21 May 2008

The Decision

This is the long story of how John and I decided to have children, knowing that he was going to die and that I was going to end up a single mother.

I was never sure I wanted to have kids. I never liked babysitting. I always felt uncomfortable around infants, unsure of what to do and how to handle them. I never felt that maternal longing, that deep desire to procreate. For me—ever practical—the idea of having kids hinged entirely on who I married. My pragmatic philosophy was that if I ended up with someone who really wanted kids, who was really committed to the idea of being an involved, invested, and devoted father, then I'd be ready to jump into the big unknown of parenting.

My ambivalence around becoming a mother was most certainly grounded in fear. I feared what I'd have to give up: the spontenaety, the sleep, the freedom. Ultimately, I feared that I was too selfish to be a good parent.

Then I met John, one of the most selfless people I have ever known. He wanted to have kids for sure; we talked about it during the heady days when we were quickly realizing that we wanted to spend our lives together. I don't know that I ever mentioned my ambivalence as, faced with his clear longing, my ambivalence faded away. If ever there was a man who would be an involved, invested, loving father, it was John. Knowing I would have that support, I felt that I could face my own fears.

When John got his cancer diagnosis, we had been married for less than a month. At his diagnosis, the doctor gave us a lot of information about prognosis and treatment, but no information about fertility. Frankly, I'm sure no one thought that John would live long enough for the question of fertility to be worth discussing, and John and I were too shell-shocked to ask that day. But when we went in for his first round of chemo, we asked about the drugs' impact on babymaking. No one had any answers for us. To be fair, John's oncologist did everything she could to find the answers we needed. She looked up research and called drug companies, but she came up empty-handed. Pancreatic cancer most often strikes older men who are not likely concerned about their ability to procreate. The long-term effects of the drugs was simply not known, although given their extreme toxicity, the reasonable conclusion was that it was not good.

I remember that day with utter clarity. We waited in an exam room while John's doctor made calls and did research, crying together between updates. The end result was that we decided to delay John's treatment for a week so that he could make some deposits at the sperm bank. A week was not going to change John's prognosis. We knew that John might live only weeks, perhaps months, but we also knew that it could be longer. We had a couple of banks to choose from; I made the calls to get the details about appointments and procedures, and from that, we made our decision as to which bank would get our business.

John went to the bank twice. Clients are actually referred to as "bankers" who conduct "transactions" such as making "deposits" and "withdrawals." The staff member I talked to when I made the appointments told me that I was welcome to come in with John if that would, um . . . help. Both John and I found that creepy, and so he went alone. He told me that it's just like you'd imagine it would be: a small, sterile room, porn available (print and video) if needed or desired, stern warnings that the sample cannot be obtained via blow job or intercourse: jacking off ONLY (I'm sure they had a more delicate way of phrasing it). So the deposit was made, the fee was paid, and off to chemo we went.

We had no idea what to expect from chemo, of course. For all we knew, we'd seen John's best days and it was all going to be downhill. But John was a responder, as they are known, these people who have a quick, positive response to treatment. Not that the treatment was without side effects, but within a month or so, John's tumor marker numbers were down and overall he was feeling better.

We started to talk about the kid option. We wanted to move forward, but it was not as simple as calling the bank and making a withdrawal—as if that in an of itself would have been simple. No, no, I had fibroids. Big ones. Ones that needed to be surgically removed before my OB would clear me to get pregnant. And so in March of 2005, I had a myomectomy. Perhaps oddly, I have fond memories of that time. The surgery went off without a hitch, and my mom came out to Boston to nurse me through my recovery. That's when I became addicted to 24, and acutely aware of how much John hates hospitals. He could not stand to see me in a hospital bed, could not wait to get me home.

My OB recommended waiting at least six months after the fibroid surgery to try to get pregnant. During that time, I focused on getting myself in the best shape I could. I had always been an avid exerciser; once I was able after the surgery, I got back in that routine. I had started doing acupuncture before the surgery; I kept up with that. I ate extremely well. I got a lot of sleep. During this time, John continued to do amazingly well overall, with ups and downs to be sure, but steady improvement.

I made an appointment to see an RE five months after my surgery. (If you are curious about which specific doctor I saw, you'll be able to figure it out from the name. One of my children is named for our RE. I loved him that much.) After undergoing all of the requisite testing and such, we did our first IVF cycle in October, and it was successful.

It's at this point that I started blogging. When I look back on those initial posts, I'm surprised at times by the lack of detail. No mention of the numbers in my beta. No mention of the fact that in our initial ultrasound, one of the twins had a very slow heartbeat and our doc thought that it would fall prey to vanishing twin syndrome. Clearly that did not happen, but it looked like a real possibility. Odd that I didn't mention it, but a testament to how deeply I believed that nothing would go wrong in my pregnancy, that the universe owed us, and owed us big time.

I'm well aware that things don't work that way. Life is not some card game of fairness where a bad hand get karmically balanced out by a good one. O! Were it so simple. But for whatever reason, from our first meeting with our RE, I knew with utter certainty that my pregnancy was going to be OK. Call me crazy, call it denial, call it whatever you want: I knew. I knew I would feel good throughout, go full term, and have an uncomplicated delivery. This was a feeling utterly different than the "power of positive thinking" bullshit that John and I battled during his whole illness. I harbor no illusion that I willed my easy pregnancy and delivery into happening via positive thoughts. I took good care of myself, but so do plenty of people who have difficult gestations and births. I was lucky, and I'm telling you: I knew I would be.

Our families knew that we had done IVF, and we told them the results of my beta, shared with them what we saw in the ultrasounds during those early weeks. I also shared some of that with the Internet, not that many people were reading at that time. We waited the standard twelve weeks before we started sharing our news with friends, coworkers, and the like. Most people were thrilled for us, an unmitigated joy and excitement that helped me feel less terrified about the fact that I was going to have two babies and that their dad was going to die sooner rather than later. Some people expressed joy and concern both, their feelings an empathetic reflection of my own.

And then there were the brave few who said what I'm sure a number of people were thinking behind that joy: How could you? How could you make the decision to bring two children into this world who will functionally never know their dad?

There are a lot of issues to respond to when you get into this line of questioning. I found that people who expressed their doubts fell into two broad categories: (1) In your situation I would not have done the same thing, and (2) Kids need two parents.

I can totally understand the people in category (1). I had my doubts along the way, from my initial doubts about wanting kids at all to my doubts about my ability to raise kids as a single parent (those are ongoing). Most of those doubts, if not all of them, are ruled—as always—by fear. And I do not like to be ruled by fear. And I respect that what we did is not what everyone would have done. For some people, the fear that single parenting while grieving would be too overwhelming would have kept them from going ahead. Totally legitimate. For others, they fall into a combo category where they would not have made the decision because they think kids need two parents. I (obviously) disagree, but expressed as "you did what you did, I'd do what I'd do," I respect that. And that's just it. It's largely semantics. We made our decision. It was our decision, no one else's, and not a decision that everyone else would make. I get that.

The people who seem to think that kids need two parents—a mother and a father, to be precise—baffle me. I can see a lot of reasons that having two parents (mom, dad, two moms, two dads . . . whatever, in my book) is good for all parties. I know there are times I'd be a better parent if I had someone to share the ups and downs with, and it's good for the kids to have more than one adult role model in their lives.

But here's the thing: they do. Maddie and Riley—and the children of single parents everywhere—have a huge community of people looking out for them, honorary aunts and uncles and grandparents galore. They are loved by countless multitudes. And they were loved by their dad for as long as he was able to love them.

Which brings me to another point. Some say it's unfair to Maddie and Riley that John and I brought them into this world knowing that they would barely know their father. Unfair? Unfair? I don't see it. Would it have been fair to deprive John of the experience of being a father, an experience he'd always wanted? While we're at it, what about cancer is fair? What about life is fair?

I would love nothing more than for John to be here, with me and Maddie and Riley. I wish that Maddie and Riley could know their father and benefit from his infinite patience, dry wit, and kind heart. But I also know that Maddie and Riley are not doomed to a life of failure for being raised by a single mom, even with all the faults that this single mom has. And I know that being a father brought a purpose and love to John's life that he would not have traded for anything, even as he got sicker and sicker and became so consumed by that love that it started to hurt, and he had to pull away a bit because he had so much love for me and the kids that the idea of losing that love was what was killing him.

I also know that Maddie and Riley know their dad on some level. Last night, as I was making dinner, the kids were in their high chairs, chatting happily. As I rinsed a dish in the sink, my back to them, I heard Maddie say, "Maddie miss Daddy."

"What was that, Love?"
"Maddie miss Daddy."
"Oh, honey, I do too. I miss Daddy a lot. What do you miss about Daddy?"
[pause; gaze out window]
"Birdie eat that corn."

And so works the toddler mind. But it's not the first time she's done something like that. And both kids are often calmed by seeing pictures of John. We talk about him a lot, and some—most, maybe all, eventually—of their memories of their dad will be ones that I've helped them create. Hardly ideal. But worse than not being born? I don't think so.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, Snickollet.

Anonymous said...

My John & I made the opposite decision, and if I could go back in time I would change my mind. It would have been nice to have his smile around.

That was a beautiful story.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I think about your story, I don't think "how could you do that" in a negative, judgmental tone of voice ... rather, my inner voice is full of awe and ... I don't know ... pride for you. When my husband and I talk about this, he just shuts down and says, "you aren't allowed to go anywhere."

I hope that we, as your online community of readers, offer something to you ... a support group, of sorts, that can help ease some of your aching lonliness.

But your kids are not the first kids to be raised by one parent. And they are going to be FINE. Hell, my father is ALIVE and I don't have a relationship with him. Do I regret that? Yes. Am I scarred by it? No.

To sum up: people should mind their own damn business.

Sara said...

WOW. Sitting at my desk all teary and stuff. I agree 100% with the phrase, "it takes a village to raise a baby". I think it wonderful that the kids "know" their daddy - you are so inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said..

you are doing an AMAZING job raising your 2 young children. and having made John's wish come true, although you were not too sure about having children, says a lot about you. Am sure you would do anything for those children to make them happy too. By you telling them about John, makes him very happy. He will always be with you and your children..
This was a beautiful post..

tree town gal said...

snick - had to respond to this one... i have always spoken about you to my friends/family with deep respect and admiration for your bravery. what a gift you gave to john and what a gift you gave to yourself by having those children. i know it can be difficult and endless and lonely at times as a single parent, but what an amazing job you are doing.

i hope you are well-rewarded when you see john in their eyes, as they grow. and what a way to keep alive a piece of john's soul. my fav photo of john and riley laughing together says it all. for john to have experienced the love a parent feels for a child was remarkable. his life was too short but because of your willingness and fearlessness, you have him something to celebrate. yes, heartbreaking when it had to end, when he had to pull away, but what joy to experience before his departure. i'm babbling, i know, but my respect for you is boundless. many of us lose parents while we are young through death, accident, divorce etc... we survive and often thrive. r&m are truly children of love and bravery. thank you for sharing this story.

BoldnBrazen said...

You said: "I wish that Maddie and Riley could know their father and benefit from his infinite patience, dry wit, and kind heart."

I say, Honey, they do know him, and benefit from all of those things, because he is in them, and they are of him. His heart beats inside of them, every single day.

ShabbyDoll said...

Hi, Snickollet...it's been a long time, but I still read your great blog. One thing your post reminded me of...I was listening to the radio, and a woman who did long distance ocean swims was talking about how people would often tell her, "You can't do that!"...Eventually, she realized that they meant that they could not imagine how she could do it. That doesn't mean that *she* could not imagine it...or that she could not do it.

So I bet that some people who indicate that you should not do it, or that it was somehow a bad choice to do it, is because they cannot imagine doing it themselves, or they cannot imagine how you can do it.

They just need a better imagination.

dregina said...

Nothing in life is fair. Little in life is easy. And life is still a wonderful, beautiful gift. I feel bad for full-grown adults who still don't get that.

Anonymous said...

Admittedly I was one of those who wondered why you decided to have children knowing their father would soon pass away. I never thought of it from the perspective of John having to lose out on the experience of being a father just because of cancer, which he never asked for and which is unspeakably evil (cancer, that is).

Your children are blessed to have had a father like John and to grow up with his love in their hearts, memories in their minds, and through his legacy.

yatima said...

I have a friend who has three children - a girl and boy/girl twins - through IVF from the fiance she lost to leukaemia. Kevin never got to meet his children at all, but Yvonne's courage and her love for him have made a spectacularly happy family.

Out of death, life. What else are we gonna do?

lelah said...

I totally think you two made the best decision. You're a great mother, and I know your husband is with your family in spirit, helping you out and giving you all his unconditional, selfless love.

Sylvie said...

What a beautiful post. I've never questioned why you had the kids knowing that John would likely succumb to that terrible disease. It always made sense.

Kathryn said...

You are a remarkable woman, - as John was clearly a remarkable man. To have brought children into the world with such parents is a great and wonderful thing...To have written about the experience with the honesty that you do is still another gift to us all. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I think those who put thought into becoming a parent are better parents than those whose primary role in life is just to "breed". Some of the best parents I know constantly question whether they are good parents, and work hard to provide their kids with memories, financial knowledge, etc. Then, there are those who say "I'm a WONDERFUL parent", and meanwhile their kids are out up to no good in junior high.

MerryJennifer said...

I think that you and John were incredibly brave. Having children was clearly an act of your love for each other, and your children will know that when they're old enough to think about it.

I found your experience with the oncologist interesting. You're right, there's not that much information out there on fertility in pancreatic cancer patients. Sounds like you had a great doctor -- one who was willing to go that extra step to find out things for you instead of brushing your questions off.

Thanks for sharing this story.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Very rarely am I speechless, but this rendered me so. Beautifully written.

Annagrace said...

Such a beautiful story... I remember J and I literally cheering when we found out via email that you were pregnant--and with twins! It seemed like the most hopeful thing you could possibly have done under the circumstances. Cause who knows? What if John had lived longer or beaten the statistics? I agree that most of that "positive thinking" stuff is bullshit, but on the other hand, who wants to chain their future to numbers and statistics? And look at you--you're such a good mama!

Googling Goddess said...

You are left with a such a wonderful part of him, whereas if you didn’t have children, you would not have a human being tying you together.

I think what you are doing is brave and admirable.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if this is a repeat comment... just wanted to thank you for sharing the story behind the decision. It never even occurred to me to question it, but it's a beautiful post that makes mounds of sense to me. And as always, just makes me admire you all the more for the strength to do exactly what made the most sense to you and John.

Karen said...

I don't think it is my place to judge your decision. I can see how people would voice concern, but it was not anyone's business but yours and John's.

And now with 2 amazing children, how can anyone question the decision you ultimately made?

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for writing this. It made me cry and I'm glad.

Clover said...

I never questioned it, but was always kind of curious. Thank you for sharings something so personal. I like your thinking re: the universe owed you big-time. Damn right.

Cate said...

Thank you for telling this part of your story. It made me cry. But in a good way.

Kelly said...

Thank you for telling your story. It's a wonderful testament to the love between you and your husband. Your decision was brave, courageous, generous and yours to make. Thank you for speaking up for all of us who don't have the ideal situation for parenting, if that even exists, but who muddle through because we can.


Anonymous said...

I get the sense that that must have been hard for you to write. I so appreciate you sharing it, and I think you made a wise and brave decision, for what it's worth. Bottom line, it just doesn't matter what others think about your choice. Whether people think you're brave (like I do), or they think you're selfish or whatever, all that matters is how your children view it. I so look forward for you to the time when Maddie and Riley are old enough to thank you for what you have done for them-- not just bringing them into the world, but also the sacrifices you have had to make to be a single mom while grieving. I have nothing but admiration for you.

By the way, I get chills each time you write about your children suddenly mentioning your husband out of the blue. That must be both beautiful and heartbreaking for you each time.

Anonymous said...

That was so well writen. I have never commented on your blog, but I do read often. I lost my bio mom at 5 years old. Most of my memories of her are from my aunts, uncles and grand parents. You are a wonderfull mom!

every tenth said...

Thank you for sharing your story. What a blessing it must have been for John to become a parent with the woman he loved more than anyone else in this world.

Anonymous said...

My mother raised us as a young widow, and did a fantastic job. Better than any other couple-parents I know. OK she wasn't perfect either, but she did the best she could in a difficult situation, and we really admire her for it. And the difficulties etc have just made us stronger and more considerate.
So as someone who was raised by a single parent as a result of a death, I think it is better to have one loving parent alive, and one loving parent dead, than to have either one or both parents who don't really care. (Although it's tougher on the surviving parent).
You're doing a great job and your kids will be fine.

Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog soon after you started writing it, and remember you hinting at something that you couldn't be explicit about. Somehow I just knew it meant that you were pregnant. It has been a privilege to read your blog and to, in some very small way, share some of your experiences.

I am also familiar with the "you shouldn't have kids" line, and how annoying/ hurtful it can be, because in my family we have two mums and three fabulous children. But, we didn't base our decisions on what other people thought. We based our decision on what we felt was right, and what we felt was right for us. We have never looked back.

More power to you, to the decision you made with John, and to the wonderful children who are so integral to your life and to the last year or so of John's life.


Kerrie said...

Having children was such a profound gift to be able to give each other and a positive focus for you both. I have never thought to question your decision why...more why not as I see it.

As you mentioned...

"We talk about him a lot, and some—most, maybe all, eventually—of their memories of their dad will be ones that I've helped them create. Hardly ideal. But worse than not being born? I don't think so."

I happened across your blog via another some months ago and was drawn to it immediately. My partner's wife died some years ago now, she had throat cancer...they had two young children at the time and she was pregnant with another when diagnosed. Reading your blog has helped me gain an understanding of how things were for him in the early days of grief, particularly the loneliness.

Thank you for sharing your lives with us. My day is brighter for having your blog to read.

Julia said...

I am so glad John got to meet the kids, to experience fatherhood, even if it wasn't the way or for as long as he imagined. Nothing in life is fair, but that only means that it is up to us to create meaning in our lives and to bring joy to those we love.

On the other point, I actually heard Elizabeth Edwards on the radio just today very gracefully paring a call from a woman who claimed that she is winning over cancer because so many people prayed for her and because of her attitude. Elizabeth said that she is happy the woman is doing well, but that the disease has no interest in your spunk or your well-wishers, and sometimes it turns out to be stronger than the strongest person. I already like her a lot, but today I wanted to hug her for saying that-- there is no rhyme or reason and implying that there is is doing a disservice to many great people.

Will you tell us one day more about John's months with the kids? Or should we just go read the archives? :)

Unknown said...

I understand. I lived in Washington, DC on 9/11. We were childless at the time, and it made me so sad to think that something could happen to one of us and we did not have a child together. We actually talked (though not seriously enough to take action) about banking sperm. And now we have frozen embryos, and we've talked about how I still would want to transfer them if something happened to him before we transfered them together.

BTW, we have since relocated to Portland and love it here. What a great city you grew up in!

Twinmommy2boys said...

I think you made the right decision for you. I'm not here to judge all I know is that you have two beautiful, wonderful children that carry the legacy of their dad in them, no matter how long they knew him here on earth. Who knows maybe he visits them in their dreams.

I think you are doing a wonderful job with the cards you were dealt, such a beautiful story.

Molly said...

Your kids have an amazing legacy, of your love. That's all they need, plus the village, of course! Well written.

Chris said...

Wow! That is a great post.

There has been a lot of upset in the news here in the UK about a parliamentary vote last week to allow IVF for women who wish to conceive but are in a partnership with a woman, or who are single and want to have a child. The Conservatives are wittering on about how a child need a mother and a father, no more, no less. Understandably, most MPs were in favour of children being brought up in a loving home with parents (no gender specified) or parent (again, no gender specified). Having loving parents is the most important thing.

Anonymous said...

When I think about the fact that you are raising twins alone, I am amazed. I can barely function with our twins with my husband as a partner.

I don't think that it was a selfish decision. I think it was an incredibly brave one.

Anne said...

Thanks for such a beautifully written and personal post. I think your children are blessed to have the two of you as parents. His legacy and love are with them always, and you are raising them with love and care and guidance.

Anonymous said...

This moved me to tears.

The sentence that struck me was "I do not like to be ruled by fear." I think that should be your tagline or something. It's painfully obvious to anyone who reads you that it is something you live by.

Heather said...

Oh, Snick. I'm right there with something ShabbyDoll said -- I only wondered in that awestruck way because I can't imagine getting up and dealing with the needs of two needy kids while just wanting to lay and bed and cry and feed my grief and be selfish. To be as selfless as you've been to help provide John's dream to him, regardless of how much of it he'd get to enjoy is a phenomenal act of love for him. Your kids will undoubtedly recognize how hard that was for you one day, and thank you just for making it through. Even with the screaming.

Katie said...

That's an amazing post. So beautifully put.

Unknown said...

Love this. LOVE THIS!

I got some of the same reactions, and you are 100% right, they are being raised by a multitude of people and they will be fine.

What you and John did was very brave, and it was the greatest gift of love you could have given (I think) to Maddie, Riley, John, and of course, you.

Becky said...

There's no doubt that you made the right decision. The world is a better place for having Maddie and Riley in it.

Anonymous said...

Great article. I think people are stupid to say that kids must be raised by two parents. Sure, it may be the ideal but they will be fine anyway. I'm a single mom also, but I didn't get the choice like you did. If I could go back and make the choice, I wouldn't change anything. As long as you love your children, and show that to them, they are better off than some kids out there with two parents. I know my daughter has many many adults in her life that love her very much.

winecat said...

Snick that was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes.
I never even thought about why you and John decided to have kids, it just seemed so right that you did.

And what moo said "my inner voice is full of awe and pride for you". That says it exactly

Anonymous said...

i hope i would have done the same thing. i think the choice took more courage on your part than maybe you even realize -- and i hear that it was a choice made out of pure love. perhaps not so much a choice, as a surrender to the will of love. i'm glad your GH had children -- glad for you, him, them and the world. i also think you've made a contribution by sharing the story.

foolmaker said...

snick, i was raised by a single mom... i lost my dad when i was a year old. and i feel incredibly lucky to have a mom who was strong - for me, for herself and the families involved.

i feel i've had a much better life than a few kids i know who have both parents.

what my mom considers her failures (anger, frustrations when i was a kid), i look at them as lessons in bravery. lessons in being human. and definitely, lessons in surviving.

your children may be afraid of you now when you get angry, but remember this, when they grow up, they will have profound respect, admiration and love for you for all you've done.

Anonymous said...

I remember attending one of those few-and-far-between PC Gabon brunches, hanging out by the bagels in the kitchen, and telling you about my decision to get pregnant and be a single mom(hadn't happened yet, if memory serves.) And you said something like, "That's what I'm facing, too."

That was the only time I ever heard you hint you accepted that John's illness was terminal. I think your bravery doesn't boil down to your decision to be a single mom (obviously!) so much as it (your bravery) showed its face to me that day, knowing you and John lived with hope in the face of grim reality.

Anonymous said...

I think they know John and I think John knows them. He is there with you guys every single day, every step of the way. And it may sound kooky (it sounds kooky just typing it) but I believe little kids are receptive and can see John in places you cannot. He is there, talking to you, and talking to the kids.

Anonymous said...

You are so right. My father died when I was young and for much of when he was alive he was very sick. I was raised by my loving mother and her "village" of family and friends. It's a wonderful experience to be loved and cared for by a "village". We talked about my Dad frequently. Often my mom would say "don't worry honey, Daddy's in heaven watching us, and he's happy and proud, and he's still with us and taking care of us". I still feel him with me.
Children need the gift of love, support and encouragement, and it doesn't have to come from the "perfect" two parent environment. Your children have you, your family, your friends, and each other. That will be enough for them to grow up happy and healthy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Sandi said...

I think people mistakenly think I fall into the kids need 2 parents category. I don't. I think I would have done exactly what you did in your position.

Rev Dr Mom said...

Like you, I can think of all kinds of ways that having two parents is a good thing. But there are never any guarantees...people divorce, people die, things happen.

I think what is more important is that you and John chose the path you were going to follow. Your kids were wanted and are loved. That's what really counts.

And what a wonderful gift for John to experience fatherhood even if only for a little while. Your kids will grow up knowing that they had a father who loved them.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE that Maddie can say she misses her daddy. And she does!

Our older daughter, adopted at birth, told me at about age three that she missed her birthmother. She had never met her birthmother, but we had shared the fact that her birthmom had loved her so much, she had decided to let us be her parents because she couldn't care for her.

So, yes, of course she missed her birthmother ... just as Maddie misses the daddy you keep alive in her heart.

Thank you for sharing your story ...


~ Jolene said...

thank you for sharing. That was so beautifully written. I am actually left with no words. I will say however, that we are one of those families that still believes in "positive thinking." What else can we do you know? when you fear that f*cken cancer coming back, positive thinking is all you have left. Thank you again for sharing...this was an amazing story. How I would love to meet you and the kiddies. :)

L said...

I will admit that I have always wondered about the history of how Maddie and Riley came to be.
Thank you for sharing this very personal post.
It was important that John be a father and he is. And those two little ones will always have him as their dad. That is significant.
That is what it's all about.

luna said...

this is such a beautiful story. your children are lucky to have you as parents. thanks for sharing this.

Unknown said...

I am only reading your blog for the first time today, but I appreciate you and your thoughts. I am also a mom of twins (MA-founding chapter) and you have gifted me with such a beautiful and transformative perspective. Your post reminded of a conversation that I had with my friend's 5 year old daughter. I asked her if she remembered being in her mother's belly. In such honest, thoughtful, and astonishing responses she recounted her memories. Children remember much more than we would imagine and most of the time believe.
thank you

jfoo said...

totally choked. well done.

Anonymous said...

What Foolmaker said.
Beautiful, brave, loving post. John lives on in them, yes, but it seems that quite a bit of him (the warmth, the generosity, the courage) live on in you as well.

Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) said...

As much as I can, considering I can't even imagine being faced with the decision, I understand your decision. You are a brave and wonderful wife and mother.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that you did what you did. Not in a bad way. Your courage to wrench joy from an overwhelmingly sad circumstance is truly awe-inspiring. My father died when I was five. From heart disease that was already evident when my mother met him. I barely remember my father. Is that sad? Yes. Do I think it would be better that I didn't exist than to have been raised by a widowed mother? Hell, no. My mother's heart was so broken by my father's death that she could never contemplate love with anyone else, and closed that part of her life off. I wish she had found a way to move on. Not so I would have had a "father," but because I would have been happier to have a mother who was more whole.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, moving post.

I agree totally with Julie above. I also believe little kids can see/hear things that adults cannot. My MIL passed away only two weeks after my second son was born. We did not live in the same state and she had not yet met him. He has of course seen many pictures of her and heard many stories. As an infant, he would often stare at a blank ceiling for long periods of time, giggling and babbling like crazy. When he was two he asked out of the blue, "Gran Mary come over?". When I told him no he said, "She feel better. She not sick anymore.". But he was only two...we had never discussed her fight with breast cancer in front of him.

Please know I'm in no way comparing the loss of a grandparent to the loss of a parent. I just wanted to say I have no doubt the twins see John and know him, just as he does them.

Amelie said...

Beautiful post. I'm so glad John got to be a father, to meet his kids, and I'm sure they know him.

Krys72599 said...

Thanks, Snickollet, for putting into words exactly how I feel.
While it doesn't affect me immediately, I'm in the position of having to try to bring my dad to life for my niece and nephew, along with my sister who's a single mom, of course. And countless times we've said, "If Daddy were around, J wouldn't..." or "If Daddy were still alive, A would..."
Not once day goes by that I don't think of my dad, and I try so very hard to make him come alive for my niece and nephew who were born years after Dad died.
While I do believe he's looking out for them from "up there," I so deeply feel their lives are that much less for not having known him themselves. It's my duty to tell them stories, to make them feel like they know him even though they don't have first-person memories of him.
You do what you have to do to keep John alive for your children - it's a gift you've both given them and for which, when they're old enough, they will be eternally grateful.

Anonymous said...

Infinitely wise, beautifully written.... what an eye-opening post and just so inspiring. Youre right, life really isnt fair. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughs on re-marrying at this point in your life?

Sarahviz said...

What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.
(And P.S. Dr. Penzias at Boston IVF helped us conceive our first 2 boyz.)

Anonymous said...

I have issues with the word "fairness" in most contexts. What does it exactly mean? If one person gets 2 Snickers and the other gets only one, you might say that's not fair. But maybe one person worked hard or is hungier or had a bad day. Maybe the other person only wants one, is sick, can't eat chocolate, is in time out, in a hurry. . . on and on.

I raised two daughter alone due to a divorce (that wasn't my idea, but turned out for the best). I was 28 at the time, with daughters ages 2 and 10 months. I relate very well to many of your difficulties with not having enough hands and patience. It's hard, very hard at times. But fair? Unfair? It just is. Cancer sucks; divorce sucks; money problems suck. . . and we all do what it takes to continue and eek as much joy out of every experience as possible. Because that is living.

My daughters are now 26 and 27. They are smart, independent, self-supporting, funny, emotionally secure. And beautiful too, though I neither take credit or think that's the most important thing.

They learned to do laundry as soon as they could pull a chair up to the washer, probably had more responsibility at home than other kids. I remember being at school and walking my 11 year old daughter though the fine points of tuna noodle casserole over the phone. She was proud of her accomplishment and so was I.

I go bonkers when I hear people talk about "broken homes" or the unfairness of children having to suffer in single parent households. This isn't a matter of fairness or unfairness. It just is, either by choice or not. But a loving and stable person can raise children and create a family full of friends, neighbors, extended family, co-workers, child care people. Snickollet, I think you are doing just fine.

Tempe, AZ

Mel said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

You are brave and smart.

Ever since the moment Greg died (when I was pregnant), I have been overwhelmed by gratitude that I have our son.

So I know that without a doubt I would have done the same thing that you did.

I would love to hear sometime about how you keep Daddy's memory alive.

Perhaps I should bring out photos, point and say, "Daddy"? And when do I do it? I'm not sure if at 14 months old, Reece even understands that a photo represents a person, or what a daddy is. But maybe I am underestimating him?

gwendomama said...

thank you for mentioning what isn't fair. why do people have to share everything that comes into their heads?

Denise said...

I'm reading through your archives, and normally wouldn't have bothered to comment until I got to the new entries, but I had to comment on this one. Reading your blog has made me wonder if I would make that decision, to have kids when my husband was fatally ill and I knew I'd be raising the child(ren) alone. But it never once crossed my mind that it would be unfair for the kids because they would never know their Dad (as you said some people said to you).

The reason that never crossed my mind? I lost my father when I was only 2 years and 10 months old. I don't have a single memory of him, and only know him from pictures and one home video (which was made so long ago that there isn't any sound, so I have no idea what he sounded like when he talked).

My mother didn't know when she decided to have me that my father was going to die - he died in an accident. So I'm here to say that every child who is born has a chance of losing a parent. How is it any worse for you to have kids knowing John was going to die? I don't think it is.

And now I'm not sure if I'm making any sense, or even getting my point across, whatever that was. I guess I just want to say - I hope you don't let people bother you when they question your decision to have children, knowing your husband was going to die before they'd be old enough to remember him. Obviously it was worth it, or those two adorable kids wouldn't be in the world today, enriching your life and the lives of everyone who knows them (not to mention being a piece of the man you loved and lost).

I also have to say, that reading your earlier stuff, that was written while your husband was still alive, and knowing as I already did that he was going to die, made me go home and hug my fiance a little tighter on more than one evening. I'm so sorry for your loss. Also, I'm glad you're going to therapy to help you through the grieving process - I wish I had done that when my Mom died. It might not have made it easier, but at least I would have understood why I was going through the sad days so often when she had been gone long enough that it wasn't immediately clear to me that I was still grieving.