Motherhood After Childhood Cancer

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Growing up I wanted more than anything to be a mommy. I played with only Cabbage Patch dolls and Barbies and always made my brother play “house” with me. The only role I ever wanted to play was that of Mommy. In fact, for most of my childhood and teen years I had a hard time thinking about college or work because I didn’t want anything to interfere with being a mother.

When I was 13 years old, I had a conversation with my pediatric oncologist. I asked him what he thought my chances were of having my own children after the Leukemia.  He told me that there was probably an 80% chance that I would have my own children since I had never had a bone marrow transplant.  We were told there was a chance of sterility with a bone marrow transplant in young children.

When I started dating my now husband and we started to get serious, it was time to talk about children.  I told him that I had faith that I would be a mother, biologically or through adoption.  I had always been content with adoption if that’s what I needed to do, but I had to make sure he was okay with it as well  if we were going to get married. He was.  Fortunately for me, James was very supportive and loved me enough to go on this journey with me.  And what a journey it has been!

Right around our one year anniversary, we started talking about trying to get pregnant. I was adamant that it was time, and he was nervous (probably how this conversation happens in most marriages….haha).  We decided to go off birth control and see what the Lord had in store for us. One morning about a week later, I surprised James with a positive pregnancy test! We had no idea we were already about 4 weeks pregnant. He was making breakfast and turned a shade of white that I don’t think I’d ever seen on a person before. He was terrified to say the least. 

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I was filled with a huge array of emotions, from ecstatic to down right nauseous, literally.  I had morning sickness pretty bad for the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and lost about 11 pounds before I ever started gaining.  I was 23 years old and in some ways felt like I was still a baby.  I had been so excited for this stage in my life that I never took the time to actually think about the reality of pregnancy and marriage and adult life.  It was a lot to take in.

That first pregnancy was filled with complications.  I was considered high risk because of my history with Leukemia and heart problems.  I was monitored very closely and had all kinds of tests run to check on the baby.  Down syndrome was a factor to consider and with chemotherapy, the doctors were concerned there might be effects transferred to the baby. Since I was on a rare chemotherapy protocol, there was no telling if there could be damage from the treatments. It was all so terrifying.

About 8 months along, I was put on bed rest for pre-eclampsia.  I had a lot of water retention and swelling and high blood pressure.  I started having early contractions and dilating too early.  I was on bed rest for almost an entire month.  We had a sofa bed in the living room and I spent the entire grueling month there making crafts and watching an exhausting amount of television.  

Due to complications (blowing up to the size of the Stay-Puft marshmallow man being one of them), our beautiful baby girl was born 5 weeks early.  I discovered during the delivery that an epidural was placed in my back in the exact same spot as the spinal taps I had when I was in the hospital.  

After a mild panic attack, I allowed the doctor to finally place the epidural.  The damage I’d sustained when I was younger reared it’s ugly head again when my epidural failed to work.  The nurses told me I was probably mistaken and when the doctor checked me, he doubled the medicine.  The numbness finally kicked in for a brief time after my baby was born. Great timing, huh?

We were enormously blessed. In December of 2001, our baby girl came into this world healthy and with perfectly working lungs.  She was so beautiful and my heart swelled as soon as I laid my eyes on her.  I never understood until that very moment what it meant to feel your heart expand.  

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That first night, however, was one of the scariest nights of my life.

The nurses ignored my pleas for a few hours only to figure out that I was laying in a pool of my own blood.  I had been hemorrhaging for 3 hours and  we had no idea how bad it was. I tried to tell the nurses I was in pain and one after the other told me that this was my “first baby and pain is normal”.  I felt stupid so I stopped bothering them.  Once a doctor finally came in the room, all the people, my husband and brand new baby included, were pushed into the hallway while four nurses rushed to my bedside.  They all started pushing on my belly and it seemed like all the blood in my body was exiting.  The next thing I knew they were pushing liquids into my IV and I woke up 8 hours later.

James had been sent home for lack of a place to stay and the baby stayed in the nursery for the night.  I was woken up at 4am by a nurse telling me that I had to have the first of several blood transfusions due to the amount of blood I lost. I called James bawling.  I had not had a blood transfusion since I was in the hospital for Leukemia. 

When my doctor came to the hospital the next morning, he said I was very lucky.  I had lost an enormous amount of blood and my counts were scary low, so he was going to continue giving me transfusions and monitor me in the hospital until it was safe to go home.  We stayed almost 5 days.  The day the doctor finally let me go home, he put me back on bed rest with strict instructions to take large amounts of iron and call him if anything starting feeling worse.

We were home.  A brand new family of three, with a baby we knew nothing about taking care of and a terrifying health scare.  This was not the picture perfect image I had had in my head for all those years.  I remember crying for days because I didn’t know how to make this little baby happy and I felt like a failure for not having the most natural instincts in life for a woman. 

I also knew that I had never felt more love in my entire existence than I did in that moment that she was placed in my arms.  Every time I looked at her, I knew it was all worth it.  The wait, the scare, the transfusions, the pain…….ALL worth it, and I would do it again a million times to have her in my life. 

When we decided to have another, we started experiencing some infertility problems.  We wanted all our children close together in age, so we started trying when our daughter was still pretty young.  We didn’t get pregnant for almost 11 months.  It was a long 11 months with lots of tears and disappointment.  We had no idea why we were having such a hard time when it seemed so easy with the first.  When I was finally pregnant again we were over the moon.  1105wm

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The pregnancy was much easier the second time around.  The delivery was not without it’s own set of complications.  As with the first, the epidural failed to work but, I delivered a whopping 9 pound 6 ounce baby girl on a beautiful day in March of 2004.  She was beautiful and healthy and we were sent home two days later. 

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Having two beautiful girls was a miracle that I was beyond grateful for, but I knew that we weren’t done.  I knew there was at least one more baby waiting and we were all praying for a little boy.  We started trying again right away. 

After a year and a half of trying, we considered talking to a fertility specialist, but I was always too scared.  I knew what the first two pregnancies had done to my body and emotions (a post about postpartum depression will come soon) and I was too scared to get pregnant with twins or triplets.  I prayed that it would happen in the Lord’s time.

Almost two years later I had a miscarriage.  It was early on and we had only just found out we were pregnant two weeks before.  I was devastated and sick of trying and failing every month.  I decided to throw in the towel.  We were content with our family and loved our girls more than anything, so we considered the possibility of adoption.

Two months later, in December of 07 we were pregnant again.  This pregnancy was so beautiful.  After having three and a half years of infertility, we decided this would be the final pregnancy.  I was then able to cherish every moment.  I was blessed beyond measure to be able to get pregnant after what I had been through and I was going to be grateful for every second my Father in Heaven gave me to use my body to create another human being.

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Our son was born in August of 2008, two weeks early and weighed in at 10 pounds 1 ounce.  He was a big baby and so, so beautiful.  As soon as they showed him to me I knew our family was complete.  I knew that what I had waited for all these years of my life had finally come to fruition.  I have been blessed with many miracles in my life, but the ones I will always be most grateful for is the chance to become a mother.

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Each one of my children has given me a purpose in life and another reason to live my life to the fullest.  I want nothing more than to show them that we can all DO HARD THINGS and get through any obstacle with our Savior by our side.  I know ONLY with His help that I have been able to, and will continue to be able to get through anything life throws at me. DSC_0251

Motherhood is a beautiful, amazing blessing.  It  is a gift that some of us are blessed with naturally, and some by other means.  Some will not have children in this lifetime and to them is given the gift of compassion and love for others.  They are mothers in their own right to their friends and loved ones and those that they serve.

There is no harder calling on this planet and there is no other calling I would more gladly accept.  I look at my children every day, good and bad, and remind myself that I have been given the enormous responsibility to love and to raise and to teach these young children.  I know also that I have been beyond blessed with that responsibility because He has entrusted me with these amazing spirits.  I must have done something right to get these kids in my life.  If the biggest job I have on this earth is that of Mother, than I will die a happy, fulfilled woman.  

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Love, Jamie Lynn

13 thoughts on “Motherhood After Childhood Cancer

  1. Claudia Hernandez says:

    Wow. I’m speechless and crying. You are SO strong and even though I don’t know you personally, after reading this, I really do admire you. I really don’t know what more else to say than just THANK YOU for sharing this. Your children are just as beautiful as you. I hope you keep on smiling and making them happy. I am sure they are more than proud of having such an amazing mother.
    Lots of hugs,
    Claudia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jamie Hutchings says:

      Thank you SO so much for your sweet words Claudia! I’m so glad you read this and I hope it helped you in some way. Thanks again for being here!
      Jamie Lynn

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wendy Bro says:

    I love this. It’s so wonderful what being a mom does to all of us. Your kids are so blessed to have a mom willing to go through so much to get them here.

    Like

  3. Allie says:

    What a beautiful story. I can only imagine the rollercoaster of emotions you and your husband have been through on this journey. Thank God is grace and timing are so perfect! And your family is so adorably precious. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. erin says:

    I just cried through this whole post! What a journey!! What faith and strength!! I’m so happy to have found you in this giant blogging world! What an inspiration! Thank you!

    Like

  5. Ashlee says:

    Dear Jamie Lynn,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “Motherhood After Childhood Cancer.” It’s so raw and honest, beautifully written and compelling. I think it would make a wonderful Youshare story, because I believe other women who have experienced similar struggles – both with childhood cancer and with pregnancy – will relate to your story and find comfort and inspiration in your words.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to Youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.

    Best,
    Ashlee
    http://www.youshareproject.com
    ashlee@youshareproject.com

    Like

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