Almost exactly a year ago, Peter and I had a huge surprise for my dad’s birthday. We had mailed him a birthday card and instructed him not to open it until he and my mom could Skype with me and Peter. It was such a big to-do that my parents knew SOMETHING was up.
But the appointed hour came, and with butterflies going NUTS in my stomach, I watched him open the card, laugh about how many dire warnings I had written on the envelopes telling him NOT to open it yet, then saw him casually read the card aloud: “Happy Birthday Grandpa” before he and my mom did the most classic double-take/shocked-silence/open-mouth-STARE I’ve ever seen. Grandpa!!!
You see, Peter and I had been married for five years by then, and babies were always “a year-and-a-half” away. We definitely wanted kids, but we had grad school to finish, then had to get jobs, then started MORE grad school, and well… it was just never the “right” time. In fact, we had finally decided on a time to start really trying in August, instead of just trying NOT to. We had decided we would start to try in May.
But Emmie was the universe telling us something Very Important. Life was very clearly letting us know that we were not in charge, and that this Very Important Thing had to happen NOW, not later.
While of course we were beyond thrilled (as were our families, who had given up on us by then), it was still a little bit of a course correction. But in retrospect, Emmie’s timing seems like divine intervention.
By the time I was diagnosed with the melanoma, I was in my third trimester. We never had to make a choice between her life and mine. When I was diagnosed was almost exactly when we were going to start trying. You can’t be pregnant and on interferon, so we would have had to delay trying for months, if not years. Who knows if I would have wanted to take the risk of getting pregnant having had cancer, or how I would have felt about that emotionally. And of course, Emmie herself would never have been born.
I also wonder if I would have even found the melanoma if not for her. I was SO much more aware of my body because of the pregnancy and MUCH more likely to talk to a doctor about issues than any other time. I really don’t think I would have gone in until much later, which would have been disastrous. I believe Emmie saved my life.
Of course, there is the possibility that my pregnancy caused or exacerbated the melanoma. Research doesn’t say much (it’s not like some breast and ovarian cancers that are directly affected by the crazy hormone levels of pregnancy), but of course I can’t deny the possible link. Even so, I would never take it back because we got Emmie from it all.
I was far enough along during my treatments that there was never any real danger of harm to her. Yes, there was a risk of emergency c-section during my surgeries, but even then, she was viable and likely would have been fine after a stay in the NICU. Her timing was impeccable.
I also think about Grandma Emmi. If my white blood cell count hadn’t been low that week, we never would have asked her to come out to help us that last week. She likely never would have met her namesake. Grandma Emmi and Baby Emmie never would have had that incredible week together.
If I had never had cancer, they probably never would have met (we had been thinking about a fall or winter trip back to see family, but that would have been too late). If we had gotten pregnant in May, as planned, I wouldn’t have had the baby in time for them to meet. We probably wouldn’t have even told her we were thinking of naming the baby after her (since it wasn’t official until she was actually born).
The timing of everything was exquisite. Do I wish I never had cancer? Of course. No question. But I can’t say that this wasn’t all meant to be, in some way. It’s just too perfect, in its own awful way.