It's hard to believe that Samuel will turn two in few short weeks. Each time I think about his upcoming birthday, I get caught up reflecting on our journey. I think about how things have changed and what our plans are for the future.
I'll be honest, we feel the 'clock' ticking for a second child.
Eight weeks after delivering Samuel, I went back to the OB/GYN who had seen me the day I went into labor. During the check-up, I asked her about a future pregnancy. Although we were NOT physically, mentally, or emotionally prepared for another child at the time, I knew the day would come when we would consider having a sibling for Samuel. I asked if I would be a high-risk patient if we became pregnant again and if I needed to be seen by a specialist. She told me that Samuel's early birth was my fault...that I should have known I was having contractions in the days leading up to his delivery (even though I DID call and ask about them several times.) As for a future pregnancy, I would "be more aware of my body and therefore able to prevent preterm labor." Needless to say, that answer wasn't good enough for us.
Almost a year later (and still NOT ready for another pregnancy), we set up an appointment to be seen by a genetics counselor and to teleconference with a high-risk pregnancy clinic across the state. At that appointment we were told of a study that suggests that large doses radiation to the abdomen may cause the uterus to lose it's elasticity. Thankfully, the amount of radiation I received during my cancer treatment was considered a 'minimal' dose. In addition, the theory was quickly brushed aside by the high-risk clinic but we didn't receive further explanation. We were told to try again and that they would recommend progesterone shots beginning at 16 weeks gestation with the next pregnancy.
Would you believe me if I told you that it still wasn't enough for us to feel comfortable?
So in August, when we were finally ready to seriously consider child #2, I made ANOTHER appointment with a different OB/GYN in the same clinic I had been using. This time, we met a doctor who listened. I came in with a huge list of questions and he confidently answered all of them. I would be a high-risk patient. We would do the progesterone shots. We would do a baseline ultrasound to measure my cervix and then frequent ultrasounds during the pregnancy. He, as all of the doctors before him, shrugged off my past history with cancer but at least he was willing to watch me closely.
That should have been enough for us, but during the next six months, we would always have an excuse to wait just a bit longer. We even considered adoption. As crazy as it sounds, the idea of adopting a micro preemie was on my mind. We could use all that we had learned from Samuel to help another child. It's a great idea that we may revisit, but both of us would really like to have another child of our own first.
At the end of December, I had my check-up at St. Jude's hospital. Everything went well and I had a good report from all of the doctors. They did have some concerns about how my heart would handle the strain of a pregnancy. The chemotherapy I received as a child is notorious for causing heart problems.
So in January we saw a cardiologist. After an ECHO, an EKG, and a stress test, he felt very confident that my heart will not have any trouble. We also went back to our local OB/GYN to share what we had learned from St. Judes and to ask a few more questions. Although everyone had brushed off the study regarding radiation and uterine elasticity, it continued to nag at us. The doctor wanted to get a second opinion from a high risk doctor in Little Rock.
That second opinion ended up being a 5 hour drive for us instead of a phone call. The doctor wanted to see me, not just discuss my history with my local doctor. It wasn't a decision that we regret, because we LOVED him. He confirmed that the radiation theory didn't make sense and gave us an explanation. He grilled me for at least half an hour about what my life was like at the time I delivered Samuel...everything from what work, home-life, exercise, diet, emotional well-being...etc. He came to the conclusion that I was doing too much during my pregnancy. I worked from 6:30am-4:30pm without sitting down much. I had picked up a 40lb first grade student a few days before delivering. I didn't spend much time relaxing at home. I was underweight when I began my pregnancy and didn't gain enough during (that wasn't intentional...I promise.)
The doctor assures me that I was likely inclined to premature labor, and that most women could go do the things I had without delivering. Interestingly, I learned that the majority of preterm patients that he had seen in the past were small-boned, type-A women. He was extremely confident that we could carry another child to term. There would be a lot involved, and it wouldn't be the normal/easy pregnancy that most women have...but I'll save all of that for another time.
The reason I'm writing this is 1) I've had quite a few people asking me about it recently and 2) to ask for prayers. We have tried to make this decision intellectually and with patience. Now we are simply praying for God's will, and ask that you join us in that.
No matter how hard it was to hear the doctor's conclusion, we feel blessed to have been given some closure about Samuel's early birth...and optimism about the possibility of a future pregnancy. Whether or not it actually happens, being given the opportunity is enough.
Thanks so much for your prayers.