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Thursday, April 19, 2012

cancer, death, and moving forward

alright. it's been about a month since i last wrote anything. 

this last month. well last 5 weeks have been challenging to say the least. 

to start out with. saying publicly for the first time. my mother has cancer. shit fuck motherfucker (excuse the profanities, but i think they are justified). 

i found out a few weeks ago while i was at school. needless to say. i can't really remember that session. the diagnoses. she has colon cancer. so i guess if you are going to have cancer it's one of the ones you want, right? apparently it's been growing now for 3-4years. not sure how they actually know that, but well this is what has been told to me. so again, it's slow growing. non-invasive right? this is a good thing. my mantra. 

she is having surgery the end of the month. allegedly having 12" of her colon removed. it's fucking killing me. so much conflict. on call for about five births. i'm going home. when. i think i've finally figured that out. after the surgery though. better not fucking die during surgery. seriously. anxiety. morbid? maybe. but when you are dealing with the mortality of someone in your family, particularly your mother. it's hard not to be.

this has pretty much consumed me for the last two weeks. which also included a stint in new york visiting old loves and returning home to move. ack.

so death. you may be thinking i was referring to my mother, but no. i haven't mentioned this. i haven't written about this other than a vague post last month. 

on march 12 i attended the birth of a beautiful boy that was born quietly into this world. his mother is writing her story about her feelings on dealing with the loss in a way that i can't imagine touching on.  

this has been one of the most powerful experiences of my life, not just midwifery life, but so far. i hadn't ever contemplated the notion of attending a stillbirth. i don't know why. it was nothing i was prepared for. 

march 8th i got out of the dentist and had a call from my midwife saying that she was meeting one of our clients at a colleagues office to check for heart tones, after the mother had reported feeling decreased fetal movements. 

i drove as quickly as i could over, but they were leaving. they hadn't found heart tones and were on the way to the hospital for an u/s to confirm that baby was no longer with us. i could use phrases like "we went to confirm the fetal demise" but like some medical terminology we use in midwifery, it is not something i feel comfortable with. this situation was not something i felt comfortable with. but what was i to do? 

when we got to the hospital the parents already had the u/s. we all just sat there and cried. the next five days are somewhat of a blur. working with two midwives means off call doesn't really happen. regardless of what is going on. i kept getting called to births. i was in and out of the hospital and between births for five days. little sleep, little to eat, so much emotion.

it's hard to let something like a baby's death not affect you when you are attending other births. i think i did OK, outwardly. but i know on the inside when one mother in particular was having a tough go of a labour she thought would be "easy", i felt resentment inside of me. thinking...if she only knew. she should be grateful, she should relish the fact that her baby is alive. i know that is horrible. but i also think it is normal, as meanwhile this beautiful family was in the midst of an induction that just kept going.

for five days this family sat with this stillness as copious amounts of drugs and attempts were made to stimulate her body into labour. finally on the fifth morning the time had come. i had just gotten home from a birth about four hours before the phone rang.

i laid in bed for about a half hour before getting up. i called the director of my school. i needed some guidance. i was not equipped to counsel a family though something like this. i was reassured that if anything it was my presence. my midwife had also said the same thing. 

as i got up and got ready i had no idea what was about to transpire, what to expect. there was no way of preparing myself. i merely put one foot in front of the other. 

when i got to the hospital they were waiting for the doc to come in and check her. she had been on an epidural all night long labouring and was complete. 

i don't even know how to articulate the rest. as she birthed we were all by her side. the strongest i have ever seen a woman. even through tears. all of us tears. conner david was born breech and placed on his mothers chest. he was wrapped in a blanket and we could see his perfect tiny hands and feet. after the placenta was delivered conner was taken by his dad into the next room to be bathed and dressed. 

we spent the rest of the morning sitting together, in conner's presence. a professional photographer came in, as well as his older sisters and grandfather. i spent most of the time with the girls. talking to them. sitting with them. occupying them. i think i may have needed them more than they needed me. though i know it was appreciated, but caring for them. 

it is heartbreaking to think back on. but as the weeks have passed, sleep has gotten easier and remembering not as triggering. 

for weeks afterwards i couldn't sleep. that first night i had taken a sleeping pill and drank a bottle of wine. sure, not the picture of clean living, but i needed to sleep. i needed to dull the pain. 

life doesn't stop. i'm not sure how much i have processed everything and now with the news about my mother....i just want to scream and hide. i'm struggling not falling back into depression. i prone to it. the sunny days have helped. i've laid in the grass feeling the warmth of the sun bathe me. seeing babies and mothers and friends help. i moved in with my midwife for the summer and being around her family i think is good for me. despite the energy of a 2, 7 and 10 year old. i feel love. i feel family. 

time moves forward. 


  1. oh Tracy, my heart goes out to you. My step mother is battling colon cancer and doing well. Thankfully if caught in time it is not as aggressive as others.
    I am always here should you need to talk, as both our schedules are insane with birth work- google phone anytime. <3 <3 <3

  2. Tracy,

    Wow. Just wow. First of all, I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. I'm sure that's so stressful and scary, on top of everything else you have going on in your life... You and she will remain in my thoughts.

    Secondly, I really appreciate you telling your version of Conner's birth. I just wept as I read this post. I haven't heard anyone else tell *their* version of this story, and it really moved me. Thank you. Thank you for telling your story, and thank you for being there those long days. Mike and I so appreciated your presence. You handled it so gracefully. Thank you for sharing such an intimate and frightening time with us.

    I'm looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.

  3. It's been over a year since I visited but something compelled me tonight. I'm so sorry to hear about your Mom and hope her surgery and recovery went well. I will keep your family in my thoughts. Your story has me weeping for everyone involved. So much has happened for you in the last 3 years since you joined me as I become a mother myself on March 12. I will be cuddling G extra tight when she wakes up with thoughts of the family whose son won't see the birthdays they would have shared.

  4. Oh Risa. Thank you. i've loved watching as G has grown over these years. love that i was there. despite the fact i never did anything but be there. you were the first to show me the power of women and birth. how uncomplicated it can be when we let our bodies be!

    been meaning to post an update. been working on one, but to let you know my mom's surgery was a great success and they were able to remove all the cancer. she has to be monitored, but for now the outlook is good.

    hug that vivacious girl for me.