the Gordon family visiting Madonna House after Christopher's birth

Expect a Miracle

by Nancy Gordon

“Expect a miracle,” Fr. Emile-Marie Briére, a Madonna House priest and my spiritual director, confidently told me. I was 39 years old, pregnant with my seventh child, and facing my sixth caesarean section surgery. Both my life and the life of my baby were in danger.

The doctor had told me not to get pregnant again since my uterus was thin and my scar tissue was very bad.

Even after the birth of my fourth child, I had been told not have any more children, because I was in danger of having a rupture and bleeding to death.

That time, I took the news with much sadness and disappointment. I had grown up in a family of nine with several foster children and cousins coming and going, and even as a child, I had dreamed of having my own houseful of noisy children.

Eventually, I came to terms with this sense if loss and enjoyed the happy, busy life I had raising my four children who were very close in age.

A couple of years passed and still relatively young and feeling healthy, we plunged ahead and had two more children—much to the horror of my doctor.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “You have an obligation to the children you already have. No. More. Children.”

Three years passed and I felt a stirring in my heart to have another child. My husband readily agreed, and trying to do the right thing, we spoke to several priests. They all said that if the doctors were saying that my life could be in danger, we should continue with Natural Family Planning and be satisfied with the children we had.

But being the stubborn person I sometimes am, I couldn’t accept this. I pondered in my heart the words of Scripture: faith the size of a mustard seed. These words were to consume me for many months.

I kept going back and forth in my mind:  should I have another child or should I listen to the experts?

Finally, I decided that God was the ultimate expert. If he could move mountains, turn water into wine, and multiply the loaves and fishes, surely it would be a cinch for him to protect my baby and me for nine months.

Finally, it was in God’s hands. I became pregnant again, and I must admit that after taking the plunge, I was frightened. Doubt, fear, and anxiety took over, especially in my third month when I began to experience symptoms that seemed to indicate that I would lose the baby.

What had happened to my courage and trust in God that everything would be all right? I was like Peter. I had started to walk on the water, but when I did, I faltered. There was nothing I could do but cry out to the Lord.

My husband Paul and the children began to pray and pray very much. We phoned, emailed, and wrote letters to all our Catholic family and friends begging them to pray for us.

My oldest daughter who had a small Catholic girls’ newsletter with approximately fifty subscribers from as far away as Africa, wrote about our situation and the girls and their families promised to pray. Spiritual bouquets started pouring in.

I phoned Fr. Briére at Madonna House, and he repeated to me the words of Catherine Doherty: “Expect a miracle.” He promised that he would pray through Catherine’s intercession and so would people at Madonna House.

The symptoms I was experiencing stopped. We passed the first trimester. We were overwhelmed with joy and gratitude at the outpouring of love and prayers by so many people. And many of them didn’t even know us. We were humbled.

When I was eight months pregnant, I began to go into labor, and my husband rushed me to the hospital. After looking at my chart, the obstetrician on call told me he didn’t want to operate. He said he wasn’t prepared to have a death on his record! We were flabbergasted.

An hour later, they sent me home and said I wasn’t in labor. I went home in tears and in much pain.

The next day, the pain was more intense. I was definitely in labor. We left for the hospital again, leaving the children with their grandmother. We told our oldest to phone everyone and ask them to multiply their prayers. The rest of the children were to go with their grandmother to the nearest church and pray, pray, pray.

At the hospital, the obstetrician that day was a Catholic woman, and we explained to her what had happened the day before. She read my charts and said she didn’t want to do the surgery either.

I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was 3 p.m., Divine Mercy Hour. I began to pray.

The doctor’s shift was almost over, and I wouldn’t be her problem anymore. I begged her to do the operation. You could see she was feeling bad for us, and she just kept pacing back and forth.

All of a sudden, she stopped pacing and said, “I will do it.”

She then explained to me what I already knew and had heard over and over. My life was in danger, and she could have a death on her hands. She admitted she was very nervous.

Two hours later, I was wheeled to the operating rooms, given a local anaesthetic, and there, with my husband by my side, she did the surgery.

Suddenly, I heard her laughing. Joyfully, she told us, “All the complications, the scar tissue—everything recorded on your chart is gone! You are fine!

“You may not want to hear this—being almost 40 years old—but you can go ahead and have three more children.”

I cannot begin to explain the awe and joy we felt. Not only was there the miracle of my baby and me surviving, but also my body after six c-sections was totally healed!

Paul phoned the children, and everyone was so excited, relieved, and happy with the news. We named our new son, Christopher Emile-Marie after Fr. Briére. And we later found out that Christopher was born on the anniversary of the founding of Madonna House Combermere, May 17th.

Our happiness, joy, and celebration of the goodness of God went on for months, and the most wonderful words of Catherine Doherty, “Expect a miracle,” will remain with me forever.

Used with permission from the author .This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of The Messenger of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic magazine, which is now out of print.

Nancy grew up knowing Madonna House. Her parents used to collect many donations for us from family, neighbours, and strangers, and Nancy was both a Cana kid and a Cana mom. She gave birth to one more son after Christopher.