The first in three generations…how I wish it wasn’t so by Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston
Growing up, I always knew my parents were a bit older than many of my friends’ folks. I was comfortable with it, but I was definitely aware of the differences. My parents married a bit later in life and therefore children came later as well. I was the first of three, born when my parents were both 36. Except for a few cases of extreme overly cautious parenting (in my opinion), I always felt like they did a wonderful job raising the three of us. Nevertheless, I felt all throughout my teens and into young adulthood that this was not the parenting road I wished to take in my future. I was determined to have children younger…MUCH younger! I didn’t want to be in my forties when my children were under five…I was hoping fate would agree with me and lead me to the man of my dreams in time for my child-bearing years to be in my thirties.
Life turned out to follow pretty much the same path despite my hopes and wishes. At first I thought I had it made…I was engaged to be married right out of college. I would have my teaching career well underway in my twenties and still have plenty of time for children to enter the picture. When that relationship soured less than a year before the wedding, I found out this was not to be the family I had hoped for so young. My twenties saw no real winners enter the picture; my early thirties weren’t much better. So marriage wasn’t even in the picture until I met my husband. I ended up marrying my husband in the same year of life my parents married, but there was a difference. My mother had her third child at age 42. Those stories about my mother’s and grandmother’s late-in-life pregnancies (she had my uncle, her last, at age 45) were the foundation for that “life plan” I had set for myself. I STILL had time to get those babies in before 40 reared it’s ugly head!
In that area, I was lucky! We learned about our first pregnancy only a month after our wedding, and we were thrilled! My second pregnancy started just as easily…a little too easily actually. (We have fibro fog to thank for that! But that’s a story for another time.) Each pregnancy was tough because of the problems caused by fibromyalgia, but surprisingly I was still a little open to trying for a third child. My husband is only one of two boys, and he’s always wanted a son. Having two beautiful, healthy daughters was seen by both of us as a blessing, but I couldn’t blame him for feeling like our family would be a little more “complete” with the addition of a baby boy. My husband would bounce back and forth…one day he didn’t want to see me suffer through a third pregnancy with the added pain of fibromyalgia, and the next he was casually mentioning it to see how I felt about trying. My sister even once mentioned the possibility of being a surrogate if we felt the fibro would be too much to deal with while pregnant a third time. It was a confusing problem to figure out. Here I was in chronic pain, disabling much of the time, trying to raise two little girls less than two years apart, and I was actually considering the possibility of a third child. Some would probably call me crazy (like my mother who worries about me so much), but I could relate to my husband’s longing to have a boy. As his wife, ever since I knew he was the one, I wanted to give him a son. We even had boy names chosen before any girls’ names were considered!
If I thought fibro had made that decision for me, I was wrong. I found out right before my fortieth birthday about my breast cancer. And it was during my pathology appointment that I found my cancer was, for lack of a more technical term, “fed” by estrogen. Bye bye birth control. See ya, any treatment for upcoming menopause. No doctor of any specialty in their right mind would write me a script for any of that ever again. And pregnancy? Well, since estrogen levels during pregnancy are 100 times what they are during a period, that was now off the table too. And it didn’t matter if I wanted to take that leap off the pregnancy cliff…I’m on Tamoxifen for five years (I have another 3 1/2 left to go), and that’s not a good mix for nurturing a healthy baby.
Tonight I realized how hard this hit me…how it’s something I’m clearly still not over. I was watching one of those “Where Are They Now” types of show on the Discovery Channel, a show about quads four years later after their scary emergency c-section births. Watching those little babies always brings out the “why” and “what if” feelings. I don’t think of it much, but these shows definitely make me aware of how much I wish things could have been different. I’ll always be grateful that I beat breast cancer. I feel blessed knowing I’ve been given that time with my husband and my girls. But to have the choice to have that third child taken away from me…that’s a tough thing to deal with, even if the blessing of successfully battling cancer was such an awesome one.
It’s kind of ironic that the woman who spent so many hours wishing and hoping her future would be different than her mother’s and grandmother’s is now wishing she could add those years back onto her biological baby-making clock. All those years back, I would have never imagined things would work out like this. I’d like to say I’m a little wiser than to say something like I should have watched what I wished for…I think everything I’ve been through in life these first forty plus years made me wiser than that. I just can’t help mentioning in closing that these thoughts come to mind. It was two years last month that I was diagnosed with cancer, and I knew Tamoxifen was in the treatment plan from the beginning. It wasn’t until tonight when I actually thought it out while watching a TV show about babies that I truly came to terms with this part of my journey. Funny how things happen, huh?