With Mother’s Day coming up, we’re taking this week to share stories from our own Twin Cities Moms Blog Contributors on how they became mothers. We all have unique stories, and some of our stories are still being written. We hope you enjoy reading about these moms’ experiences!
Every birth is unique. Like most mothers, I remember almost every single detail. What is missing today, is my husband’s perspective and version of these birth stories.
You see, our second birth story was written in a completely different book. I never found a pregnancy guide covering: how to have a baby while your husband has chemotherapy. What I found instead, was an online support group of young cancer wives. I came to learn our experience of scheduling prenatal visits around oncology appointments was, unfortunately, not unique.
When I was pregnant, my husband was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Not the kind of cancer people are cured of. We were absolutely shocked, there was no history of colon cancer in his family. We were given a one to two-year life expectancy for my otherwise healthy and strong, 34-year-old husband. A life sentence in which he was not even granted the minimum of one year.
I remember looking at the rounding oncology doctor who gave him, our family, and our future that wretched death sentence. He had absolutely no bedside manner. I begged him anyway.
“Don’t you have anything good to say? We are 18 weeks pregnant. We have a two-year-old at home.”
He said he was sorry and offered us no hope. I clung even tighter to my husband in that tiny hospital bed we were sharing. The only good news we received that day were the discharge papers to go home to our two-year-old son.
Instead of looking for baby names, our priority switched to looking for alternative treatments and second opinions from the best hospitals in the country. We began living our lives from oncology appointment to prenatal appointments. Chemotherapy every other week meant we tried to fit life in on the few days he felt “pretty good” for his new standards.
While my husband was literally fighting for his life and working full time, I managed things on the home front. We were blessed I was already a stay at home mom, eliminating the stressful decision of where I should be. It soon felt like we were living in the hospital and clinic, because reality was we spent half of our time there.
I took on the role of coordinating his doctor appointments, my prenatal appointments, and babysitters for our son. There were homeopathic remedies to sift through, a new diet recommended for my husband, and a meal train to pay attention to as our freezer quickly filled up. There were the tasks of prioritizing household chores and offers to help from family and friends. I became an expert researcher on colon cancer during nap time and in the wee hours of the night when I couldn’t sleep.
My fabulous doctor and her team fit me in around my husband’s oncology appointments and chemotherapy schedule. Never underestimate the value of finding an incredible family doctor and gynecologist! She was one of my first calls; giving me her pager and personal cell phone number if I had any concerns.
In the middle of it all, I wanted to have a natural childbirth with a doula this time. I was very determined to deliver without much intervention, spending less time at the hospital and more at home. My husband agreed to it, knowing there was a very real possibility he could be at his chemotherapy treatment, in the hospital with complications, or sick from side effects when our son decided to arrive.
A big reason I wanted a natural childbirth was to prove I could do something on my own. We needed help in every other aspect of our lives. A way to show myself I could do really hard things and be okay. Almost a foreshadowing of what was to come.
This pregnancy gave us a distraction. A reason for hope. It helped us look past the horror of how our lives had changed and the fear of the unknown. It helped us hide from the nightmare of living with cancer. A horror only understood by those who have lived through it themselves.
Our baby boy cooperated and I went into labor on an off-week of chemotherapy. It was a Tuesday morning and his side effects of treatment from four days prior were tolerable. We had a fast and natural water-birth, easy as they come. I was able to get our medical team moving so we only had to stay one night in the hospital where my husband was diagnosed five months before.
The most important detail of all: my husband was there holding my hand the entire time. He held our baby boy against his bare chest while I was being attended to after delivery. He hid all the side effects of poison in his body and sadness he was certainly feeling to remain strong for me. My husband was a proud father and husband, nothing is more cherished than the memories of us together at the birth of our sons.
He would not earn another year in his 30s, passing away when our young sons were 6 months and 3 years old.
Our story ended before it really got started. But when I hold my sons, I can see and feel my husband. They are evidence of our love and the hope our boys gave us.