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    Posted December 3, 2012 by
    Vero Beach, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    How did pregnancy change you?

    More from cynthiafalar

    Mental Tenacity - What I learned from my pregnancy.


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     cynthiafalar of Vero Beach, Florida, shared her experience with pregnancy, as well as the positive lesson that she learned. During the 24th week of her pregnancy in 2002, she was taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, where she stayed on the antepartum floor for nine weeks. Facing high blood pressure and side effects from a drug prescribed to keep her pregnant as long as possible, Falardeau struggled to find inspiration and hope. The doctors had told her in week 16 that it was unlikely that she'd carry the baby to full term. She says got a lot of support from an 'unexpected' place: the other women on the floor. 'When I first met them I thought I had nothing in common with them, but I did. We were all moms trying to stay pregnant more day,' she said. 'I have never forgotten the ladies of the antepartum floor of Arnold Palmer Hospital.'

    When her son, Wyatt, was born at 33 weeks, his right arm from the forearm down was dead, she recalled. Part of his arm was amputated in his first week of life. 'Instead of that first day being joyous, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I felt like I did all the right things. I did everything the way I was supposed to,' she said.

    Despite the loss of Wyatt's limb, and his later diagnosis with autism, Falardeau and her family have moved on. 'What I gained. I think that pregnancy gave me those tools of mental tenacity to forge through my pregnancy, my marriage and to get physically fit to do an Ironman,' she said. In the almost 10 years since Wyatt’s birth, she’s used her mental tenacity to run a dozen half marathons, triathlons and even a half-Ironman.
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    Every year I give thanks for the anniversary of November 11th. I cherish this date because it is a reminder that I won the race of my life. I left Vero Beach in an ambulance. I endured a nine week hardship that brought me the greatest prize – our son.


    It is a reminder to me and my family that sometimes the race is about learning along the path. The fact is the challenge makes you stronger.


    Although I have logged a dozen half marathons, triathlons and a recent half-ironman, the race finish I am most proud of is the one that began 10 years ago today. I found faith, love and support in unexpected places.


    I believe that like most great soldiers and athletes, my story is about achieving a goal through mental endurance. Although I would spend 9 weeks, fighting to carry our son one more day through the holiday season, I gained a greater appreciation for my life and a renewed sensitivity for women who fight each day just to survive.


    I do believe that there is something humbling about leaving your hometown in your birthday suit. Literally stripped of everything you own, including my wedding rings, I was taken by ambulance to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, Florida.


    Within ninety minutes, I was admitted and greeted by Dr. Ham. It’s funny how when I am in crisis my mind ticks like a stream of commercials. The Pork Board’s slogan ran through my head…was I really the other “white meat?” Little did I know that for the very first time in my life I was about to become the minority: white, married, middle class and privately insured.


    Although my husband, friends and local doctor all supported me, I was alone and 150 miles from my home. Depressed and scared, the hospital chaplain, Heidi, encouraged me to attend a daily group called, “Mother’s in Waiting.” As the Junior League President of our community, I was excited to meet other women and swap Pottery Barn decorating tips.


    Looking back, I feel guilty about my despair upon meeting this diverse and somewhat motley crew. I believed that I had nothing in common with them. It was truly a point of transformation. I was about to find out that I needed them more than I ever imagined.


    At that first gathering we shared about ourselves. Tina was there with a police escort. She was serving time and was going to return to jail once her baby was born. Ruth had given up three children to the State and was hoping to keep the one she was carrying. Cindy was about to have her second at 17 and just wanted advice on how to make her truck payment. Then there was Bev and Kim, a mother and daughter duo.


    Believe it or not, we bonded. Each day I looked forward to seeing them. I longed to be home. As for the group they wanted to stay on the antepartum floor forever. It was like a special vacation. They were safe and fed.


    I am not sure that I really understood how lucky I was until Ruth’s baby was born. I was the first person she called. Excited and honored, I gushed, “I am so excited you thought of me!” Then she said the words that ripped my heart, “You are the only one I have to tell.”


    Suddenly, I felt very small. In fact, I hated myself for complaining. I prayed for Ruth and her baby as I fell asleep. The next morning Ruth was discharged. I never saw her again.


    I have never forgotten the ladies of the antepartum floor of Arnold Palmer Hospital. I must confess that after many years those lessons had faded a bit. However, life has a funny way of grounding you.


    Recently, I was in the final stretch of finishing my first half Ironman. I only had few miles to go. Once again encouragement came from an unlikely source. A man, who was very fit and thin, turned to me and said, “Come on….we have four more miles to go!”


    In a nonsensical moment, I thought of the ladies of the antepartum floor. This man, like those ladies, was a friend in a stressed situation. So off we went until we reached the finish line. As his family greeted him, he turned to me and said, “Good job!” Exhausted, I managed to say, “You too!” I looked down the line and saw my family. Like a baby, I started bawling. I was so grateful to see them. Most of all, I thought about the skill Ruth and the others taught me - mental tenacity.


    Photos: The first photo shows me in December of 2002 - 31 weeks pregnant on the antipartum floor of Arnold Palmer Hospital (Orlando, FL) with Santa (one of my doctors). The second photo shows me and my family at the finish line of the Ironman Miami 70.3 (October 28, 2012). The third photo is me at the finish line.

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