When I first had children, I thought that the early days of motherhood would go a certain way. You know, happily sleep deprived while getting to spend countless hours snuggling and bonding with my newborn.
Let me tell you, it was dramatically different for me and although I know mine is an extreme story, I still really want to share it with you.
When I brought my second child home it was much like the way I described above. I was trying to help my 2-year-old adjust to life with a newborn while recovering from delivery. We were really hitting our stride about four weeks in and I was gaining a sense of control that I thought was necessary for survival. (Spoiler alert, it’s not.) It was my birthday and family was over to celebrate. I was nursing my son when I suddenly felt a terrible pain in my lower abdomen. I stood up and experienced a massive post-partum hemorrhage. I immediately called my doctor who called in medications that made the situation cease. However, at 5am, I began bleeding again. This time was much more severe. This time, I was in and out of responsiveness and 911 had to be called. This time, I found myself speeding down I-40 in the back of an ambulance and being rushed for surgery. This time involved 16 needle sticks and multiple blood transfusions.
And sadly, this time lead to the utterance of some of the most deafening words I have ever heard. “You have cancer.” Choriocarcinoma, a rare cancer, had taken over my uterus and even spread to my lungs.
In the months that followed, I experienced multiple surgeries including a hysterectomy, which made me unable to have more children at the tender age of 28. I underwent a rigorous regimen of chemotherapy weekly, spending countless dark nights in a hospital bed. I got mostly reassuring news with an occasional setback or two. My chemo was too strong for me to touch my children for multiple days after each infusion. I had to stop breastfeeding. (As it turns out, radioactive breast is NOT best!) I actually cannot tell you when my son rolled over or sat up. I wasn’t there. I was fighting for my life in a hospital bed. My battle raged on for nearly six months. It was awful, and I suppose it would have been easy to become fully engulfed in mommy guilt and grief.
But there’s a tough lesson that I learned in my struggle: you don’t have to be in control because no one ever is. And because of my belief in God’s providence in my life, I know that I never really was the one in control. I learned to rest in the imperfection that is life and developed an attitude of gratitude.
My husband moved our family in with my parents for round-the-clock support. He held down the fort so to speak. He patiently woke me when it was time for one of my 27 medications and injections. He secretly took a lint roller and removed my fallen hair from my pillow when I wasn’t looking. He and my mother gently shaved my head when it was time. Not one moment was spent alone in the hospital because my family surrounded me and refused to let me hurt by myself. They love me that much. See? An attitude of gratitude must be had, or you miss the good stuff.
And this motherhood thing? We made it work.
My beautiful mom made my 2-year-old and me matching scarves for our heads. When I sported my wig, little miss proudly wore her black Snow White wig with her golden curls spilling out underneath. I put on bright red lipstick and kissed hearts that she wore around her neck while I was gone. I would hide my oxygen tubing and Facetime both my kiddos from my hospital bed to tell them bedtime stories. I propped myself up on pillows to be face-to-face with my son for bonding time.
This is in no way how I planned to spend those precious motherhood beginnings.
Not at all. Sometimes, the sense of loss felt is overwhelming. That was five years ago and yet some days it tugs on my heart as if it were yesterday. I am human and it’s hard. But oh am I thankful! I had a huge risk of dying from my cancer, yet God saw my story ending differently than the sobering statistics I faced. I have learned so much about appreciating every moment spent with my little ones. I have learned a deeper meaning of family and of marriage. I have been awakened to what truly matters in life.