In March of 2005 I became pregnant, and was overjoyed. My nausea and other symptoms were severe, but I never thought twice about it until I started spotting at about 8 weeks. We assumed it was a blighted ovum, and followed up with HCG tests afterwards to confirm. Strangely my hcg levels did not drop as expected, but rose quickly- soaring past normal levels until they were in the millions. An ultrasound confirmed that I had what is called a “Molar Pregnancy,” or “Gestational Trophoblastic Disease.”
That means that the egg fertilized was a genetic mutant, free of any genetic material, and the resulting “pregnancy” was nothing more than placental tissue. The job of placental tissue is to invade the uterine wall, so the result is an invasive mass of cells, very similar to cancer. I underwent a D&C, followed by more hcg testing. The levels appeared to be dropping normally until late June, when they began to rise again, meaning that the tissue was spreading. I had to go on a kind of chemotherapy called Dactinomycin for 8 rounds until my levels dropped to zero, then had to follow up with blood work, and no pregnancies, for a year to make sure it did not return.
This experience was life changing for me. I simultaneously came to grips with my own mortality, while grieving the loss of a “baby” that never actually existed. I also realized how lucky I was, as I spent a lot of time around people suffering from severe, devastating cancers while in the Oncology wing of the hospital. I learned that most people are struggling with something; be it an illness, the inablility to conceive, difficulties in a marriage, and everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and compassion, because we don’t know what sort of battles they might be fighting. I actually think it enriched my life, and made me appreciate my children all the more for having longed for them. Ultimately it gave me some perspective and scope with which to view my life as a mother.
February 21st 2007 I gave birth to my son Erik by emergency c-section. I had made great plans for a natural delivery. I hired a doula and proceeded to learn and practice natural child birthing techniques. I had planned to give birth in the hospital, because we were in a rural area, over two hours from available midwives, and it seemed the safest plan during February snowstorms in the Rocky Mountains. After things seemed to be moving pretty quickly we transferred to the hospital, thinking it would only be a matter of hours. Forty eight gruelling hours later there was still no baby. I couldn’t rest between contractions, because I couldn’t sit or lie down at all. I spent the whole time squatting or standing, and my knees were beginning to give way. At that point Erik’s heartbeat began to slow down, and I agreed to opt for a c section. I struggled with some feelings of sorrow and failure, but the overwhelming feeling was one of relief and joy when I finally held my baby. The surgeon was quick to tell me that in was a “fluke” that Erik became stuck the way he did, and there was no apparent reason I couldn’t try for a v-bac with my second child.
In the summer of 2009 we moved to Courtenay, BC and on November 29th, 2009 I gave birth to Charlotte. It was an easy, uncomplicated labour. I can honestly say that the majority of the labour was not painful at all. I was in the hospital at 5:00am and had given birth by 10:00am, 5 hours later. It was an experience I will never forget. She didn’t cry when delivered, and when they handed her directly to me she stared at me, as though she were thinking: “I know you.”
I feel complete now, as though I made a full circle and healed the absence created by my initial loss and the c-section. My two children seem to make me more than I was previously. My experience has profoundly influenced my artwork, and I find the two aspects of my personality- artist and mother, symbiotic to each other.
Motherhood has changed my life quite a bit! I spend my days with my children, and use most of my free time to either make art, promote my art, and work on my art related writing. I can no longer take my time for granted. The time I might have once spent going out and entertaining myself I now put to good use, because I never really know when another teething episode might take 3 days from my art making. I find that projects that might normally take an artist one or two weeks take me at least a month to complete. I also feel frustrated by my inability to network socially as some artists do. I would love to be able to go to more art openings, for example, but they are schedueled for exactly my children’s bedtime! Mostly I’m very happy with the way things are. I feel that my identity as an artist and my identity as a mother are almost one and the same. I feel hard pressed to draw a clean line between Mother and Artist, especially given the nature of the project I’m working on. I sometimes feel like I’m cheating in school, writing the same essay for two different courses. The time I spend with my kids and the moments I spend with other mothers directly inform my artwork, and my art making enriches my life in return.
For more information or support on Molar Pregnancy please see the following website: