< Return to December Bulletin contents

'Last hope' brings new life (times three)
By Ryan Miller

In the Advent season, believers see humanity’s hope in a smiling babe. For Jenny and Chip Jenkins, that hope exists in triplicate.

After a three-year struggle to conceive, Jenny, associate professor of biology currently on leave, gave birth on June 6 to two boys, Christian and Benjamin, and a girl, Jodilyn.

“It’s certainly not entirely our doing that we had children. It’s obviously up to God,” Jenny said.

Science helped in the process, too. Like many couples struggling with infertility, the Jenkinses had gone through a number of treatments and trials during the conception process – hormones, artificial insemination and more.

“Infertility is like a roller coaster ride,” Jenny said. “Every month was a process of building hope and then disappointment. Then you wait a few weeks and try again.”

They had decided to adopt, until Jenny decided she wanted to try in vitro fertilization – once.

“We hadn’t gotten our hopes too high, we knew this was kind of our last chance, our last hope,” she said.

Beginning in late summer of 2000, Jenny started the in vitro fertilization process. She traveled 90 minutes to Fort Wayne, Ind., every other day for blood work, returning to Goshen in time to teach her 9 a.m. classes. She took injections twice daily to help prepare her body to maintain a pregnancy. On a Sunday in November 2000, the doctor harvested her eggs. Three days later, three fertilized eggs were returned to Jenkins’ body.

The chance that any one of the eggs would implant and survive was less than one in four.

All three eggs survived.

“My mother told me, ‘All I’ve been doing is praying: implant, implant, implant.’ I said, ‘Mom, I think you prayed for too many,’” Jenny laughed. “My husband told everyone he could. He told the paper boy, the pizza delivery guy, … (even) telemarketers.”

Pregnancy alone was a major life change, as was the couple’s move to Grand Rapids, Mich., where Chip is a learning resource teacher at Kentwood public schools. But for all the hope, and their feeling that the pregnancy was an answer to prayer, trauma remained in their future.

Born two months premature and weighing 3.5 pounds, all three babies suffered from apnea, a condition that meant they would stop breathing as they slept. Chris and Ben spent four weeks in the hospital where Chris struggled to breathe and Ben learned to eat. Jodi remained hospitalized until late-July as a hole in her lung – a hole that nearly killed her the night after her birth – healed and she learned how to feed.

Nurses later told the Jenkinses that Jodi “crashed” that evening because her lungs could not fill with air. Doctors inserted a chest tube and placed her on a ventilator, which Jenkins credits with saving her daughter’s life.

“The largest struggle for me was when I had to leave the hospital, not taking any one of them with me,” Jenny said.

But despite the joy when all three infants arrived safely home, low points remain since the family became five. Jenny and Chip averaged two or three hours of sleep a night for the first several months and with three mouths to feed, three bottoms to diaper and three bodies to hold, the work rarely ceases. The family gets help from friends and family, but the largest load still falls on the parents.

“Some days I wake up and just cry because I can’t handle it. At least once a day I get to the point of saying, ‘Why did we do this? What were we thinking?’” Jenny said. “Then you look at them and they are beautiful creatures. They are our children.”

Jenny has not abandoned her professorial career. In fact, she sees some similarities between caring for triplets and teaching college courses.

“There’s a lot of growth that takes place on a college campus too. There’s excitement and young life,” she said. “It was neat to watch a group of them growing too – how they change, their attitudes change, they mature, they start to think about their future more.

“At home, every day you see something so neat with the babies. In the last week Jodi and Chris and Ben are now smiling at each other. Before they never paid attention, but now they look and grin and laugh,” she continued. “Right now I see hope in the eyes of my children. I look at them and see the future.”

Return to December Bulletin contents
About this issue – Stretching our hands toward hope - Editor Rachel Lapp
The end is the beginning – “A contagion of hope”
- President Shirley H. Showalter
Finding hope in the cemetery
- Don Blosser, professor of Bible
'Last hope' brings new life (times three)
- Ryan Miller interviews Jenny Jenkins, assistant professor of Biology
Hope in the final act: It's our scene
- Alan '62 and Eleanor '57 Kreider
'God is still right beside me': A faith walk with MS
- Ryan Miller interviews Kim Kulp Birk '98

In search of hope
- Brian R. Hook '93
Alumni in New York City reflect on 9-11
- Mervin Horst '84, Malinda E. Berry '96

Return to Goshen College home page