One year ago I was married to the greatest guy I'd ever met, my best friend and a wonderful partner. We had a perfect, healthy, beautiful 9 month old son, j. There was an idea that maybe we should test our luck and try for another perfect babe. We were happy. Our home was full of energy, laughter, love and lots of firsts! j was starting to crawl and his little personality was forming. It was amazing.
About a week later - on Feb 17, 2011 - I discovered that babe #2 was in fact coming our way! I was terrified and in complete disbelief. Yes, we were talking about this idea, but we had only just toyed with it. Apparently, we're a very fertile pair. Noted. That night I told nick that I was pregnant. I believe he said "holy shit". I felt the same way! Don't get me we were excited and blessed, but also totally terrified and overwhelmed.
About a week after that, we met my parents in Florida for a family cruise. When we got on board, we dressed j in a onsie that said "Big Bro 2 B" and paraded him in front of my parents. They were over the moon! I told them how scared I was. My Mom said "do you think that I wasn't scared when I found out about your sister?!" All of a sudden I knew everything would be ok. For the first time, I was excited.
2 months later, my J turned 1 and it was finally time to announce #2 to the World. We had a great 1st Birthday party in Central Park. It was so fun. All of our friends and family were there. As the party wound down and people started leaving, my mom asked to talk to me. She took me for a walk and changed my life forever. She told me that she had cancer.
I will always remember J's first birthday...
Over the coming weeks and months, we would learn that what was initially a curable cancer had spread. It was stage 4. At best, she would have 4 years...
At the same time, we were learning that baby #2 was healthy. He was kicking and dancing around in my belly, reminding me that he was there. Yep, he was a he! On the same exact day that Mom had a scan that would ultimately tell us how bad her cancer really was, we had a scan that showed my baby was a healthy boy. These weeks and months were such a combination of highs and lows, it's difficult to know exactly how to describe it. While I hated the lows, I was also glad to have highs.
By September, my Mom wasn't well. She'd had to spend a week in the hospital, in addition to numerous visits for fluids and antibiotics. She had to downgrade her chemo regiment because the initial treatment plan was literally killing her. The new chemo wasn't as hash, but it came with lesser odds... we started to consider that she might never meet #2 who wasn't due until the end of October. These weeks were some of the most difficult. Balancing this stress, with the anxiety of a new baby and the need to keep a strong, healthy body for #2. It was tough. My Mom wanted few things as badly as she wanted to be there to meet her new grandson. Aside from a miracle, I don't know that I wanted anything more either.
Luckily, things got a bit better and my Mom found some energy to fight. When my sweet #2, arrived 3 weeks early, she was in the delivery room. She not only got to meet her new grandson, but got to hold him before I did. It was - and will always be - one of my most cherished memories. It was a miracle in it's own right. It was a blessing, just like baby w.
When #2 was only 5 days old he had to go into the NICU with jaundice and dehydration. My Mom was too ill that week to even understand what was happening, let alone to call me. In fact, just a day or so after w came home, she ended up going into the hospital. Those were difficult days. I hadn't ever imagined a day when my Mom couldn't call me to say, "everything is going to be ok." I cried. Not for worry about my sweet little baby. I cried for me. A little bit of her was already gone and my mourning had started. It was devastating. But I survived. And my sweet w was finally thriving.
Mom got a bit better after a few days in the hospital. We went to see her and even got her out of bed so she could come downstairs and see my boys who weren't allowed up in her room. She held my sweet baby again, in her wheelchair. She watched j run around and play. She got to hear him learn to speak. He calls her Nanny Shells. I have no doubts that on those days, my boys helped her find strength to keep fighting. It was also during those days that my Mom decided to stop her treatments.
She learned that the cancer had continued to spread in spite of the chemo. At the same time, the chemo was making her sick and was giving her minimal odds. She decided that she'd rather live the last weeks or months of her life without chemo, at home. As hard as it is to think back on... at the time, I was so relieved by her decision. I knew, without hesitation, that I would have done the exact same thing. She was so brave.
We spent a lot of time visiting her at home. As my sweet little baby smiled his first smiles and giggled at me for the first time, my Mom was dying in the next room. The contrast of life and death was undeniable and so profound.
As j ran around their house and w turned 2 months, my Mom took her last breaths in the next room. On those last few days, my boys were at home with my husband. I knew that I needed to be a daughter and not a mother... On December 13, 2011 my mother died, surrounded by love and family. She was my best friend, mentor and someone I can only hope to be like. I miss her every. single. day. I have never known such profound sorrow or loss.
After her funeral, we returned to the house where my boys were waiting. Again, such a conflict of joy and sorrow. While I was so deeply heartbroken, my heart was also full of love and gratitude for 2 beautiful, healthy babies.
So started a journey towards gratitude...
I have no doubts that the timing of everything in this past year was meant to be. On the darkest and saddest of days, I have also had joy and hope in my boys. My j knows only joy. He has a boisterous personality and loves to dance, laugh and play. He is too innocent to understand cancer. He brought me laughter - every day. Sweet little w was so tiny and cuddly. He needed to be cared for and loved. It is impossible to feel sadness when snuggling a baby. His needs were a distraction and his presence alone gave us hope.
This year has been incredible challenging. I've found myself lost. It is my hope that through the course of the year to come I can find peace. By focusing on the good, I hope to find myself again.
So today, I am grateful for this space. A place where I can remember the past and celebrate hopes for the future.
If you're still with me... thank you. Thank you for taking this journey and taking the time to read my story. I am grateful for you.