Emily Garnett (33) and Felix (2.5)
Phoenix, AZ | Brooklyn, NY
Emily shares -
"My husband and I started trying to get pregnant after our second wedding anniversary. At the time, I was working as an attorney for the aging, serving as a Court-appointed guardian, but chose to leave my law practice in order to stay home with our son, Felix. I had an amazing pregnancy, and was so happy and excited to become a mother. I was induced at 41 weeks, and had a wonderful birth experience. I couldn't believe my son was here.
I have always had a complicated relationship with my body, as I'm sure most women do. In high school and college, I was an accomplished competitive distance swimmer, and after college I completed the New York City Marathon. I found comfort in posing challenges to my body, pushing it to its limits, and finding comfort in the discomfort of those limits. After my son was born, I struggled to navigate both the foreign terrain of motherhood and the foreign terrain of my own skin. My body was no longer my own, and no longer could I push it in the ways that were once familiar.
I felt uncertain about most aspects of parenthood, and this uncertainty gave way to anxiety, depression, and the nagging physical pain. I was struggling under the weight of this incredible child I had created. My son and I slept little, and I was able to rest even less. Several weeks after Felix was born, I began to experience a lot of back pain, and it grew worse throughout his infancy. I sought out a few different medical specialists, hoping to find answers, but was quickly written off as a new mother, a breastfeeding mother, a mother who carried around "unnecessary" postpartum weight. None of them attended to my pain effectively.
As my son grew, so did the pain, until I was chasing after a joyous and unruly toddler, gasping from the pain, but pushing it back to the recesses of my mind, writing it off as I had for so long as an appurtenance to motherhood. Three days after celebrating my son's second birthday, I received an answer to the question that had nagged me - why did my body feel like it was falling apart? I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer that had metastasized to my bones, an incurable, terminal disease that turned my world upside down.
However, getting diagnosed with incurable cancer has helped me be a better mother. I found space for myself apart from my son, and we found a new life for our family as three. We found joy in the new life we were cobbling together, and at the same time, we mourned the life we no longer had. Part of my treatment has been putting my body into chemical menopause, so it is not possible for us to have any more children, biological or otherwise. I began writing about my experience and used my legal training to be an advocate for young women and mothers with breast cancer.
In so many ways, rebuilding a new life after a cancer diagnosis has many similarities to rebuilding a new life after bringing home a baby. There is anxiety and uncertainty, but also moments of simplicity and joy. Life goes on all around you even as your world slows to a stop.
I wanted to capture this moment in time with my son - the "terrible" twos that are full of so much emotion, so much love, so many struggles, so much growth, for both of us - so that we can always have this snapshot as a memory of life as it was, in all of its difficult beauty.
All of the struggles, challenges, and trials we face as parents and humans are the things that form the ongoing narratives of our lives. They may not be the things we would choose, but allowing those narratives to play out and allowing yourself to embrace whatever it might be, is an amazing gift.