Former Panther, wife talk about losing septuplets

Faith, love and loss: A local family's story

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Seven babies -- a local Charlotte couple was shocked to learn about their pregnancy. Their doctors were terrified.

They agreed to talk to NBC Charlotte exclusively about their harrowing journey and the decision that will have a lot of you talking.

They are as all-American as it gets, Lindsey and Steve Justice. They were college athletes who met at Wake Forest.

Steve remembers the first time he saw his wife.

"I kind of noticed her, but she didn't really notice me."

Lindsey was a soccer player; Steve played college ball. He was so good that he went on to play with Peyton Manning and the Colts, and even spent some time as a Carolina Panther.

"We're best friends, we're best buds," They say in unison while talking to us on their living room couch.

Married for five years, their life together revolves around their faith and their family: Hannah, the 4-year old doe-eyed daddy's girl, and Hope, the 2-year-old who looks just like her mom.

The couple wanted more feet to add to a new family photo, and after nine months of trying for a third, learned Lindsey has PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can make it difficult to get pregnant.

"Every month seemed like 10 years. Any woman who goes through infertility knows that," Lindsey says.

Lindsey took fertility drugs and the couple considered adoption.

"It's just emotionally draining; its hard, and for me to see her going through's hard for me to watch her go through it."

But just when they were thinking about other options, a surprise came; for Steve's 30th birthday, Lindsey handed her husband a gift: her positive pregnancy test.

"From that point on it was just kind of a wild ride."

At the six-week ultrasound, the doctor was concerned.

Lindsey remembers, "First thing he says is, 'we have a problem.' I said, 'excuse me?'"

Though there had been just one egg, there appeared to be at least three sacks.

The doctor thought Lindsey could be carrying as many as six babies, and asked the couple about what's called selective reduction, terminating some of the pregnancies to help give the others a better chance at survival.

"He just said 'this is dangerous. The human body is not meant to carry six-plus babies, and for your health and for the babies--their chances of survival, your best medical option is to selectively reduce.' Steve and I didn't even have to look at each other. That was just not going to be an option."

The surprises kept coming. Lindsey's eight-week ultrasound showed there were in fact seven babies.

"We knew at that point, reaffirmed, that this was from God. It's not in our hands. It was a miracle, just a miracle. We were humbled to be counted worthy, although we're very unworthy to carry such a responsibility."

Most OBGYNS don't see this kind of pregnancy ever in their career-- seven is extremely rare.

The couple documented the pregnancy, taking home videos almost daily.

They knew they had to get to 23 weeks for the babies to have a chance.

They named them; the first letter of each baby's name together spells Messiah.

At 12 weeks they learned Lindsey miscarried one; they named Baby G Isaac.

At 16 weeks came yet another shocker.

"We were kind of joking they're all gonna be girls," Steve laughs. "And she did like a quickā€¦ and I was like are you kidding me? And she goes, they're all girls."

Each Sunday the family celebrated when Lindsey was still pregnant.

But in week 21, Lindsey knew something was wrong-- her water broke.

"I started to feel some contractions and I wanted to not believe that."

The couple rushed to the hospital where Lindsey gave birth to the baby they named Mercy.

"We said goodbye to Mercy, and I was laying on that table for two hours trying to do everything I could in my power, which was nothing, to relax and stop having contractions, but it wasn't God's will," Lindsey says.

It took just 10 minutes for Lindsey to give birth to the other five babies.

"She was holding three of them on her chest and I was getting the next two and I just wanted it stopped. I wanted them to stay in there, " Steve remembers. "I was sobbing and you're like, can you just stop it?"

The babies survived about two hours.

"And what I would give to nurse them, to hold them, to rock them to sleep, to dress them. I want to be their mom, I want them to be here, you know. But that wasn't God's will."

NBC Charlotte asked, "Your biggest chance to save some of them was to reduce. Do you regret the decision now?"

Lindsey didn't hesitate. "No. Oh gosh, I haven't even thought about that question. No, I would do the past however many, 21 weeks, again and again and again if I had the choice."

Both say they don't think the full weight of the loss has hit them.

"We don't have strength right now, we are broken, we are in deep mourning. We held each one of our six girls and said goodbye to them. They were all living. They all have birth certificates, they all have a first name a middle name and a last name."

They have the blankets that each baby was wrapped in on their bed; they each pick a different one to sleep with every night.

And there are other mementos: cherished photographs including a picture with all the babies' feet.

"She took a picture of all their feet for us, and to do that we had to ruffle their dresses and it hit me that this was the only time I would ever dress them cause that's what I love, that's what a mama does, I love dressing them. I got to dress them once and for all."

Lindsey and Steve wanted to tell their story because they want people to know despite all they have been through, they are hopeful about the future. They want people to know there can be hope amidst great sorrow.

They are inviting the public to a celebration of life in honor of the lost babies. It will be October 18 at 10 a.m. at the Forest Hill Church at 7224 Park Road in Charlotte.

You can find out much more about their journey on their blog: You'll need the password: HisGlory.


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