Hey folks! Today we’ve got a whole wheat waffle recipe courtesy of my new heart healthy lifestyle. As I wrote in my previous blog, my high blood pressure followed me home from the hospital after giving birth to my daughter. In this blog, I share my blood pressure journey, imperative information everyone should know before getting their blood pressure checked and some heart healthy deliciousness. Hope you enjoy!
Before leaving the hospital, the doctors warned us about the potential that my blood pressure was going to get higher. At that point we were entirely exhausted and frustrated, and knew we would feel better being in our own beds. Those conversations, however, shook me a bit. They sternly warned me about the risks of postpartum preeclampsia and chronic hypertension. High readings could lead to blood clots and stroke. I didn’t know if I felt wonky because of high blood pressure, c-section recovery or being on meds, but these warnings got in my head. While I was grateful we left the hospital when we did, I was also happy to have a follow-up visit with my midwife. Having heard all of my shenanigans, she wanted to check my blood pressure while I was there. It was in the high 130’s. “Borderline,” she said, based on my history. At her suggestion, we got a blood pressure cuff to monitor everything while home.
My anxiety was pretty high. On one hand, I had a newborn that I just couldn’t believe was ours. She was just such absolute joy, I miss how small she was already! But at the same time, there was this shadow side of my health that terrified and exhausted me. Seeing the cuff everyday was a uneasy reminder of the lurking unknown.
The cuff itself was difficult to master. I felt like I could never properly get the cuff on right by myself and the readings were a bit all over the place, sometimes in the 150’s and low 160’s. That was terrifying to me. With the most helpless and pathetic gift of a little newborn now under my care for life, I couldn’t fathom anything happening to me. For her sake and my own paralyzing fear, I got an appointment immediately at our local clinic.
The General Practitioner there said my blood pressure was too high, put me on metroprolol and had me do an EKG and a lab test. She mentioned to have blood pressure this high is very dangerous. She didn’t sound nonchalant. She made me feel like if I didn’t make changes now, I would have major complications pretty quickly. Having heard the blood clot/stroke spiel from the doctors where we delivered, as much as I tried to trust the universe with healing and peace, my anxiety was through the roof.
From that point, every time I went up the stairs holding Ruby I was terrified I was going to have a stroke. Pain in my upper thigh, I was sure was a blood clot and it was only a matter of time before it moved to my lungs. If I ate something I didn’t realize was high in sodium, I could feel my arteries clogging.
To my readers, maybe this fear seems a bit far out and unnecessary, but when you feel in a fog recovering from surgery and taking care of a newborn, and when you don’t feel entirely well regardless, it’s very easy to believe there is something wrong with you. We also live at a fairly high altitude and this effects me sometimes as well. Those doctors really got in my head and with Lliam at work, holding down everything for us, my fear was a conversation I really could only have with myself.
I immediately began eating insanely heart healthy. I researched what to do, which foods to eat and which would be bad for me. My daily intake now consisted of things like spinach, nuts, whole grains, oats, fruit and veggies– like nobody’s business. I removed all salt, sugar, red meat and fat as best I could. A few days later, I went down the mountain for my first OBGYN visit. My blood pressure had stabilized in the lower 120’s. Oh, the relief. While still shaky and nervous, because I was still scared I had a blood clot, I had a little validation that the medication was working.
I got a phone call from my local clinic for a follow up appointment. They said the General Practitioner really wanted me to talk to a midwife nurse practitioner that came in sometimes. I was told this nurse knew more about postpartum health situations. I arrived waddling, just barely into my c-section recovery, carrying my daughter in her heavy ass car seat.
They took my blood pressure and it was in the 150’s. I couldn’t believe it. I had been so relieved and now it was back up again! I explained to the nurse that I definitely had ‘white coat syndrome,’ was probably panicked from everything we’d been through during our hospital stay and I asked her to take it again. She did and it was even higher. “See, now I’m even more anxious! I really think I’m fine. I just need to calm down and, like, get zen.”
She said she would wait a few minutes and take it again. “This is the time to get zen,” she said, “because otherwise, I really want you to head back down to the other hospital.” (Our local clinic has no OBGYN). They asked whether or not my husband was at work, if he could come pick me up and take me if needed, etc. I was so in my head.
They left and my heart was racing. I could not ‘get zen,’ I was overwhelmed with anxiety. I looked at my little girl and had no idea what was going to happen. Lliam was working as a temp for the county at the time. He was trying to get in good with them to win a permanent position. The last thing we needed was a consistently sick wife taking him away from work. Not to mention, with a newborn and being strapped for cash, to be working less was hardly ideal. They came back in and took it again. They didn’t tell me what the reading was, they just said, “We need to get you to the ER. Call your husband. This is a ‘leave work now’ situation.”
I couldn’t believe what was happening. In just a matter of days, I had gone from partially relieved to being hospitalized. I called Lliam and he came over as soon as he could. They hooked me up to a blood pressure monitor and gave me labetalol. It wasn’t working. I looked at Ruby, still in her car seat. I didn’t bring enough formula for her. I didn’t expect this. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Lliam eventually went home to stock up on diapers and bottles. They upped my dosage of labetalol.
The hospital smelled like an old folks home. The poor guy next to me couldn’t stop vomiting. I had barely a thing to eat all day and the drugs were making me feel even worse. It was like another surreal nightmare. I was soooo grateful Lliam was there but how long would I be in the hospital? Would I have to be monitored for days? What would we do with Ruby while Lliam was at work? If he took time off, how would we survive financially? So many thoughts…
The ER doctor looked a little out of his league with my situation so I wasn’t surprised when he eventually called down to my birth hospital and talked to an OBGYN there. They said to put me on procardia, and if my blood pressure went down below 140, I was okay to leave. The procardia worked! After six hours, I was ECSTATIC to be going home. I had a new prescription… and about 120,000 new fears.
About a week later, I had another follow up with my OBGYN. My blood pressure was taken and it was in the low 140’s. While wary, they didn’t seem too concerned. I was relieved! After being hospitalized I was terrified it was going to be sky high again. From where it had been, and my nagging feelings of death looming, that number felt low and I was grateful.
Later that week, I had a follow up with the local clinic to go over my lab results. I was feeling really good, healing well and I was excited for this to be my last appointment there. However, things took a turn pretty quickly. The labs showed that I had really high cholesterol and that my EKG showed a couple of anomalies. She also mentioned a Vitamin D deficiency but that’s pretty common. I could tell by the stern look on her face I was being judged. “This isn’t good! Really unhealthy! Very dangerous!”
F*******ck!!! Again I thought I was out of the woods and now I was REALLY terrified about strokes and blood clots. Anomalies on an EKG? I was being referred to a cardiologist at 39 years old? What... the H!!!
Quick sidetone: What I DID find hilarious, however, was that of all the years I have worked professionally as a baker or managed bakeries, the one thing I did NOT have was diabetes. Everyone and their grandmothers have always told me I was going to end up diabetic but alas, suckas! You gotta find your humor (and minor win) somewhere, right? Ha! I kid...
But back to our story... At another follow up with the OBGYN-- Yes, Holy Doctor Appointments, Batman!-- I showed her my lab results. Her verdict on my cholesterol, "Yeah... that's really high." She explained that eating healthy wasn't going to cut it and that exercise would be important for me. Neither the hospital nor my local clinic wanted to put me on medication for cholesterol because I was partially breastfeeding but she also said they would continue to monitor my blood pressure closely.
I felt really helpless so I reached out to my stepmom who is a nurse. She was excited like only a nurse can be-- obviously, not for my fear but for having a fun conundrum to figure out. Thankfully, she relieved me a bit by giving me ideas and not making me feel like I was going to die. She suggested I get my own General Practitioner, a doctor that I could see regularly and follow up with about my blood pressure when the OBGYN appointments were over.
Since leaving the hospital after Ruby’s birth, I had been seeing a doctor and going to various appointments– whether for me or my daughter– 2-3 times a week. Every appointment we had was 45 minutes away and the winding road down the mountain leading to those appointments drops 4,000 feet in elevation in thirty minutes. To be out for hours with Ruby was a challenge. I would lug her around in her car seat, holding her away from my body as best I could so as not to knock her against my knees. I was relying solely on my arm strength (which was pretty nil after leaving the bakery and those 50 pound bags of flour). I had no core strength due to the cesarean… it was an exhausting work-out.
She was struggling to breastfeed and latch properly, so the hours away from home unable to pump decreased my milk supply. Breastfeeding is a nightmare in itself and everywhere you go there is such judgement. “You know, you really want to be exclusively breastfeeding.” Uh-huh. And I’d really like for you to have a clue about what I’ve been going through before you say REALLY STUPID THINGS…. ahem. Obviously, I was stressed…
Aside from these appointments, I was also taking care of the animals, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, doing laundry, pumping, changing/burping/snuggling/breastfeed-attempting, and cooking healthy constantly because gone were the days of a quick hot dog. Thank you GOD, I have a supportive husband and we have a pretty agreeable baby. *knocks on wood*
Finally, I went to a General Practitioner down the mountain. He might have been 12 and looked like a young Ryan Gosling, but he actually listened to me. He went over my labs with me piece by piece and the weight of the world came off my shoulders. “Is this cholesterol high? Yes. But is it high enough for me to even put you on medication? Not at all. This is fixable.”
WHAAAAAAAAT???? I was BLOWN AWAY!!! Everyone had me believing my cholesterol was through the roof. “400’s or 500’s is through he roof.” My cholesterol was 293. He also told me diet is more important than exercise because if you eat a box of donuts, running a mile isn’t going to make a difference. (Personally, I think it’s a mix of diet and exercise but what woman in her right mind is going to fight with a guy who will one day grow up to be Ryan Gosling?)
He put me on a higher dose of Vitamin D because “the one you’re on is too low and this dose is totally useless.” He said the EKG was “unimpressive” and looked like a “cover your butt” situation. And mostly… he was really excited for me. I told him what I had been eating and the changes I had been making and he was grateful because many patients spend a good deal of time in denial about their health issues. He even had the Attending Physician come in and talk with me to ease my mind.
Together, they agreed the cholesterol wasn’t that big of an issue but that the blood pressure was the big concern with my history. They wanted to up my procardia a smidgen because my reading that day was in the 140’s. I began to panic again. No, no, no!! I felt okay and I had been eating super healthy. I know it’s always a little high at first. He said the meds were part of the journey for a short time but that if I continued on this path, I wouldn’t need them forever. Being off the meds completely was our goal. I agreed to take the extra bump but also asked them to take my blood pressure again at the end. It was now in the 120’s. WHO’S HEALING WHO HERE, PEOPLE?! (I should totes have been a doctor…) :)
They told me to follow up in two weeks. I went to schedule my appointment with Dr. Baby Ryan and found out he would be on vacation for two months. NOOOOO!!!!
Finally, the appointment with the cardiologist came around. There, my blood pressure was 118/76. I was PSYCHED. That’s the lowest it had been. They took their own EKG and while they also saw the same anomalies, they agreed the referral was a ‘cover your butt’ situation.
And come to find out, anomalies aren’t fact. They’re curiosities– like going to a dermatologist for a weird mole but knowing just because it’s weird doesn’t mean it’s cancerous. To be on the super, super, super safe side, they scheduled a stress test and an ultrasound of my heart for later this month. They said I was doing beautifully with my life changes and I left feeling on top of the world.
Last week, I went to another follow up appointment with a General Practitioner. My blood pressure was 144. Again, this was a new doctor who didn’t know me at all. Based off of this reading and my supposed history, he said we needed to consider putting me on additional medication at this point. I just… I couldn’t. I felt so much better, I was READY to be healthy and I just couldn’t believe my blood pressure was high. AGAIN, it always goes down after a bit!!! It lowered to the low 120’s last time! But did Dr. Baby Sexypants put that in my notes? No! They always and only include the first reading. Ahhhh!! From the condescending nod, I know Dr. NOT Ryan Gosling doesn’t believe me.
He’s beginning to make assumptions about who I am and the thought of that is so frustrating, I begin crying. (The worst possible timing, OF COURSE I DO). He asks why I’m crying but where on earth do I begin? It’s also difficult to formulate cohesive sentences due to ‘mom brain’ without sounding pathetic and unstable. He then starts asking me how I’m doing at home with the baby because now he thinks I have postpartum depression. “No, I’m HAPPY at home! I love my baby! My husband is awesome!” He tells me it’s okay to be overwhelmed with a baby. “I’m not overwhelmed with my baby– THIS! THIS is what stresses me out!” He asks what am I doing for my anxiety. “Typically I mediate! But I haven’t been because–” He tells me there are counselors I can talk to at the hospital. “It can be really helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed.” My skin is crawling.
I’m not sure what I said but my stubbornness won. If I wasn’t going to go on extra meds, he pointedly suggested I get a blood pressure cuff at home. (We returned the one I had previously because I don’t feel like I ever got it to work properly). This way, it would help me, help them, treat me correctly. He totally didn’t believe me. I left feeling defeated, like I had taken 100 steps back.
I was zero percent enthused about spending a chunk of money we didn’t have on something I wasn’t sure would work properly, but I went to Target and looked around. They had a wrist monitor!! The best decision I could have made for my history. I’ve named her Betty. She is totally loyal and I love her so much. She takes my blood pressure and my pulse. She does averages. And the best part? I never have to were a STUPID FROGGIN CUFF. (Ahem)… I trust her readings.
What I have learned from Betty is incredibly eye opening. The first reading I took was in the mid 140’s. But in the span of five minutes, it went from the high 140’s to the low 120’s. If I am moving and have just set down my daughter, it’s in the 150’s. If I take a minute to sit and do some deep breathing, it’s in the 130’s. If I take another minute, it’s in the 120’s or lower. If I take five minutes to relax, as the directions suggest, it is always in the low 120’s.
With readings all over the board, you can imagine my frustration and fear. Which reading was the correct one?! If I really did have high blood pressure, I wanted to know! I began to do some research and my jaw dropped. According to this Berkley Wellness website, blood pressure is often taken incorrectly and myriads of people are probably put on medication unnecessarily.
Did you know that to get a correct reading ideally, you should:
wait five minutes in a quiet room before being tested
there should be no talking during the test
you should be sitting on a chair, back supported with feet on the floor
forearm supported at heart level by your nurse
wear an appropriate cuff size
readings should be done on both arms, one five minutes after the other
I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t! EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. my blood pressure has been taken, it has been as soon as I walk in the door, typically only a minute after lugging around Ruby when my heart is racing and I’m out of breath. The nurse talks to me through the process. Sometimes, they’ve taken my reading while I’m seated on the examination table, feet dangling. And it took hours of asking for them to give me an appropriate cuff size at the hospital. They would never take it manually. And for sure, they’ve never tried both arms. To do or not do these things, for me, is literally a change of 20+ points!!
How can something so important to diagnosis and prescription, be taken so mistakenly in the medical field? Again, the last doctor I saw wanted to put me on additional medication because one reading is always taken as law. Can you imagine???! None of these guidelines or my anxiety or mental state have ever been considered or believed. It is incredibly scary to think of the amount of people potentially misdiagnosed. Am I grateful to have a healthy daughter and to be feeling healthier? Of course! But can we do better? Abso-froggin’-lutley!
In hindsight, this whole experience has been pretty eye-opening. I consider myself pretty ‘zen’ for the most part; when I get anxious, I know to mediate. During my second trimester, when my blood pressure was in the 110’s, I was meditating 20 minutes daily. I felt relaxed, connected, present and peaceful. In my third and ‘fourth trimester,’ as they say, I haven’t kept up the practice as much. It’s especially hard to find alone time with a newborn. However, to see readings differ significantly based on whether or not I’m relaxed, or after a minute or two of deep breathing, it is a pretty affirming reminder. In my head, I’ve always had the answers but whether or not I follow through with them in life is a whole other story.
While this experience has been frustrating and scary, I really am grateful that it happened. I’ve learned so much about the power and magnitude of my fear, and what a huge factor it can play in my health. I learned a lot about speaking my mind and sticking up for myself, trusting my intuition and what I know about my body. And I’m even grateful that I was so petrified because I’m not sure if anything less would have scared me into a healthier lifestyle.
While my blood pressure has stabilized, I haven’t forgotten or ignored that it has stabilized while still under the influence of medication. Going off medication, would it sky rocket? I have no idea. So, I’ve made no plans to throw caution to the wind with my lifestyle. If anything, I feel more committed to stay on this life path for as long as I’m blessed with one. If I’ve estimated my pregnancy weight properly, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds. Two weeks postpartum, at my first follow up clinic, I was weighed and for sure I’ve lost 22 pounds without counting baby weight. And truly, it’s not about weight. I stagnated for a week and a half pounds-wise and while it was frustrating, I felt more energetic, felt a bit stronger, my clothes still fit well, etc. In my heart I knew it wasn’t about numbers and I’ve NEVER felt that way before!
Mostly, it has occurred to me that if I want Ruby to grow up healthy, confident, smart, funny, fearless, strong, loving and excited about this world… who do I need to be to help get her there? If I want to teach her to put herself in the way of beauty in this world, she requires a mother that is truly beautiful. Gone are the days of low self-esteem and anxiety. I want to be who she needs me to be. There is a note on my mirror to remind myself of this daily.
Introducing her to healthy food as delicious and nourishing (rather than making it about weight) is one way I can encourage her wellbeing. And like an episode of ‘Chopped,’ I have personally been given a challenge to make food heart healthy and it excites me! So today, I’m sharing a waffle recipe I adapted that makes this treat at breakfast delicious but also good for you. Rather than use all purpose flour, I substituted whole white wheat. In place of oil, I use unsweetened apple sauce. I added oats, ground flaxseed meal and a bit of cinnamon– all great ingredients that help to lower blood pressure. I replaced full fat milk with non-fat and rather than use sugar I use honey. (Honey is totally sugar but at least it’s got some proven health benefits).
And the kicker? (Because I’m NEVER gonna be a ‘4 oz. of plain chicken and steamed broccoli’ girl). They’re super yummy! I love the nuttiness of various whole grain flours and oats in baking so I love these waffles! I don’t feel like I’m missing out on ‘the real deal,’ because they aren’t processed and don’t taste like fat free crap. They’re just yummy waffles!
Well, that blog took forever- ha! Thank you soooo much for reading all of this– and I hope next time you go to the doctor you ask for a few minutes of peace before any vitals are taken. You owe it to yourself to be properly cared for! Health & happiness, y’all! This is really exciting. :)
HEART HEALTHY WAFFLE RECIPE
Light and fluffy whole wheat waffles with heart healthy ingredients. They still feel like a treat but it's an amazing way to start your day!
1 1/3 c. whole wheat flour (I use whole wheat white)
1/2 c. rolled oats
2 T ground flaxseed meal
1 T baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 c. non-fat or almond milk
1 T good quality honey
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs, separated
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, flaxseed meal, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
Separate the eggs. (See note below)
Mix milk, applesauce, egg yolks and honey to dry ingredients.
Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the batter.
Ladle mixture onto hot waffle iron and bake until golden brown & crispy.
Top with sugar-free jam, fruit compotes or a light drizzle of the real maple syrup or honey. Enjoy!
NOTES *In a time crunch, I have completely skipped the separation of the eggs, added whole to the batter instead, and these waffles still turn out great!