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Last February, I completed a life changing journey. I carried a baby through surrogacy that wasn’t mine to give away to a family who couldn’t have a baby of their own. It profoundly affected how much I appreciated my own children and how much I took my fertility, and health, for granted. I joined several online support groups and learned that anyone lucky enough to qualify (Yes, lucky in my eyes! Pregnancy will always be my favorite parts of my life! I’m nuts!), you must be a pretty healthy person. Over and over, I saw women struggle with weight, blood pressure, thyroid problems… Women who had assumed they were healthy and would come through with no problems. I also saw the women who did carry and then had complications that were unexpected and changed their lives. I had the easiest pregnancy of all of mine (5) and delivered a perfect, healthy little girl into her mother’s arms. Then my life (and health) changed.
Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
Throughout the pregnancy, I was fiercely protective of that little life I was carrying. I was careful with my own pregnancies. I loved my babies and wanted them to be happy and healthy. But, there’s something about carrying a baby for someone else that makes you REALLY vigilant in your care of yourself (well, at least it did for me). I was being relied on to grow the healthiest baby possible. It affected more than just my life if something happened that I could control. I became very health conscious. I went to the gym three to four times a week and did light exercise until 38 weeks (I delivered at 39 weeks, 1 day). I ate healthy with a diet low in processed sugar, limited starchy carbs, and high in protein. I felt AMAZING!
Post-Birth Blood Pressure Scares
Two days after the baby was born, my blood pressure started rising. I’ve never had issues with my blood pressure before. The entire pregnancy, it stayed pretty low (110/60 range). Suddenly, it was staying around 145/85-90. Even though not considered hypertension at this point, it was not at all my norm. I also noticed tingling in my head and some joint pain. My doctors didn’t seem that concerned. I had delivered by c-section, so they assumed it was probably a pain response (although my pain was well under control). They sent me home with instructions to check back in with them in a week. I went home and tried to go about my life, but I didn’t feel right. A few days later, I checked my blood pressure and it was 160/106. Back to the hospital I went.
This cycle went on (although I didn’t go to the ER every time I’d have a spike) until I finally convinced the doctors, six weeks postpartum, that I should probably be on something for the blood pressure. A year later, I’m still not able to get off of the blood pressure medication and I have no answers for my other symptoms. I’ve suffered from occasional heart palpitations that last for days at a time (almost constantly).
What I Discovered
So, I started researching, a lot. I started asking a lot of questions. I discovered a few things:
1) I should have insisted on blood pressure medication much earlier
It would have been better to stay on it when the problems first started and then weaned off as the hormones settled down than to sit on it and see if it would pass. According to the Mayo Clinic, research shows that sustained high blood pressure (and even spikes) causes cellular damage and even cell death. Once these cells are damaged, you can’t fix them. That means there’s a good chance I’ll be on blood pressure medications for life now. Had we fixed the problem before the cell damage, I may have been able to wean off once my hormones settled down.
2) Take a look at my diet and not just the medical tests
I had a clear MRI, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have early stages of either MS (scary word, but the reality is it is manageable these days) or another auto immune disorder. It can take years to diagnose. Most people I talked to weren’t diagnosed with an MRI. They were diagnosed with repeat “episodes” and, finally, looking at multiple MRA’s of the head (I didn’t even know these existed. It stands for Magnetic Resonance Angiograms), and a good doctor who is willing to listen. ALL auto immune disorders are strongly affected by lifestyle. It is believed that diet and exercise can greatly reduce symptoms and even send these diseases into, basically, a state of remission. Gluten and food dyes are big culprits.
3) Self realization: My kids are not eating healthy either
I had lost weight quickly after the baby came. I only gained 19 lbs; she was 8 lbs,… I basically left the hospital weighing less than I started out. I then pumped for the baby for 6 weeks and kept losing. I could eat and eat and the weight fell off. It started me back into some bad habits. After I stopped pumping, the scale at the doctor’s offices (I was seeing quite a few at this point) started climbing. Suddenly, I had gained 15 lbs. I was buying way too much processed junk. That meant my kids were consuming way too much sugar, dyes, oils… I was setting them up for the health problems that were currently scaring me to death. Something had to change.
Video: Tips for Healthy Eating as a Family
This video offers a few simple tips to get your family more involved in a healthy lifestyle.
Time for a Get Healthy Stay Healthy Lifestyle Change
After much discussion with my husband and talking to my in-laws (who had changed their diet and successfully gotten off of insulin and even blood pressure medications), we decided that 2015 would be the year we changed our lives with clean eating and establishing exercise routines for weight loss AND stress relief. Our goals are simple. We want to improve our overall health to live a long and healthy life, lose weight, and, perhaps most importantly, lead our children to a healthy lifestyle by providing them a great example of how to treat your body. We changed our grocery cart contents and started eating “whole foods” (hard to do in a small town and I will go into that more later!), ordered A LOT from Amazon, and got back into the Y (I have a 3-year-old. Childcare is a must when exercising. So, the treadmill it is for me!). My husband cut out soda and is eating much cleaner with no stops at fast food restaurants on busy days. Fitting exercise into his busy schedule has been a challenge, but that’s becoming a bigger priority for him, so I think we’re getting there! So far, I’ve lost 24 lbs in about 10 weeks. I have good days and bad days, but we are certainly on the right track and I’ve never felt better! The get healthy stay healthy journey is just beginning!
What steps are you taking towards a healthier future for you and your family?