A few weeks back I met with another mum, Becky, who had gone through her own fertility struggles. Her experience, like ours was a little unconventional and like myself she has documented her journey to motherhood. Her blog is called Defining Mum and she writes to give hope and support to so many others that are struggling to become parents and challenge the traditional notions that being a mum is dependent on DNA and giving birth. As I listened to her talk about how her own preconceptions were shattered once her children were born, so much of it resonated with me and I thought back to the day I made the one of the biggest decisions of my life and in doing so gave up the ability to carry a child.
I met my new consultant Mr Bultler Manuel two days before I was scheduled to have surgery. I had a rough idea of what it would involve but we needed to finalise the details and I wanted to meet the man who would be operating on me. I felt I was in safe hands almost immediately, he had just the right balance of care and attention without being at all patronizing, he knew I was well aware of all that was going on. He went through the options in detail. The first was a radical trachelectomy, this would remove my cervix, the top of my vaginal tissue and also the surrounding lymph nodes. It was the least severe option and choosing it would leave me with the ability to carry a child, although to give birth would require a c-section and there was also a much higher chance any baby I had would be premature. The second was a radical hysterectomy and the removal of pretty much all of my reproductive organs, it was extreme but he explained with it came a slightly higher chance of the cancer never coming back. He spoke of two ladies he had treated in the past who had opted for the first option and in both cases the cancer had unfortunately returned before either had the chance, or made a decision to try and get pregnant. He said I didn’t have to choose right now and that I could go away and think about it but to be honest I didn’t need anymore time. If he had said that by taking my legs it would have been less likely to come back I would have opted to have those removed too. Right then my only thoughts were of survival and giving myself the best possible chance. Finally we spoke about my ovaries and whether they should be removed too. For the staging I had, more often that not they were left alone but he explained that by removing them it would increase my chances of survival ever so slightly. I told him I wanted them gone too.
I wonder sometimes what you’ll think of how quickly I made that decision, whether you’ll question my choice. I know that for so many women that carrying a child is a fundamental part of being a mum. In a perfect world I would have loved to carry you both and I cant pretend that in so many ways it would have been wonderful. I missed the excitement and awe of my own flesh and blood creating life, I missed those first tiny kicks and never got to talk to you when we were alone together in those first few months. Your dad never got to put his head on my belly as we cozied up on the sofa wondering if it was a boy or girl, I didn’t get to wander the maternity clothes isle, never got to ‘eat for two’ and didn’t get to lie back on a chair while my tummy was covered in cold jelly and gaze at a screen while the baby wriggled around inside me. Sure I missed out on those things and it makes me sad, but I don’t regret my decision for one moment. It may well be controversial to say so but for me all those things would have been for my benefit only. To have experienced all that and to have brought a child into the world only to increase the risk of leaving them when they were so little was out of the question. That was risk was I was not willing to take and I knew right there and then as long as I survived I would be a mum and we would be a family however we managed to get there.
Less than three years later we did just that. And instead of giving birth I had a totally unique experience that most mothers don’t. I watched you Evelyn being born, every part of it, from the business end. I got skin to skin contact with you both, without going through labour first so I wasn’t exhausted by that or nine months of sickness, lack of sleep and carrying around another person. I was elated and petrified all at once and totally present for every last second. From the moment you were placed into my arms I felt as much of a mum as anyone else ever has. From that moment on you were mine and I would do anything and everything to keep you safe, protect you from harm and love you with every part of me. You can give birth and share DNA and maybe according to science and the Oxford Dictionary that makes you a mother but for me that is in name only. To become a real mum everything that you’ll ever need is found only within your heart, it is the creation of an unbreakable bond that once formed you’ll feel forever. To love and be loved by you is a privilege I am eternally grateful for and each and every time you wrap your arms around me and tell me so, you give me the only confirmation I will ever need that I am Mum.
Forever and Always
Becky’s blog Defining Mum can be found at https://definingmum.com