pregnancy

'I felt guilty.' When Marisa was 24 weeks pregnant she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Sitting in the birthing suite at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, Marisa pulls chunks of hair out of her head. They’re big chunks too, but it doesn’t dampen her mood.

“Do you have any requests for your birth?” a midwife asks. “I dunno, a martini?” she replies before letting out an infectious cackle.

Twenty four weeks into her pregnancy with son Alejandro, the 35-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had to start chemotherapy immediately.

Meet Marisa and husband Daniel, they’re on One Born Every Minute tonight. Post continues after video.

Video by Ten

Seeing the second time mum dancing in her hospital gown while telling the midwives “It’s more fun when you’re happy”, it’s easy to forget Marisa is feeling pretty ordinary.

While preparing for the birth of her son, Marisa discovered a lump on her neck which turned out to be two big tumours.

“As a mum having a baby in my tummy everything passes through him. I was very concerned more for him than for me,” she told One Born Every Minute.

“I was feeling guilty, how can I do this to him? But I realised we are like a team, we have to work together, ” she said.

Marisa-and-Daniel
Marisa and Daniel on One Born Every Minute. Image : Ten.
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The main thing midwives were worried about during Marisa's birth was the risk of infection. She couldn't have a caesarean section because the procedure came with too many variables that could lead to infection.

"We're worried about the baby being born when the chemotherapy is at its maximum effect. So we induce a woman between the chemotherapy [sessions] to keep her and the baby safer," Susan, the high risk pregnancy clinical midwifery consultant at the hospital told Ten.

As Marisa gave birth, she was told she had to avoid tearing, and had to follow a midwife's instruction very carefully so as not to push before her muscles had relaxed.

"Once again, it's about avoiding a source of infection," Susan explained.

One of the things that hurt the most during Marisa's pregnancy journey was being told she couldn't breastfeed. Through a lactation consultant at the hospital, she was put onto the Cancer Council, who provided her with some donor milk for her son's early days.

"It's $100 a litre," a grateful Marisa told the midwives.

Alejandro is now 11-weeks-old, and is a beautiful healthy little boy. Marisa went back to chemotherapy eight days after giving birth.

Marsia-and-Alejandro
Alejandro was born perfectly healthy 11 weeks ago. Image: Ten.
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"I'm not feeling my best, but I'm okay," she told Mamamia. "The thing I struggle with the most is the sleeping. One of the side effects of chemotherapy is insomnia but I also have a newborn."

Daniel works long hours and only had two weeks off when Alejandro was born, so Marisa's been trying to navigate a toddler, a newborn, and cancer treatment without him.

"I had to leave him in the ICU while I had chemotherapy," she said.

Thankfully, her sister is over now from Peru, which is helping take the pressure off. Right now she's trying to decide on where to go next with her treatment plan, she's been told she can continue with chemotherapy for six months or get daily radiation for six weeks.

It's a tough choice. But Marisa is, as always, looking at the positives.

"You choose how to face things, you choose how to feel. It's my responsibility to decide how to live my life," she told Mamamia.

One Born Every Minute airs Tuesday nights at 8:30pm on Channel Ten.

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