On April 3, 2012, the Nielsons experienced another miracle—the birth of their daughter Charlotte.
“For a long time, I didn’t want to ask if I could have more children because I wanted it so badly,” Nielson recalls. “I didn’t want to hear ‘no’ from anyone.”
But about two years after the plane crash, she was ready to know. “I wanted another baby before the accident, so I was definitely ready,” she says.
Nielson was thrilled when the doctor told her it was possible—her lower abdomen was one of the few areas that wasn’t burned in the accident. In fact, after she gave birth, doctors were even able to reuse the stretched skin from her stomach for other parts of her body. But carrying a baby to term would be a very painful endeavor.
“I had to go off all my pain medication,” she explains. “And my skin didn’t stretch because it is scarred, so the normal weight gain was painful, but it wasn’t anything I had to have surgery for. I knew it was going to be hard, but I knew that I could do this. When she came, it was a tender mercy. I think about myself lying in the hospital, and my outlook was so dim. I was sad and lonely and frustrated. If I had had a glimpse of where I am right now, I would never have weakened. This is something I pictured myself doing, and I’ve worked really hard to get here. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and hope.”
A Firm Foundation
Because of the accident, Nielson says her family has learned to rely more completely on the gospel. They have also grown stronger and gained a new perspective on life.
“It’s brought us all closer and made us realize how valuable and how short life can be. What really matters is love and relationships,” she says. “I want my children to remember that there were miracles that came from our experience. We’ve learned so much and gained so much strength and knowledge and a deeper testimony of what we’re doing. As hard and difficult as it was, I’m grateful, and I feel so proud of where we are. For being so young, our kids have gone through a lot and have come through it wonderfully.”
The Nielsons’ marriage has been strengthened, too. “Christian is amazing,” she says. “He’s been the one who takes care of me. And because he was also burned, he knows how I’m feeling and what I’m going through. You can complain all you want to your husband about being pregnant, but he won’t really know. We understand each other’s wounds and are more reliant on each other.”
“We are so blessed to have the knowledge that we have,” she says. “I can’t imagine going through the accident without a testimony of the gospel plan, of the Savior, without knowing there is a God. Our family fasted and prayed and relied on the Atonement so much. Everyone is going to have problems and challenges, but it’s so much easier having these things. We are so much stronger than we think we are. I am so much more than a human going through some problems. I’m a daughter of God getting through this with God’s love and help. That’s what I like to tell people—and myself.”
She adds, “There is divine purpose in all that we do. We can be grateful for what we have and make it into something better. We can gain strength from our experiences rather than dwell on how horrible they were. There is a loving Heavenly Father who wants us to grow from trials, and it’s up to us to do that. We have been given all the tools and more to get through anything that comes our way.”
This is the cover story of the July/August 2012 issue of LDS Living. Read more about the issue and order a copy here: LDS Living July/August 2012 issue.
Also, find out more about Stephanie Nielson's positive outlook on life in her new book, Heaven Is Here. You can also watch an inspirational video, "My New Life," with Stephanie talking about her changes and blessings since the accident.