THE COVENANT

In August 1987, I lay in the recovery room fighting back tears. The anesthetic did little to dull the pain inflicted by the doctor's words, "Your left ovary was removed because of the large cyst. This decreases your chances of getting pregnant by 50 percent." This news was bad enough. But when I asked about the baby, he told me that a D&C had been performed prior to the discovery of the cyst. My baby had been aborted!

Because I had no medical insurance, there had been no ultrasound. The diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy the day before had been determined by the symptoms I was experiencing: a positive pregnancy test and severe pain in my lower left abdomen resulted in the death of a precious child!

I had never really wanted children. Growing up, I viewed them as bothersome and a hindrance to my independence and dreams of becoming a world renowned writer. Those who knew our family would say, "Tami (my younger sister) will probably have eight or nine. Cheryl might have one." My plans were thwarted however, when I discovered I was pregnant a few days after my 19th birthday. Believing I was doing the right thing, I married my baby's father. This stormy marriage lasted three years.

Terry and I met at the pizza place where I worked when he became the manager in 1986. He quickly became my best friend and a physical relationship followed. We married in December, a few months after the death of our unborn child. My three-year-old daughter, Amanda was our flower girl. Six weeks later, I presented my husband with a gift wrapped in Valentine's Day paper--a baby rattle. Our daughter Stephanie was born in October, via c-section.

My first child was breach and though I wanted to try a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean,) my obstetrician said it was too risky. I was content with two children. Terry however, desired to have a son. Emily was born in April 1992. Following a grueling miscarriage in 1994, I began to consider sterilization. I visited my OB in December for a pre-op check-up and discovered that I was pregnant again.

Haley, my fourth child born via c-section, was taken early because the doctor feared that my scar would rupture if I went into labor. Weighing 4 lbs 3 oz., she was our smallest baby. I decided my body had been through enough with four c-sections, plus needing surgery to remove my ovary and another cyst on my right ovary. I scheduled a sterilization procedure for Terry several different times. He always had a reason for missing those appointments.

In December 1996, two weeks after yet another positive pregnancy test, I discovered that my husband was having an affair. We were headed for a divorce, but the Lord miraculously intervened. As our Pastor counseled us, he asked that we attend a week-long IBLP Basic Seminar. Less than two weeks after accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior, we were sitting in an auditorium learning about seven non-optional Biblical principles that teach how to view life from an eternal perspective. Though this information was foreign to us, when Mr. Gothard suggested we give our fertility to the Lord, Terry and I both felt the Holy Spirit tugging at our hearts. I resisted at first, telling Terry, "We could end up with ten children!" I was facing yet another c-section in August and wondered how much more my body could endure. By the end of the week however, the Lord made His request clear to both of us, and we entered into this covenant with Him.

During my first prenatal appointment a few weeks later with an unfamiliar OB, the elderly doctor studied my obstetrical history and gruffly asked, "Why do you keep having c-sections? Is something wrong with you that prevents you from having your babies the normal way?" I was not prepared for his question.

"The first was breech and the others were just repeats. I've had four..." He surely must have missed that. "I see. I still think you should try." That was all that was said and I left believing this man was a quack and if I listened to him, I would end up dead. After all, my last child had been taken early to prevent rupturing that fragile uterine scar.

My pastor's wife had driven me to my appointment and I discussed this with her on the drive home. She asked, "Have you ever considered it?" She patiently listened as I voiced my concerns. Finally she asked if I would be willing to look into it and offered to give me some information. Terry and I poured over the information and began praying about this possibility.

By the time I returned for my next appointment a month later, we were convinced the Lord was directing our steps and I informed the doctor that we would indeed like to try a VBAC. A few weeks before my due date, the obstetrician questioned this decision. Apparently, he had discussed it with his colleagues and could find no support. They all agreed that it was too risky, considering I'd had experienced four c-sections. Though we signed waivers releasing the doctor, the hospital and staff from any obligation, he continued to pressure us into changing our minds. He told me that no one in Indiana had successfully delivered vaginally after four c-sections.

His words were meant to strike fear in me, but only instilled a sense of determination instead. I looked forward to what the Lord was about to do in this situation. I was given several stipulations regarding the birth. I would not be allowed to go even a few days past my due date. I would only be allowed so much time for each stage of labor. I would be monitored constantly duringlabor. Two days before my due date, I drank Castor Oil hoping to initiate labor. It didn't work and I only ended up with a severe case of diarrhea.

On August 7, 1997, my due date, I awoke with consistent contractions. My appointment was scheduled for that morning. Terry and I were eager to see how I was progressing, but as the doctor examined me, he gruffly said, "You aren't in labor. You wouldn't even know what labor feels like!" I knew he was right about that. "You just need to have a c-section. I can do it this afternoon..." He suggested. I looked at Terry and he shook his head. We drove home in silence as the "false labor" continued.

By four o'clock, the pain intensified and I blamed the Castor Oil. I phoned the doctor's office when I began leaking liquid, but he refused to talk to me. He told the nurse to tell me it was caused from the examination and that he could still do the c-section that evening. I thanked her and hung up.

The pain only increased. As I held a hot heating pad on my abdomen, I thought if I could just have one for my back, I would feel so much better. Terry became so concerned that he finally phoned the doctor at 8:00 pm. then called the pastor and asked him to come and get the children so he could take me to the hospital.

When we arrived, I wouldn't let Terry take in my bag or camera because I believed I only needed pain medication and would be going home. I didn't even wear shoes. As we stepped off the elevator, the OB nurse met us and began asking questions. I quickly explained that I was not in labor and only needed pain medication. She informed me that she had been instructed to prep me for a c-section. I firmly said, "I refuse to sign any papers. I only need pain medicine." She then told me that she couldn't prescribe anything until I had been examined.

The pain was constant. As the nurse began the examination she asked why I thought I wasn't in labor. "Because I saw the doctor this morning and talked to his nurse earlier and he said I wasn't!" The nurse smiled and said, "Honey, you're at eight centimeters--you're about to have a baby!"

An epidural was quickly ordered in hopes of buying the necessary time for the doctor to arrive. As he raced into the room and began to prepare me for a forceps delivery, Terry told him he wouldn't allow that instrument to be used on his baby. As the two men argued, I looked at the nurse and pleaded, "Four times I've lain on a table and had my babies cut out of me. I want to push this one into the world." She grabbed my leg and whispered, "With the next contraction, PUSH!" I followed her instructions, then she said, "Excuse me, Doctor, did you want to catch this child?" I heard the clang of metal as the forceps hit the floor! Mackenzie was born after only two strong pushes.

Our sixth child, Corrie Beth was born in another hospital with a Certified Nurse Midwife in 999. She weighed 10 lbs 3 oz. Deciding that I didn't enjoy the hospital experience, we planned to have our next baby at a birthing center. Isaac (our "long-awaited-for son") was born in January 2001. He weighed 10 lbs 12 oz. Two years later his brother was born at the same facility. Eric Samuel ("Sam") weighed 10 lbs 4 oz.

When I became pregnant with our ninth child, I was walking through the house one day and a thought came to my mind that this baby would be born at home. It wasn't a decision, really; but rather a realization. I discussed this with Terry and he agreed. Later we discovered that the birthing center where the boys had been born was no longer allowing VBACs. This was a confirmation to us.

Two months before the baby was due, my midwife requested I get an ultrasound to rule out twins. The female obstetrician read my obstetrical history in disbelief. "Obviously, Someone..." She pointed and looked up,"...meant for you to have this many children." Though  she agreed to be my back-up doctor in case of complications, she informed me that a trip to the hospital during labor would end in a definite c-section. "Off the record," she said, "You really are better off doing this at home." Another confirmation.

After a long, but peaceful labor, Destiny Faith was born at home, weighing 11 lbs 15 oz; my biggest baby! I experienced shoulder dystocia during the delivery, as the baby came down with a hand on her head, but my competent Certified Professional Midwife knew how to handle the situation and the baby and I were both fine.

The year after Destiny was born, Amanda married a young man named Ryan. In September, we all rejoiced as she announced that she was expecting a baby. I took a pregnancy test the next day and discovered that we were due a week apart. We were pregnant together for several weeks, then I miscarried our baby in mid-October.

A little over a year after Aiden was born, Amanda was pregnant again. By this time I was 44 years old and had begun to think that we were done having babies ourselves. It was time to settle into my role as Grandma. I was a little sad, but content.

Right before Christmas I began experiencing stomach flu-like symptoms. I complained to Amanda, "Great! Everyone is going to be sick at Christmas." She asked how long I'd had the nausea, then gave her diagnosis; "Mom, you're not sick; you're pregnant!" I dismissed the thought but asked Terry to pick up a test a few days later, "just to rule out the possibility". It was positive!

I visited my midwife's back-up obstetrician, but he refused to be associated with this birth. He said he was glad that I'd had successful VBACs, but he believed that what I was doing was dangerous. To us, his assessment was simply a testament of what the Lord had done. Though some family members and friends expressed concern for my well-being, I was not afraid, "For I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." I truly believe He healed that c-section scar when we made that covenant with Him in 1997.

On August 25, 2009 after a 28-hour labor, our third son was born at home as his three older sisters watched, sobbing and in awe. He too had his arm up, so I once again experienced shoulder dystocia. He was also posterior, which made the delivery more painful and the cord was wrapped around his neck. Thank God for my wonderful midwife! Michael Ray weighed 11 lbs 2 oz and was 23" long. His three-month-old niece and two-year-old nephew were introduced to him within minutes of his birth, as were his other sisters and big brothers.

We praise the Lord for one more opportunity to raise yet another Kingdom Warrior.

CHERYL LONG

Freetown, Indiana, USA
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