Christine Rochelle – Becoming a mom after a stroke
Christine Rochelle is a wife, daughter, sister, friend, and most recently mom, from Wall, NJ. She is an advocate and survivor ambassador for the American Heart Association, sharing her experience with stroke and congenital heart disease. She shares her story in recognition of World Stroke Day on October 29.
“Oh my gosh, who should I call first?!”
That is the normal reaction when a woman finds out she’s expecting a baby, especially her first one. For many women, it’s a time of joy, elation, and usually confusion.
For me, I had that of course. But the first person (after my husband) to know the news of my pregnancy was not my mother or my sister or a close friend. It was my cardiologist.
That’s because 4 years prior to seeing those pink lines on that pregnancy stick, I added “stroke” to my health history, right next to two existing heart defects.
When I was 27, I woke up one morning to get ready for a Mother’s Day brunch and I had a horrific headache. I had a hard time speaking and kept confusing things that were right in front of me. Everything was off and I wasn’t getting any relief. I didn’t know what was wrong but I finally got in front of a neurologist who confirmed via an MRI that I had what is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) - like a mini stroke that causes no permanent damage. Or, as I say, it was my warning stroke.
Because most people don’t pick up on the symptoms. I didn’t get the arm numbness or face drooping which meant if I didn’t go to the doctor, it would have happened again - but it could have been bigger and caused damage. Or worse, I could have died.
What I learned during my TIA was to be my own advocate. Know what was “right” for my body and fight like heck to make myself heard when things weren’t right. I was born with two heart defects and spent years going through the motions with my doctors, but not educating myself on the risks long-term. This was a pivotal moment in which I had to take full control and ownership of my health.
That is what got me through my TIA and that is why when I found out I was pregnant my first call was to my doctor. For over a year I was building a plan with my doctors and my family on what would happen when I would be pregnant and how it would be different than other women. We agreed that we would stay in lockstep from the moment I found out to ensure that both me and my baby would have the best care.
I was lucky to get through my TIA with that education and support. I was also lucky to get through a healthy pregnancy and labor and delivery. Now, my history isn’t just checking off a box that says stroke patient or heart patient. I now proudly check off the box of “mom.”