I’ve been given cause to reflect once again this week how blessed I am to be a mum of two cheeky and bouncy little boys. I might at times feel quite frazzled and frustrated at how all consuming they can be but the fact is they are, both of them, amazing miracle gifts from God.
Children are a gift that I am so very aware not everyone is privileged to receive and sometimes I feel a little reluctant to share my blessing too ‘loudly’ because of how it might make someone else feel who has not been blessed in that way. I remember that pain. If that’s you and you’d rather not read this post I get that completely.
Having children was far from a given for me. In my teens I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the idea of having kids and it certainly wasn’t high on the agenda when I got married aged 21. But as I got older that changed, whether it was biology or social pressures or genuine maternal instincts, a developing desire to have and raise children emerged.
Sadly, or maybe in fact fortunately, in my first marriage children didn’t happen and I reached a point where I really felt it was for the best – struggling with mental health problems I believed I would have been a really bad mum anyway.
In my thirties and in a new much happier relationship I was gradually getting my head round the fact that maybe children could be part of my life. The big big question remained though, could I really be any good as a mum? Added to that Mike is older than me and has grown up children so for him to ‘start again’ would be a massive commitment. As much as a strong pull to have kids was there I really wasn’t convinced it was a good idea.
And then at age 35 came the cancer diagnosis…
In the whirlwind of diagnosis and starting treatment (it was just two and half weeks from going to see my GP to being in surgery!) there was the meeting with the oncologist who lays out the treatment plan and the possible side effects. Along with nausea, sickness, loss of taste, hair loss, sore throat, finger and toe nails coming off, constipation and so much more the bombshell of early menopause gets chucked in there. But at this point you’re aware you’re effectively entering a fight for your life so you kind of just nod you’ve understood and move on.
I guess I felt that drew a line under the question of whether I should have children or not. It simply wasn’t a valid question anymore. I wouldn’t be having children and it was time to move on.
Except I didn’t – the absence of children kept on niggling. Through the treatment and the recovery the pain of that line being drawn just wouldn’t heal.
And then my periods returned – more regular than they’d ever been before. Now that didn’t mean my fertility hadn’t been damaged beyond repair but it was a promising sign. The question of could I, and should we, try and see if having a child together was possible just kept cropping up. We talked it through with the oncologist as it would mean stopping a long term preventative medicine and made a plan for a few months later to ‘give it a go’.
A few Sundays later in church the Bible reading and preach was from the book of Joel – it was a passage someone had spoken over me at a time in my twenties when life was pretty tough. It’s a promise of hope given to the Israelites who have seen their homeland invaded by a foreign army described as a destructive plague of locusts. Part of the passage says this:
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.” Joel 2:25-27 NIV
I had a powerful sense that God was saying, “I’ve already come good on this promise to repay the years the locusts have eaten – you’re in a new, happy stable marriage, you’re living in a supportive community on the Isle of Wight, your mental health is so much more stable and you’re making a good recovery from an aggressive cancer. But there’s still more – you will have a child”.
I wasn’t sure I was hearing this right and maybe it was just wishful thinking so we went to see some wise Christian friends of ours who listened and prayed and told us that they felt God was saying ‘Be Expectant’.
I fell pregnant really quickly but by week 10 I had a miscarriage and there’s another whole post I could write about that experience! Trying to remain expectant after a traumatic false start was not easy but just when I thought it wasn’t going to happen I fell pregnant again.
This time I had a successful pregnancy. Isaac was born in January 2018 and then the God of abundance blessed us with Toby at the end of April 2019, just a few weeks before my 40th birthday.
They are two amazing little boys – full of life, curiosity and adventure. They are continually pushing boundaries as they grow and develop their characters; sometimes to our joy as they achieve something new, and sometimes to our frustration when they keep doing something we’ve told them not to do! Isaac is now three years old and Toby approaches two and we are seeing them starting to play together more and enjoy each other’s company – the hard work of having two born close together is starting to bear fruit. We pray that they will always be good friends as well as brothers.
Those of you who know me will know that I don’t always find being a mum an easy thing. Parenthood can be really hard work, physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting. I’ve always felt that resilience was an area of my life in which I was significantly lacking but I’ve discovered I’ve got more of it than I thought! Despite the fact that there are many moments of great fun and joy with the boys I still at times would love to have 24 hours ‘off duty’.
It’s when I’m feeling a bit fed up, it’s important to stop and remember how very privileged I am to have these two little people in my life. Belonging to an online support group for younger women with breast cancer I am so aware that my privilege is not the experience of so many women who have been through the same treatment as I have. I also have friends who have been unable to have children for other reasons and they carry a sorrow because of it.
As such I will continue to remind myself just how blessed I am. Isaac and Toby are miracles to be celebrated and cherished; when we’re chasing each other round willow mazes, when I’m up in the night for the fourth time because one or both are not sleeping well, when they are squabbling or even when they are giggling their hearts out and I’m suffering the indignity of not being able to get up off the floor while they pin me down and blow wet raspberries on my bare skin!