I am a Mom
Barbara Ann Campbell
Lying on a hospital bed being prepped for my third surgery, I could hear the doctors and nurses talking. Someone spoke to me and asked, “Is it true that you just had a baby, and it’s your tenth child?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“You don’t need a surgeon—you need a psychiatrist!” another person quipped.
This humorous statement opened the door, and I was able to tell about God’s goodness. When the anesthesiologist asked me if I wanted to count or pray, I chose to pray. As I prayed, the people in the operating room knew I was a Christian. God had given me this extra time to be a witness for Him.
At age eighteen, I met a guy named Jeff. He had long, shiny, dark brown hair and a rough exterior. In spite of his rugged masculinity—which I loved—my parents and I soon learned that Jeff had a heart of gold. He would come by my parents’ restaurant where I worked and help me clean up at the end of the day.
Soon after we began dating, Jeff asked me if I was saved. He knew I went to church, but he wanted to know that I had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He explained the Gospel to me and led me to pray the sinner’s prayer. My heart broke as I realized I really did need a Savior. Soon afterwards, Jeff asked me to marry him, and I said, “Yes.”
We were married in February 1973, and a couple of months later I found out I was expecting our first baby. I always wanted a house full of children. God had blessed my parents with six children, and they took the best care of each of us. People would ask Jeff how many children he wanted, and he would jokingly say ten or twelve.
One month before our first wedding anniversary we had a baby boy. Jeffery was a happy, easy baby, and when I went back to the doctor for my six-week checkup, I was surprised to find out that I was pregnant again. I went home with tears in my eyes, not knowing what Jeff would say. But he said he “kinda had a feeling,” which made it a lot easier.
One year after our second son Richard was born, I was twenty-one years old, and expecting again. With previous pregnancies, I had gained weight, but this time, I began to lose weight. I had no energy, and the doctors suspected something was wrong. In my seventh month, Jeff was helping me out of bed when his hand touched a lump right above my left ribcage. I went immediately to see my doctor and the very next day had the lump removed from the lower quadrant of my breast. The doctor grimly told us that he could tell by looking at it that it was cancerous.
We learned that the cancer was called “lipo-sarcoma” and that I needed to have more surgery. I was thin, weak, and very pregnant, but the doctors concluded that if I was going to live long enough to have our baby, the surgery needed to be done the following day. That night, our pastor’s wife and ladies from our church came to pray with us. Though I can’t put into words exactly how I felt at that time, it was as if Christ were wrapping his arms around me and quietly saying, “I will never leave you.”
The surgery went well and a plastic surgeon “rebuilt” me the best he could after I had had an eighty percent mastectomy. Even though it wasn’t actually breast cancer, this is where the cancer initially appeared. Five weeks later, and three weeks early, our third son Timothy was born. I heard the doctor say, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with him that a little formula won’t help!” God is good. He had blessed us with another healthy baby boy. Several weeks of successful radiation therapy followed.
Two years after my first surgery, I had regained my strength and Jeff and I began talking about adopting. We loved children and longed to have more. As we went through the weeks of training and the filing process, we found a great need for fostering handicapped children. By the end of the year, our house was full of children. We took care of and loved little children that people and society had turned their backs on and “thrown away.”
But after four years, we were beginning to feel a need for a break. We contacted the social workers and explained our feelings, and they understood. Within a few days, all the children were moved into other homes. And that very week, I felt a tiny lump in the upper section of my underarm. My heart sank. I knew the cancer had returned. But, again, I heard God’s quiet voice whisper, I will never leave you.
The following day I was in my doctor’s office. Eight days later we learned the results of the needle biopsy: A-sarcoma, a type of sarcoma. The consensus among the doctors was that I needed surgery and that the surgery might include amputation of my left arm. After much prayer, God gave me a verse: How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble! (Job 26:2) I told the doctors that I would listen to God, and I would not agree to having my arm amputated.
During hours of surgery, the doctors meticulously took away much of the left chest wall, and plastic surgeons took skin, muscle, and an artery off my back to use on my chest. I had four hundred stitches on my chest, down my arm and across my back, and little drains all over. I was the talk of the hospital! I was twenty-five years old, and the mother of three little boys.
But the experience made me realize how wonderful it is to be part of a large family. While I was recuperating from surgery, our little ones were cared for by Jeff, my mother, my dad, my sister, and my brothers. I never had to worry that the boys weren’t cared for properly. My family knew what to do at a time of trouble, and they, without hesitation, just did it. I am so thankful for a loving family. Once again, I healed remarkably after the surgery.
Two years after the second surgery, I was strong and trying to stay healthy. The phone rang, and it was a social worker I knew. She asked if I would like to take care of a baby. I knew the baby would be handicapped, and I knew I wanted to take care of this little one. He was only a few weeks old. Then I learned more of the story. The mother of the baby was a young girl, borderline retarded, and they had no idea of the identity of the father. The mother had abandoned the baby. The social worker told me she would leave a court order for me to pick up in the lobby at the information desk. All I had to do was pick up the letter and head to pediatrics. Immediately I wrapped the baby in a receiving blanket I had taken with me and headed for my children’s pediatrician’s office. I was overwhelmed by the concern of the doctors for this poor, abandoned little baby. They gave me instruction on how to care for him and loaded me down with Pedialyte, formula, and even diapers. Jeff, as yet, knew nothing about this little guy, but I was sure he would want to take care of him as much as I did.
We named the baby Thomas. He had beautiful light blond hair and dark eyes, and our other three sons thought Thomas was the greatest little guy around. A few weeks after Thomas’ first birthday, we were informed that the judge in the case had ruled that Thomas could be put up for adoption. Six weeks later, Jeff and I were sitting before a judge in a room at the county courthouse waiting for final approval. The social worker told the judge the story of Thomas’ life. The judge sat there thinking for a while, and then turned to the court recorder and told her he would waive the court cost for the adoption. Jeff and I both cried. What a blessing! Surely God had given this baby boy to us, and we were so thankful.
About a year and a-half later, I got a call from a lawyer asking us if I remembered George, James, and Jerry—three little boys whom we had kept in foster care for several years. He reported that Social Services and the police had found the boys abandoned in their home, without food or care. He said that the judge had severed parental rights because the parents were both handicapped. Then he asked directly, “How do you feel about becoming the parents for these boys?” When I called Jeff at work, his response was, “When do we get them?” The boys were about the same ages as our three oldest sons, and they needed a home!
Jeff and I, after praying about it, decided we would homeschool our seven sons. We filed the necessary paperwork with the local school board, and searched and found a wonderful curriculum. The boys were excited about the whole idea, and we felt this was God’s way of allowing us time to bond as a family. Our children were tested each year for progress in their studies, and they always tested above their grade level. Besides the academics, the boys also studied music and played sports with Christian schools and in civic leagues. Homeschooling became a life-changing journey for our children.
One afternoon, I received a phone call from a distraught pastor in another state. His story was straightforward, to the point, and from his heart. He needed someone to take care of his daughter. She was pregnant and about to have an abortion. He said his wife had a bad heart and was in no shape to care for a rebellious daughter and her baby. He asked if we would please take care of his daughter, keep the baby once it was born, and send his daughter home when it was all over. I thought about the situation only a few minutes before I told the pastor we would do it—for God and for his family. I called Jeff at work, and he agreed, just like I knew he would. Jeff was like that. He made the decision that we would pay all the hospital and doctor bills. I coached the young mother through labor and was the one to cut the umbilical cord and welcome our little girl into this life. The boys treated beautiful, dark-haired Natalie like a little princess. She talked by the time she was a year old, had the ability to play the piano and other instruments by ear, and could draw beautifully. We are so thankful that her precious life was not taken from her before she was born.
We were preparing for Natalie’s first birthday party, and I knew I wasn’t feeling well. Jeff insisted that I see the doctor. It had been almost ten years since I had had cancer, and I couldn’t keep my heart from pounding as I waited for the results of the blood tests. The doctor jokingly told me that I had the terrible disease called pregnancy. Again, I had to call Jeff at work and tell him the news. He couldn’t believe it, and neither could I! I delivered a beautiful little girl, and we named her Bonnie. She was a happy baby and she and Natalie became great friends. To this day, Natalie will say, “God knew I needed a sister.”
Pregnant Again…and More Cancer?
Bonnie was five months old, and I discovered I was expecting again. Things didn’t go as nicely as they did when I was carrying Bonnie. I began to lose weight and to experience severe pain in my left shoulder and arm. The doctors insisted that I have a biopsy done and an MRI. The biopsy confirmed a cancer called spindle cell sarcoma—the root of my first cancer, liposarcoma. The baby was born at thirty-five weeks—another normal, healthy, beautiful boy! We named him Bob.
Three weeks after Bob was born, I had my third surgery. During the grueling eight hours of surgery, the Lord directed the hands of the surgeons. The next morning a sea of white coats walked into my room—the head surgeon, the doctors who had assisted in the surgery, and a team of young interns. The head surgeon turned to the others and said, “You may never hear me say this again.” He turned to me and said, “Barbara, I have news for you. Your God has healed you.”
The doctor explained that when they opened my shoulder, they discovered what appeared to be dead cancer. The mass had shrunk, but not before intruding into the main artery in my shoulder. This necessitated replacing the vein in my shoulder with one from my left leg. They also had to perform hours of microsurgery to carefully remove the cancer that had invaded my sympathetic nervous system. God is so good. He had spared my life once again. I agreed to six weeks of radiation therapy, and I healed beautifully. The baby was well, and the joy I knew in the Lord was steadfast and sure.
Life after Babies
In February 2013, Jeff and I celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. Our children are all grown up now—and, yes, successful. I am a mom, and I have concern that my children walk with the Lord. Many of our children and grandchildren serve the Lord with all of their hearts, minds, and souls. I did my best to tell them and show them how to live for God—from the first thing in the morning until the last thing at night. My peace comes from God’s Word which says, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). God is good despite how hard life can be from day to day. Our happiness doesn’t depend on how good life is but on how good God is.