Family Building Friday: The Walker Family, Pregnancy and CF

Adam and I met the summer before my freshman year in high school and briefly dated for a few months that fall. We ended up breaking up but remained friends throughout the years. When I graduated from high school we crossed paths and started to date again and 6 years later Adam proposed and we married that same year in 2011. We recently celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary!

My CF clinic never discussed family planning to me until I brought it up to them in my first year of marriage.  Adam knew that children may not have been a possibility for us – I had chemotherapy and radiation on my lower back in 2005 and I was told that I may never be able to reproduce because of the cancer treatments and CF factors. About two years into our marriage we brought up having children at one of my clinic visits and we were given the green light but Adam would need to be tested to see if he was a cystic fibrosis gene carrier. Adam is not a carrier of the common genes that he was tested for. We decided that we needed to see a fertility specialist since having a baby wasn’t happening naturally for us. We decided to wait a year before pursuing fertility help and just a few months later we were shocked to find out that I was expecting!

Our son, Leo, is now four years old. He is a wonderful miracle in our lives and we are so grateful that we were able to conceive him naturally. We would love to have another baby but it hasn’t been as easy of a process this time around. We will most likely pursue help from a reproductive health specialist to try for baby number two.

When deciding to grow our family we had to look at several aspects: health, finances, support and what our future could look like. Am I healthy enough? Can we afford to have a child? Do we have enough help/support? Am I willing to sacrifice my health to bring another human into this world? And would Adam be willing to take on the responsibility of another child on his own if my health declined? These are hard conversations to have and it’s important to be honest and think about the realities that could affect our lives.

Our family is a huge support system and they are a reliable and helpful resource in our life. When Leo was a newborn, my mom would help with laundry and cleaning, friends made us dinners and when I had hospital visits or hospitalizations there was always someone that would help us with watching Leo. Overall, we haven’t had any negative experiences and we know that we are deeply loved by friends and family. We lean on our loved ones immensely and that has been an essential and necessary piece of our world.

As for the physical challenges of motherhood, in the beginning it was really hard to adjust to the lack of sleep, the needs of a newborn and keeping up with my medical routine. We are responsible for keeping another human alive and that oftentimes means no sleep and little time for ourselves. When Leo was 5 months old the lack of sleep, physical demands of breast feeding, and little time for my health needs took a toll on me and I had to be hospitalized. Since Leo was so little he was allowed to stay with me but another adult had to be in the room 24 hours a day to help me with him. As Leo gets older and a little more independent it has been easier to focus on my health.

These days I’m able to get adequate sleep more consistently, I take him on stroller runs (he’s getting too big now), do at-home workouts and I also go to a gym that provides childcare.  Leo now goes to preschool and I can plan medications, doctors appointments, treatments and runs/workouts while he is at school. When I’m hospitalized, Adam and Leo visit me everyday – they bring flowers, coffee, food, books, laundered clothes, hugs and kisses, take me on walks and Leo even will go for a ride on the IV pole. Leo now knows that my medicine is important, he goes to clinic with me and he is very aware of how I am feeling. He often asks me if I took my medicine and if I cough a lot he will come up to me, hug me and ask if I feel better. His love is the best medicine in my life and I would endure every obstacle and health setback in life to experience life with my husband and son.

I will do everything in my power to stay on this earth so that I can grow old with my husband and watch our son experience life. I want to be a part of it all – they are my reason for fighting for life and for the immense gratefulness that each breath brings me.