September/October, 1997 Volume XII Number 8
Reversing the curse
One couple repents over unwarranted surgery
by Vyckie Bennett
Even before we were married Warren and I had been wondering whether it was right from a Christian (Biblical) standpoint to use birth control. Since I had already had an out-of-wedlock daughter, Angel, who was four years old before we were married, I knew that I would have to deliver all my children by c-section, which would be expensive--but still I wondered if we wouldn't be "playing God" by using "contraception."
In premarital counseling, we asked the pastor if it was okay to use birth control and he said he felt certain that the Lord would want us to "get established" before having any more children. Still, I was extremely apprehensive about going to the clinic to get free pills. I knew that abortions were performed there, so, to make it easier, the pastor's wife went along with me to the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City to offer "moral support." It was a very creepy place.
I was never really faithful about using the Pill--I suppose my heart was just not in it and, consequently, it didn't take long before I was pregnant. I miscarried the baby, and although I wasn't actually wanting to get pregnant at that time, I was very devastated by the loss. I wanted to get pregnant again right away, which I did--within two months. Berea was born by cesarean section on August 26, 1991. The recovery was difficult and I did have some post-partum depression.
Since I didn't want to have so much misery again anytime soon, I made an appointment to get a Norplant insert. I thought a five year break would be about right, then we'd think about having more children. But when I mentioned to a Christian friend that I was getting Norplant inserted, she told me that it could act as an abortifacient. I decided to reschedule my appointment so I would have some extra time to find out more about it. In the meantime, I got pregnant. Berea was only four months old, so the cesarean section was still pretty fresh in my memory. I cried at the thought of having to go through that again. At the same time I was happy that I would be having another baby because they are so precious and lovable!
Our third girl, Chass‚ was born on October 16, 1991. This time the surgery was much easier since it was so soon after the last one. (I could remember all the mistakes I'd made before, like getting up to walk right away, and avoided them this time.) But a few days after I came home from the hospital, I broke out in hives. My doctor prescribed some Benadryl for the swelling which was mostly in my eyes. The pain medication I was still taking must have affected my thinking, because after I took the pills I set them on my desk within Berea's reach. I even thought to myself, "Berea can probably reach those, I should put them up. "But I was so "out of it" from the medication, that I just went back to bed.
I was awakened by Warren, who told me that Berea had eaten some of my pills. We had to take her to the emergency room, but since Warren is blind (and doesn't drive), and I still could not drive because I had just had surgery, we had to call my sister to take us to the ER. There I was at the hospital with a 13 month old who had been poisoned and her week old baby sister. I was so drugged up that I barely knew what I was doing. My face was red and my eyes were swollen shut from the hives, and I was thinking, "I can't go through this anymore! This is too much!"
I decided to talk to a Christian OB/GYN about birth control--specifically I asked, "Is it Biblical?" The doctor did not answer my question. Instead, he began telling me about all of my "options," that is, the Pill, the condom, and so on. When I asked about Natural Family Planning (NFP), he cracked a joke about the only word he had for couples who relied on NFP for birth control--"I call them parents!" he said.
Warren consulted with our pastor. (We had moved and were attending a "Bible-believing" Baptist church). He asked the same question, "Is birth control Biblical?" The pastor did not refer to the Bible at all, but stated that he believed the Lord wanted us to be able to properly raise the children we have. He said that he was planning to have a vasectomy. (He already had 5 children.)
We tried to search the Bible for ourselves, but did not know where to look. We certainly didn't find anything in the concordance under "birth control," "contraception," or the Pill.
About this time, Bill Clinton was elected President and we began to wonder how we would raise godly children in such a wicked world. We were worried about whether we would be allowed to home educate our girls, whether we could afford the three children we already had, and how we would pay for any future pregnancies. (We could not get insurance to pay for c-sections since they considered those to come under the category of a pre-existing condition.)
The day after Christmas 1992, Warren had a vasectomy. Even before we left the doctor's office we both felt terrible about our decision, but we thought "What else could we do?" After all, the Lord wants us to be wise stewards, and it wouldn't be very "smart" to continue to have children and place such a strain on our family . . . right?
Well, over the next couple of years the Lord really worked on our hearts. He convicted us of our fear (which is not faith and is therefore sin). I finally got hold of Mary Pride's book All the Way Home (I did not read The Way Home until later) and we became convinced that we had sinned in this area. We realized that the Bible actually has quite a bit to say about birth control, specifically "conception control" which is God's prerogative and not man's.
I want to be very honest about the effects of the vasectomy on our marriage, just as a warning for anyone else who might take sterilization lightly as we did. I began to really identify with Rachel in the Bible who wept and mourned for her children. I felt that God had intended to give us more children, but that we were preventing their conception. I cried often as I longed to hold my babies! I also had to constantly battle the temptation to become bitter towards my husband. Sometimes I would catch myself thinking, "I'm not the one who can't have any more children! It's Warren who is sterile." Well, I'm sure you understand the implications of such thinking. Only by much prayer was I able to put those kinds of thoughts out of my head.
Also, whenever I would look at Chass‚, or hold her, I was constantly reminded that we had not intended to have her. Such a sweet and delightful little girl, yet we had planned on getting Norplant to make sure she wouldn't be conceived. I felt guilty knowing that our own "wisdom" and selfishness would have denied Chass‚ her very life. That only confirmed that we really don't know what is best. God knew. He gave us such a precious blessing, even though we had other plans.
Both Warren and I felt that since we knew that the vasectomy was wrong we had to do whatever we could to make things right again. We checked into getting reversal surgery for Warren. The local urologist that we spoke with looked at our three daughters and said, "You have a beautiful family. You should concentrate on raising them properly. But if you really think you want a boy . . ." He said he could do the procedure for $6,000 (not counting the hospital costs). Of course this seemed like an impossible amount of money--I was already working full-time to supplement Warren's income--nevertheless, we believed that God wanted us to get the reversal, so we began saving about 15 percent of our limited income each month towards the surgery.
About two months after we started saving a friend gave us a publication put out by the Couple to Couple League which mentioned that CCL had a list of surgeons who did reversals at a reduced cost. I called immediately for the list and found that there was a doctor in Omaha, about 100 miles away, who would charge approximately $1500. We made an appointment, and when this urologist saw our three daughters, he said, "You have beautiful children--you should have more!" He explained that the sooner the reversal was done after the original vasectomy, the more likely it was that it would be successful. It had been about two years since Warren's vasectomy and the doctor wanted to do the surgery right away. When we explained that we did not yet have the money, he told us not to worry about it, we could make payments and, "We're not going to leave you without money to put food on your table," he told us.
On Valentine's Day 1995, Warren had the reversal surgery. On the way to the hospital he admitted that he was a little nervous, but I reminded him that this surgery would be nothing compared to the surgery I would have to go through (meaning a c-section) if his operation was successful. The surgery went fine and when we got the final bill from the doctor he had charged us only $170.
We knew for sure the surgery was successful when I became pregnant in early June. Through a series of events (a whole different story which I will not write about here), we "discovered" that my first three c-sections had been totally unnecessary (imagine my disgust)! I was at the same time, however, delighted by the possibility of having this baby naturally. We were convinced that this was the Lord's way of providing financially for the delivery and honoring our obedience by showing us an easier way to have the babies which He would bless us with.
Things did not go as planned, however. In mid-February I caught the flu which lasted for six days and totally depleted my strength. By the time I went into labor I was too exhausted to deliver the baby naturally. Hazelle Elizabeth was born on February 23, 1996--our fourth girl, and such a precious little one! Because she was also delivered by cesarean section, I felt that our resolve to allow the Lord to have control over our reproductive lives was being severely tested. How could we trust Him when I had such difficulty delivering each baby? What about the hospital costs? At one point during the surgery (due to complications from the flu), I really thought I was going to die on the table. Could I go through it again? One look into little Hazelle's eyes and I had my answer. She is an absolute joy! I am sure that God must have wonderful plans for her life as He would not allow us to have our way. Rather He revealed His truth to us concerning the sacredness of life and His sovereignty over it.
Yes, the sacredness of life and God's sovereignty over it can be a tough conviction to live with. But that seems to be true about most of our journey down the "narrow path" of Christian living. Sufferings, persecutions, tribulations; all are to be expected as we endeavor to be faithful to God's revealed will for our lives. But the rewards are great, both here and hereafter. We are blessed with children_the joy each one brings can hardly be expressed. The Lord has used our girls to teach us so many important lessons, and merely the fact of having four children to feed, clothe, educate and train according to His ways forces us to trust in Him for the necessary strength and wisdom. We are blessed with peace, knowing that we are being conformed to His image as we submit ourselves to His refining and purifying fires. Oftentimes it feels like "the heat is on," but, oh the beauty of fine gold!
Copyright © 1997 Advocates for Life Ministries