Today’s question is: Why do people think it’s OK to tell you how you should feel?
Background: The other day I posted a comment on a blog I like to read. The comment was directly related to something the blogger wrote. She was answering a question someone asked her about whether or not she had natural child birth with all of her children. She said she didn’t and that she felt robbed of her last pregnancy/child birth because the baby was 5 weeks early and arrived via c-section. I commented that I could relate to feeling robbed of my last pregnancy also and that 6 years later I’m still trying to get over it (it’s that or have another baby, LOL).
A reader of that blog read my comment and felt compelled to come here and tell me how she felt about it. She commented about my feeling robbed. It got me thinking. This commenter, not having the slightest idea why I felt robbed, basically told me that I shouldn’t feel robbed of my experience because there are plenty of people in the world that can’t get pregnant and have to adopt and I’m lucky to even have had a baby. OK, I’ll give her that, I am lucky, but you know what? It doesn’t change the fact that I still feel robbed of something I love very much. I was robbed. It doesn’t matter that people can’t have babies, many of which are my friends. I still feel robbed.
Here’s the story, you can decide if it’s OK to feel robbed (not that it’s going to change my feelings though).
A little over 6 years ago, in September 2001, I was about 24 weeks pregnant, I had 2 daughters, one almost 3 years old (34 months) and one 15 months. September 2001 was the year of 911. I’m sure everyone remembers that terrible event. Well, two days after that whole nightmare, when I was questioning why we were bringing a baby into this horrible world, PW calls from the doctors office to tell me they’ve found a mass in his lung. He had been coughing a lot at night. He had been run down. I thought it was his asthma acting up after all these years and I told him I didn’t think I could handle an asthma attack at night, pregnant, with 2 very little girls, so he needed to get to the doctor to get an inhaler. Obviously, it wasn’t asthma.
Within a couple of weeks it was determined that the mass was metastatic germ cell cancer (also known as embryonal carcinoma). 9 years earlier, just a year before I met him, he had had testicular cancer. I pretty much had figured he was completely cured of that. He did do his yearly follow-ups but that summer, the summer of 2001, he had his internist, instead of his urologist, run his follow up blood test and they skipped the annual chest x-ray (not that it would have made a huge difference to find the mass in June instead of September, the course of action would have been the same at least). The plan of action was 4 rounds of chemo and then possibly a resection of his lung after chemo.
I remember when we discovered it was the cancer again I begged the surgeon to just take it out. I begged and begged. I played my pregnancy and very small children card and I lost. It was too radical, they wouldn’t do it. Chemo was the only way, unfortunately.
The chemo went like this; he’d get infusions every single day for 5 days, then he’d get a two week break and start over again, for 4 rounds or 12 weeks. The chemo days consisted of going to the doctors infusion center and being infused with extremely powerful drugs for 8 hours a day. This kind of cancer is extremely aggressive, which in the cancer world is sort of a good thing because it reacts better to chemo, so they try to kill you with it and it works (thank goodness).
PW was great, although very sick. Because of my pregnant state and having the two very little girls, he would get up in the morning and walk himself down to the train to make it into the infusions first thing in the morning. I know it killed him to walk that far (.9 mile, which he has been walking every single work day for years and years) but living in Chicago in the fall/winter requires a lot of clothes to get out the door (and our garage is 100 feet from the house). Getting the girls up and dressed to get PW to the train was more than I could manage. Since he said he didn’t mind walking I let him, even if I did feel a tad bit guilty. I did pick him up at the end of the infusions, he couldn’t have managed the train ride home. Usually he was too sick.
Every night he had chemo we had a home health care nurse, Martha, come and give him a drip for an hour or so at home. The drip sometimes consisted of fluids and always consisted of a bladder medicine that saved PW’s bladder from irreparable damage.
The girls loved Martha, and I had a love/hate relationship with her. Mostly I loved her too, she was helping us. But some days I just could barely work up any words for her. Those were the days I just hated our situation. I hated that she even had to be there. I was pretty moody sometimes, but then again, I was very pregnant.
Normally, one of the things I really liked about being pregnant was that I was relieved of bath duty. Bathing small children with a pregnant belly isn’t much fun. Not sure if all of you are aware of this or not, but you can’t exactly bend over when pregnant. You can tilt, you can squat, you can crouch, but you can not bend or fold in half in any way. The baby blocks that from happening. During this pregnancy, because PW was so sick, I bathed the girls by myself. Some days I was pretty sad doing it. I think I even cried sometimes. It stunk. (dare I say I was robbed of my experience??)
Two weeks before our little guy was born, I went in for an induction. PW wanted to push off a week of the chemo because of Thanksgiving. He would have had to do his infusions in the hospital, which would have taken even longer on Thanksgiving day and the day after, so it was decided to push it off a week. This is when we decided to induce to avoid the possibility of my going into labor while PW was at a chemo infusion.
Needless to say, after 14 hours the induction didn’t work. I wasn’t willing to go the extra mile to ensure the arrival of our little guy so we packed it up and went home. I decided at that point the baby wasn’t allowed to come out until at least 2 days after his next round of chemo. It worked.
My labor started on December 4th 2001 and our little buddy was born very early in the morning on December 5th. He came via face presentation, which is when a baby comes out face first instead of top of head first. Aside from being very, very bruised he was perfect. It wasn’t the experience I had hoped for, at all, or thought I deserved but he is very much a great little guy. I don’t discount that. I do, however, feel robbed of an easier childbirth experience.
PW’s last round of chemo was when the little buddy was 1.5 weeks old. I was on duty with the kids 24/7 because PW’s energy levels really plummeted as more chemo entered his body. To say having 3 kids under three and no help from your spouse isn’t easy is an understatement. It was torture in many ways, especially when the baby started to cry every single night. But we all managed and when Christmas rolled around that year we were just happy to have the chemo under our belt. Our only obstacle left was the possible lung resection to remove any possible residual mass.
When the little buddy was 5 weeks old, the same week our then 19 month old suffered a green stick fracture to her leg, PW underwent a lobectomy at a hospital in Chicago. After a 5 night stay in the hospital, one night of which every single child in this house woke 3 times, PW came home with the news that the residual mass was strictly scar tissue, the best case scenario.
We are blessed with a happy and healthy family. We appreciate what we have. We value our days because we realize that at the drop of a hat everything can change. All of these good things somehow do not eliminate the feeling I have about those last couple of months of my pregnancy and the couple of months following. Some days (especially in the fall when I have thoughts of our experience right at hand because I’m a date person) I can’t get my oldest daughters words out of my head from that time. She used to refer to PW bald head, “bare hair”. Toward the end of the ordeal I was telling the girls that daddy’s hair would be back soon and my oldest (3 at the time) said, “he’ll be our daddy again when he doesn’t have bare hair”. That still brings tears to my eyes.
I was robbed, not doubt about it. But as I clearly know, it could have been worse. And let me tell you that those words and that belief is what got me through every single day, robbed or not.