Welcome! My reason why..
I was 9 months pregnant to the day. It was my first day of maternity leave and I was happily waddling around my house, nesting. Then I got a call. The call that changed my life forever.
My father, aged 52, had a heart attack and collapsed. The first thing I thought, was “No, it can’t be. Not yet.”
Growing up, I became aware that all of the men in my family have died at the age of 51 years old. My paternal grandfather had a fatal heart attack and my maternal grandfather had a fatal stroke. My uncles’ either were living with heart disease or had fatal heart attacks. My brother and cousins have been on statins (cholesterol lowering medications) since their early 20’s. All the women live through their 80’s, but with declining heart disease that diminishes their quality of life.
My father lived 2.5 hours away from me. I frantically called my husband and we rushed to see him. As we drove, I kept thinking, “It can’t happen now, not on my due date. Will my father live to see his first grandchild? He just has too.”
As we walked into the emergency room, I knew it wasn’t good. My father had died immediately at the scene. I was numb and scared all at once. I couldn’t believe it. I had such a hard time wrapping my head around it. Wasn’t I supposed to be thinking of a new baby and diapers at this moment, not losing a father? What does this mean? What about my baby? My father will never see his first or any other grandchild. My child will never meet one of the most influential people in my life! My family was numb, shocked and horrified.
Everyone thought it was better for me to go back home. There was nothing left to do. Dave and I started the 2.5 hour ride home. I was a mess, but felt I needed to be “strong” for my baby. I fought against anger and deep sorrow. I fought against falling apart or keeping it together. At 29 years old, I only had 1 parent left at the most important time in my life.
“How can I do this? How can I grieve and give birth? How can I have the the worst moment in my life at the same time of have the most miraculous moment of my life?”
We didn’t even make it an hour before I started to feel labor pains on the way home. I was uncomfortable, in pain, scared, and fighting inside. I kept thinking “I have to be strong, I have to be strong.” We called the midwife with the details and she advised us to drive in. It was another hour drive from where we were located on the highway.
To say the next 30 hours were tough is an understatement. When we arrived at the hospital, I wasn’t even dilated 4 centimeters. The midwife said we could go home, but Dave and I couldn’t go home. We needed support around us. We started walking the halls. The next 20 hours were slow and painful. Contractions without progression. I was getting tired and holding all that grief in my body. I had a birth plan that was meticulously thought out and everyone at the center was on board. I wanted to have a natural labor, no medicine, just to give my baby the best chance of a great beginning.
Holding emotion in during labor is a bad choice. Holding anything in, when you’re trying to get a human being out of your body, is a bad choice. As a yoga teacher and therapist, I now know that holding emotion, tension and sorrow just makes our body a cement block. I was so focused on “being strong” that I could not let go. Let go of the anger, sorrow, grief, fear and disappointment. This wasn’t part of the plan!!!
As my pain increased I dilated and effaced more but not sufficiently. My back pain became more unbearable. I was on my hands and knees while my husband rubbed my back. The pain wrapped around my body in such force, yet it wasn't pushing downward, just around. It felt like the pain didn’t have an exit. It was just recirculating in my body, I was holding so tight, that I couldn’t allow the birth process to do its thing. I had to “control” it. As most of us know, there’s no controlling Mother Nature. My midwife kept reassuring me I would be ok, and letting me know we had to be careful and keep the baby safe. The natural birth plan might not go as expected.
After 25 hours of hard labor and only halfway there, I succumbed to Pitocin. Used primarily to speed up labor, it increases the contraction pain and speed, and is one hell of a needle. Then I got an epidural to tolerate the excruciating yet unsuccessful pain. Then more pitocin. I was scared, I was in pain, and this wasn’t working. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. This wasn’t the plan. I kept thinking “you have to be strong, you have to be strong.” But it only increased the pain. I dilated to 9 centimeters and had a fever. I felt like I wasn’t in my body. Things were being put in and all I wanted was a baby to come out.
At hour 29 the midwife and doctor agreed I had to have an emergency C section. I didn’t have a choice. My fever could affect the baby and I was absolutely spent. I had no energy, nothing was left. I couldn’t fight it anymore.
At hour 30, I gave birth to a beautiful 9 lb 2 oz baby boy, Max. As I lay on the gerny, with my arms tied down, I could see the doctors lift this baby out of my abdomen and hand him to Dave. Because of the severity of the birth, my son was whisked away to NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).
It had been 2 days since my father died. My son was in NICU for 18 hours, I just had a long labor and operation, and my father’s funeral was pending. Max, was doing well, but lots of test were being run to ensure his health. My placenta tested positive for group B strep. He had a hard time breathing at birth.
The following day was my father’s funeral and Max and I were still in the hospital. They said I could leave but Max would have to stay in the hospital. But I’d have to leave without my baby. Leave without my baby? What??? Again, fear took over and there wasn’t a chance in hell I was leaving that hospital without my baby. In retrospect, it would have been a better choice to have gone to the funeral, to grieve with my family and friends, and help the process move on. My body was in shock and my mind wasn’t processing everything.
“This wasn’t part of the plan. I had to be strong, I had to be strong.”
After 4 days in the hospital and Max out of NICU, they couldn’t keep me in my room. The nurses administered my antibiotics through an IV to allow me to stay in the hospital with him, and I had to leave 1 day before Max. I was petrified. Were they keeping something from me? Would I ever be able to take him home?
Dave and I left as late as they possibly would allow us that day. We were so sad to leave him, exhausted, and numb, yet we were grateful we would be able to take our baby home, tomorrow.
The next morning we ran to the hospital and took our baby boy home. Driving home I thought, “This is not going to happen to my son. He will not succumb to heart disease and to die at 51 years old, like all the other men in my family.” No way in hell I’d let that happen. I had to do something, there had to be a better way!
And so my journey began. That’s the day I became a vegetarian. Just like that. “I just won’t eat cholesterol” I thought. This was the beginning of the trajectory of my health journey, of the purpose of my life.
Sitting on the couch with my wonderful husband, I realized how lucky I was with my new little family. One I would dedicate my life to ensuring they would have healthy, happy, and long lives.