I was 37 when I was diagnosed with severe renal failure. That same day, I also learned that I was pregnant with my first child. I had been trying to get pregnant for a few months, after convincing my husband and finally feeling ready. The timing was not perfect, though. I had just started a business, and I was full of dreams and ambitions. It would have been more convenient to become pregnant a little later, but it was still marvelous news. Except the part about the kidneys. I was not expecting that at all.
I had always been very healthy, rarely needing to see a doctor. But for two or three months I had been waking up with persistent headaches. At first I thought I might be allergic to sulfites, so I stopped drinking red wine, then white wine. Eventually I cut out everything with sulfites, then I stopped eating dairy products. Yet the headaches were still there.
“It was there, in the emergency room, that I learned I was pregnant. They had run some initial tests (apparently including a pregnancy test), and I remember the young intern pushing the curtain open and screaming for everyone to hear, “Oh, my God! You are pregnant!”” I wondered if they might be related to a minor neck injury from a few months before, so I decided to consult an osteopath. She noticed that my blood pressure was high and recommended that I see my primary physician. He, in turn, sent me to a cardiologist, who immediately admitted me to the hospital. My blood pressure was dangerously high: 200/120.
It was there, in the emergency room, that I learned I was pregnant. They had run some initial tests (apparently including a pregnancy test), and I remember the young intern pushing the curtain open and screaming for everyone to hear, “Oh, my God! You are pregnant!”
I was happy; I was not worried. I was going to have a baby! Everything else was secondary—my high blood pressure, the hospital, all the tests. They kept me overnight at the hospital to get my blood pressure under control and run more tests to find out why my numbers were through the roof.
The next day they had an answer: kidney failure.
A week later a biopsy revealed the name of my condition: IgA nephropathy, an autoimmune disorder that had most likely been present for years, with no apparent symptoms. It had reached an advanced stage, with only 25% of my kidney function remaining.”A kidney transplant was the only treatment possible, according to the doctor, and I wouldn’t be eligible for a transplant for two to three years, when my kidney function would be down to 10%. He recommended terminating the pregnancy, as did the appointed ob-gyn.”
A kidney transplant was the only treatment possible, according to the doctor, and I wouldn’t be eligible for a transplant for two to three years, when my kidney function would be down to 10%. He recommended terminating the pregnancy, as did the appointed ob-gyn. They told me to contemplate other options, such as adoption or a surrogate mother. They said that being pregnant was too dangerous, the risks too great. I could lose the baby at any moment, or have a stroke, and it was too much for my kidneys.
My heart was crushed. I had a very serious health issue for the first time in my life, plus I could not keep my baby. I had wanted to be a mother for years. I started waking up in the middle of the night, feeling that my life was falling apart, that all my dreams had been flushed down the toilet. I felt so betrayed by my life and my body.
As the days went by, I started to seriously consider the doctors’ recommendation to have an abortion. I did not feel tough enough to face the challenge of a high-risk pregnancy with such a somber prognosis, each day living in fear of catastrophe. The doctors had told me that I would probably never be able to bear a child unless I had a new kidney. That was not going to happen for two or three years, and after that I would have to wait two more years before trying to get pregnant. I was 37—you do the math.
“On a rainy Monday, feeling weak and feeble, I struggled to climb the stairs at the subway station on the way to meet with Sterman. Serious anemia from the kidney failure was taking its toll. But when she opened the door, a breath of positive energy and warmth greeted me. I think my recovery started right then and there.” A week after the heartbreaking prognosis, a friend of mine managed to get me in to see an acupuncturist, Ann Cecil-Sterman, whose waiting list for an appointment is typically three months or longer. She is dedicated to helping women with difficult pregnancies, so she squeezed me in to her extremely tight schedule. I did not have any expectations beyond, perhaps, getting a bit of stress relief. At that time I considered acupuncture a strictly palliative treatment, although my friend insisted that Chinese medicine could do so much more. Either way, I figured I had nothing to lose.
On a rainy Monday, feeling weak and feeble, I struggled to climb the stairs at the subway station on the way to meet with Sterman. Serious anemia from the kidney failure was taking its toll. But when she opened the door, a breath of positive energy and warmth greeted me. I think my recovery started right then and there.
After I told her my story, she took my pulse and declared, confidently: “The pregnancy is very strong. You are going to have that baby, and you are not going to lose your kidneys.”
Tears filled my eyes. For the first time somebody gave me hope.
I had to change my lifestyle dramatically. In addition to weekly acupuncture treatments, Sterman recommended that I go to bed very early each night, eradicate certain foods from my diet, and start to think positively.” She gave me and my husband a “to-do” list that sustained our need for hope. This helped tremendously in our everyday lives, because rather than feeling like victims, we were empowered to actively take part in my recovery.”
She gave me and my husband a “to-do” list that sustained our need for hope. This helped tremendously in our everyday lives, because rather than feeling like victims, we were empowered to actively take part in my recovery.
I went to my weekly treatments religiously. Even though the needles were painful, I enjoyed it because I knew it was making a difference. I also continued to meet with my conventional medical doctors, the ob-gyn and the nephrologist, who both monitored me closely throughout my pregnancy. Just in case something went wrong, they could act on it very quickly.
But nothing was going wrong. I started to feel better very soon. The protein level in my urine dropped by almost half, and my creatinine level (a measure of kidney function) also went down and stabilized. My medical doctors did not really understand why—they never wanted to acknowledge that the acupuncture treatments were making a difference.
My kidneys never collapsed, and I felt better and better. The pregnancy was going very well, but I knew that the baby could not be safely delivered before the 28-week mark. The doctors feared a complication called preeclampsia, which typically forces immediate delivery. My chances of developing preeclampsia, they said, were close to 100%.
Meanwhile, 28 weeks passed, then 29, 32, 33… And I felt better and better.
Unfortunately, I grew so confident that I started loosening up on Sterman’s dietary and lifestyle recommendations. I did not rest enough or eat properly, and sure enough—around 35 weeks—my blood pressure rose back up and the headaches returned. I was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with preeclampsia.
“Looking back, I think I could have carried the baby even longer than 37 weeks if I had stuck with the diet and taken better care of myself. As it was, though, I learned my lesson the hard way: the C-section was not pleasant, and neither were the next 10 days with the baby in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).”
The doctors decided to deliver the baby. In fact, they were somewhat startled that I had held out so long without complications. (One doctor had even made a bet with his interns that he would treat everyone to breakfast if I made it to 37 weeks before delivering!)
Looking back, I think I could have carried the baby even longer than 37 weeks if I had stuck with the diet and taken better care of myself. As it was, though, I learned my lesson the hard way: the C-section was not pleasant, and neither were the next 10 days with the baby in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).
But now he is three months old, beautiful, chubby, and happy. And I feel great! My latest blood test showed that my kidneys are stable, which is, according to my nephrologists, miraculous.
The medical doctors expected, at best, that I could carry my child for 25 weeks and would need a transplant very soon after. Now they have revised their prognosis and even consider the possibility that I will never need a transplant.
It all started with my wife’s blood pressure. The doctor said it was off the chart, and he sent us immediately to the emergency room. There we got the good news: my wife was pregnant! And the bad news: she had some unknown major problems with her kidneys.
It was a high-risk situation for my wife and the baby. We were in shock. We consulted many doctors, and among their recommendations was that my wife adhere to a very strict diet.
This was something I knew about. Years earlier I had giardia (an intestinal parasite), and I followed a stringent diet as part of the treatment. So I decided to be my wife’s coach on this matter. Turns out, I became her drill sergeant.
I was constantly pressing her to watch her diet, and she did, but never to my satisfaction. This always led to an argument. I was often upset with her because I felt she was not as strict with her diet as I wanted her to be. I felt like Sisyphus, pushing a huge boulder to the top of the hill, only to have it roll back down. Why was it so hard to convince her to follow her diet? Why was she so stubborn? I was getting frustrated with my wife, and she was not too happy, either.
“Then I had a realization, a rewiring of sorts. I was not pushing her to stick to her diet: I was just pushing her away, and she was pushing back!” Then I had a realization, a rewiring of sorts. I was not pushing her to stick to her diet: I was just pushing her away, and she was pushing back!
I remembered Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I thought I was offering a solution, an approach that had worked for me, but I was only adding another problem. I was the problem. My pushing, my way of doing things, were only making it worse.
I expressed to her my frustration and realization, and she shared her feelings with me. We started to work together in this struggle, and we found some common ground. Yet it was not easy for me to change my ways, and every day I had to remind myself of the realization I had had.
But it started to work! We were achieving a common goal. I was no longer the drill sergeant pushing and pushing my agenda. I didn’t have to push at all!
I realized this same lesson applied to many other struggles I thought I was having. Now my path is to let some things sort themselves out for a change, so I can live my life a bit more peacefully.
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An amazing story!
For a woman pregnancy is considered to settle down her family, and a healthy woman needs a healthy child for that, Thanks to rewire! This has been my perfect companion! I am now pregnant and we are looking forward to become a happy family.
Rewire Me Staff
Thank you Riya,
congratulations on your pregnancy!!
All the best to you,
Your Rewire Me Team