When we were new moms, we all heard the advice that you need to “take care of yourself, so that you can take care of your new baby”. Like most moms, I did not heed this sage advice with my first child.  I put my needs after that of my child and family. That’s what I thought good mothers did.

Bailie was an adorable curly haired toddler when she nearly drowned at her babysitter’s home at 23 months. This accident left her with a devastating brain injury.  She was unable to walk, talk or eat. It was like she was a newborn again.  Again, I heard that advice, “take care of yourself”. Still, I didn’t listen.  I was so devastated by my daughter’s injury. I put my own needs, emotional, physical and social on the back burner. I did not think it was possible to dote on her any more than I had previously, but I did.  I had tunnel vision. Getting Bailie better was the light at the end of the tunnel. Every waking second of every day I was stretching, feeding, diapering, suctioning, in addition running her to therapy and other appointments. I was determined that I would help her get back to the way she was.

As the months, then years passed I realized that the “old Bailie” was never coming back. Now I had a “new Bailie”, and we loved her every bit as much as we did before. I had come to terms with the fact that Bailie would always need 24/7 care and that her needs would always have to be juggled with that of the other members of the household.

At that point, we were ready to welcome her first sibling to the family. I knew that I couldn’t give Bailie my full attention, but was sure that I could balance the needs of both kids. I juggled their needs and did my best to be a great wife and daughter and daughter in law.  I thought I was doing well, making sure that everyone was happy and healthy.

However, things took a tragic turn again, when just days after my son was born, my husband’s cousin lost his wife to Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They had 2 small children, one just a few weeks older than Bailie.  A few months later, a friend lost his wife to a brain aneurysm.  They too, had a child Bailie’s age.  For the first time in my life, I contemplated my own mortality.

As a mother, I wondered what would happen to my children if something happened to me.  At the time I was in my early thirties and in “good health”, but like most new moms, I had gained weight during my pregnancies.  I have struggled with my weight my entire life, but was never overweight.  Up until now, my reasons for wanting to lose weight were superficial, not health related.  But after losing 2 wonderful women who were just a few years older than me, I started to examine my own health.  I knew that their tragic deaths were not preventable.  However, I started to realize that I was putting myself at risk for preventable diseases like diabetes and hypertension, because at that point I was about 60-80 pounds overweight.  For the first time in my life, I was obese, and that scared me.

I started to realize that I really did need to start taking better care of myself and make my health a priority.  Bailie requires full assistance for her daily needs and I came to terms with the fact that she was going to get bigger and I would need to maintain a certain level of fitness to care for her as she grows and gets harder to lift and transfer.  So I made the decision that I would find the time to exercise and start eating better.

I signed up for a 5k that was a few months away and decided to start to train.  I started walking and worked up to “running” on my hand me down treadmill or outside when possible.  In a few short months I was able to run 3.1 miles in just over 30 minutes.  I found that it wasn’t as hard as I thought to carve out 30 minutes a day to walk or run.  In that 30 minutes of walking/running, I would have chance to think about the goings on in my life.  Sometimes I would ponder something mundane like what to have for dinner, other times I would contemplate what kind of educational setting would be best for my daughter.  It was really the only time I actually had to myself and my thoughts.  In the next 8 months, I lost 85 pounds due to the fact that I made my health a priority.  Full disclosure; I have not maintained that weight loss, as many people said I lost too much.  But I did settle on a healthy weight for my body and have maintained that, for the most part, for the last 12 years.


– Nicole Zilli