The moment the ultrasound image showed up on the screen, both of us knew something was wrong.
We went into to meet our second baby for the first time but instead we saw a uterus full of grape-shaped, watery tumors.
Technically speaking, the pregnancy has gone wrong from the very beginning. Key DNA pieces were missing in the fertilised egg, which triggered a disease called molar pregnancy that grows fast. So quick that it’s considered a “pre-cancer condition” that needs to be taken care of immediately.
Thank the great public health system in New Zealand. Within 36 hours, the whole uterus was evacuated clean, and life went back to “normal” again.
It’s normal regarding the day-to-day operation. The outside. Deep inside, the long wait only just started.
In front of us, the best case scenario is that the hCG level keeps on dropping at a nice steady rate until it gets to a single digit, right from the peak value of 114,000, then we’ll wait another 6-12 months before we can try to have a baby again.
The worst case scenario is that there are 15-20% chance that Zephyr will need further chemotherapy and 2% chance for this disease to become a full-on Choriocarcinoma. Even here, we are still pretty luck because this type of cancer responds very well to chemotherapy. What it does mean though is the likelihood of having another baby will be low.
So, things have been pretty shitty for our little family in the last a few weeks. Whenever I found myself in this situation, I will try to see what life is trying to teach me. And here are three things I’ve found:
First, I feel incredibly lucky and profoundly grateful towards this country and the doctors, surgeons, nurses and midwives who have helped us. It took less than 48 hours from receiving the diagnosis result to a successful operation, and Zephyr discharged from the hospital. The whole process was swift, professional and even the brutal reality was delivered in the kindest way.
Second, I’ve never felt so connected with the people and the community around us. That big slab of ice in my heart was slowly melted away by the warm supports we received from our friends and the people around us. Everyone, we shared the news with would give us a big hug and told us their experiences. One of the ladies had eight miscarriages before she finally had two beautiful babies. The other had a baby that was almost full-term before the little heart stopped beating. These sad stories put our experience into perspective and pulled me out of those dark, sad and lonely places.
Last, the very possibility of having Mia as our only child helped to bring much-needed clarity to day-to-day activities. For example, we just had a few pretty decent falls of snow, and my usual intuition had been “meh, we’ll have another one soon so let me just focus on this feature now”. This time around, I didn’t even think about work before I spent most of Monday with Zephyr and Mia so we could have all the pristine snow to ourselves. I knew very well that there would never be another 2-year-old Mia happily playing snow with daddy. Next year, she will be 3.
To finish off here is a short quote from that captures what I wanted to say.
“Pain is a pesky part of being human, I’ve learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can’t be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. Pain feels like a fast stab wound to the heart. But then healing feels like the wind against your face when you are spreading your wings and flying through the air! We may not have wings growing out of our backs, but healing is the closest thing that will give us that wind against our faces.”