Friday, 21 November 2008

4. Should I have children or not?

To have children or not to have children? That is the question. I may ramble about this but isn’t the whole point in life to recreate?

This has been one of the biggest driving factors in finding out about the family gene. I have been through so many feelings on this subject I cannot fully explain, but the outcome has been based on many years deliberating facts and feelings.

In my early 20s I was full of enthusiasm and energy for having a family but I was with a man who didn't want children, under any circumstances. Not something you discuss on a first date but it was too late and I was madly in love with him. Most women figure the panic in a man about having kids is going to change as they mature, but its usually a no. 'Kids' were always a fighting point with Paul and I, and it broke my heart. I tried for almost 7 years to bring him round but I went through some very rough patches in the process, details which I won't go into, and I was hurt very deeply.

Paul was killed in a road accident 2 months after we got engaged but the honesty of the situation is that I had started to work out how to leave him so that I could have a family. I'm not sure too many people know that, but it is true. It didn't mean I loved him any less, just that my instinct to have a family was so strong that I would leave to find it. I remember telling him it was a baby or kittens. He chose kittens. It healed a gap for a while but I still wanted out but didn't know how to leave, it was all very complicated.

After his death, I started to question whether I was meant to have any kids at all. I was still worried about the gene thing and I pushed it hard with my doctors. Without a viable man in my life, I had lots of mental time to consider 'what if I have genetic cancer?'. In my time with Paul, my mum had a small breast lump found on a routine mammogram, it was cancer. Thankfully she had a lumpectomy, was very strong and just took it on board. I am not sure I ever saw her down about it, maybe it never sank in or she was just covering up. She'd lost two sisters to cancer and two aunties, her own mother and a niece had also had breast cancer. Maybe my mum is just very brave and used to heavy emotional stuff (unfortunately) and held it together for us lot.

When I met Chris about 6 months after I lost Paul, people probably wondered what the hell I was doing. I wasn't ready to love another man but I let him love me and I explained that I would love him as much as I could, but he understood. He watched me grieve. He was there through some of the hardest stuff that comes after the dust settles. In the early months I explained about the children panic I had. I was desperate for kids by now at 30 years old, but it felt more like a panic than a real option. I found out Chris had had a vasectomy some 5 years earlier and my heart sank, I was back to square one. I looked into how much it would cost to reverse it, what the success rates were etc. Not much chance. He didn't want more children anyway but wished he'd had his son with me and not his cruel ex. He'd been viciously scorned. Only days after his vasectomy operation around Christmas time he was kicked out of his home by his ex, separated from his 2 year old son. She let him have the op but knew she didn't want to be with him and waited until after it had happened before she destroyed his life.

As things unravelled between us I started to wonder if I would ever have children and questioned why I wanted them anyway, why was I continuously halted in my efforts for a family. Maybe it was fate. I think this is the turning point for me. I accepted that whatever I did, it was going to be very difficult. After two difficult years of grieving, fighting with Chris's ex for access to his son and moving home twice I sat up one day and realised that I had stopped wanting. I focused on my future health again, now that life was becoming more settled and structured.

I found out that my mum could have a genetic predictive test for a breast cancer gene on the NHS and I asked her if she would. I explained that it was so I could make a final decision about my choices of having children and so I could make choices about my future health. If I had the gene too, I wasn't having children of my own but if I didn't have it, I could look at the possibility, although a complicated one.

It took over 2 years to get her results. We were promised 12 months, but they had sent it to the wrong lab who took far longer return results. They knew that I was worried about my age and my youth to have children was slipping away yet the situation was dragged out to stressful lengths. After the first year, I chased the results. I chased, and chased, and chased. I was in limbo. Those 2 years were torturous for me. Finally, when we found out that mum had the BRCA1 gene and I got upset more than she did because I didn't want her to have the gene and I didn't want to have it either.

I was almost at my decision about whether I could have children or not by now. There was a 50/50 chance that I had the BRCA1 gene too and I had spent so much time thinking about it I accepted that I probably had it too and in the 3 years it took from getting mum tested to finding out my own results, I made a decision before I knew my own results. I figured it would make the news less of a hit. Pessimistic? Probably, but I have always been a planner, always two steps ahead. A problem solver. I prepared myself.

So, I gave up wanting children, I realised I had no interest in babies, in fact they were just smelly, vomiting, tiring and expensive things that I couldn't even afford in my life. Society is full of kids who take take take, who shoot each other, who drink and abuse. As I looked harder at reality, I found more reasons not to have kids. I finally listened to my body and it told me that it had had enough wondering, wishing, wanting. It was time to stop, it was tired. I weighed up my feelings about potentially passing on a cancer gene and realised I couldn't do that to a child, not with the knowledge I have. They wouldn't be able to do anything about finding out until they were 18 and I would spend even more time wondering, waiting. I thought about the potential guilt and sorrow it would bring. What if my children wanted kids? What if they felt the same as me about passing it on? What if I broke their hearts too? What if they resented me for it?

I was at a point where whatever the result, I was probably not able to have children of my own.

And then recently I found out. I was a BRCA1 carrier. I felt relief. It was over yet just beginning, and I was ready for it.