Sometimes I wonder, “Maybe I was meant to suffer.” I scrolled through Facebook to see a picture of a friend of mine celebrating her third child’s 1st birthday. Had everything gone to plan, that would have been me.
I was diagnosed a few months after we had intended to start trying for our third. Three children had always been the plan- both Tom and I come from families of three after all. But at the time, I wasn’t feeling it. I was too busy with work, I had finally gotten back into shape, and I was never good at pregnancy anway. I was the sick all 40 weeks, tired, swollen, exhausted, terribly uncomfortable pregnant woman. So the idea of taking on just one more thing felt overwhelming. I didn’t want to commit to something, someone, I didn’t have the energy for. Even though my biological clock was ticking, I couldn’t pull the trigger.
And then life, or more specifically, cancer, happened. I look at babies now and have a deep desire to snuggle that perfect skin, inhale that most incredible scent, feel the brush of silky baby hair on my cheek. I am more confident in my capacity to love now, and my relationship with Tom is more grounded than ever. I know we would be really good parents to a new baby.
Then I notice the absence of something. That old tightness in my breasts, the one spurred on by biology and evolution when a young mother gazes at those big eyes and impossibly perfect face, it’s gone. Because my breasts are gone. So is my period.
So are my chances for having more children of our own.
I definitely struggle with the sadness around that loss. It is a closed door. The opportunity to fall so totally and completely in love with a person who we’ve brought into this world is over. Both of our children were difficult to conceive and required intervention. Both of them were miracles. I know what a honor and gift children are and it is hard to walk away from that part of my life.
At the same time, it’s not like I’m settling. There is still a lot of love and work to be done with the beautiful blessings we’ve already been given. We are still parents and we still have the opportunity to grow in love and connection with our children.
At age six, Elle is rapidly becoming her own person. She has the disposition of a real girl, long bony legs and arms, a strong core, no more of the pudge and fluff of an infant. Her body has followed her mind and soul for she is stronger, less squishy, deeply capable. She knows how to get what she needs by either doing it herself or asking directly for it. Sophie, at age three, still maintains some of that babyness for now. She lets me snuggle her. She’s a little fluffy still. She flirts with me to get my affection and attention. I wrap my arms around her and pull her face in to mine, trying to hold on and slow down the moments of time that seem to slip away whenever I turn my head.
We have definitely given up a lot to this disease, but in imagining myself in any other predicament, I still think I would chose to be just where we are. It was deeply awful, short term pain that I believe we will transfer into long-term, grounding, beautiful gain. I was meant to suffer because I was meant to grow. The orchard was slashed and burned, the soil disturbed and tilled to create new life. We don’t have a baby in our arms but we do have an opportunity for a fresh start.
I am so happy for my friend and her beautiful family. Likewise, I am very grateful for my family, my illness, and the life that is beggining to blossom in our home.