To Have…Or Not To Have Another

We went back and forth for a long time – our entire relationship up to that point, really. I was still feeling shell-shocked from memories of PPD and a failed marriage, while David simply thought that no kid could ever top Jack. (Awww.) Could I go through the stress of a new baby again? Could I trust my partner to do his part after what had happened in my previous marriage?

It took until Jack was five years old for me to answer those questions.

We finally decided sometime late last year. We wanted to have another child and we would start trying sometime in 2012. We had gone through some ups and downs in our relationship but had settled in nicely and were working toward our goals. We felt secure in our love for one another and our desire to build our family. I thought that at least I’d be prepared if I got PPD again, and we decided that Jack was probably meant to be a big brother and would not feel slighted by an addition to the family. We would make sure he DIDN’T feel that way.

About a week into the new year, we were sent to the hospital with Jack and handed the diagnosis of Leukemia. I kid you not – just days before this I had been talking to my friend Becky about child loss (we were brainstorming for a resource page for Band Back Together) and I said, “I’d probably kill myself if something happened to Jack.” Jack is THE REASON I turned my life around back in 2008. Regardless of how far I’d come in rebuilding my life, how could I keep going if he wasn’t a part of it?

The conversation with Becky haunted me as soon as I knew there was something wrong with Jack’s health. I thought, “I did it again – I opened my big fat mouth! I’m never going to say a goddamned thing parenting-related again!!!” It had seemed I’d asked for it. I had tempted fate and now my boy was sick. Considering the hardships I’d been through in my life, I should have known better – don’t acknowledge the blessings out loud, lest they be taken away.

I wish I could say that the feeling that somehow I caused this went away, but it hasn’t. It’s a known issue with me – I blame myself for most things. Magical thinking at its finest!

Not long after the diagnosis, one of my (many) panicked thoughts was, “We should have a baby – that would keep me here if something were to happen to Jack.” I just knew that if we lost Jack, everyone around me would lose ME, too. I simply hadn’t been living before Jack was in my world, and how would I live without that sunshine in my life? Another child would ensure that I stayed rooted. I needed something to keep me rooted – something that told me that there was NO WAY I was allowed to give up. I probably don’t need to point out that I was feeling a clawing desperation and horror, and that was affecting my thinking at that point in time…

Sometime in the proceeding days, my thoughts shifted. There was NO WAY I could handle a baby while my firstborn was fighting the battle of his life! I could not take my attention away from Jack! I was going to be right by his side and make sure we beat this!!! Thankfully my husband and I had a heart-to-heart and he expressed his concern that I would throw myself so thoroughly into taking care of Jack that I would ignore myself, our marriage, our life.

David has an amazing ability to center me. I made the right decision there!

I don’t remember who in the oncology team said this – maybe it was more than one person – but I heard the message loud and clear: you can’t stop living because of this diagnosis. You can’t change your life plans – that will just frighten Jack more.

I couldn’t reconcile that message with my other concerns. It was clear to me that I couldn’t completely throw myself into the role of Jack’s savior. There was really very little I could do to help him fight this and losing myself in the process would be more detrimental to him than anything, not to mention I had a husband I’d made promises to – but this was my SON, my first-born, my lifeline! If he wasn’t okay, I wasn’t okay! There was no getting around that. I likely wouldn’t be here if Jack wasn’t here – how would I carry on if he was gone?

Understandably, thoughts of adding onto the family were put on the back burner. The stress and worry over Jack’s health weighed on me so heavily that I no longer slept peacefully and I could barely get up in the morning – I couldn’t see how I could handle a pregnancy or infant on top of all that. On top of that, it didn’t matter that Jack’s prognosis was fantastic – that it would be a shock if he didn’t lick this – we had already drawn the short straw. There was proof we had bad luck. How could we take the leap of faith necessary to have another child?

Jack is now six weeks from the maintenance phase – the phase where we are relatively “home free” and he can return to school. There is no reason to believe he won’t completely heal from this and never experience a recurrence.

So now I have time to return to thoughts of another child…and my worries have not faded. Having a second child feels like taking a risk. We are both now hyper aware of all that could go wrong. Maybe we should just call it good! No need to tempt fate!

But I still can’t let go of the thought of expanding our family. It doesn’t seem right to give up, to never again experience pregnancy or birth or those little developmental milestones. I can’t help but wonder what my genes mixed with David’s genes would create. Not to mention that as hard as parenthood is, having Jack in my life is absolutely worth it.

Before Jack’s cancer, I was sure we’d be trying to conceive this year and add to our family. Now, I’m not sure.

Unfortunately cancer affects life in many ways, and it has shaken us to the core.

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Comments

  1. I have troubles deciding what I want to have for dinner. How am I supposed to manage deciding if we should have a kid?

  2. Hahaha, David’s comment is right on.

    I have significant troubles with magical thinking as well. Like I’m in charge of the universe or something. Only the bad things though of course, the good things get credit elsewhere.

    • Absolutely…OF COURSE I have bad luck and am being punished for something that I don’t even know I did…but if something good happens? That has nothing to do with anything at all!

  3. This is a beautiful post. I think one day you’ll just know that it’s right. Or if it’s not. I really do… In other news, I MISS YOU!

  4. You have captured it all so well. It’s such a different thing to choose to have a second. With the first, you don’t really know what you’re getting in to. And then they get here and holy shit, every single thing is scary and major and life affecting. I can only imagine when you throw something as scary as cancer on the worry pile.
    You’ll know when or if you want to grow that little family. You’ll worry either way and you’ll handle it wonderfully either way.

    • There is definitely a benefit that first time around with deciding to have a kid – naivete can be a real blessing!

      And, you are right – we’ll be happy no matter what we decide. It’s the indecision that is hard. :P

  5. A friend once said the greatest gift she’d give her children was each other. This was true for me. My son, born in 2008, has been changed by the arrival of his baby sister. We tempted fate in a big way but it’s been better than I could ever have imagine. And #2 was way easier. :D

    You’ll know. And if not, to hell with it. :) You’ll decide either way and it will be wonderful.

    • For quite some time I thought I would never have another. But then it was pointed out to me (by who or what, I don’t know) that it’s awesome to have someone to share those childhood memories with and deal with a parent’s demise…I want that for my son.

      My worry is that the second one will actually be harder. Jack has been SUCH a good kid and we haven’t had to worry about so many things that other parents have…

  6. P.S. I can write in the proper tense. I don’t know what was wrong with me up there. Hehe.

  7. My mom was diagnosed with AML just over twelve years ago. She at least appears to be the healthiest she’s ever been in her life. One cannot tell what the future holds, but for our family, the present is probably much brighter than we ever imagined back in the day that it might be. I hope you, David, and Jack are every bit as fortunate as my family has been.

    I’ll be very interested in seeing how you ultimately decide to deal with the baby question. Maybe the next six weeks and what you’re told will clinch the decision for you. or maybe you need to think longer and harder about the big picture. With the particular parents to whom I was born, the correct answer would have been to have another child. My parents were and still are too obsessive to parent just one child, and would have smothered my brother or me had either of us been their only offspring. You’re probably far saner than my parents are, though. Whatever your choice, you’ll make it the right decision.

    Take care, and may God, fate, the forces of the Universe, or any other Higher Power in which you place trust keep your little boy healthy and thriving on this planet long after both you and I have gone.

    Alexis

    • I absolutely think that a sibling would benefit Jack. It would probably benefit me, too. But will it suck for that kid? :P I don’t know!

      Thanks for the good wishes!

  8. Before I tell my story I’ll tell you that I am 1 year cancer-free. I wasn’t so sure of that this time last year. At my first MRI after my radiation treatments there was something on the MRI. It could have been changes from the surgery, it could have been damage from the radiation treatments or it could have been residual tumor. There was no way to know until my next MRI in October. At the appointment at which my neurosurgeon told me the news I broke down sobbing. I’d been through 3 surgeries and 32 radiation treatments, the news that there may be more radiation treatments totally defeated me. I broke down sobbing to which my neurosurgeon replied it is what it is, you can’t let this ruin your life you just have to go on living like you were going to live before this. Easier.said,than.done. there mr. dr. neurosurgeon who hasn’t had radiation shot into his head every day for 8 weeks. Much to my and my family’s relief I got the news that there was no evidence of tumor at my October MRI but truthfully it’s really just been these last few months that I’ve felt ready to even deal with real life. If in 6 weeks you’re not ready to add to your family that doesn’t mean that a year or so down the line you might not want to. You don’t have to make an instant decision. Give yourself time to heal and recover from being terrified and holding your breath for the better part of a year. Cancer causes huge upheaval and unbearable uncertainty, it takes time to recover and regroup. (((big hugs)))

    • I’m so glad you’re cancer free now! Living with that kind of stress sucks. I feel like we are getting back much of what we lost when the diagnosis was announced, but it still surprises me when I’m not moving as quickly as I think I should be. Time will heal and give us more information, I’m sure.

  9. Whatever your decision in the end, the thoughtful way you are going about everything proves that you are a great mother. Sending love.

  10. Ahhh, such a tough decision; I can only imagine. Whatever happens, life shall go on. ;p
    The, “What would our genes manifest as, put together?” question is one of the most appealing parts of potential parenthood, for me. & I’ve long had a Magical Thinking that I’d be awesome at pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding. A lot of the rest of it tend to scare me, though! ;p Plus I’m already 35 and our current lifestyle is SO not conducive to children. ;p
    So we’re kinda figuring that we can always adopt if we change our minds / decide too late, but, the rockstar auntie and uncle thing is working well for us–and we each have a completely adorable set of nephew & niece to love on, so we’re pretty set in that department. (Plus, you know, fear that my kids wouldn’t measure up to my sister’s kids! Heh. Not that it’s a competition.)
    Sending peaceful & healing vibes your way!

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  1. [...] To Have or Not Have Another: My girl Crys talks about the stress of deciding to have another kid while dealing with her son who has leukemia. Bring tissues. [...]

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