to God for twins.
I guess for me at that time in my life I was sort of looking for proof that God was planning my life, and I also knew that I was searching for a closer relationship with him.
I can remember almost feeling guilty for asking for more children because I knew I had children when other women didn’t, but it was on my heart so strong.
If only God could bless me in this way.
I said to Him that “even if one child was handicapped, I would love and care for this child with all my heart”.
Well, about a month later my prayers were answered as the doctor confirmed I was pregnant.
As my tummy grew, I believed I was having twins, although the doctor didn’t pick this up.
I confided in my older sister and told her that I ‘knew’ I would be having twins, and one child may be handicapped. She found my certainty hard to believe, like most people would. So, from that point on I decided not to mention it to anyone else, but to just wait and trust in God.
When I was 26 weeks pregnant, I was placed in the Port Pirie hospital with intense pain (what I believed to be contractions). An X-ray was done which revealed twins for the first time. This was certainly a surprise for everyone! The X-ray also showed one baby retaining too much fluid and not passing it out which was a big concern for everyone.
A week later I was put into the Queen Victoria Hospital in Adelaide for further tests to be done. This was 1983 when the Adelaide hills were ablaze with fire and the billowing smoke was not far from the hospital.
A few days later when about to use the ward toilet, a feeling of panic overcame me as my body began delivering one of our babies. I remember praying to God for help as I rang the emergency button. Cupped in my hands I held and supported part of a tiny body between my legs as I desperately prayed for help to save these precious babies who were 3 months premature.
After waking up from the emergency Caesarian, the nurses showed me photos of our babies. Amazingly they had survived.
Against all odds, at 27 weeks’ gestation on Ash Wednesday 16th February, two little girls were born who we named Narelle (weighing 3-pound 2 oz) and Sharee (weighing 2-pound 12 oz).
I knew God’s hand was completely at work in my life, especially through the staff and doctors that day.
Also, being Ash Wednesday, it was an horrendous and dangerous journey of 6 hours for my husband and brother to reach the hospital from Port Pirie.
As they travelled, they endured shocking conditions of chocking smoke,100km per hour winds causing severe (statewide) dust storms, a 43-degree temperature and an extremely low driving visibility.
They were desperate to reach the hospital, not knowing how we were going.
Thankfully, God guided them and kept them safe.
Little Narelle unfortunately was not able to pass out the collection of fluid held in her tiny body quick enough and therefore had a brain haemorrhage the next day. Other complications with her liver, lungs, kidneys and heart meant that we nearly lost her on several occasions throughout the first month of her life.
At one point the doctor put the question to us whether we would consider turning off Narelle’s life support, but for me the answer was there before the question, as I knew God had meant Narelle to live.
I knew through all this experience that God was teaching me to trust Him, lean on Him and draw on the strength that only He could give me to get through these new challenges in my life.
It was a very tough, stressful, and emotional time for our 2 little boys, as well as my husband, my family and me as the twins remained in hospital (even at times needing to be in separate hospitals) for 3 months.
Sharee came home first, and at 3 months of age she now weighed 5 pound. She seemed to us to be ‘a real little fatty’ after being born with basically no fat on her body.
I felt very humbled to have Narelle join our family 2weeks later.We were so blessed.
And so, with having 4 children in two and a half years, the theory of taking one day at a time came into play.
350 nappies a week to wash and soak, 3 hourly feeds for the twins (round the clock) which took at least one and a half hours to accomplish each time as they were so premature, plus meals to provide, a husband on shift work, our eldest boy still suffering at night time with a twisted bowel, teething children, chicken pox etc. and approx. 20 mins a day sleep for me … all was somewhat a challenge. Sometimes I would set an alarm for 3 mins through the day so I could sleep while still caring for our children.
Unfortunately, because of the brain haemorrhage, Narelle was severely handicapped with Cerebral Palsy so trips from Port Pirie to the Woodville Spastic Centre in Adelaide every 4 weeks also took priority.
Narelle also had cardiomyopathy, but medication was helping to control this.
Even though these were hard times I remained proud and thankful to God for every day.
After a few years I began to search for facilities available to help young, handicapped children in Port Pirie between the ages of 0 – 5.
Unfortunately there was nothing!
This is where I believe God’s plan unfolded, as he blessed me with strength and courage to pioneer the Pre-school Special Needs Group for Handicapped Children in Port Pirie and Surrounding Districts.
Funding miraculously came in from lobbying certain Government welfare groups, and before long, 3 sessions a week were available with occupational and physiotherapists, heated pool facilities, and toys and equipment to help 14 young children with varying disabilities.
To achieve this, I certainly had to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself, but my inspiration, vision and strength all came from God.
I was meant to do this for these special little children and their families.
In 1986, only a few years later, Pre-school programs for the disabled at the Port Pirie kindergartens became recognized and established with the government
now supporting their needs.
I’m sure that this was some of God’s purpose and meaning by blessing me with a handicapped child.
During this time however I was troubled, as God spoke to me about losing one of my children.
I found this so very upsetting as I was unsure of which child would die and I loved them all so dearly.
I confided with my younger sister as we shared a very strong bond, knowing one day I would need her love and our family’s support to get through this sad time ahead.
However, the unwanted pieces of the puzzle began to unfold as Narelle’s heart muscle began to thicken and her cardiomyopathy worsened.
Night after night I would hear the faint whimper of her voice and go into her bedroom, gently pick up her unconscious body and lay her on the lounge room floor, praying to God to comfort her.
The first time Narelle died was at home. But God performed a miracle for us.
I knew several minutes had passed from the time I had last given her mouth to mouth on the way to the hospital before the emergency staff could help her. My prayers were for her not to have more brain damage.
She was taken by air ambulance to Adelaide in a critical condition.
As I sat and prayed by her bed in the hospital for 2 days while she remained in a coma, I felt comforted by God.
The word ‘mum’ was only one of the 4 words that Narelle knew how to say because of her disability. How beautiful it was when she opened her eyes and said *MUM”.
God’s compassion had lifted my burden.
Speaking to the specialist after Narelle’s ordeal, he said that it was beyond medical explanation of how her heart (which was in such a bad way) was able to get through this. His words were “I believe this to be a miracle!”
We returned home and enjoyed our last 2 weeks with Narelle. This time was very precious as it gave us a chance to prepare our children for the sad time to come.
Two nights before Narelle’s death, God woke me through the night at about 2 o’clock and told me to put the radio on. A song began which I had never heard before, but I knew the words were for me to listen to. The song told me that the time had come for Narelle to go to be with God in heaven and although I would miss her, she would be in Paradise until we would meet again. I understood that God only ‘lent’ me this little child, and I was so blessed and thankful for her.
Narelle was only 4 years old when she died, but she had touched many lives. My grief was heavy, and in dealing with this I produced a video tribute to Narelle whereby the special song I listened to was included.
God’s plan of healing and bringing joy back to our family was very touching. I was pregnant at the time of her death, and we were blessed with another beautiful little girl 6 months later.
Time has passed since then, having had 7 children and now 6 lovely grandchildren.
This reflection shared with you has been only one of the countless times God has shone His presence into my life.
What a blessing it is to know the Lord, to feel his presence and power, and to be strengthened and guided by His word. I am so grateful to Him and will forever praise His wonderful name.
Rosalie Freebairn (Rosalie is part of the Bute church)