A Fertility Story: Heart Disease History and Going Red for Women
I'm wearing red today, allied with Go Red for Women. It's a color that I look fairly dreadful in.
I'm wearing it anyway.
It's not Valentine's Day. I'm not dressed up for Halloween, (although you could be forgiven for thinking so).
I'm wearing red today because it's a day to bring awareness to heart disease for women. A day to bring awareness to fighting heart disease in women.
It's a subject that's near and dear to my heart. As close as infertility is and that's saying a lot.
Infertility was an unexpected grief and loss. One that I shouldn't have expected, at 26 years old. Most of us don't expect infertility at 26. Or 30. Or 35. Or even 40. Some of us don't know when to expect infertility.
I know at 26, I didn't expect it. It was a most unwelcome surprise.
Heart Disease Awareness
Heart disease, on the other hand, I was raised to expect. My uncle was one of the first people in the United States to have a quadruple bypass. He was in his early 40's. My paternal grandmother died of a massive heart attack in her late 40's.
I grew up with an understanding of heart disease. It's part of my family history in a way that infertility was most certainly not. My mother had three children in less than five years, starting when she was 23. No infertility there.
Heart disease was present in my home; awareness grew there as I got older. When I grew up, margarine was considered a wonderful substitution for butter and was eagerly embraced as heart healthy. These days we know about trans fatty acids and most of us eschew margarine in favor of other much heart-healthier choices.
We ate a lot of salads, fruits and chicken in my family and not a lot of red meat. It was a very conscious decision on my mother's part, not to add to the genetic load already weighted against my father's favor. I envied how my friends and their families ate, when I was a guest in their homes.
These days, I eat the way my mother brought me up and don't envy anyone their food choices.
These days, infertility and heart disease are both part of my family history. Heart disease is part of my history, my genetic code. I eat in a healthy way, I exercise regularly, and I try and sleep enough. These are the pieces that I can address. I can't change my DNA but I can do everything possible to avoid adding to the possibility of heart disease in myself.
Infertility is also part of my personal history. When I give my medical history these days, it's a significant piece; the medications that I used, the surgeries I underwent, the pregnancy losses that I experienced.
National Wear Red Day and Heart Disease Prevention
Today, I will wear red, for heart disease. I will do more than participate in National Wear Red Day, though; I will eat the way my mother taught me. I will celebrate my food by eating the colors of the rainbow. I will exercise my heart, through aerobic exercise, even when I don't feel like it. I will decrease my stress through my practice of yoga, every morning, rain or shine, tired or not. I will protect myself from heart disease, in all the ways that are possible.
I don't know what I could have done differently about preventing my own infertility. I do know that my continuing to be involved in fertility awareness is my calling. Helping anyone avoid infertility or helping make their path to creating their families shorter and less painful is where my passion lives.
I grew up expecting and actively avoiding heart disease.
I didn't know that infertility would find its way in and stay so long. I didn't know that.
And now it's my most significant health history.
Today I wear red to honor my family history. My grandmother, my uncle, my cousins and my father, who died too young. Of a heart attack.
My first family history. Before infertility found its way home.