I suppose that every year of life is full of changes, be they large or small. Especially when you're married and raising children, change happens - daily! As usual, this past year has been full of changes for us. Of course, our nearly seven years of marriage has been a roller coaster while Jared completed his Masters and then Doctorate, during which we were having babies and moving around. :) We have spent much of our married life dreaming of the 'next' thing. How great will life be once you (Jared) are finished with your Masters? How much better once your Doctorate is completed? How much better once you (Jared) have a real job with a living wage and we feel comfortable with me (Barbara) staying home? How much better when....? It never ends. We've had hard lessons in learning to embrace and accept the present. Endure! seems to have been my motto for ages, now.
After Lillian was born last year we were told we shouldn't have more children, it would be too dangerous. We were upset, obviously, as we'd always hoped to have many children. However, we had Lillian, and she was truly a miracle baby, considering what was going on inside my body. It was a time of great patience as we mastered NFP, a difficult thing to do when a pregnancy would be a matter of life and death. It was also a time of healing as we mourned the life we had planned. A few months after Lillian was born I had a huge chunk of my cervix removed because of high-grade pre-cancerous cells. My doctor took so much of my cervix that if the dysplasia returned I would have to have a hysterectomy. However, she said that once a LEEP procedure is done, it's rare for the dysplasia to appear again. In my case, however, it did.
When I had my check-up in January they found the high-grade dysplasia was still there, and after several biopsies and discussing my case with the oncologist, it was decided a hysterectomy (uterus and cervix only) had to be done, and very soon. I had surgery on April 8, and what felt like the longest recovery ensued.
We have had very dramatic labors and births with all of our children, and my pregnancy with Lillian was also quite dramatic. We had gotten to a point where it seemed that 'all of the bad things' would happen to me regarding my reproductive organs. Less than one percent of attempted VBACs (vaginal birth after c-section) will have a uterine rupture - that was me! *waves* Most LEEP procedures remove all the high-grade dysplasia - not me! *waves again* I even had a hemorrhage three weeks after my hysterectomy. I was at home and it was quite terrifying. I started bleeding, got light headed, and the next thing I know my mother is rolling me over as I'm vomiting, and my husband is on the phone with 911. The ambulance came, I passed out and threw up some more, and then they rushed me to the hospital where they discovered two hematomas at my surgical site. Scary times. We sent my two oldest kids off to Kansas for two weeks to be with family so I could lay low and heal. Luckily, all is well now.
Now, with all of this change has come sadness. Even though we had planned on having no more children after Lillian, there was still that small hope. That idea that if God wanted it to happen, it could, and he would take care of us. But now that my uterus is gone, there is no hope of birthing any more babies. And even though I don't have to worry about cancer anymore, or dealing with icky, painful periods, there is serious heartbreak in the fact that I am 31 years old and we will have no more children. I know, I know, adoption is an option. But the thought of adoption is so far off the radar. Right now there is only grieving. Grieving the loss of what we wanted, of what we hoped for, of what could have been. There is only fielding my oldest daughter's questions of "when can we have another baby?" "Wouldn't it be great to have a fourth baby, maybe a boy this time?" When will you be pregnant again, Mama?" And even though we finally told her why we can't have more, she doesn't quite get it, and she still questions. I'm sad when Lillian grows out of her clothes and instead of saving them, we're passing them on. The same goes for Dominic's clothes, now that we know there will not be another boy. I hate that when I hear of people talking about being "done" I get upset, thinking, "wow, if I could have more, I WOULD!" And I know that's not fair, because everyone is at a different place in their life, but that's just the truth. I guess that's what grief does.
This grieving has brought me closer to my husband, though. Together we have cried over the loss of future children, but we've marveled at what we do have. After the surgery this spring my doctor told us how bad things were inside of me. One of the things was that my uterus was covered in endometriosis. So, I guess we're incredibly blessed and lucky to have the three beautiful children we do have. On a different note, my husband is also a bit relieved to not deal with anymore drama! It seems that every time we have a baby I nearly die, so I can see how there's relief there for him. And of course, it is kind of nice to not have to worry about NFP for the next 15 years. :) It's almost like God said, "Hey, you trusted me last year and did NFP instead of birth control, even though it was terrifying. So thank you, and now I'll save you the trouble and take your uterus." It sounds weird, but there is that silver lining there.
It has been stressful in our house - stressful on our marriage, stressful for our children. The stress of dealing with this on top of having small children, one of which I was still nursing, was sometimes unbearable! Luckily, Lillian kept nursing through it all, and just recently quit. I am so thankful she didn't quit nursing during and right after my surgery. That would have been just awful. At least she nursed all the way until I was recovered. And she's still a snuggle bug, thankfully. Still, I was not ready for her to stop nursing - she just turned 16 months old today, but she was ready. That was another grief to deal with. My final nursling - I wish it was bitter-sweet, but I'm just bitter about it.
I feel that this year has been a hard lesson in learning that we cannot know what God has planned for us, and we simply cannot always understand it. How can this happen to us, a family who so desperately wants children, when all around the world there are women who don't want their babies, and go to terrible extremes to prevent or end pregnancy? We want children, why would that be taken away from us? I'm sure God has something great planned for us, but right now all I can do is be thankful for what we have, and trust that He will help me through. I am bitter, I'm angry....I'm angry with God. And that's okay. He's the only one who can really help me through this, and although He's always known that, now I know it, too.