Dedication: My husband, Steve
Have you ever sat wondering, “how did I become this way?” Whether “this way” has a positive or negative emotion attached to it, it’s interesting to try and dig deep to make sense of the life you’ve been creating so far, especially when we are only on this Earth for a short time.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking how I’ve become who I am. Sometimes I think of myself as hardened-even jaded. Then, I think about how easily my tears well up over a sad movie, a moving lecture, the sincere words of someone I care about written in a card, or watching my children in a music concert. I think about how easily I find joy in a new project, a new challenge, and I can still feel the rush of enthusiasm run through my entire body when those opportunities occur. Then, I think, well, I must not be too hardened and jaded!
Not too long ago someone asked me how I started a business, my dance studio, at 22 years old. After giving a long list of details and practical applicable knowledge about the logistics of doing so, I realized that I was missing one major piece of information in my reply to her that played a major role in my ability to start a business at such a young age. That piece of information was simple- I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t even worried. I didn’t have any doubt, and even if it didn’t work out, I still wasn’t worried. I knew I was prepared and capable. I knew I could always find work. My intuition told me I could open and run a successful business, but my head also told me that even if it failed miserably, I would do whatever it took to work elsewhere to pay to bail myself out. I didn’t feel any fear. That was 20 years ago.
My grit is something I attribute to my father. He was raised in an orphanage, didn’t attend college, but worked his entire life- even as a child in the orphanage he had jobs on the farm. From a very young age, I observed my father working, and never complaining about it. Growing up, I took car rides with my father almost every Sunday morning. On those rides, he did most of the talking, and usually, at the time, it didn’t seem like in all that talking, he really said that much! Years later, I realized that what I got out of those car rides was really what was deeply rooted in me now as an adult. It was simple. Optimism.
I’m sure my father had plenty of worries- who doesn’t have worries, especially when raising a family, but I never heard about any of them. If things did arise, he always had a solution and he always made it sound so simple. If I ever mentioned anything that was bothering me, it was usually resolved with a quick reply from him stating why I shouldn’t be worried about whatever it was that was consuming my mind that day, and an offering of a simple solution. Reflecting on my childhood, I realize that was where my heightened intuition began. Even from a young age; I relied on the feeling in my gut to teach me everything would be OK, and if I felt otherwise, my mind taught me to think of a solution, simply.
The truth is, life, as it always does, threw some tough curve balls at me over the years, especially when I was deep into my studio ownership.
My first experience with adversity was 7 years into my business ownership in 2008. Pregnant with twins, my husband and I were so happy. On the evening after another successful performance weekend, at 23 weeks pregnant, I came home after a long day and was bleeding. To the hospital we went. Once we got there, after a few tests, they replied I was most likely going to have a miscarriage, and there was nothing they would do as it was too early to deliver the babies. They almost sent me home, but something inside me told me there was something else going on. I didn’t know what, but my intuition was screaming loudly, something is not right! I stayed in the hospital that night, and the bleeding worsened. As my hematocrit dropped, the Doctors began to get puzzled as to where the bleeding was coming from as the babies seemed to still be thriving, yet I was failing? The bleeding continued to get worse and soon, I was signing paperwork agreeing to a blood transfusion. Now, extremely puzzled, they had to research what could possibly be going on.
A week later, and after daily transfusions, an internal ultrasound revealed the problem. I had cervical varix; varicose veins on my cervix. One had ruptured. The bad news was, at the time, there were only seven other cases of this reported in medical literature, and as my Dr. put it “we are on unchartered waters with how to deal with this.” There I sat. Another week, bleeding, and getting transfusions as needed. At the time, I felt like I was on an episode of House as various Doctors would come in throughout the day simply to say “so you’re the bleeder, I heard about you.”
While I sat there, I thought about many things. Will the babies make it through this? Will I make it through this? Will I hemorrhage in my sleep? Maybe I will just try not to sleep! What about my studio? I have great teachers covering for me, but this is way earlier than I had planned to be out- how will I pay for all of this extra help I didn’t plan on having to pay for? Will there be any money left to still pay me? I guess you could say, I thought about a lot. Then, two and a half weeks in, the Doctor decided she was going to “try something.” She was going to put a suture around the artery that was pumping the blood to the vein that was bleeding and “hope it holds.” I had a lot of faith in her, so I simply said, “OK.”
The next morning they took me to the operating room, almost 26 weeks along and I got the epidural. I signed a release and in I went! She, along with her partner, were going to perform this procedure- he wasn’t as keen on the idea. In fact, he said to me, “this is very risky- you could die.” I still felt in my gut that it would be OK. Shortly into the procedure, I started to hemorrhage, received 5 units of blood, heard lots of cursing between the Doctors, then, it was over. The suture was tied. I said, “did it work?” My Doctor simply replied, “it’s tied.” Back to my room I went, where I sat for many more days until I was finally sent home at 28 weeks with strict rules to eat a lot of red meat, and stay in bed- strict bed rest-literally, don’t move. I was also told that if I started to bleed and the suture untied, as the babies continued to grow, that added pressure would cause an immediate hemorrhage. Therefore, I was also sent home with directions to give the paramedic if this were to happen.
This was tough. It was scary. My body, quickly transformed into something unrecognizable. Gaining 78lbs of weight, water, and baby, I was a wreck, physically. I hadn’t walked in the past several weeks- I even had a day where I was rushed to the hospital with concern of a blood clot as my leg swelled up extremely large. Luckily, it wasn’t, but over the course of the next several weeks, I had a variety of problems from rashes to serious edema, premature contractions, and ultimately, I developed a cold and a fever just before delivery at 36.5 weeks when the Doctor finally said, we have to go in and take these babies, now. However, that suture never broke! It ultimately kept the babies alive- and me. The vein was cauterized during the C section and I wouldn’t ever have to worry again.
After another week in the hospital, I was sent home. With my newborn twins, along with an absolutely exhausted husband, we all went home. It was us, and them. My body was shot- I could barely walk, my knees couldn’t bend well, and I was swollen and so large I could barely recognize myself. My once sylph-like ballet body had transformed into something that resembled nothing short of the marshmallow man; I also had a long line of staples going straight down my abdomen .
I had left my business in May and didn’t return to teaching there until October. Finances were tough; I had to pay everyone working to keep my school going while I was out and I didn’t have any money to pay myself. We were just at our breaking point when finally, I was well enough to return to work and worked like hell to get financial control back of my studio.
During that time, I also had to rehabilitate my body which had turned into a completely foreign object. Thankfully, my knowledge of Pilates permitted me to do this via many weeks of dedication and slow progression. Somehow, I made it through. My business was once again, thriving and growing and I felt even more empowered for having made it through our unfortunate situation.
Almost four years down the road, and well on our way to more adventure, we were hit with our second round of adversity. My husband, who had been diagnosed years prior with Crohn’s Disease suffered a complicated Crohn’s induced ruptured appendix. The twins were just shy of four years old and I was finally back to feeling like me again after my horrific pregnancy. The studio was thriving! This episode resulted in three hospital transfers, multiple surgeries and finally Sepsis and escalation to the ICU.
During the procedures to fix the ruptured appendix, he also suffered a bowel perforation which caused a bowel leak, ultimately leading to a bowel resection and a temporary ostomy. During these serious life threatening situations, I was forced to turn my school over to the hands of my amazing staff as I cared for my extremely ill husband who ended up requiring home nursing and constant care for a few months. Grateful to have my husband alive, here we were again in the same predicament, only this time it was much worse. My husband was out of work for a year as he healed from his surgeries and then had to have another surgery to reverse the ostomy. I had to hire a full time assistant to run my business. I was working as much as I could in between caring for him and the twins, but all of our money was once again going to pay others to keep our doors open.
Needless to say, I don’t know how, but we recovered, and I went on to enjoy another four years of business ownership- they were the most profitable and the most rewarding years I had the pleasure of owning my school, I even expanded it one last time.
When I made the decision to sell, it wasn’t in my original plan. Once again I had to rely on my intuition. Shortly before Christmas in 2015, when putting my daughter to bed I asked her what she wanted most from Santa. She replied “I want Mommy to get rid of her studio.” It hit me like a brick. It was clear and there was no confusion in the message I needed to receive. My children- especially my daughter- needed my presence. My life, up to that point, had been about growing and developing my studio. Our family had faced medical adversity, the business had been built and rebuilt- each time stronger, and now it was time for me to put that same energy where it belonged, toward my children. Needless to say, in 2016 I sold the dance studio, only maintaining my Pilates business, and just like that, that part of my story was over and I was onto a new chapter. I never looked back.
When I reflect on my life so far, I try to find understanding with regard to each turn, new path and new opportunity. The truth is, I feel I’ve been given so many beautiful opportunities. If it weren’t for my ability to listen to my intuition, my grit to put in whatever it takes to succeed- and at times, just get by, along with moments, months, and on occasion-years of adversity to shake things up- I wouldn’t have taken those opportunities, or survived the bumps along the way.
Each year I’ve found a way to create and re-create when necessary, a balance to my life to keep me courageous and hungry for what life has to offer, but ultimately, relying on optimism and intuition to point me in the right direction. I’ve learned, somehow, I always end up right where I’m supposed to be.
During this recital/performance season, I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media about many stressed out, tired, studio directors. This is my message to you. Strive on. You’ve got this! This is your path. You’re on it. Enjoy it.
– Laura Ward-Moran