After almost two years of cancer and post-cancer treatments, I struggle with post-treatment depression, further complicated by recent deaths of loved ones and the acute sense of having lost time with my younger child.
How do I begin to explain the sense of loss of time passing swiftly by while I was unable to be present for my baby? Why do I say ‘baby’ when she has grown taller than me – this preteen with the body of a 13-year-old and the mind of someone even older? How can you miss a child when she’s right there next to you?
I’m grateful for FB’s memories feed that brings up posts I’ve written of things she did over the years. Most of them I keep for my own eyes, understanding no one else would be as interested in the glut of anecdotes I’ve documented.
Much of my sense of loss are rooted in events way back in my murky past, before I even arrived here in the States, which are too personal (yes, even for me) to relate here. So I shall touch upon the main points using more recent experiences to illustrate the connection between this sense of loss and post-cancer depression.
Postpartum depression, which I’d also experienced after my first C-section, was exacerbated by a severely negative reaction to narcotics, which had been given for pain management. Neither able to care for my newborn or nurse her, I felt robbed of my time with my baby…
One of my deepest desires has always been to bear and deliver a child in a natural way, with presence of mind, and without postpartum depression. However, my firstborn Alpha Kid was delivered via Caesarean section due to complications in the last stage of my pregnancy.
Among other factors, I would say that my new experience as a young wife and immigrant had something to do with it. It was my first time in the US and being far away from either of my parents or any of my siblings. My culture shock was not apparent to anyone, including myself, because I was already fluent in English and very familiar with US culture. And, even though Rob was a citizen, he had been brought up mostly in Egypt and Indonesia; at the time, he hadn’t even reached the legal drinking age!
Eleven years later, we expected our secondborn, Beta Kid. I had come far from being the confused, complicated person that I used to be. Physically and spiritually, I was at the peak of health, teaching and practicing massage therapy and energy healing, independently, as well as at a school for massage therapy and alternative healing. It meant so much to me to have a second chance at the kind of pregnancy and childbirth I’d longed for, not just as a wife and mother, but, also, as a woman.
AK’s doctor, based in Austin, Texas, had purposely performed the kind of C-section incision that would enable a Vaginal Birth After C-section should I have more children. However, we were living in Los Angeles, CA, for my second pregnancy. Medical politics there at the time were biased against VBACS and strongly advocated C-sections.
Rob and I went through the entire list of doctors on our HMO insurance plan but none of them would agree to a VBAC. Only the first doctor was honest enough to admit that he had routinely performed VBACS without a problem back when the establishment didn’t give doctors a hard time over it; since then, though, he would rather schedule a C-section and make it to his golf appointment than deal with the alternative.
To cut a long story short, I fought the system and lost badly. I ended up having an emergency C-section performed. Still, it could have been avoided had I been supported and given IV fluids (there was record heat in LA when my water broke) – this was our impression and the performing surgeon’s comments about my body’s condition, especially the state of my uterus, supported it.
As it turned out, instead, I underwent several months of psychotic intervals of varying intensities. Postpartum depression, which I’d also experienced after my first C-section, was exacerbated by a severely negative reaction to narcotics, which had been given for pain management. Neither able to care for my newborn or nurse her, I felt robbed of my time with my baby…to this day, it hurts.
Now, after almost two years of cancer and post-cancer treatments, I struggle with post-treatment depression, further complicated by recent deaths of loved ones and the acute sense of having lost time with Beta Kid.
I feel like a soldier returning home from war to her longed-for little girl, only to find an aloof teenager in place of the child…
At the beginning of my cancer journey, she was still a ‘mama’s girl’ (as my late mentor Turtle Hawk called her when he first met her), all cuddly, kissable, and wanting to evict Daddy from the bedroom so she could sleep with me.
Now, I hardly ever see her. Besides her typical teenage tendency to spend hours in her room and online with friends, her sleep-and-wake cycle now match her dad’s and sister’s, who are night owls. That makes me the odd one out. Even when I do see her, she recoils at my touch, doesn’t say I love you, is fashionably edgy, too cool to care…
All this is a natural phase in growing up. From my perspective, though, it was a sudden jolt. I was unprepared. I feel like a soldier returning home from war to her longed-for little girl, only to find an aloof teenager in place of the child. Sometimes, I wonder if my lack of presence caused her to grow up so damn fast.
I love my girl and accept her as she is but, God, how I miss my baby… And I can no longer even have babies.