In which our whiny Lady remains Mother of One.
On Christmas day, Jon, Eva and I were invited over to another family’s house for dinner. They have been amazingly good to us—perhaps because they too lost a family member to cancer a few years ago. They are very perceptive to our needs in ways that most cannot understand. One of these people is a girl my same age. She is one of the first to have asked me if I can have any more children now that I have cancer. She cradled her own sweet newborn as she carefully inquired, and I simply replied that no—I can’t get pregnant while on my current seizure medication. This is not an option for my immediate future.
I have volunteered this information at least in part to quite a few of my friends, but I was grateful that she’d had the rare forethought to ask. It’s something that I think about on occasion, and hardly any know it—until now I guess. There’s something about the human condition that makes a person want whatever she can’t have. This fall, many of my friends here in Alaska either had a baby or were clearly pregnant when I learned that this option was out for me. Before that crucial life-changing moment in August, I hadn’t exactly planned on having a second child immediately, but it eventually became quite difficult for me to deal with the fact that I wasn’t free to decide to do so if I/we chose.
In LDS culture, families in my age group and socio-economic situation often elect to have a child every 2-3 years. Thus, when child number one nears or just passes the 24 month mark, child number two is often a plan already in motion. I had to wait an extra year or so for Eva, so I am already a few years older than most of my friends who have just turned out child number two. In truth, my original plan was to at least be pregnant around or just after Christmas-time. Yeah, that’s right—now. This will not happen. And I have almost no choice in the matter.
It may be that there is seizure medicine out there that is okay for pregnant women to take daily, but I wouldn’t count on it. Then of course, there’s the much bigger problem of the cancer possibly coming back. Obviously, radiation and chemo don’t mix with fetuses. And the stress of pregnancy doesn’t mix with cancer well either. My doctor is still watching me very closely right now. There are times when I wonder if it is an honest statement to suggest that getting pregnant at this tenuous point in my life is near-suicidal. Because I would choose the baby over my own life, of course, this means that I would be subject to whatever course the cancer decided to take. I suppose I should just be grateful that my brand of cancer appears to be the kind that won’t be prompted into aggression by reproduction. Some brain cancers, especially the ones that affect hormones in the brain, can make things very bad this way.
Several years ago, I wanted a baby terribly, and just couldn’t seem to get pregnant. I remember having trouble looking at other people’s babies at one point, feeling intensely jealous of the ease with which they had their children. I had the feeling at the time that I required that experience in my life for some reason. I assumed that I needed more empathy for other women in this situation. In sad irony, it appears that I needed it for me too. The good news is that I don’t currently feel the bitterness and jealousy that I felt before because I have Eva already. She is a salve to my wounds in many ways.
Well, that’s enough brooding for now. The good news is that having cancer will free a person from any cultural pressures she may have been feeling. I admit that it is nice to be outside other’s expectations. Sometimes I think Eva is enough of a handful for me anyway right now. And even if it galls me to have the choice taken away and possibly to have to wait much longer than I want—at least I still have the ability to have children.
P.S. If any of you reading this out there are the kind with newborns or who are currently pregnant, please don’t stop offering me information about your children. It would only make the whole thing exponentially worse. I would feel cut off from ALL baby normalcy. In my current state I much prefer to share in the joy of newborn babies where I can. (Besides, I know it is impossible for most young mothers to stay quiet about their kids).