A Scary Pregnancy Will Shape You As A Parent

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shutterstock_150533705The ultrasound tech smeared the cold jelly on my stomach and my body literally hummed with excitement. I was there for my very first peak at our baby. We saw her precious heartbeat flickering on the screen the moment the wand touched my lower abdomen. I was so entranced by that sight that I did not notice at first the concern on the tech’s face. Over the coming months, I would become a professional at reading ultrasound tech’s faces as I would be having many of them. Luckily, my story had a happy ending and now that I am removed from the situation, I can confidently say that for better or worse, a scary pregnancy will shape you as a parent.

After that initial ultrasound, I received a phone call from my doctor’s office. They found a suspicious-looking mass near my uterus of indeterminate origin. Over the course of the next few weeks, we discovered that it was a mucinous tumor on my right ovary and that I would need to have surgery to remove it at 15 weeks pregnant. Of course, we were terrified and had no idea what to expect but pushed forward. We found out after that surgery that the tumor was borderline cancerous and something called a low malignancy potential growth. Basically, it was large and abnormal and not at all something that should be inside of me- the doctor said it was “stage zero” cancer- but it would not have ever made me sick and I required no chemo or radiation. I was able to keep my ovary and the rest of my pregnancy was uneventful and easy.

At 36 weeks, I had an ultrasound to determine the baby’s size and position. It was this ultrasound where we learned that the growth had come back and this time, my doctors had reason to believe it may be malignant. They waited to do my c-section until I hit 37 weeks so we had all those days to consider the fact that I might have ovarian cancer. It was the single worst week of my life.

Claire was born amid all of the worry and sadness and thankfully, she was perfect. After she came out, I was put to sleep and the doctors removed the tumor along with my right ovary. I found out in recovery that the tumor was the same sort as my first one- it turned out that I would be ok but I had already been changed forever. Having to contemplate the possibility of terminal illness at 25 years old with a baby on the way definitely altered my outlook on everything- particularly, on parenthood.

In the coming weeks, as we got into our groove as new parents, I began to realize that I was not the kind of mother I had assumed I would be. I was more patient. I was more grateful. I was thrilled to experience the little things and appreciating every minute. Despite my young age, my scary pregnancy had given me an incredible gift not often bestowed on twenty-something mothers. Perspective. Tons of it. As I trolled parenting message boards, I read posts where mothers fretted over inconsequential things and whined about repeat baby gifts and what in the world they would do with all the extra outfits their baby would never wear. I will admit to rolling my eyes and wondering if they knew how lucky they were to have these fantastically stupid “problems”.

I will not say this made me a better mother than them- I understand those feelings too and have had moments where I was annoyed by something petty. I will say that what happened to us made me a different kind of mother than I would have been had they not happened. I was so happy to just be “normal” with a healthy baby in my arms. It has been nearly seven years now and I can say that there have been fleeting moments where I forget how fortunate we are and then, it all comes rushing back to me. All the bargaining we did with God and the universe- that if only we could all come out of this unscathed, we would be forever grateful and would never forget how lucky we are. My perfect daughter is my daily reminder that I should be grateful and not dwell on the little things. From day one, I was just happy to have her. I was not concerned with milestones or what kind of student she would be one day or what kind of future she had. I had her- that was enough. I can honestly say that I would not be this way had it not been for what we went through.

I am so thankful for this gift of perspective. Knowing that a spilled container of freshly pumped breast milk totally fucking sucks- but it could always be worse. That a sleepless night was misery I would wish on no one but that sometimes at 2am, I would have a smile on my face that nothing could have wiped off because here I was. Experiencing something I had myself convinced several times that I would not get to do. I will be forever grateful for every awful moment we went through and every piece of scary news we got. Without it, I would not be the parent I am today and my kids would not be the same either. It shaped us all as a family and I am eternally grateful.

(Image: coffeemill/Shutterstock)