Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Journey That Led Me Here... Part I

I did it! I set several goals, I stuck to them and I conquered just about every one of them one by one.

Let me start by saying none of them were easy. It first started by admitting I needed to do something or my husband would be a widower and our daughter without a mother.  My heart aches just by thinking about it.

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome at the age of 16. By the time I was out of high school, I gained so much weight that I lost any hope at a career as a professional dancer which I had worked 14 years of my life for.  I married my husband in college but not without sharing the secret that I couldn't have any children. I didn't want to disappoint him but I wanted to tell the truth. It blessed my heart to know that he felt as much heart for adoption as I did. One day we would adopt.  Until then, we moved to Ohio where we became foster parents to teenage girls who have held a part of our hearts to this day.

The man God hand-picked to be my husband. 

My husband decided that he wanted to pursue nursing and make a change in our direction.  We spent 4 years of our lives away from family and working non stop. Me as a nurses aide working double shifts and he working full time, going to school full time and interning full time.   It was those years that we learned the most but had the least. The day he came home almost twice as thin as he'd ever been was the day we decided I'd come home to be a full time homemaker to spite the fact that I had no children.  I heard remarks about laziness but it was my sweet friends I call the Cyster Chicks who knew what I was going through and became a new kind of sisterhood that held me together when we didn't have much at all.  We lived paycheck to paycheck and there was no room for pride. We utilized food banks and gave away what extra we had left. I made friends with the neighbors and prayed with them daily. Even the ones who had no religious beliefs.

When we moved back home to Central New York, I was excited but things had changed a great deal. Could we make it? Could we find a new bond with new friends?

My husband found a job at Crouse hospital and I continued to stay at home as his wife and support. Out of every job I've ever had, this one felt like I fit. The only thing missing was a child. My heart grew sad with each passing year and each time I had to cross a name off my list because someone's child was born. They were joyful moments but they also stung. They stung terribly bad.  What made it worse was I lost my best friend, my grandmother, the year before we moved back. I couldn't ask her for advice or cry on her shoulders. I found myself deeper and deeper in sadness.

We found ourselves living with my husbands parents to help them out a little bit (but they were really helping US) and it was then we decided to take a trip to the Adirondacks.   The scenery was beautiful and the time my husband and I had together was a healing one. In fact, 6 weeks later after a trip to the Dr.'s office from what I thought was cancer, we found out we were having a baby. "I think you must have the wrong file" I said. "Could you please check it again? I can't have children".   She got back on and shared the joy she knew we had always hoped for.

Our beautiful Dr. who left her practice to be with her kids. God bless her!

I cannot share this story fully yet. It's too raw and my heart still hurts. there is still anger and feelings that are slowly starting to fade from a journey I never expected to walk. I WILL say however, that I felt every heartbeat and saw every beautiful image of who became our son Jackson Jeffrey.  I sang to him and remember his kicks.  I remember feeling beautiful and as I think back, was very ignorant to the fact that nothing could ever happen once I was pregnant. At 22 weeks from what I know now was a preterm labor from infection due to an incompetent cervix, I gave birth to our son after 23 hours of labor and we had the pleasure of knowing him for 25 blessed minutes. He held my finger as I spoke softly to him and daddy and I took some pictures. Then God held us all as he took our sweet baby and a piece of our hearts to heaven.   I walked in the doors a mother and I walked out of the unit without my baby.


We buried him shortly after but the kindness yet again from others overwhelmed my husband and I. Our church family helped us locate a spot and paid out of their own pockets to put Jackson to rest because I couldn't think straight enough to find a plot. My husbands hospital unit pooled their own wages to give us what is now our beautiful stone.  Every time someone spoke to me it was like I couldn't hear. The pain was so much that I felt I was being held in a straight jacket unable to breathe. I wailed at night with my pekingese Sasha lying next to me trying to console me as my husband sat quietly unable to comprehend it all. I with my deep pain and he holding his own pain deep inside.  I wanted to die! I couldn't bare to go on and I couldn't fathom anymore children even IF I could.

It took me a year to start moving again. My mind was foggy and I don't even remember much of what happened during that time. I DO remember that whatever small anxiety I had turned into debilitating fear. I lost trust in everyone and quit driving on my own. I became in a sense a recluse. At that time I used food as a crutch more and more. The medication kept piling on because the PCOS turned into hypothyroid, then insulin resistance, then diabetes, then sleeping medication, and a little xanax for anxiety to get out of the house.

Where most people saw a smile on my face, I was crying on the inside. Every family function I hated going to because nothing ever fit and I just made myself feel so out of place. "A portion of my heart was gone anyways. Why would I even care", I kept telling myself.

Slowly I started to heal though the pain never truly disappears. The absence just continues to take it's rightful place deep in my heart. Those who've lost a loved one understand this but mothers, we hold a club of our own! Nobody knows this pain unless they've walked that mile. I sometimes look at my husband and pray for him. Men become the unspoken grievers. They try to hold it together for the sake of their wives and children but they grieve. Sometimes in their own quiet hours.  I know what hurts my husband is the hours that he hears the Brahm's Lullaby that a child has just been born. It was what we heard on our way out that day without our son but my husband had to go back to work day in and day out holding it together piece by piece and constantly being reminded of the loss he was facing.  Today I'm sure it gets easier as you will see.

Pregnant, VERY sick and just off bedrest!

2 years after our sons death, we had our rainbow baby.  It was not without a fight and I certain had more medical issues which kept me on 9 months full bed rest with progesterone injections weekly.  I found myself praying day after day because after researching, I found I lost Jackson to incompetent cervix.  Nobody would listen and though I went to Rochester for a second opinion. I chose the practice where the Dr. happened to graduate and know the Dr.'s I was fighting so hard to listen to me. They agreed with my Dr. but because I was aggressively persistent (all passiveness went out the door, I already lost 1 child) they monitored me weekly.

That persistence saved the life of our daughter.  Had I not advocated for her and I, she would have been delivered the same week as our Jackson. Since they do not intervene this early, she would have tragically gone just like he did.

During those days, weeks and months I found myself continuing to eat for me and baby without any activity whatsoever. In defense, I was on bed rest anyways but added hormones added to the pounds just as the sedentary lifestyle. We delivered a healthy baby girl!

God's Promise...A Rainbow!
It was the most precious moment to see that she was healthy and crying. Health wasn't something her father or I had at the time. Her father was having fainting spells from high blood pressure and hereditary heart disease and her mother was obese with a diabetes pump and lots of medications for side effects from other medications.

Me at 270 pounds even unable to take my little girl for a walk without feeling sick.

I couldn't walk in parks very well without feeling out of breath. I felt terribly sick and as I looked at my daughter I was accepting that she would be motherless.  Here it took us 10 years to have her and I was facing death and accepting it!  What the heck?!

My husband got sick of fainting and hearing how fat he was or how high his cholesterol had gotten.  He read a book called Forks Over Knives and then a documentary called The Last Heart Attack by Dr. Sanjay Gupta which encouraged a plant-based lifestyle to reverse or even PREVENT heart disease and other diseases. Former President Bill Clinton used Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's book Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease.

The book took several heart patients who were either close to death or had had open heart surgeries and put them all on a plant based diet with no oils, no dairy, no meat etc.  It began to reverse most patients plaque in the arteries and lower blood cholesterol while RAISING the good cholesterol. As a cardiac nurse, my husband wondered why he'd never heard of this before and why Dr.'s and medical staff didn't have this information to give to their own patients. Here HE was a cardiac nurse with an ability to try it and become the example with medical conditions of his own.   He lost 50 lbs and got off his medications. Soon he was determined to share this news and become an advocate for disease prevention and I was soon to follow.

I kept watching him change. From his body to his attitude. Here I've been talking to him about going vegetarian and he went vegan cold turkey!

A nice portobella mushroom burger with mashed-notatoes and sweet corn.

It took me a month before I could change my thought process from where meat was the center to fruits and vegetables. I cried every time I opened the cupboards. I cried because I missed certain foods and I cried because everything I was taught by diabetic educators and most dietitians was the exact OPPOSITE of what really became THE ONLY thing that worked to lose weight and actually get me off of almost EVERY medicine I was on.  The SAD  or better known as Standard American Diet. Is making people sick, fat and depressed.   OF COURSE we would be encouraged to continue eating as the status quo! Most Dr.'s aren't interested in PREVENTION. When they are, the patients aren't interested! The quick fix is a magic pill, powder or surgical intervention.  When someone (even me) hear's that it takes work and it won't be easy, what do we do? We want to find an easier route right?

As soon as I started to get the hang of things and found plant-based chefs and food bloggers who shared meals that looked and tasted appealing I was on a roll!  What lacked was stamina though. I still felt tired and weak. Something was missing.  I saw a plug from Sanjay Gupta about the 2014 CNN FitNation Triathlon. I also remembered that my friend Deanna had done triathlons. She used her own grief to get in shape and work through her own emotions and the swim, bike and run has become a part of her own story.  It was by the grace of God that we met.  You see, as I was walking through the cemetery one day, I noticed a special stone.  I knew I wanted something similar. Several months later, the mother of this beautiful little girl was the person I was told people wanted to introduce me to for months! There is no doubt our children are walking in the garden together.  I'm looking forward to the day I can meet this little girl and hold my baby boy again. As I tell other grieving folks. They are NOT dead! We are not walking AWAY from them. We are walking TOWARD our loved ones! THEY are the ones HOME alive in heaven waiting for US. Our journey here is not yet complete. Neither is yours dear reader!

I entered CNN FitNation's video contest and hoped for the best. The night before they were to be chosen I prayed to God for help. If I didn't get in, how could I move forward? If I didn't change my life around, my daughter and husband would be left without a wife and mother. Did I REALLY want to accept that? Was that REALLY the role of a wife and mother to accept what I had the capability to change? "Lord? Can you help me I cried?" and he did...


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