In my 20s and into my 30s, I made up for my previous inactivity with a vengeance. I didn't just take kickboxing classes at my gym; I studied Muay Thai boxing in a sweaty downtown basement where both guys and girls pummeled me and I pummeled them back. I spent my winters taking tennis lessons at an indoor court and my summer mornings running across the Brooklyn Bridge. I ran the Army Ten-Miler. In the fall of 2006, I found out I was pregnant and added prenatal yoga and water aerobics to the mix. But at 27 weeks I went in for my routine monthly OB visit and learned that I had a severe case of preeclampsia, a life-threatening complication. My doctors told me they needed to deliver the baby as soon as possible or both she and I could die.
Forty-eight hours later, my daughter was born in an emergency C-section. She was 1 pound, 15 ounces. The cure for preeclampsia is supposed to be delivery, but the doctors were still unable to control my blood pressure and I was at risk for stroke. Like an episode of the television show House, a team of specialists watched as I proceeded to go into major organ failure: first my liver, then my kidneys, then my gastrointestinal system. I was so close to dying that they wouldn't let me see the baby. (That finally happened when I was stable enough to move out of intensive care five days later.) I was in the hospital for nearly a month, and the baby, Flora, was there for three.