Earlier this fall, I started volunteering at Mary Washington Hospital’s Women’s and Children’s Center LDRP (labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum unit). I walked the very same halls back in 1994 when I was a Patient Services intern at the hospital (MWH); how bizarre to return as a married mother of two. Volunteering seemed like one of the best things I could do to a) connect back to the Fredericksburg community and b) not let my cancer turn me into a couch potato. I help moms know about an important online service and inevitably a little conversation takes place about our respective journeys in motherhood. What I really love about volunteering is that it reminds me to appreciate life, to be thankful for my story and to be supportive (not judgmental or one-upish) of others and theirs.
Twenty years ago, I was, probably like many college students, hoping to have a successful career (in what, I hadn’t quite figured out) and building a life with a partner (mine was named Steve). It didn’t take much time for Steve to figure out that he had met someone with a maternal instinct. I was volunteering at MWH as well as other community agencies related to women and children -- I was actually known as “Den Mother” in the residential hall. I don’t recall really having to discuss whether we were going to have children, it was just a matter of when. That “when” can get so unexpectedly complicated, right?
Steve and I had a couple of brief moments in time, prior to our move to New Hampshire, that we had considered starting a family, but money, jobs, and the feeling we weren’t ready prevailed. I’ve heard it said before that “you’re never really ready and there is never enough money”, but we did what we thought was best for us at the time which led to starting a family 14 years into our relationship (10 years post marriage). Yes, it can feel weird to watch friends with kids preparing for high school, visiting colleges, or even attending college, but that’s their story, not ours.
In late 2004/early 2005 we decided to try to start a family, but I wasn’t getting pregnant, I was in a lot of pain and we learned my right ovary was the culprit. Cysts and endometriosis had caused blockage; I had a laparoscopy in 2006 to remove the blockages and a shunt was placed to temper the movement of the “angry ovary.” Then, I underwent bi-weekly Lupron Depot injections for about 8 months (a medication that is given to women to help cease formation of ovarian cancer and to men to prevent prostate cancer). I became pregnant after a 3-year project and thankfully, on June 17, 2008, Jack (pictured below) was born. In a twist of fate, I conceived Anna in 2 months in the fall of 2010.
It was early morning on June 17th and I felt the common contraction pains that usually start the labor process. We called the doctor, drove to the hospital, and everyone agreed that the time had come. Unfortunately, after about 13 hours of labor, that angry right side of mine just wasn’t being hospitable to Jack and his ability to push through. All of a sudden, 1 nurse in my room became about 8 nurses and doctors and I was quickly prepped for a C-section; the situation had become too risky to continue with a pelvic birth. I prefer the term pelvic birth because I think our need to categorize women into natural childbirth mothers versus non-natural childbirth mothers is toxic. All deliveries are natural regardless of how the baby was born - technically, babies are born by expulsion or extraction (sometimes with medications, sometimes without). I had a planned extraction on May 10, 2011, the day Anna (pictured below) was born, because no one felt like tempting my body's volatile side again.
Being at the hospital working with patients and being a patient myself, is a humbling reminder that we all have a story to tell. No one mother’s story of conception, adoption, labor, or delivery trumps another.
Now that we’ve entered the season of Thanksgiving, I hope you will take a moment to be thankful for your story, your journey to parenthood, regardless of what it looks like, and appreciate those around you just the same.