I met Gladys at the NotMom Summit in 2015 I’m pleased to share her inspirational story here.
Her 6 word memoir is ‘Rising from fire, ready to thrive!’ and this sums up both her and her story perfectly. She did indeed go through fire (and various medical procedures) ending with that thing we fear the most when trying to get pregnant; a hysterectomy.
I love that ‘Old passions have resurfaced and new ones are taking root as well’ which is something I always recommend to clients. We lose ourselves on this rollercoaster and it’s great to see Gladys demonstrating how she found herself again.
Over to Gladys,
1. Where are you on your journey now?
I am doing much better physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Discovering a new rhythm in life now that the prospect of having a biological child is off the table for my husband and me.
Old passions have resurfaced and new ones are taking root as well. Life is good and I feel happy much of the time and though I get pangs of grief and/or sadness now and again, I am no longer depressed.
2. What’s your story?
I always thought I would be a mom but it was never “the right time.” In 2009, after my husband got laid off from both his part-time jobs, we decided to tighten our belts by giving up cable TV, eating out and other non-necessities. It worked financially, but we were extremely surprised to find that within two weeks of disconnecting the TV and implementing our austerity measures, I was pregnant(!). No joke. We’d been married for over 3 years at this point and had never gotten pregnant, so this was very unexpected. I was happy, though, and so was my husband. The timing wasn’t ideal but we figured that this was the universe telling us to have a go at parenting. We felt blessed.
Then the blessing turned into a violent nightmare. On the day after I reached the 7 week mark, I prepared myself toast and tea and got dressed for work. My husband, being unemployed, was still sleeping soundly so I was trying not to make a lot of noise. I’d been having what seemed like gas pressure and little twinges of pain, as if I had indigestion or a little bout of upset stomach. As I was about to bite into my toast, I felt sharp stabbing pains very low down in my belly. These were strong enough to generate tears and I was doubled over. Immediately I thought about my pregnancy and tried to make it to the bathroom just in case I started bleeding. As I made my way, my husband heard me and got up to help.
From then there was a lot of crazy behavior on my part (later I realized it was the hormones, which were out of whack) followed by calm. I thought I was fine and was sitting up in bed when I thought I’d get up and then blacked out. Next thing I knew, my husband was calling an ambulance – I’d gone extremely pale – almost gray in color, my eyes had gone glassy and he couldn’t feel a pulse for a long while. When the paramedics came, they couldn’t find my pulse either even though by then I was actually awake. My blood pressure was too low to move me safely (72/47), so I was given fluids intravenously and oxygen while they prepared to get me to the closest emergency room.
It turned out that the pregnancy was ectopic and had implanted in my right tube. It is likely that the tube had started to rupture some days before (a tubal pregnancy will usually only last around 7 weeks because the embryo gets too large for the tube) and this day was THE day for me – the day that would determine my life or death due to one more fluke after this unexpected but welcome pregnancy. I lost a lot of blood that day (2 liters, I was told) and needed a transfusion along with a salpingectomy (removal of fallopian tube).
After this experience, it took me a long while to heal, both physically and emotionally. The surgery was laparoscopic but very painful nonetheless. At around one year later, I realized that losing my baby had awakened a fever in me to try again. It took some convincing, but my husband agreed to try to conceive naturally in the spring of 2011 and we finally got pregnant again in May 2012. We were so glad the pregnancy was at least in my uterus this time – the right place! But that wasn’t enough.
By July 2nd, the journey was declared to be over – almost. There was no heartbeat and we were advised to see my regular doctor the next day. She saw us on the 3rd and scheduled a procedure – not a D&C – to remove the “pregnancy product.” I could have waited until my body expelled the pregnancy naturally, but I was advised not to for psychological and physical reasons. My doctor said that it could have taken up to three weeks for my body to realize I was not carrying a viable pregnancy and I could develop an infection. So on July 4th, while everyone in the United States was celebrating Independence Day at the beach, at barbecues, and many other places, I was home weeping because my body still felt pregnant, but I knew that my baby was not to be… again. Finally on the 5th, my husband held me as the doctor and nurse worked to empty my uterus and I was devastated.
One year later, with my efforts to conceive again now not yielding any results, I went to see an endocrinologist for advice and help. She recommended IVF due to the results of all my evaluations and tests and by October 2013 we were ready to start. I got the medication, started and at the first of many appointments in the 11 days I injected myself, I saw the familiar frowns and concerned looks on the doctor’s faces as they looked at the screen during my sonograms. The afternoon of every appointment, I would get a call with my bloodwork results and medicine recommendations. After almost every visit (maybe six or eight total in 11 days?), I was told to double some of the medicine and even had to order more for overnight delivery in order to continue. Finally on the 11th day, the doctors called off the next steps. Only two follicles were large enough for retrieval after everything: the doubling of doses, the pounds I gained (around 10) and all those injections and tears.
The next month I went back but the medication had caused cysts on my ovaries. The month after that, I was turned away because the clinic was closing for the Christmas holidays and wouldn’t be open during the time of my follicle retrieval. The month after that, I was in the middle of packing up my apartment to move to a larger space.
And so it went. My husband was heartsick, not only at not being able to have a child, but more so at seeing me so emotionally ravaged and also physically deteriorating. I was gaining weight, not doing well with my asthma, crying all the time and doing my best to keep it together. So we talked about it for several months and finally decided sometime in the spring of 2014 that we were going to stop trying. I spent the next year grieving and then last year went to the doctor for unexplained bleeding. After many tests and imaging, my doctors suspected a rare uterine cancer called leiomyosarcoma, so I had a hysterectomy in July of 2015 which included my cervix (but thankfully not my ovaries).
This has been the most difficult journey of my life.
3. What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
I started doing lots of work on myself, including working with a coach. This included journaling, writing letters to my babies, visioning various futures that might lie ahead, getting in touch with old passions and working to cultivate new ones, exercising and allowing myself the freedom to be open to whatever emotions might come up. My coach works with flower essences so I used those for a time and they helped very much.
4. How are you different now (who are you now)?
I used to be very blasé about pregnancy and the prospect of parenthood, thinking it was all so easy and “natural!” I know now that seeing someone who was pregnant a few months ago does not mean they now have a living child, so that means I speak differently. Instead of saying, “how’s the baby,” I say something like, “how did your pregnancy go?” Same with when people announce they’re going to start trying and then you see them two years later with no baby.
I used to ask very inappropriate questions and be a know-it-all and I wasn’t emotionally intelligent enough to realize that I was overstepping.
Now I am more aware that, a) not everyone wants to be a parent and b) not everyone who wants to be one is able to succeed in that goal. After all the grief I’ve endured, processed and still manage (because it changes but never really goes away completely), it’s as if I’ve been split wide open and my guts are continually on display. I am much more emotionally connected to the people around me and able to connect with both my joy and my grief and the emotions in between. It took getting used to, but I like this “new me” much better.
5. What brings you joy/what’s your passion?
I have been revisiting old passions and it has been exciting! For example, I recently tried my hand at not only acting in a film but also serving as co-writer and producer. That experience took tremendous time and energy on top of my coaching practice and acting career (and day job!), but it was joyous and blissful. I used to only get those joyous feelings from acting or from when I am helping a client in a deep and sustainable way, either through directly working together or through writing. I didn’t know I had it in me to be a producer and screenwriter as well! I’m curious to see what else comes of this reconnection to an old passion. 🙂
6. What’s your 6 word memoir?
Rising from fire, ready to thrive!
Gladys has been coaching for 10+ years and acting since she was a child. Between her acting and coaching work, she has been featured on NBC, Fox, several feature films, stages in New York, London, Europe and the Midwest, publications such as the New York Times, Village Voice, Chicago Sun-Times, and Spanish language media outlets such as El Diario – La Prensa and Amor 93.1.
Gladys is married to a wonderful man with whom she walked through “fire” in order to have babies, but it wasn’t to be. They were pleasantly surprised to find that all the adversity they faced in trying to have children brought them closer together in every way. She is dedicated to helping women and their partners smoothly manage the transition from unsuccessfully trying to have natural children to living childfree or exploring other parenting options. http://CoachwithGladys.com
How did Gladys’ Inspirational Story help you?
How did this story resonate with you? Please share your comments below to help other women.
Taking control of my story and really owning it changed my life. If you’d like to do that but it’s too much of a challenge right now, check out the Let Go and Move On Programme and see how it can help you.
If you would like to take control of your life and your story and inspire others I’d love to feature you. You can use your real name or any other that you chose to give me, and I’ll happily promote your website or blog. Some of the feedback I’ve had from the writers includes ‘I’m so pleased to have told my story now’, I’ve been astonished by the amount of messages I have received …. all grateful for me sharing this part of my story’, and ‘… seeing the response has been utterly humbling and beautiful. I’m so grateful to you.’
So if you think you could inspire others please contact me.