Thursday, October 27, 2011

Throwing Up and Slowing Down

So there I was, racing from my physical therapy appointment (my body is breaking down) to my hair appointment (my roots are acting up). I had only 25 minutes to get across town—and find something to eat along the way.  I swung into my favorite midday stomping ground, Chipotle, and grabbed a burrito to go.  While sitting at the stoplight at 28th and Canyon, I scarfed down a few bites in hopes of not having to take my lunch into the hair salon with me.

As soon as the light changed and I turned the corner, I realized that chewing might’ve been a good idea. A lump of tortilla, cheese, beans and rice had parked itself halfway down my throat, refusing to move all the way to my stomach. The inability to take a full breath was immediate and noticeable.  My eyes began to water and my heart raced as I told myself not to panic—all the while still driving. Hello?!

An image flashed through my mind: awakening in a hospital bed and having to explain to the doctors how a burrito was responsible for the three-car pile-up I’d caused. Or worse, coming to on The Other Side and realizing I’d croaked in such an unseemly manner.  Funny, yes.  Dignified, no. I realized I wasn’t ready to learn who won the bet about the afterlife: me (it exists) or Jeff (it doesn’t), so I decided to pull into the first parking lot and put an end to this lodged burrito nonsense.

The idea of barfing came to mind, but know this: I. Hate. To. Barf.  If given the choice of barfing when I have food poisoning or writhing in guttural pain for two days, I’ll choose the latter. When Clare has the stomach flu, I make Jeff rub her back while she kneels at the toilet (seeing someone barf makes me barf). And if it’s Jeff who has stomach issues, he’s on his own.  Um, sorry honey, but you know how I feel about barf. 

So let me paint the full and disgusting picture for you. A 49-year-old woman is sitting behind the wheel of a minivan in a left-hand-turn lane when she suddenly grabs the trashcan off the floor and hurls ten percent of a mostly intact burrito into it. Then she laughs at the absurdity of the situation, makes her turn, realizes she’s activated the gag reflex, picks the trashcan up and hurls again—all while still driving. Then she pulls into a parking spot and gets hit with another gag reflex, releasing a final dollop of what appears to be guacamole into the trashcan.


After gargling with iced tea, I sat quietly for a minute to (dare I say) digest what had just happened. I tend to see life as symbolic, full of signs in the unlikeliest of circumstances. This one was pretty damn clear. Slow the fuck down, Lauren. Take time to digest life, to tackle things one bite at a time—not five bites at a time. Pace yourself.

I sat in the quiet of the idling car for several more minutes, simply enjoying the feeling of a full and deep breath. I vowed (again) to change, to slow the pace of my life, to let go of the unrealistic goals that constantly bait me to run through life at breakneck speed. Eventually, I made my way to the hair appointment, driving slowly and deliberately, and arriving a bit late.

And to answer your question: yes, I did, in fact, finish the burrito.  Hey, a girl’s gotta eat, right?
It's the new me: Ommmmm. Ommmmm. Ommmmm. 

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Lauren's book, Zuzu's Petals: A True Story of Second Chances (In The Telling Press, 2011), is the #1 Top Rated memoir on Kindle. Hardcover copies are available at, or signed copies can be ordered at Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


“He was the size of a Coke can.”

It’s been years since interviewing Jocelyn for a video Jeff and I were producing, but that description of her severely premature baby still sticks in my memory.  The size of a Coke can. Unbelievable.

Jocelyn had developed preeclampsia during her first pregnancy and, in order to save her life, her baby boy was delivered via cesarean at 26 weeks (37-42 weeks is considered full-term).  He weighed just 1 pound, 6 ounces.

Connor was unable to breathe on his own, so he was immediately intubated and whisked off to the neonatal intensive care unit.  When Jocelyn was recovered enough to see him, a nurse took her in a wheelchair to visit her newborn in the NICU.

“His skin was translucent,” she told me. “You could pretty much see through him.”

Connor was so vulnerable the doctors had covered his tiny body in bubble wrap even though he was in a heated incubator.  Unable to hold him, Jocelyn was only permitted to slide her finger into the incubator and stroke her baby’s foot, which was smaller than her thumbnail.

Over the coming days, the reality of her baby’s situation sunk in. Jocelyn and her partner were warned that Connor likely wouldn’t survive.  Or if he did, he’d probably deal with lifelong medical challenges.

Preeclampsia is an insidious disease.  The warning signs can be subtle if not completely nonexistent.  The symptoms are not exclusive to preeclampsia, making diagnosis more difficult.  And, to date, no definitive diagnostic tool or cure is available in the U.S.

In the years since my own bout with severe preeclampsia, I’ve met countless individuals whose lives will never be the same as a result of this pregnancy-related disorder.  I met a 30-something man who explained that he and his wife shared a love of cross-country skiing.  Then he told me how he’d spread her ashes through their favorite snow-covered wooded area while on skis after preeclampsia claimed her life. He is raising their daughter as a single dad.

A woman I now consider a friend opted for adoption after the disease claimed her baby’s life, and nearly hers as well.  Years later when she inadvertently got pregnant, she terminated the pregnancy for fear preeclampsia would strike again.  To this day, she suffers great emotional angst over her choice.

And many of my “preeclampsia sisters”—as we jokingly refer to ourselves—deal with ongoing health issues, which are not well-understood by our primary healthcare providers, as the research on the lifelong impact of this disease is lacking.

For Jocelyn, preeclampsia meant simply going to the NICU to sit with her baby day after day, week after week, and then—month after month. She spent 10 hours each day at his side, intermittently crying.  At night, she slept while her partner sat with the baby.  She approved procedures, signed medical forms, and yes, witnessed first-hand what a neonatal transfusion can do for a tiny little boy who came into the world far too soon.

Last night I went on Jocelyn’s Facebook page just to admire the photos of a handsome little eight-year-old boy named Connor. He’s got a great smile, one that suggests a life of joy and silliness and love. From the “size of a Coke can” to a walking miracle. 


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Friends:  I'm co-chairing a dinner gala to benefit the Preeclampsia Foundation and the Foundation for America's Blood Centers.  I'd love to have you join us to help these two great causes.  You can even heckle me during my speech if that'll get you there. And if you can't attend, you can still support our effort by making a donation at: Thanks!