I hope that by meeting these courageous mothers that have navigated their way through the toughest of circumstances, they can be uplifting and encouraging to those of you who may be experiencing the same. If you ever want to submit your story for consideration, you can always email me at: email@example.com with a little snippet of what you would love to talk about!
Whenever I would dream about my life as a mom, there was always two kids in my dreams. I always envisioned having two little ones, close in age. They would be best friends. I became pregnant for the first time in February 2013. I loved everything about pregnancy. I never got the nausea, never felt tired, just felt the most beautiful I had ever felt in my life. There were nights I would just lay awake feeling the baby kick, not wanting it to end. I would spend hours in the nursery, losing time as I rocked in the glider, dreaming of what was to come. Eliza was born November 4, 2013. She was perfect and there was a calmness that my husband, Carmelo and I felt when we had her. We never experienced those crazy first days, weeks, months that you hear about with first parents. When she was born, it was as if she just fit perfectly into our lives.
July 2014 we found out we were pregnant again. Truthfully we did not expect it to happen so quickly, we were thrilled and excited to have two children and they would be 17 months apart. It was just like I had envisioned and dreamed and it was happening! October we went in for our 12 week ultrasound. I remember it so clearly. The technician put the wand on my belly and Carmelo was telling her how at Eliza’s 12 week ultrasound Eliza was a jumping bean. As soon as the baby popped up on the screen, there was no movement. I can still hear Carmelo saying “Oh the baby must be sleeping.” I immediately looked away because I knew what was coming next. The technician said “I can’t find a heartbeat.” The next minutes, hours were all blur. Doctors were asking me what I wanted to do next. Did I want a D&C, did I want to try and pass it naturally. I had no idea what I wanted to do next, all I knew was I wanted my baby back.
It took a while for my body to heal and even longer for my heart to heal. But when it did we started trying again. Unsuccessfully. After about 6 months, my OB/GYN recommended I start working with a fertility clinic. So we did. After some blood work, ultrasounds and a HSG test, the clinic said everything looks normal, just keep trying and if you want some help give us a call. That good news came on a Friday…exactly one week before my breast cancer diagnosis.
It was Tuesday February 9, I had finally scheduled an appointment with my OB/GYN to have the lump on my breast looked at. It was something I found and had been monitoring, but truthfully thought nothing of it. I’m 36, healthy and no family history. It couldn’t possibly be cancer. But after my doctor gave it a feel, she sent me immediately for a mammogram and ultra-sound. Thinking I wouldn’t get results that day, I told Carmelo to stay home and that I would just drive over to the Radiology building by myself. I didn’t have to be a doctor to see the enlarged lymph nodes on the screen and know I was about to get some pretty bad news. The tech told me to sit still and that she would see if she could get a doctor to look at my images. The phone rang in the room and I knew it was the doctor and as expected the news wasn’t good. He said a bunch of technical stuff, rambled off some building at St. Francis Hospital that I needed to go to and a name of a doctor I needed to see. I didn’t remember any of it. After the phone hung up I just sat there in my johnny not moving. Before I left I stopped at the receptionist’s desk to get all the information again and this time asked if they could write it down, got in the car and called my husband. “We need to go to St. Francis Hospital immediately.”
Once we were there, we scheduled a biopsy for Thursday for both the breast and lymph nodes and by Friday evening my phone was ringing confirming it was cancer. Stage 3 Breast Cancer. In less than 72 hours my life had completely changed. As much as I should have been focusing on my cancer diagnosis all I could think about was “what does this mean for our family?” This can’t be happening. We are meant to have another child.
Luckily since we had already been working with a fertility clinic, I was able to make a phone call that week and with the support of my oncologist, delay the start of chemo and start injections to retrieve eggs and freeze embryos. One month of injections, we successfully froze three embryos. Three chances to expand our family.
March 17 I started chemo. After two months of chemo, three surgeries (double mastectomy with reconstruction and removal of all auxiliary lymph nodes on my left side), 29 rounds of radiation, I am said to be cancer free. But in that time, my oncologist told me that although he supported me freezing embryos, he could not support me getting pregnant again. My cancer was Estrogen and Progesterone positive. Two hormones that increase when your body is pregnant and my cancer appeared to be very sensitive to those hormones.
It’s a strange feeling not being able to decide, but being told your first child is your last. There was no planning or preparation for it. I didn’t go thru my pregnancy with Eliza thinking “I need to remember how everything feels because this is my last time.” I’m thankful that Eliza was such an easy pregnancy and I enjoyed every second of it. I never complained. Never felt sick. Never felt more beautiful than when I was pregnant. If I could have been pregnant 100 times, I would have. I loved it. But although I enjoyed it, I don’t think I took the time to really appreciate it and mentally capture every moment. I would have taken more pictures, which I have thousands, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I would have taken more videos of the way my belly moved when she would kick or roll over. Being told you will never be pregnant again, when you haven’t had a chance to prepare, really makes you not take all those small things for granted. I just wish I knew that 4 years ago.
Now we have the most amazing gift in that we froze embryos and we found the most perfect surrogate. So although my dream of being pregnant is gone, the chance of expanding our family isn’t. And what that has taught me is, you don’t need to carry a baby or birth a baby to be a mother. When we got the news that our surrogate was pregnant, my whole body collapsed and I cried. I cried because every prayer we had said was answered. And I was going to get to be a mother again. Baby is due January 2018!
So this pregnancy will be different. I’ll never feel this baby kick from the inside, I won’t be able to talk to this baby every night or sit in the rocker singing “you are my sunshine” like I did for Eliza. But I hold onto to the thought of when we meet our baby for the first time and I am so thankful for that moment.
My motherhood story with Eliza will be so much different than my story with our next child. I may not carry this baby in my belly, but I have carried this baby in my heart for so, so, SO long. And that is the Mother’s love this baby will know and feel.
When we were going through the pain of the miscarriage one of the hardest things to hear was “these things happen for a reason.” When you are a mourning mother it is the last thing you want to hear. At the time I didn’t want there to be a reason for my loss, I just wanted my baby back. But now I can see the loss of our baby brought us to where we are now. And this is supposed to be our story. This new baby that we are about to celebrate is meant to be here and change the world.