By Guest Blogger Mandy H

Imagine this: After almost 9 years of trying to get pregnant, a couple of miscarriages, and a whole lot of serious heartache, you are finally pregnant with your first child.  This is the moment you’ve been waiting for since you said, “I do”!  You are so excited, yet so terrified.  You see, my life was complete with my husband and pets.  I had an excellent career, a wonderful house, and plenty of things that made my life amazing. BUT… there was always that want to know what it felt like to grow a human inside of me, to hold my newborn that was created out of the immense love that my husband I shared.  We told our families on Christmas Eve of 2015 that we had a baby coming.  I was 12 weeks pregnant at that time, and just couldn’t hold onto that secret any longer! More excitement ensued!

The excitement I felt completely gave way to the incredible amount of sickness I experienced ALL THE TIME! I could barely function.  I threw up every hour, on the hour almost every single day of my pregnancy.  All the books said this was normal, so I sucked it up for the sake of my little growing nugget, and tried to go about my days.

This pregnancy was considered high-risk from day one for several reasons: I was 35.  I had trouble conceiving.  I had miscarriages.  I had a mild heart attack at 32.  I have A-fib.

I had a lot of things working against me, so it was suggested that I be followed by the high risk obstetricians.  I went to every single appointment as directed.  I followed a healthy vegan diet.  I took the prenatal vitamins as instructed.  Early on in my pregnancy, probably right around the 16 week mark, I knew something was wrong.  You know your body. The problem with growing a human, is that they make your body betray you, and you have no idea if this is “normal” or not.  I went several times to the maternal emergency room only to be told that my extreme swelling (I had to have my pants cut off TWICE), high blood pressure, erratic heart rate,  shortness of breath, and dizziness, were all symptoms of the anxiety I felt with being a new mom.

I begged my doctors to run tests.  They looked at me like I was a nut job, and treated me as such too.  After 36 long hours of labor, my child being stuck in the birth canal, my child’s heart stopping, and an emergency C-section, my Ellie was finally here.

My bladder was lacerated in half during the surgery, so I had to stay in the hospital for a few extra days. I still felt like something was wrong.  I  begged the nurses to listen to my chest, as I felt as though I was suffocating every time I laid down.  My feet were so swollen that I couldn’t bend at the ankle.  I had fluid weeping from my knees, ankles, toenails, and elbows.  I had gained 20 pounds AFTER I delivered an almost 8 pound baby.  Again, I was ignored, told to walk around, that all new moms have swelling.  It would go down.

I was at home for exactly 48 hours before I suffered a stroke, and was rushed to the emergency room, literally on death’s door. My baby was 4 days old, and I was on a gurney in a trauma center fighting for my life.  I had 4 blood transfusions & I had tests, lots of tests.

Then came the scrambling for a diagnosis and life saving measures.  I will never forget the beeping of the machines over the doctor coming in saying, “well it appears you have post eclampsia, but also, why weren’t you treated for pre-eclampsia, and also, you have stage 5 congestive heart failure, and kidney failure. You have 75 pounds of fluid on your body that we have to get rid of, oh and you have 3-5 years to live.” Say what now??? Cue the confusion and tears.  I just wanted to go home and hold my baby.  Would she forget me, with all these new caretakers?

The emotions I felt were just overwhelming.

Now I’m home with a newborn, and heart failure.  I have to have a shower chair, and I can’t walk 10 feet without sitting down.  All I can think about is dying.  I couldn’t find the joy of my new baby because I was sure that I was going to be leaving her to face this world without me.  I rocked her and I cried.  I begged God to make the diagnosis wrong.  How could I finally have this tiny miracle in my arms, and now I was going to die and miss her 1st day of kindergarten?  Could my husband do it alone?  He can’t put her hair in a ponytail.  Yes, these are the thoughts that go through head when you are told you are going to die.

After all the confusion came anger. I was so mad.  I was mad at the doctors, the nurses, the hospital, God, my husband, and life in general.  I was kind of miserable to be around.

Then one day, my sweet little toothless, fat cheeked baby looked right at me and said “Mama.” I was home alone with her, and was sure I didn’t hear it correctly, but I did.  She said it.  She knew me, and she needed me.

That day I chose joy.

I chose to fight back.  I don’t know if I will ever get back to myself. Will I ever run again? Will I be able to lift weights?  I don’t know.  I don’t know the meaning of the word normal anymore, but I do know that I can’t live in fear of death anymore.  I have such a short time to spend with her.  I am going to spoil her, and rock her, and sing to her, and I am going to be happy.

I have since been downgraded to stage 1 heart failure, and no longer have an “expiration date” hanging over my head. I still can’t return to work, but that just gives me more time to hold my girl and tell her that I love her.

You see, choosing forgiveness and happiness set me free and will show my daughter that no matter what, I fought until the end for her and I will never stop pushing the limits of heart failure, because that’s what women do.  We overcome adversity, pain, sickness, and misery to push through so we can love fiercely.