Have you ever looked back on a time in your life and you can see it so clearly? That was God.
Getting pregnant with twins and all the things that happened from that moment to when we brought our girls home, I can't tell you how many times I looked up and said, "OK, God, I get it. I get the message. You can stop now."
So many times I thought, what's coming must be somethin' else because holy cow He just won't quit.
I was on a strict autoimmune protocol diet for 2+ years. And I was putting a lot of energy into trying to physically heal my body that I didn't realize was draining my energy on every other level.
I'm a type-A control freak and this lifestyle only brought it out more.
I had started to see things very black and white.
I thought Western medicine had autoimmune and chronic disease all wrong. Yes, they were great at saving your life in the ER, but when it came to the complexity of immune system dysregulation, assigning it a name and prescribing a drug felt more and more like a cop out than a real answer.
And it made me so angry.
I was angry that the "normal" doctors didn't seem to care; they weren't even curious as to why this was happening.
So when I found functional medicine and other healing modalities that offered more, I clung on.
I basically jumped from one ship to the other. Now I see though it should have been them on board my ship, not the other way around.
One thing to remember too, a lot has changed and integrative medicine has come along way in recent years. Today it feels as though the traditional M.D.'s I see and talk with are more open-minded toward alternative practices.
Even five to seven years ago when I was navigating this it felt much, how should I say... less friendly.
Seeing anyone alternative felt like going behind my rheumatologist's back. And on the alternative side, it felt the same way.
I remember at one time saying to my functional M.D., "Maybe my rheumatologist can get me a prescription for...." and her going, "well if you feel like you really need it I can write you the script."
It was completely dis-functional.
I felt like I had to choose a side.
In the thick of it I couldn't see any of this though.
My eyes were so fixed on the finish line.
But I was a runner that couldn't run (literally). And the finish line I thought I was running toward turned out to be a mirage.
Well it sort of was. The stakes felt really high and they were. I was playing a game with my health.
I'd put all my chips on red and even though it would hit every once in awhile - my numbers would improve, I'd have a good day, I'd seem to be getting better. I was loosing.
Am I painting the picture of a girl that needs to be pulled away from the table?
Now here it is - BAM. You're having twins.
And you know the beautiful thing that happens when you have a baby?
You learn that most valuable lesson all mothers must learn: You are not in control.
For me, I suppose God thought it was gonna take two babies to get the message across.
He knew there was a lot I needed to be broken of.
The control. The perfectionism. That would just be rechanneled into a baby that wouldn't be caught dead out in public without a bow.
How do I know?
Because before I knew there were two babies in there I'd already scheduled a call with a midwife who tried to talk me into a home birth. Eap!
Which was sort of ironic because a few weeks later we were about to find ourselves homeless.
Oh ya, God just kept the curve balls comin'...
Now, I feel like when I write this it's going to come across very #firstworldproblems.
We were renovating the home we're in now and as renovations tend to go, it wasn't ready by the time our lease was up. So we put our things in storage and packed a suitcase thinking it would be a couple weeks, a month tops.
We house hopped staying with friends who so graciously welcomed us and made us feel at home...
Just thinking about that time has me feeling like I need to get them another gift...
As stressful and crazy as all of this was, I welcomed the excuse to let loose.
Plus the babies preferred cheese and crackers to salad so like any good mother, I gave it to them. And I felt OK about it because I didn't have the usual pain to remind me to not eat anything that could cause inflammation.
I'd gone from micro-manager of all the food to not having a kitchen. And I felt free.
That combined with the fact that I was feeling better than I had in years I wanted to be pregnant and homeless for the rest of my life if it meant I could just eat like a normal human being again.
I was out of the trance from the mirage. I let go.
It was like when you go to a party after not going out for a long time. The party was just life though.
I realized I'd given up way too much and I decided I'd never go back to that, even if it meant jumping back to the Western medicine ship and letting go of the hopes the other one carried. The price was too high.
I'd keep taking care of myself and eating healthy. Just let go of the stress and worry that had accumulated around food and regimens and searching for more answers.
Have I mentioned how much I loved being pregnant?
I think I'm the only person who has zero pregnancy complaints because even the slightest pregnancy discomfort was nothing compared to the hell I didn't even realize I'd been living in.
I said I would get pregnant 10 times so I could spend my whole life that way if it didn't mean I'd have 10 to 20 kids at the rate we were going...
We survived that brief stint of homelessness. Got settled into our house, though the odds and ends continued... At least the babies wouldn't be born in an inn... (Obvious I know, but couldn't resist).
Then came the next one....
At 30 weeks my water broke.
I'm going to stop myself here so I don't turn this into a birth story.
Real quick, what happened was the babies were born at 31 weeks and went straight to the NICU where we spent the first six and seven weeks of their little lives.
Nothing quite restores one's faith, trust and respect for traditional, Western medicine like an emergency C-section and the miracle that is neonatal intensive care.
You can't help but think of the reality that if these babies had been born in another decade we may not have been so lucky.
At some point during our NICU time I came across an article that came out just days before our girls were born.
It was a story about a man named Dr. Martin Couney, who the history of medicine may not remember but, he saved the lives of thousands of babies with his Coney Island exhibit: "rows of tiny, premature human babies living in glass incubators."
There was an NPR interview too (that's no longer available online) with a former incubator baby from Couney's exhibits. Now 95, the woman told the story of how when she was born in the 1920s she was only two pounds. “My father said I was so tiny, he could hold me in his hand."
Her father remembered Couney's exhibit.
She recalled her father telling the story: "I’m taking her to the incubator in Coney Island. The doctor said there’s not a chance in hell that she’ll live, but he said, 'But she’s alive now.' and he hailed a cab and took me to Dr. Couney’s exhibit, and that’s where I stayed for about six months.”
Couney caught flack for being more showman than doctor but as the article says "Couney always claimed a higher purpose for his summertime exhibits — to show how a marvelous new technology could save fragile children, and, in so doing, to prod a reluctant medical establishment to embrace that technology."
Reading the story my eyes filled with tears.
I mean talk about alternative medicine.... This wasn't even medicine. It was a freak show!
And today it's standard medical care in every maternity ward in the world.
Still, the medical community's eyes were closed to it. Most doctors were stuck in the old mindset that babies born early were not meant to live.
Sad but true, that was how it was.
Unless you knew there was an alternative.
What if that father had listened to that doctor that said "not a chance in hell" over his instinct to wrap up his baby and go?
That baby is now 95 years old. What a life!
And to think what she and all those other babies made possible for our own...
Today's alternative medicine can become tomorrow's standard of care.
It's just that in between today and tomorrow is years, decades. And lots of people challenging the status quo, trying something, and then showing it to the world until it becomes too much of a spectacle to ignore.
The truth is Western medicine, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda... it's all medicine.
The "alternative" or in the case of Couney's "freak show" is just what you call the thing that's different, that's outside your norm.
In a perfect world all the realms would just get along (and there'd be peace in the Middle East too). We'd have truly integrative healing where different practices of medicine would work together, draw on each other's strengths under the circumstances and integrate to treat the individual so they can heal.
It's not a clear path, or the easy way, that's for sure. But you know what they say about taking the road less traveled. There are more flowers.
I think back to that father holding his tiny baby in his hand. He wrapped her up, got in a cab and went to find the person who he thought could help and gave him hope.
That's the best any of us can do when it comes to taking charge of our own health. Grab it, take your health in your hands and guard it with your life. And go find the doctors, healers and helpers who can help you and give you hope.
This isn't the end of my story.
Like I said at the beginning there is no end. Over and over I've gone running to more doctors, helpers and healers than I can count.
I'm tired of running from door to door. And I'm feeling more and more like some of the answers I've been looking for have been inside me all along.
That's where I am now - content to hang out here in the middle, like the girl crossing the ocean from part I. Can't see the shore I left. Still keeping the faith that the other shore is out there.
The difference is I'm not as worried about getting across so fast now.
I'm just trying to focus on enjoying the ride.
My biggest lessons and takeaways for you:
- Illness can be a desperate plea from the body for attention, love and care. Same is true of the flip side when life begins to scream for your attention and needs you to come back the other way. Both sides will keep tugging at you until you find balance.
- Don't be afraid to take your own health into your hands and go out and find who can help and offer you better answers and, most importantly, hope.
- Healing is about the journey more than the destination. You can't will it or force it or rush it. You have to allow it change you and that goes beyond the physical. It happens on an emotional and spiritual level too.
- Follow your intuition. Practice listening to that quiet, still voice inside and let it guide you.
How Can I Support You On Your Own Healing Path?
The reason I wanted to write this story is because I know so many of us are on our own healing journeys. I want you to know that you don't have to go it alone. If I can ever walk the path with you, side-by-side, in whatever capacity is most helpful for you - as a coach, a cheerleader, a friend - it would be my honor.
If you have questions or want to know about anything from any part of this story or part I or part II in more detail, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. Feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email.
Wherever you are, keep going, keep seeking out answers and don't let anyone tell you there isn't any hope. There always is.
Forget about a finish line. Fix your eyes on the things that matter the most to you and try as best you can to find enjoyment in the ride.
And trust yourself. You know your body and yourself better than anyone possibly can. And you know more than you think.
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps people take charge of their health and to start listening to themselves over the latest diet trend to optimize their own wellness, happiness and potential. Her family-friendly meal plans help parents take charge in the kitchen, too. This leads to more vegetables, less junk, and happier, healthier kids and parents. Megan shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.