When Julie Grygla found out one year ago that she was expecting triplets, she proceeded to cry for what felt like four months. When those triplets were five months old, and she found out she was expecting twins, she laughed all night long.
Julie and her husband, Dave, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once thought they would never be able to have children because of fertility issues. In May, they will have five kids under 14 months old. Julie says that the knowledge that these children were meant to come to her family is what keeps her going.
“Dave once in his prayers said, ‘We’ll take as many spirits as you will send to this home. We will teach them the gospel and we will raise them up to you,’” Julie recalled. “We must be serious about that because he’s sending us all these kids. We really couldn’t be happier about it.”
There was a time four-and-a-half years ago when Julie questioned the existence of God. She was in her late 20s and single when her mother died while her parents were in the Missionary Training Center preparing to serve a mission for the LDS Church.
“It was a pretty dark time,” she remembered. “I really thought, 'Why would he (God) do something like that to me that he knew would destroy me?' And I wondered, how could a God who loves me hurt me so bad?”
But it was her mom’s death that caused Julie to move back home, which eventually put her in a place where she would meet her now-husband Dave on a blind date.
“Her death really shook me,” Julie said. “It just was hard, but I look back now and the chain of events that were triggered by her death never would have happened. A really marvelous thing came from the worst experience of my life.”
It was also her mother, who had 11 children of her own, who taught Julie by example how to handle all that her life now entails.
“I’m used to a lot of chaos,” Julie said. “My mother was extremely organized, so I learned a lot of survival and organizational skills just by watching her. … I’m a little bit better equipped than I otherwise would’ve been.”
Prior to her mom’s death, Julie said that she and her mother often “butted heads.” Julie was single and questioned whether she even wanted to get married and have children. She often gave her mom a hard time about her mom’s life choices, and questioned why her mother had devoted her time and attention to her family rather than other endeavors.
“She got really hurt one day when we were having one of these conversations,” Julie recalled. “And she said, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever done with my life, and to hear you talk so negatively about it really hurts my feelings.'”
Julie cited that moment as a “turning point” where she began to question her own priorities.
“In the last seven months having these boys, I have said many times a prayer in my heart of forgiveness for my mom to forgive me for saying or thinking the things I did,” Julie said. “Being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is the most rewarding thing.”
Julie was 30 and teaching at Brigham Young University when she was set up by her brother to go on a date with Dave Grygla, a family medicine doctor. Conveniently, he also completed a one-year fellowship that qualifies him to deliver babies. Dave always wanted to have a big family but had pretty much ruled out the possibility because he was 41 and not yet married.
“Dave was thrilled when he found out we were having triplets,” Julie remembered. “He kept saying, ‘I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I’m getting the big family I always wanted.’' ’
But it soon became very real, and Julie felt overwhelmed.
“I felt like my days would never be more than feeding them, changing them, putting them to bed and then pumping and making sure that I ate enough so that I could make enough milk for them," Julie said. "Those first few months were so hard. But now we play, and I sing songs with them. It’s so much more fun.”
She has found the value of relying on the Lord for help.
“Every time I would start to feel overwhelmed,” Julie said, “the Spirit would say to me, ‘Remember, I know what I’m doing. You’re going to be fine. You just need to lean on me a little more.’ So I would.”
On days where Julie feels she hasn’t been able to give each individual baby an adequate amount of love, she has found that “inevitably someone will show up at (her) front door wanting to hold a baby.” She has also found that Heavenly Father will give her little bits of inspiration to get her through the day, even if it’s just a feeling that she should lie down for 15 minutes, trusting that the rest of the day will go better.
“It’s the really small promptings of the Spirit that help you get through the day,” Julie said. “If I didn’t have that, this would be a lot more ugly, I think. There would be a lot more tears. When you take that away you’re left with your own strength and your own capacity, which with three infants doesn’t go very far.”
When the triplets were four months old, both Dave and Julie had separate experiences that led them to believe they weren’t meant to be done having children. They felt strongly that God was giving them a choice: They could either go ahead and have more children or they could wait — but if they waited, fertility would become an issue again.
Although the triplets came with the help of artificial insemination and after a year and a half of negative pregnancy tests, the twins came completely spontaneously and the first pregnancy test came back positive. Julie feels that the inspiration she received and the conscious decision that she and her husband made to follow that inspiration prepared them to receive the news.
“I was delighted to have been prepared by the Lord so that it was something that was joyful, rather than something that was a shock and hard for me to process," Julie said. "With the triplets, I cried through the first four months of my pregnancy because I was so scared and so shocked and so not up for it. This time I’ve just been able to be excited from the beginning.”
Julie admits that she occasionally worries about how she is going to fit five car seats in their minivan or how she is going to get sleep in the first few weeks of the babies’ lives. But beyond that, she says she doesn’t really worry. Instead, she is excited that her kids will always have each other to lean on.
“I’m grateful that they will all have a buddy, all the way through," Julie said. "They don’t have to go through these hard times alone. They will have each other to get in trouble with, but also to keep each other on the straight and narrow. That is a great comfort to me. And we’re just going to have a lot of fun.”