We got out of the hospital a few days ago, so now we just have to wait to get new scans to see how the cancer has been responding to treatment. Other than his little bald head, you’d never suspect that he was sick at all. The kid has that much energy. Such a blessing. Yesterday was the first time I have felt a sense of peace and optimism since this journey began back in May. Maybe that’s a good sign? It makes me optimistic that he’s going to beat this, and it won’t come back. That he will be one of those kids you read about (15 years later) that beat childhood cancer. That is our goal. I’m trying my best to be optimistic, but some days are harder than others.
Some days, you hear a story about a child that beat childhood cancer. And then scans revealed that the kid has relapsed. And the cancer was more aggressive this time, and the clinical trials didn’t work as well as they had hoped, so the child eventually loses his battle in the arms of his grieving parents. Those are the stories that you hear about the most often when you are talking about childhood cancer.
When I think about my life, I see Reese growing up. I see him growing up and having a girlfriend. I see him playing sports– all of them. And he’s going to be fast and competitive because his mom and dad sure are. I see him loving the beach. And being totally frat-astic and preppy. And a gentleman. I see him being clever and funny, and oh so charming. Just like his momma. Everyone will be his friend. This kid has so much to live for.
He’s been beating the odds since before he was even born. When we got pregnant with Reese, we knew we were in for a difficult journey. It happened way more quickly than we expected. Cole was almost eight months old when we found out he was going to be a big brother. Matt was in his second year of medical school, and I had just come out of my postpartum depression fog. I was still learning how to be a mom.
If you’ve had a baby, or if you’ve been around someone who has had a baby, then you know that the mom usually has a pretty clear idea of how she wants everything to go down on D Day. In my case, I’m like super competitive, and I’m pretty sure I can do anything, so I was all about having babies with little to no intervention (like do I really want them to stick an epidural in my back? up for debate, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got this). So when Cole was born via unscheduled C-section because he was breech, my little plans got thrown to hell. Such is life.
My OB in Spartanburg said he was willing to let me try a VBAC from the beginning– he did my C-section, so he was comfortable with the incision and how it had healed, and he was confident that I wouldn’t have any issues delivering my second the good old-fashioned way. At this point, I didn’t know how rare of an opportunity that was.
I knew I was going to have to switch doctors halfway through my pregnancy because halfway through my pregnancy, we were moving back to Columbia so that Matt could start his third and fourth year rotations. My OB seemed pretty confident that I would be able to find someone willing to let me attempt a VBAC in Columbia. WRONG. SO WRONG. Every practice said no. All three of the ones I talked to.
I wanted to have a VBAC because repeat C-sections make future deliveries more complicated, and I knew we were planning on having more babies in the future. We were going to wait a couple years, but we would eventually have more. Because of the short window between my first and second pregnancies, I wasn’t going to be allowed to attempt a VBAC because my new doctor was concerned that my scar would rupture if I went into labor on my own. Ideally, they want you to wait two years to get pregnant after you have a C-section. My boys were going to be 16 months apart– so it wasn’t even an option. Obviously, being the stubborn and iron-willed my-way-or-the-highway emotional human being that I am, I was like OH NO SHE DIDN’T. Just kidding, but really. I was not about to give this up.
So for about 6 weeks, I fought hell and high water to attempt to become a patient at my original OB’s practice (the one I just left). In Spartanburg (1.5 hours away from Columbia). The logistics of switching OB practices and getting all of your medical records in order and transferred between the two places required more signatures, paper, phone calls, emails, and in-person visits than I care to admit. But finally, at 34 weeks pregnant, I had my husband play the doctor card and call to have everyone get their sh*t together. And thankfully he got everything straightened out. My knight in shining armor.
38 weeks snuck up on us, and we started to get antsy. I was driving up to Spartanburg for my weekly OB appointment, and I had them check me, just because I was getting a little impatient. I was 4cm dilated. I was thrilled with this news because that meant that Reese would be here sooner rather than later, but I was a little anxious too because I lived over an hour away from my doctor. He sent me home but told me to come back if I had ANY contractions at all. By now, I was having a million Braxton-hicks contractions a day, but I knew they were just the fake ones, so I wasn’t super concerned. I figured I would know the difference if I started having real contractions (I was sort of right).
I drove home to Columbia, and planned on seeing my doctor after the weekend because it was supposed to storm really bad. By now, it was October 6, 2015. You probably remember seeing a news story or two about the historic “1000-year Flood” that hit somewhere in the south. Well, that flood happened in Columbia, South Carolina. Our hometown. We had friends that lost their homes. They had to be rescued by boats from their flooded house. The house that Matt grew up in (that we were supposed to move into, but couldn’t because the tenants didn’t want to move) was completely destroyed. The water came up past the roof. They lost everything. We are actually building our new house on that property, so maybe that was a blessing in disguise?
Anyhow, things were getting really bad in Columbia, and the rain just kept coming. We lost power. The hospitals lost power and water. The water supply was contaminated because all of the dams had busted, and the creeks were flooding. The water was still rising. The National Guard was telling people to evacuate their homes. Roads were ruined. Bridges and highways were closing all around us, and I just knew that we weren’t going to be able to stay in Columbia if I wanted to have this baby my way. So Matt and I made sure Cole was safe with his grandparents, and all of our family was safe– neither of their houses were damaged because they are on hills– and we tried to get out of dodge. It took us four hours to find a route out of Columbia because the National Guard was implementing a curfew and shutting down highways in and out of the city. But we made it out! And we got to Spartanburg. I was still not having any contractions, but the nurses felt sorry for us and decided since we were essentially refugees from Columbia, they would admit me for observation. PRAISE THE LORD.
Matt and I hung out in the pretty delivery room and watched The Real Housewives of OC. It was pure bliss. They checked me again and I was 7cm (still not a single real contraction). They let us sleep through the night, and they decided the doctor would break my water in the morning once she got there. I was just sitting there thinking this was so easy. But I did ask what the point of no return was– when was the latest they could give me an epidural, just in case. The anesthesiologist said as long as I could sit still, he could do it whenever. I was like, totes cool. I probably won’t need it anyway. WRONG.
Doc came in around 8am to break my water since I was 8cm, and Reese’s head was right there. So that was fine for like 45 seconds. Then somebody stabbed me in the stomach. Not really, but it probably would have hurt less than that contraction did. That was different from the ones I had been having. HOLY SH*T. This must be why people beg for epidurals because OMG OMG OMG I’M GOING TO DIE. I throw up from the pain, which for me means I’m in transition, and the baby is about to come out. I get the anesthesiologist back and tell him to shoot me up with the good stuff, and he did. But it didn’t matter. It only worked on my left side. I got Reese out in a few pushes, and I felt everything. It was terrible. But then it wasn’t. Because I saw his sweet face. I was so proud of myself, I had successfully VBAC’d, so my future deliveries wouldn’t have to be automatic C-sections. YES. Matt was impressed, and he still is, as he should be. And Reese was perfect. He was our one-in-a-million VBAC flood baby. Labor lasting 35 minutes.
It makes me optimistic that his story is so complicated. He has always been special. A million things had to fall into place just right so he could get here, and they did. He is supposed to be here, and he’s going to do big things.
I wish I could take the cancer away and beat this for him. I hope that he enjoys the hell out of his life every single day. I’m glad he doesn’t know how short and fleeting life can be. I’m glad he doesn’t understand that this disease could take his life. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that he’s here right now, and he’s happy. He is so happy.