Sean and I are standing on the edge of a precipice. And we have three options: we can step back and walk away; we can jump and crash and burn; or we can jump and hope and maybe–just maybe–take flight.
What I am referring to, of course, is the very complicated decision to try to have a family. Or to not.
Our situation is common among young couples; our circumstances and actual options are not at all common. Our decision has to be carefully determined and planned. It could never just happen accidentally or on a whim. Whatever we decide will be fraught with heartache. And we are OK with all of that.
Let me explain why.
Let me also say at this point that if you choose to read further–and especially if you are new!–there are things you will learn about me that you can’t unlearn. There is a strong possibility you will see me in a different way. I am me in my most open form here. This may not be what you are used to depending on the way in which you interact with me. I am a rather protected person and I rock a good poker face (probably except, oddly, during actual poker). And this is mostly because this is where I feel most confident and comfortable expressing myself; not because I can hide behind a computer screen. I just write better than I talk. The shit I write here is never anything I can stuff away nor walk away from; I live it every day.
I also swear a lot. Like, a lot.
So if you’re easily offended then now’s the time to stop reading.
No, really, you can stop.
Are you sure?
This might be a psychology experiment.
Can’t put it down, huh?
Okay, you’re committed…
I also want to express that what I believe and feel and what Sean believes and feels are not at all viewpoints towards how others live their lives. These are decisions and viewpoints we have made for ourselves for a variety of reasons, some I can explain and some I cannot. So if you find yourself getting to a point where you’re thinking, “Ugh, so close minded” or “but my situation…” then, well, you’re reading for the wrong reasons. All I can tell you is my story, our story. Take it with a grain of salt. I have yet to find the manual on life or the manual on cancer (can I borrow your copy? What?! You didn’t get one either?! Shiiiit). Life seems to be more like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. We’re all just wingin’ it.
To catch you up on a long story: I had breast cancer in 2012. Surgery, surgery, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, “adjuvant therapy” (fucking Doctor terminology: this means drugs, meds, scrips, and probably BS and feeling shitty for an unknown outcome). As a science nerd, I have quickly learned that Doctors haven’t got it figured out–and, yeah, it’s not fair for us to think they do but when you get sick with something shitty like cancer, you just want all questions answered and the path to be clear and obvious (do I really need to think about decisions and weigh them all? Life. I just choose that so do what you need to for that to stay happening). So they don’t exactly know what to do with me. Maybe I was cancer-free with surgery. But they weren’t sure. So I had all that additional stuff, chemo and radiation and the drugs. It all sucked. And every day I got to think about death. And guess what? Even though it’s all pretty much over and it started 3 years ago, I still get to think about death every day! It’s “gone” but since it’s cancer it can always come “back,” (or it’s currently cold chillin’ in my body waiting for the right environment to start up again. Like the shittiest house guest you can imagine!). So, yeah, there’s that.
And I’m OK with all of that. I know it sounds like I’m not but I’m as OK with it as possible! The thing that really crushes me is my Doctors’ responses. Some of them are cool but a whole lot of them are quite the negative nancies! Shit, dude, I have/had CANCER, tell me something good for once. They are very doom and gloom. Do NOT get your hopes up. Sometimes I think they need smile therapy. Or new jobs. And this is where I am going to be really specific: they are rather AGAINST any possibility of Sean and I having a baby (the kind of baby that involves me getting pregnant).
Woah, Serena, did we just go there?
Yeah, we did and there’s more.
Seat belts on, team.
I think you need to know something important. I am a biologist. That means that I know–believe? whatever, leave your opinions at the door–that the majority of living things need three things for their species to continue: food, shelter and progeny (that means babies, you don’t have to google it). Ah, ruminate on that.
For me, that means I want to have kids. And even that desire in me is complicated. I never imagined I would have to decide at this age (I will be 32 in a few days); I really thought, naively, that I would have time to think about it and one day, poof! I would just get pregnant when I felt the mommy urge. HA! I always thought I would have kids. It was just a given, something I didn’t think too deeply on. I’m good with kids. I have been baby-sitting since I was 11, teaching since I was 21. Yeah, I get burnt out on kids sometimes, especially when I see kids being shitty. But I know on some level I’d like to give it a whirl. I don’t have the undeniable urgent need now but I know I don’t want to not have the option to have kids (negatives can kind of cancel each other out there); I don’t want to miss my opportunity.
And I definitely don’t want anyone telling me no! OH HELL NO! You tell me no? I want it more. Like when I was a freshman in college and this great professor said to the class, “well, if you are having a hard time with chemistry or physics, you might want to reconsider being a marine biology major.” Um, excuse me? I hate chemistry and physics but I ain’t leaving. And by the way, even though I have to take those sucky classes, I’m here for marine BIOLOGY. Fuck you. I’ll take a C here and there to get through those shitty necessary classes. And then I will take my fucking degree in marine biology, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Clown. Great teacher. He might have even taught me reverse psychology there. But I really think he just wanted to slim down the competitive major and field so all the hard core marine science nerds could find jobs later! (It didn’t work).
So when I told the doctors, after all the shitty treatments and such, what does this mean about having kids? They said, wellllllllll……. You should wait. You shouldn’t have kids. It might not happen. You might not get your cycle back (I did, step one). And then the crusher…
Well, you don’t want to make your husband a single dad raising a kid by himself. You want to be around for that child.
FUUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUU!!!!!! (Ah the cursing, I know, I know).
I have been told that by 2 doctors, one recently. I want to fucking scream at them (I don’t, I’m usually blind sided and stunned. I curse up a storm in my head later). Worst fucking thing you can say to me; worst load of crap you could pull on me!
Back to that science thing, for a moment, about all living things needing 3 things to continue existing. I am not going to live forever, why can’t I want to create the next generation to, biologically, pass on genetics? Yeah, Sean and I are not the only creators of the next generation but why when I ask about this part do my [scientifically-minded, biology-based] doctors look at me like this is a novel and wild idea?! It’s not the sole reason to have a kid and it’s not even the strongest reason to have a kid but for crap SAKES! BE A SCIENTIST for 5 seconds and understand where I am coming from. Yeah, I’ve thought about it: if I died and left a kid behind that would SUCK but it would be the greatest thing I could do with my life. And I married my husband because I know without a doubt he would be a great father.
Also, I could walk out of the office and get hit by a bus and NOT DIE FROM CANCER. Stop being doom and gloom! You told me my cancer was gone! But now when I want to move on from it, they’re all well, um, yeah, well, death, no, maybe, um, no, death. I can’t fucking win with them.
Most importantly, IT’S OUR DECISION! Thank you for informing me, but ultimately Sean and I will decide to try to have a kid or not. Doom and gloom won’t work on me. I’ve heard it enough these last few years. Research is limited and they just don’t know what will happen to me with the cancer coming back or not. No one knows so why can’t we err on the side of me living my life? I can do it cautiously to a point but if you crush my hopes and dreams then you are not the right doctor for me.
I’ve gotten my rant and the gist of it out and now I can tell you the reality of where we are at.
I’ve been going to a fertility specialist. Wait wait wait. It’s not what you think.
You’re thinking shots and all that.
Thankfully, I can’t do that. Taking hormone shots would be like giving an addict free drugs: my cancer type loves that shit! It could “flare up” (I thought that sounded nice and manageable; it sounds better than “return as a giant hostile tumor in any body organ or all of them”). Yeah, shots are never a possibility. And I say thankful because… that’s just not for us. If we can have a kid, I’d like to just conceive naturally or not at all. I know it’s rough for you to imagine that I can be so all or nothing about it but I am and we are. I just don’t want to force something that isn’t meant to be. It would be too hard and stressful. I’ve had enough of that these last few years. Conceiving a baby needs to something that is fun and easy and if it happens, great; if not, it’s OK. I’m OK with that.
So, in review, our options: 1) walk away; 2) try to conceive and fail; 3) try to conceive and succeed.
I think I can be OK with two of those.
And if you know me at all, it is NOT to walk away!
We’ve done some testing with the specialist. I have the egg supply of a 41 year old: not great but not impossible. We’ll face countless challenges and heartache going forward but we are prepared for that. Sean and I have a plan that we will discuss with the doctors in the coming weeks and we will see where it takes us. It’s not radical; it’s responsible; it might run the course of many years. And it’s very us in many ways; in a few ways, it goes against our nature but it a wonderful way that we are learning more about ourselves and what we can handle.
But the most important thing is we have each other. And we’ll figure it out. We have made peace with our options and potential decisions and outcomes (even if we can’t prepare for all of them) and we are ready to move on and move forward. As we learn more, things will inevitably change. Like, maybe, better doctors that can be more open-minded. And maybe a few other hiccups on the way. We had this shitty thing happen to us; but that’s ok, let’s move forward.
All I know for sure is: you don’t tell me not to try; you don’t tell me not to dream big, even if it’s too big; you don’t knock me down and expect me to stay there. I am happy to be humbled–and Lord knows I have been these last few years–but I don’t give up!