Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Re-Birth(day)

Posted by Debi from Southern California.

If you'd like to use this space to tell stories/secrets/confessions of your dangerous maternal mind, anonymously or otherwise, send me an e-mail and you too can enjoy the refuge of the Basement...

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September 13th I was lucky enough to celebrate my son's one year birthday. Such a happy day. During the "Happy Birthday" singing, the opening of presents, and the cake smashing I secretly began to mourn. I began to mourn the beginning of what turned out to be the darkest period in me and my son's life - a time of pain, fear, depression, and ultimately hope.

I suffered through the beginnings of motherhood like any new mom. The unbelievable nipple pain, the hemorrhoids, the swelling, the lack of sleep. I suffered well. I believed it was a small price to pay for a such a new life. After about two weeks, though, everything changed. The baby would not stop crying. He finished nursing - he cried. He tried to sleep - he cried. You put him down - he cried. You held him - he cried. He would not stop crying. I could not stop crying. He didn't sleep. I didn't sleep.

I begged him to stop crying. I asked him, "Please, just tell mommy what to do and I will do it if it will make you stop crying!" One day I thought, "I bet if I threw him in the pool, he would stop crying." Later I thought, "If I drive the car off the road, I bet the crying would stop." I had pills. If I took them, I wouldn't have to hear the crying.

After a few trips to the doctor and a few mis-diagnoses (acid reflux and/or allergy to my breastmilk) and one trip to get an x-ray for a distended stomach, I got the phone call. "Your son has a massive tumor in his abdomen. Drive to Children's Hospital, room 124 immediately." He was six weeks old. I was alone in the house, it was 10:30 pm on October 25, 2005. I apologized over and over again to my baby for what was happening to him. "Mommy didn't mean to give you a tumor. Mommy didn't mean to think about killing you." "Mommy is sorry for everything."
Two days later, my son was reborn. He came out of surgery without a one pound softball-sized tumor in his abdomen. It was cancer, but the chances looked good. My baby began to get better and I crept ever so slowly into a deep depression. This wasn't how I pictured motherhood. I wasn't prepared to deal with cancer. NOBODY TOLD ME I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH MY SON HAVING CANCER. I was angry. I yelled at my husband. It was his fault, it was my fault, it was our fault. I was so angry and what was happening and I had nowhere to put my anger.

I sought help. The first therapist helped me to try and get over the cancer fear. For the most part, it worked. She did not, however, treat my marriage problems and my depression. We tried to be a family. I thought about divorcing him since he was no help anyway. I realized that was unfair to all of us. I still loved him. I needed him.

We moved to be closer to my family and the hospital in case we ever needed to go through chemo. The move helped. I was back in my old neighborhood, with friends and family close by. We started going to marriage counseling to try and pick up the pieces of a broken life. It's working. And after eight longs months of suffering through depression, I started on Lexapro and it's saving my life.

The reason I was unable to fully be happy on my son's birthday is the terrible sadness I feel when I think about what he and I lost. We lost our happy beginning. Our beginning together as mother and son was a total disaster and I can't ever get that time back to him. I can't take away the awful pain he must have felt for those six terrible weeks. For myself, I mourn the lost of a normal introduction into motherhood. I look around at all my friends who are new moms and I realize, "They don't share my experience - I can't relate to theirs." It's a lonely existence. I will not have any more children because I'm afraid of those first six weeks.

So, I look forward to October 27th. A day that gave me back my son. A baby that smiled for the first time in the hospital. A baby that was held by a family member, 24 hours a day, for over a week in the hospital. A baby that spent his first Halloween hooked up to monitors with a tube down his nose. A baby that does not cry any more.


You can meet Jack over at Jack Attack.

15 comments:

toyfoto said...

Wow. It's true, you won't get that time back. But you have endured with a lot of hard work. Please try and be kind to yourself. You are human and you did your best. I'm sure the people who know you would say they are proud.

Andrea said...

Thank you for sharing this. I concur with toyfoto. You did the best you could with what you had. And you have many many years to look forward to.

Anonymous said...

I can relate. I had a lot of problems with depression after my son was born and though I can't image also dealing with cancer I too feel like I lost the first year of enjoying my son. Thank you for your post as unfortunate as it is it is nice to know that I am not alone.

Anonymous said...

I worry about the same sort of thing, but on a much much smaller scale. My middle child was born in an archaic naval hospital. They took her away from me after she was born, to another floor and refused to bring her to me or bring me to her for over 9 hours (There seems to be no apparent reason for this, other than poor staffing or just general carelessness) I have never felt a bond with her like I have with my other two kids (who were born in great maternal-friendly hospitals) I never really made the association until much later, but it is always in the back of my mind. I wish I could have that 9 hours back. :(

the Goddess Anna said...

So say we all.

Of course, sometimes I don't even like my own kids. But that's a whole other issue.

Lillithmother said...

Another sufferer of PPD...but having the cancer element on your plate must have made it even worse...I can't imagine! You're a brave and courageous Mama...and glad neither one of us ended our precious lives.

Lil

Anonymous said...

I think that any mother feels that way when you have a kid that is sick. I had a horrible introduction to motherhood because of my son's birth defect. The first year was hell. It got better, much better and I cherish every day I have with him. I did not truly learn what it felt like for most mothers until I had my second child who was born perfectly healthy. I had such a rush of happiness, it was overwhelming. The expirences were so so different.

ewe are here said...

Oh, I am sooo sorry for what you went through in those early weeks with your little one. And of course it left you in a depressed funk and a rocky marriage. Who wouldn't struggle after what you went through?

But you addressed it. You realized there was something terrible wrong and your son got the help he needed. And you went out and got the help you needed. And when the first therapist wasn't enough, you found another one. You fought for your marriage and your family, and you made it. That's something you should be really proud of.

Please remember that yes, while a year is a long time, it's a drop in the bucket of the years you and your son and your family have aheaed of you. Even that horrible start, the first year. The horribleness of it all will start to fade over time, and you'll start to remember the happier times since then. Go ahead and mourn the loss of that first year; it deserves mourning. But then, please try to move past it and move on with your lives. You sound like you're so close to doing this. And you've done everything you could to get to this point.

Again, you should be so proud of yourself for getting yourself and your family the help it needed to get to and celebrate your son's first birthday as a family.

Anonymous said...

That was so beautiful.
I didn't go through having a child with cancer. I did go through post partum depression.
It makes me so sad because I also felt like I missed out on stuff. I feel like I didn't love him enough. I wondered over and over and over how I could love my niece from the second she was born, and yet I did not feel that way about my child.
I'm realizing now (therapy helps) that I did the best I could and I am still doing the best I can. And I love him more every day.
Thank god babies are resilient and do not know what we went through at first.
Be proud of yourself. You are doing so well now.

ibex67 said...

{{{{{hugs}}}}}

just huge, huge hugs

Jenn said...

Really hun, it's only you who will be missing the happiness of the first 6 weeks. I know it's sad and you wished it was differant. Thing is, he's not going to remember it. I barely remember anything before 3 or 4. Do you? So stay positive and move forward, and it will be but a distant shadow of a memory (only yours) soon enough.

*hug*

Anonymous said...

my baby didn't have cancer and i also thought about throwing him when he cried. now i barely remember those days and when i felt like that. furthermore, the concept of having to bond with a baby in the first moments of its life (be it hours or weeks) really seems bogus to me. does that mean you can't bond with a baby you've adopted long after its birth?? or bond with a person you've met later in life (like a life-partner/husband/wife/friend/long-lost-relative)?? i really think this is nonsense about having only a short window of opportunity to bond with someone or else all is lost. i think it really harms us to think that we have missed the opportunity to bond because you can always bond with another human, there is always time to do that and it's never too late. to me it sounds like you were an excellent mother in that you did not wait for him to grow out of his crying (like it were 'colic'); rather you pursued it until it was resolved and you saved his little life because of your actions.

Jaelithe said...

You are a very brave and good mother. To have perservered through the crazy medical system to find out what was wrong with your baby, while you were still recovering from the birth yourself, and while you were sleep deprived, stressed, and depressed is an amazing accomplishment. Your son is lucky to have such a strong mother.

I never really thought about the fact that babies could get tumors until mine got one. Thankfully, my son was not in serious pain from his (small) tumor like your poor baby was, and it tested benign. But, "Your son has a tumor on his skull and we must operate soon to see whether it has entered his brain," sure was the scariest thing I had ever heard. I hope I never have to hear anything scarier.

I can relate so much to your feelings that it was your fault . . . I felt that way for a long time too, and sometimes I still do . . . I kept saying to my husband, "I made him wrong. Don't you see? I did something wrong during pregnancy and I MADE HIM WRONG!" And then I'd get furious with him for not agreeing with me.

(And I can relate to violent thoughts, too. Of course I can. I'm a mother. PPD aside, I think any mother who tells you she never even for a fraction of a second pictured smacking or smothering or abandoning her screaming newborn is LYING. We all think about doing terrible things. Good character means resisting the urge to do bad things, not in never having the urge in the first place).

You were brave to post this, and I thank you. I hope the coming years more than make up for the year you feel you lost.

T. said...

My youngest son was born with multiple congenital anomalies. He was born, they took one look at him and whisked him away. To another hospital across the city. I never even got to hold him. They gave me a fuzzy poloraid pic to remember him by.

19 hours later, I arrived by his side. He was hooked up to so many tubes and hoses I didn't know what to think or feel. Days morphed into weeks, weeks into months until I thought I was losing my mind.

I was so resentful that my boy was unable to be home with his family. Everyday that passed was a day I was unable to be his mommy. And then I felt guilty for having made him that way, or felt guilty for being so selfish for wanting him home.

Half a year later, he came home. And when his first birthday rolled around, we celebrated it for the blessing it was. But I resented having lost so much time with him.

But on the anniversary of his coming home, we had a huge party. His coming home party. And it is what we call his second birthday. And I will still celebrate that day, as well as his birthday for as long as I live.

Don't feel guilty for your feelings. You were deprived of your special time with him. Grieve it, and accept that you can't change it. But celebrate the new beginning you were both given.

May God bless you all.

Anonymous said...

I think you should have a big celebration for his 'homecoming day' anniversary.

I'm sorry your experiences those early weeks weren't all you had hoped and dreamed of...certainly, all the stuff they ram down our throats on those sappy birth shows on tv-it's nothing like the reality of it, not for most of us.

I hope your son continues to thrive and do well. I think it's wonderful that you are closer to friends and family. And while you feel you lost time with him early on, all he knows is RIGHT NOW. He's loved and cherished and as long as you give him that for every single day, all is right.

BTW, I checked out the link you provided...he's adorable! :)