I was recently at a women's event in my local Church where a friend of mine had been asked to share her testimony. As I listened, encouraged by what the Lord had done for her and her Hubby, I knew I had to ask her if she would share her story. So here is a Guest Post from my friend Pam:
My husband and I had a very big year in 2004. It was one of those years where quite a few life changing events took place and it didn't stop until….. well, it hasn't stopped yet! The catalyst year though was definitely 2004. We were married in April 2004, but then had to say goodbye to three close family members. My gran and also my great-aunt, along with my mother-in-law all passed away within a few weeks of each other. My mother-in-law left the biggest hole in our lives. Her name was Mary and she was an amazing prayer warrior – always interceding for us and always so full of love for everyone. I tolerated the “Christian” aspect of her life because, unlike so many other Christians I had met, Mary’s faith was helping people around her.
At this point I think it would be useful for you to know where I was in my walk with Jesus – I hadn't even put my sandals on! No, at this point in my life I was still a proud atheist who didn't need the crutch of religion to help me deal with life. I was a strong, independent person who took control of her destiny and I had stopped believing in things like the Easter bunny and Santa when I was a child. My thoughts towards anyone who believed in a higher power were not complimentary and (in short) I felt that they should all stop messing about and get on with life in the REAL world. My husband was (and still is) a Christian, but he had wandered away slightly. He was still aware of Jesus and the love of God, but chose to ignore them. It was just before his mum died that he made the decision to go back to Church and live again for Jesus, but that is a testimony for another day – back now to other interesting things that happened in 2004!
This was also the year we decided to start trying for a baby. We started in January of 2004 (thinking that as we were getting married in April anyway that it was OK! ). By November I still wasn't pregnant, so I went to my doctor for some routine checks. I think now is probably a good time to tell you about my health in general. My health in general was good, especially now that I had quit smoking, however – despite losing around five stone for the wedding, I was still around 28 stone. Yep – 28 stone and wondering why I wasn't pregnant yet (d’oh!). Despite my weight, the doctor was amazing and checked everything rather than simply dismissing my lack of babies to my size. She asked me lots of questions, gave me a smear and a quick internal exam and even offered to refer me to a dietitian (which I declined because I wasn't fat!).
About a week later, the doctor called me at home and told me that my smear test had come back as abnormal and I would need to see someone at the hospital for a colposcopy (This is a procedure to examine an illuminated, magnified view of the cervix and the tissues of the vagina and vulva, using a machine which magnifies the area to be examined in a similar way to a pair of binoculars on a pole!). I had no idea what was going on. I felt frightened and had to wait over Christmas before my appointment at the hospital in January 2005.
When January came around, I was completely unprepared. I thought colposcopies were simply a longer smear test. No-one said there might be cutting. I managed to hold it together while I was in the hospital, but as soon as I saw my husband, I broke down. I knew the doctors were doing what they needed to do and I trusted them completely. They explained that because of what they could see, they would need to do a biopsy. The nurse was comforting and compassionate – everything in that room was done with the upmost care and consideration, yet I still felt I had been violated. I took a few days off work and just sat in front of the telly. I didn't really talk to anyone for those few days but gradually I came out of it and went back to work.
On 14th February 2005, I was diagnosed with 2a2 cervical cancer. This means that the cancer is over 4cm and is trying to spread. The consultant said he needed to remove the cancer with surgery then he would formulate a plan of treatment. The rest of the year consisted of surgery, recuperation, more surgery and recuperation and plenty of waiting. During my birthday and our first wedding anniversary I was recovering from surgery and my poor husband would have had
more fun in the bedroom if he’d had stayed single! Then in July 2005, my consultant called me at work and said he needed to see me ASAP. My boss overheard the conversation and insisted she come with me. I was so glad that she did. At the time I thought it was probably my consultant being overprotective, but at least my boss would know I wasn't lying about having cancer and needing lots of time off!
My consultant said that my latest blood results were through and the result of an MRI scan. He said that they had found tumours in my blood and the MRI showed my lymph nodes in my groin were enlarged. These things together meant they had not been successful in removing the cancer before it spread; I would need to have the lymph nodes removed from my groin; I would need chemotherapy and possibly radiotherapy; my chances of survival were not good.
My consultant booked surgery for me to take place in August 2005 – my husband and his Church started praying.
After the surgery my consultant was astounded. The surgery, although difficult, was a success; He had held the inflamed lymph nodes in his hand and saw how swollen they were – yet, results had come back to say that there was no cancer in ANY of the nodes. They checked my bloods again and the tumours had gone! I had been spared! Saved by the hand of God, but it still wasn't enough to make me believe.
During 2005, when my husband was going to Church and re-kindling his relationship with Abba, something was changing in him. Something good, and I started to ask questions about my husband’s faith and who God was to him. This change also prompted me to read lots of books while I was recovering from surgery. I chose books about God and religion (for and against) but the best book I read was “Word on the Street” (A paraphrased Bible, written by a man with terminal cancer). For the first time ever, I had read the Bible and not felt immediately bored, lost and confused! I could read this book like, well, a book! And my favourite book inside my favourite Book was Job. Yes – Job. It is still my favourite book of the Bible today, but back then it was because I identified with the suffering and the isolation of Job. I started to study Job and his actions. I looked at the council he was receiving from his friends and his wife. I started to think about how much I loved my own husband and how much pain would my husband have to be in for me to want him to die? And then I began to think about Job’s refusal to curse God. I came to the conclusion that Job must have had a REAL encounter with God in his life. That “God” for Job was something more than a story. Real enough for him to endure suffering and choose God over his wife.
The removal of my lymph nodes in August 2005 was to be my last cancer surgery, so I asked my consultant if I could start trying for a baby again. The news he gave me was awful. My consultant said that due to my size, I would find it very difficult to conceive, but not only that, the cancer was so big that what was left of my cervix would not be enough to support a baby. If I did manage to get pregnant, I would miscarry.
We needed a holiday. So in April 2006, my husband and I went on a second honeymoon to the Maldieves – bliss! We had talked about the baby situation and decided that we would keep trying for a baby, but neither of us really held out much hope. Plus, my periods since surgery had become so painful I often ended up in hospital on morphine! I really wanted to go on the pill and stop my periods so, two months was the time-frame. If I wasn't pregnant by then, we would stop trying.
The holiday was amazing, but I couldn't get Job and God out of my head; so one night, when Hubby was asleep, I prayed. In my head I said this “God – I have read everything for and against you, I have seen the change in my husband’s life and I am in no doubt that if you are real, you are a loving God. That is my issue though. IF YOU ARE REAL. No-one can prove or dis-prove your existence. If I am going to live for You, I need to know You are real. So I am going to stop doing something that I know you don’t like and in return You are going to prove to me You are real. Amen”. I am laughing my head off writing this! It’s a good job God can see our hearts – I'm not sure I would get away with a prayer like that now!
God is a loving and generous God – the perfect Father. We are not exactly sure if our baby was conceived on that night or the following night but it was by the grace and generosity of God that our baby was made.
Obviously I didn't know I was pregnant at that point – I found out a couple of months later. Because of my size, my periods were not regular and I felt that it would be better for me to start the contraceptive pill after I had one final, natural, extremely painful period. So, two months passed – and still no visit from Aunt Flo, hmmm. My first thought was “Oh-no, the cancer is back.” So I made myself an appointment with the doctor and as per procedure, I do a pregnancy test (because when doctors are fiddling in that area, they like to know you are not pregnant and unless you tell them you took a test yourself and you know you are not pregnant, they will make you wee in a jar and test you themselves!) but the result is unfamiliar to me. There should be one line, not two. I don’t know what two lines mean and I think I may have stuffed up the test, so I do another one. Two lines again. I call my Hubby and ask him to bring the instructions in from the bedroom while I do wee-wees on yet another test. My Hubby is now in the bathroom with me, reading the instructions out loud while I am peeing on a fourth test. “Two lines means you are pregnant” he said. We both looked at each other, my husband with overwhelming joy in his eyes while I must have looked like a rabbit caught in headlights! Such joyous news – we had managed to get pregnant, but my thoughts went immediately to the words spoken over me by my consultant, “Your cervix is too small and too weak to support a pregnancy. You will miscarry”.
As soon as my consultant found out I was pregnant, he arranged weekly scans on my cervix and sure enough, as my healthy baby grew, my cervix began to open and it looked as though I was going to miscarry. At this point I was still not a Christian, but my husband’s faith and re-commitment was flourishing. He had the whole church praying for this baby and my salvation! At exactly 11 weeks pregnant, my consultant saw “funnelling” on my cervical scan (an indication that the cervix was opening). He told me of a procedure he could do called a cerclage which would basically mean he would wrap a stitch around my cervix to ensure it stayed closed. It would mean having a general anesthetic and potentially a c-section to deliver the baby. There was also another complication – the pregnancy has to be a minimum of 12 weeks before the cerclage can be done. I was only 11 weeks.
My consultant booked the surgery for the following week and ordered me to stay in bed until I needed to come to hospital for the procedure.
It was one of the longest weeks of my life, knowing that my baby could potentially fall out at any moment. But God is good! The baby stayed in long enough for me to have the surgery.
I was completely unaware of the intercession happening behind the scenes, because although my husband told me that he and the Church were praying, I was still in the mind set of “I bet they are only saying that to be nice. No-one likes me really because I’m not even a Christian”.
I was around five months pregnant when God reminded me of my promise to Him in the Maldives. The promise where I said He had to prove He existed in order for me to be comfortable following Him! So I held up my end of the bargain and gave my life to Him. As soon as I said the prayer I was on fire for His Word! I couldn't get enough of it. I wasn't working, so all I did all day was read and chat with God! He grew me so much in those first two months because He needed me to be strong in Him for what was about to come.
On the 11th Dec 2006, I awoke with a pain in my back. It was around the time I would normally get up anyway, so I asked my Hubby if he would mind rubbing my back a little as we lay in bed. His warm hands soon eased the pain and he asked me if I was OK? The pain was similar to the type of pain you would get on your period only intensified. I re-assured him that now the pain had gone I felt fine and we got up as usual. My Hubby soon left for work and I was in the flat alone. Normally I would get on with the housework, watch some telly and generally enjoy being pregnant, but today something was different. I was getting some strong Braxton Hicks (a normal part of pregnancy where muscles contract in preparation for labour) and I was really fidgety. I couldn't sit still and I couldn't seem to get comfy. I decided I had too much energy and needed to go for a walk! When I got back the Braxton Hicks were worse than ever and I still couldn't get comfy. It was at this point (around 1:30pm) when I decided to call the hospital and have a little chat, you know, get some advice etc. When I explained to the midwife what I was experiencing, she said to me “have you had a show?”
I said “no, I am only 34 and a bit weeks pregnant and I have a cerclage, so I won’t have a show and my waters probably won’t break either.”
To which the midwife calmly replied, “how soon can you come in?”
“I can’t come in right now as my husband has taken the car to work and I’m not getting on the bus, so I’ll be there around 6pm-ish. And I can’t stay long because I have to be at my father-in-law’s home for dinner this evening.” Was my response.
In the same lovely calming voice the midwife said, “you come in whenever you’re ready Mrs Gibson. We’ll be ready for you.”
I hung up, annoyed that the midwives seem to want you to come in for every little thing. All I wanted was a bit of advice! Hubby arrived home at 5:30pm to find me on the bed doing some interesting breathing to help me through the pain of the Braxton Hicks. I told him that the midwife at the hospital had asked me to come in, but we didn't have to go if it would mean upsetting his dad. My husband’s reply was, “you’re going to the hospital and I think we should take the overnight bag.”
Once at the hospital we were swiftly escorted to the Labour Ward, where I was hooked up to monitors and separated from my trousers and pants. I started my controlled breathing again as yet another Braxton Hicks appeared. The midwife watching the monitors said “Can you feel that?”
“Yes,” I replied “It feels like a period cramp – the breathing keeps the pain away.”
The midwife left the room and immediately came back with a doctor. Now I was getting annoyed. “Is this going to take much longer?” I said to the doctor, “ I've got dinner plans this evening”
The doctor looked at me and said “Mrs Gibson, you are in labour…”
“No I’m not!” I interrupted “It’s too soon for the baby to come and besides, this is just Braxton Hicks, it’s not enough pain for it to be labour!”
The doctor looked like he’d seen my type before, so he knew exactly how to deal with me.
“Mrs Gibson, cancel your dinner plans. You are not leaving this bed for at least 48 hours. You are in labour and yes it is too soon. We are now going to give you drugs to help slow the contractions and we are going to give your baby some steroids to help the lungs develop in time for delivery.”
I shut up after that. Hubby was on the mobile to the prayer chain and our family to let them know what was happening. I just watched in silence as people rushed about the room sticking things in my arms and my tummy. I didn't know it at the time, but I realise now that God simply took me to one side for a moment and allowed the situation to wash over me. I heard the doctor say that they wouldn't cut the stitch until baby had the full dose of steroids, to give it the best possible chance of survival. Survival? Really? Didn't they know that God was here? Didn't they know that everything was going to be alright? God’s peace was upon me and I knew everything would be OK.
God’s best move in that room was when it was time to cut the stitch I had three doctors, three nurses and my Hubby pinning me down while a 4th doctor came at my nether regions with scissors. I remember trying to keep calm and still, but it was impossible. I had this overwhelming urge to fight and my best efforts were not enough to contain it. I called out to Abba and my flesh became calmer. I could still hear myself screaming, but I wasn't fighting anymore. I could hear my Hubby talking to me, but I couldn't hear what he was saying. I felt him stroke my hair and I saw him crying. God lifted something of me out of that situation, so I could take in what was happening, but also not feel like I was part of it. Throughout the whole experience I could hear myself screaming, but I don’t know why I was screaming because I felt very calm. To this day I still feel total peace when I think of this moment. Thank You Abba.
On the 15th December 2006 at 11:45pm, my baby boy – Toby James Gibson – was delivered by emergency c-section. He spent three long weeks in special care (which I believe was the time God was preparing me for) and we finally took him home on 3rd January 2007, two whole weeks before his actual due date.
I had never been so happy! I loved being pregnant, I loved the birth and hospital and having my son finally at home, but I couldn't help thinking “If only I’d have been a Christian sooner….” I could have prayed into everything and evangelised to the people in the hospital and they would be able to see God with their own eyes, as I had done. So my next “deal” with God was,
“If you let me have another, I’ll do it right this time!”
Within eight months of giving birth to Toby, I was pregnant again and this time I was going to do it right! As soon as I found out I was pregnant I declared anything I could think of over my child, the main items being that there would be no cerclage, I would have a natural birth and the pregnancy would last exactly 40 weeks!
Just as with Toby’s pregnancy, I was given a scan every week to check my cervix and every so often I would be told that they could see funnelling and I would need a cerclage. Whenever this happened I would go home, pray and stand firm on the declarations I had made over my unborn child.
I also said to God that if the doctors said I needed something, I would do as the doctors asked. There was no way I was going to be “experimental” with my child’s life, so if the doctors said I needed a cerclage, I would have one. If God knew I didn't need a cerclage, then He would have to change the doctor’s mind in order not to have the cerclage. And that is exactly what God did – every time! On one occasion I even turned up with my overnight bag, expecting to have the surgery, only to find the doctors had changed their mind again, and all of a sudden I no longer needed a cerclage! How awesome is God? That He sees our hearts in such detail and cares for us in such an individual way. God saw my faith and moved the opinions of stubborn doctors (which in many ways is much harder to move than a mountain!)
My baby was born on her due date – exactly 40 weeks! 1st May 2008 at 10:45am – Zoey Ann Gibson – came into the world! It was amazing, but one of my declarations fell flat. I declared that I would have a natural birth this time, but Zoey was also c-section. God had been so amazing and I had seen Him move so many times in this pregnancy – why was the answer to this prayer “No”.
My husband was holding Zoey in his arms and the surgeon was about to close my tummy when he asked for the nurse to call my consultant and have them report directly to the operating theatre. My heart sank. My first thought was that they had found more tumours. I looked at my husband and he stroked my head. Then my consultant came in, holding the surgical mask over her face she peered into my yawning tummy. “I know why your periods are so painful now,” she said, “Your cervix has attached itself to your uterus. You would never have had a natural birth and I am not entirely sure how you managed to get pregnant in the first place!” The consultant went on to explain that this type of thing is not uncommon when surgery has taken place on the cervix and it would have happened when the cancer was first removed in 2005.
It suddenly became clear why God said “No!” to a natural birth. He wanted me to understand how much of a miracle these children really are! That only God could have made me pregnant! Twice! And in quick succession!
There were many more things that happened during these pregnancies and births – all conquered by prayer, persistence and faith in the promises of God. He is in control – He knows the beginning from the end – He also knows not only the perfect time for us to carry a child, but also the perfect time that He wants the child to be born. While we may feel spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially etc. ready to have a child, the time/place that is the most beneficial environment for the child to grow in (and to best reflect the glory of God), may be further down the road. While you await the arrival of your promise, the enemy will try and deceive you, he will try to make you hand over the promises God had given you. Stand firm! At every attempt – stand on your individual promise, given to you by God Himself. Claim that promise! Shout the truth loud and clear!
You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.
2 Chronicles 20:17