Meet Rachel my April Mumma of the Month. We were introduced by mutual friends four years ago and from the very first hang out together we knew our friendship would be a lifelong one. It feels weird only having these guys in our lives for four years because they are like family to us and it's like we have know each other forever. Rachel and James are a constant support to us in always helping with our kids and even coming to my rescue when I lock myself out of the house! It was an absolute honour to be by her side during her pregnancy and cancer journey that you are about to here and I was only a few weeks ahead of her in my pregnancy with Franklin.
This is a story of strength and courage, when everything seemed impossible yet one little miracle showed anything is possible!
Your beautiful daughter Zoey is one amazing miracle! Can you share with us the story of her arrival and how you were then also faced with the devastating cancer diagnosis during your pregnancy?
She certainly is… Ha! Ok the story… I’ll try and not make this too long!
So James (my husband) and I decided we wanted to start half-trying for a baby (we basically just pulled the goalie) and after about a year we thought this should have happened by now and so we just went to the doctor and got checked out etc.
Long story short after many, many, many trips to specialists appointments, and a long list of doctors we discovered that James had a low sperm count and that we had to conceive through IVF, so that’s what we did. We started the process and all seemed to go by the book, but unfortunately it didn't work for us that first time. I know this is a common thing to happen the first time trying IVF, but this is where I broke. I had such hope that this was our solution and I am normally someone that see’s the glass half-full in most situations, which is why I felt so smashed in the face.
From there, it took me a while to want to try again for a baby, to the point where James had to decide for me and I just did it with zero emotion or care. We went back to the doctor and started the initial conversations about commencing IVF again, where the doctor told us that we would never get pregnant through IVF due to James’ low sperm count. We had to up the anti to ICSI which is a similar process but so much more intense and invasive.
But we did it; I just took the stupid hormone injections, went to my doctor’s appointments and dragged my sad depressive cloud around with me wherever I went. When it came time to be implanted with the embryo, the doctor told us that from the 6 we had, there was only 1 left. I just had to laugh, as this was so typical – guess we won’t be freezing any!! My thoughts just went to we will have to do this all over again! At that point I was so nervous that if it would fail again, and with James’ low sperm count we were unsure that it would be worth it as ICSI is a lot more expensive.
Anyway good news is, we got pregnant!! Woo hoo! I was over the moon! Things were going really well, I had no morning sickness or anything. I was super happy and couldn't wait for my dream of being a mum to become my reality! ... Until the day I noticed a lump on my upper chest. I wasn't sure what to think about it, but thought it could be something caused by the hormones so I asked my obstetrician if he knew what it could be. He instantly said it was absolutely nothing to do with my pregnancy and that I needed to have a biopsy on it that day. So he got on the phone to his doctor friend and off I went to get a biopsy.
So there I was on the examination table getting prodded by a huge needle into my chest extracting cells to see if there was anything irregular. Turns out there were a few irregular cells, which then resulted with me being referred to an oncologist..... Awesome!!! (NOT) Next appointment with this oncologist was absolute hell! It’s where I found out that I did in fact have cancer. It was such a weird thing to hear, as though it was just something you said normally in conversation.
So there I was, pregnant with my baby that I had been dreaming of for so long and I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Just brilliant! Again, I just had to laugh. So the next part of my baby journey involved chemotherapy for the remainder of my pregnancy. It was a tough journey, but I just took it one day at a time. I came to terms with the fact that it was out of my control and that the doctors were doing the very best to protect me and my baby – and they totally did! She was delivered in 100% health with no dramas at all. It was a real miracle!
Once Zoey was 3 months old I had to start radiation therapy. This was so crap and I hated every minute of it. It stuffed up my milk and feeding schedule, which was just frustrating. But again, I took it a day at a time, and I honestly had great support around me. My family, friends, church all took great care of our little family unit.
So that’s pretty much the story… pretty crazy! Here are some pics of my and my family!
How do you manage work (and travelling for work), study and home mum all in a week?
Haha – good question, I feel like that is something I ask myself all the time!! The only way I can balance out work, study and being a mum is honestly by taking it one day at a time, being flexible, and planning out my calendar months at a time.
So for my job I work for a company that hold conferences for primary and secondary students all over Australia. Our travel season is from October through to June, and so throughout that time I would just need to make sure that Zoey (and my hubby) is looked after. This is something that I need to do with plenty of notice so that when I ask my family and friends to help, they have plenty of notice. Once her care is locked in, I am pretty well sorted. Zoey has just started preschool the last couple of weeks so that will help a lot as well into the future.
In my day to day, I basically spend time with Zoey, try to keep our home in some kind of order, and study part-time (2 subjects) doing my Early Childhood/Primary Education degree. When Zoey is at preschool I have committed to going to the library to study, I also study when she sleeps which can be tough at times.
Having a 2 year old girl can cause my day to alter my plans quite easily, as a lot of mums would know, so I just have to be flexible with the time I have and not be too precious about it. This is something that I am still working on but am getting better at. Ha!
How did you see yourself as a mum before you became one?
I have always loved kids and love hanging out with them and playing games with them – it energises me! This is still the same; hence my studies in becoming a primary school teacher... But I think I thought I would be a lot more organised as a mum and have more time on my hands… I don’t think I really understood how much time kids took up. It’s just ridiculous.
Can you give us three rules you made pre-mum that you have now broken? Have you stuck to any?
I think pre-mum I was mainly excited about decorating my nursery haha! I don’t think I even thought about rules as I was just excited to have my baby.
Pre-mum I think I was really lucky to be surrounded by friends (and still am) who had already done the pregnancy journey and had a few kiddies of their own. I was able to learn a lot from them and what they did which prepared me for being a mum.
What do you love most about being a mum?
This might sound so corny, haha but I love that I am my daughter's teacher. I love that I am the one (with James) that teaches her about this life and how to live it well. I am amazed everyday at the stuff that Zoey learns and absorbs. It blows my mind.
It is such a big responsibility and I get excited thinking about it. The days when she goes to school and graduates etc etc… I am excited for the journey of being a mum and the good and bad that comes with that.
What are some of your challenges as a mum?
My biggest challenge would have to be time. Not having enough time to get everything done that I need to, but I am constantly working on deciding on things that I need to keep carrying and doing in my everyday and the things that I need to put aside for a while.
I also find it hard when I face a moment with Zoey where I feel completely helpless and have no idea what to do. Especially now that she has reached the crazy 2’s – there are so many mood swings happening right now that I just have no idea what to do. But again, taking one thing and one day at a time helps.
Who are your mum people and how have they influenced you as a mum?
Definitely my mum is my biggest influence. She is very strong and has a huge capacity. She is the most flexible person and she has a positive attitude about everything it seems. She is someone that I definitely want to be when I grow up. She is probably the only person that can really challenge me and put me in my place!
I have surrounded myself with a lot of great mums (young and older) that I am always asking questions to on how they do it. This is something that helps me so much as I always feel like I can obtain wisdom for at least one of them. I always ask questions if I am unsure of something or need help on a situation with being a parent, I feel like its better than reading a parenting book sometimes.
Can you share some tips on how to be organised for your week and day whilst juggling work, home and/or study?
I'm such a list girl, so I would always say to someone to write a list. It gets all the chaos out of my head and onto paper in front of me so I can realistically see it. When I leave all the things that I need to do in my head it can sometimes get overwhelming or I forget things, so for me list’s are the way to go.
I also use a massive whiteboard as my calendar that has two months on it (just drew it up myself). This allows me to have everything in eye shot so both myself and my husband can see it all the time, it also shows clear as day when I'm travelling, whether Zoey is looked after and other things we both need to know about. I also use my iPhone calendar which is linked with my husband’s, that way there is no excuse for not knowing what is happening. This works really well for us.
You just need to keep trying different things until you find the system that works for you. The amount of calendars and diaries I have bought that are just epic fails when it comes to organisation is ridiculous. I would just end up using them for a few months and giving up. I really didn't like the layout of the calendar on my iPhone, which is why I really persevered with the cute diaries etc., but once I got over myself and used it, it has really helped, as I can connect James into the things in my calendar as well.
Tell us a mum moment of yours (funniest, grossest, sweetest)
Oh goodness, there are just so many different moments with Zoey. She is so full on in every area and has a loud and cheeky personality that is hard to miss and tune out.
She is funniest when she sings in her weird made up voices and attempts to pull funny faces (she can’t really do it), grossest when she flings off her nappy and does rabbit poo droplets through the house on her way to the toilet in a panic, and sweetest when she shares with her little friends without being asked.
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific story…
What would you say to a mum that is dealing with what you have been through?
I honestly think what got me through being sick and having trouble getting pregnant was taking it a day at a time. I had to really work hard at not worrying about the tomorrow’s and just focus on the day I was in. If we had an appointment – that was what we did, we didn't focus on the results or whatever, we just got on with what we had to do that day. When the day came for the results, we dealt with them on that day…
This really helped me get through it all in a big way because I wasn't weighed down by worry or anxiety – which sounds weird considering what my situation was.
© The Realistic Mum
Follow me on Instagram and my Face Book Page