In Bozoma Saint John’s upcoming memoir, The Urgent Life: My Story of Love, Loss, and Survival, the award-winning marketing executive—who’s held high-profile jobs at corporations like Pepsi, Uber, and Netflix—gives a raw, unflinching account of what it means to grieve.
In December 2013, Saint John lost her husband, Peter, to cancer. By then, the couple had already navigated a sophisticated marriage; lost their child, Eve, after she was born prematurely; and co-parented their daughter, Lael, in the course of the years when the 2 were separated. “Loss taught me to live with urgency,” Saint John writes. “Faith taught me that I could survive the unimaginable. And love gave me the endurance to beat not only fear but overwhelming grief.” Below, in an abbreviated excerpt from The Urgent Life, she tells Eve’s story.
I cried for days after I came upon I used to be pregnant. I cried after I was alone in the toilet. After I was within the shower. While I used to be on my solution to work. I’d known I used to be pregnant every week before I finally picked up the phone and told my mother.
I used to be beginning to hit my stride professionally, filling within the boldest colours of my fabulous Latest York life. Having a baby meant I’d need to stay in a wedding I used to be starting to doubt and perhaps jobs I’d begun to hate. I liked having the ability to go to a resort within the Caribbean or Mexico on a whim. Now, I could be fully accountable for one other human being.
Bozoma and Peter’s wedding reception on June 21, 2003, in Latest York City.
Courtesy of the writer
I’d read that girls needed to get past the three-month mark to make certain their pregnancy was viable, so in those initial weeks, I only told my immediate family and closest friends that I used to be expecting. But after I crossed into my second trimester and my stomach began to push past my waistband, I started to inform my coworkers.
My colleagues were thrilled that I used to be pregnant, and slowly their giddiness began to make me more excited. Outside, on the road, I went from being just any random Latest Yorker to being an expectant mom. People treated me more delicately. At a restaurant, other patrons would let me cut the road. And after I rode the subway, commuters who may need bumped me with out a second thought said excuse me and offered up their seats. The world tilted toward me seemingly overnight.
My have to know that life was pulsing inside me began to overwhelm my uncertainty, deepening my bond to my unborn baby.”
Still, my emotions remained complicated. I struggled to return to terms with the concept of being someone’s mother, and I continued to fret that Peter and I weren’t able to construct a family when our relationship wasn’t as perfect as I’d imagined.
Yet every time I went to the doctor, the seconds Peter and I waited to listen to the infant’s heartbeat felt like hours. My have to know that life was pulsing inside me began to overwhelm my uncertainty, deepening my bond to my unborn baby.
My obstetrician was the alternative of the stereotypical stern clinician swathed in white. He cracked jokes as he checked my blood pressure or examined my sonogram. I, nonetheless, was never nonchalant after I went to the doctor. I peppered him with questions. Were there certain foods I should avoid eating? Was it normal for the infant’s heartbeat to be so rapid? If I felt a cramp, did that mean something was fallacious?
“Don’t worry a lot!” he told me, waving his hand. “Every woman has a unique pregnancy. You’re young. You’re healthy. All the things shall be high quality.”
But I wasn’t so sure. I felt like something was off, like something was coming.
After I was about six months pregnant, the doctor decided to provide me a comparatively routine test to examine the extent of my amniotic fluid. The outcomes, received a number of days later, showed that my fluid was low. The nurse who phoned us said that wasn’t necessarily a foul sign. Still, they asked me to return back on Monday in order that they could check the fluid again.
Peter and I didn’t panic. The nurse said they were just being cautious since I used to be approaching my last trimester. We desired to consider her.
The Urgent Life: My Story of Love, Loss, and Survival
The Urgent Life: My Story of Love, Loss, and Survival
I had the second amniotic test, and we came upon that not only was my fluid low, the infant didn’t seem like developing prefer it should. Our doctor continued to be nonchalant. Some people had low fluid, he said. And yes, the infant wasn’t quite the dimensions that it must be at this point within the pregnancy, however the heartbeat was still strong, and every thing else looked normal. Really, he said, I shouldn’t worry.
The morning of July 10, I walked by the desk of our vp’s assistant, Melissa. “How are you feeling?” she asked me.
The reality was, I didn’t feel so well. “Umm, just a little slow,” I said, offering her a wan smile. I made my solution to my desk and sat down. A short while later, Melissa walked over.
“I do know this isn’t something you ought to hear once you’re pregnant—you actually just don’t look good to me. I believe you need to go to the doctor.” I attempted brushing her off. Yes, I used to be just a little drained, but that was all. Besides, I had an appointment with my very own OB-GYN in a few days.
“Humor me,” she said. “I’ll even go along with you.” This can be a pain within the ass, I believed as I grabbed my purse and waddled all the way down to the clinic.
After we walked into the clinic, we were greeted by Jane, the sort of sweet, old-school nurse who talked about her kids and would offer you a lollipop regardless that you were a grown woman. Jane sat me down, then took my temperature. It was 98.6 on the nose, so no problem there. Then she took my blood pressure.
“Hmm,” she said, worry lines creasing her brow. “Here,” she said, walking over to the water cooler and bringing me back a cup. “Sip this.”
She said my pressure was just just a little high. But I noticed her whole demeanor had modified.”
I asked her why, and he or she said my pressure was just just a little high. But I noticed her whole demeanor had modified. She was serious, concerned. I drank the water, and we waited a number of minutes before she took my pressure again. Then she asked me to lie down. She left the room, and when she got here back, she was accompanied by the doctor. Jane told me to be calm. She just wanted the doctor to examine me because she wasn’t sure she’d done the reading appropriately.
Now, I actually began to get anxious. “Can you simply take my blood pressure?” I pleaded to the doctor.
He did. A number of seconds later, he asked for the name of my obstetrician. He quickly left the room, and when he returned, he told me he’d called an ambulance.
The room began to spin. My blood pressure was way too high, he said. I needed to go to the hospital. I jumped up and reached for my mobile phone to call Peter. He was as confused and scared as I used to be.
After I finally walked into the emergency room, there have been doctors and nurses waiting with a wheelchair. “Are you Mrs. Saint John?”
“Yes,” I said, bewildered. What on earth was occurring?
I used to be in a panic because the medical staff hooked me as much as a monitor and took samples of my blood. I could hear people speaking in rushed whispers. I felt like everyone but me knew the reality of what was happening. Finally, I made a commotion, tossing something off a side table to get my doctor’s attention and force him to inform me what was occurring.
For once he wasn’t cavalier. I had full-blown preeclampsia. My blood pressure was so high I used to be probably going to have a stroke. That they had given me medication, but nothing was bringing my blood pressure down.
The words didn’t compute. I wasn’t fascinated by dying. I used to be just fascinated by the right way to make certain my baby lived.”
I unleashed my fury. “What are you talking about?” I yelled. “I’ve been asking you questions for months, and also you told me every thing was high quality.”
My doctor literally began to back up, edging toward the door. “Well,” he said haltingly, “sometimes these cases, they only flare up. Anyway, I’m sorry, but we will’t wait one other month so that you can have this baby. You won’t survive.”
The words didn’t compute. I wasn’t fascinated by dying. I used to be just fascinated by the right way to make certain my baby lived.
Over the following few hours, I started to drift out and in, sleepy from the medication they’d given me to try to scale back my blood pressure. Soon, one other nurse entered my room. There was a recent flurry of activity. Again, I asked, “What’s happening?” The nurse appeared surprised that I didn’t know. They were on the point of induce me, she said.
Induce me? I hadn’t agreed to that. I used to be six and a half months pregnant. It was way too soon to have my baby. Then, Peter spoke up.
“Boz,” he said gently. “You’ve got to have the infant today. There’s no selection.”
“There may be a selection,” I said desperately. “There’s at all times a selection.”
“The selection is either we prevent or we save the infant,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “then it’s the infant.” Peter just shook his head. I started to sob.
Was there the rest we could do? I asked him. His answer was chillingly to the purpose.
“No,” he said. “One in every of you’ll die. I needed to make a call.”
Suddenly, our roles had flipped. Nonetheless indifferent I had been after I first got pregnant, now I might give my life for my baby to live. That was the appropriate selection, I believed. But Peter, who’d been so elated, who’d literally counted the times until he could hold our child in his arms, had made a unique decision. And I’d had no say.
Oh God, I believed. The infant knows it’s too soon and is fighting not to return out. Perhaps I can hold off. Perhaps I can control it.”
After all, I realize now that Peter needed to do what he did. If I’d died, he would have lost us each. But I couldn’t see that then. I wouldn’t give you the option to see it for a very long time. There was no logic, just despair. And love.
The medical staff gave me Pitocin and I felt my abdomen tighten as my contractions began. The infant began to kick. Oh God, I believed. The infant knows it’s too soon and is fighting not to return out. Perhaps I can hold off. Perhaps I can control it.
But my body was moving without me. My stomach became taut as a drum as the infant kicked and kicked and kicked. It was torture, feeling how alive my baby was and knowing it was too soon for it to return into the world. Then, finally, I felt the necessity to push. I attempted to not, regardless that it seemed every cell, every fiber in my body, was against me.
My obstetrician, who I might have punched within the face if I’d had the strength, loomed at the tip of the bed. “Boz,” he said. “It’s time to push.”
I couldn’t fight anymore. Yielding to the pressure in my womb, I held tight, then released.
My daughter got here out with one push. I felt relieved at first. She and I had given all of it we could, and now the fight was over. I waited for her cries. However the just one I could hear crying was me.
I considered how much she looked like Peter, a scrim of golden hair framing her beautiful face.”
A number of minutes before, she’d been inside me, kicking furiously. How could a lot life go away so quickly?
“I need to see her,” I said finally.
A nurse placed her in my arms. I considered how much she looked like Peter, a scrim of golden hair framing her beautiful face. I counted her tiny fingers, her tiny toes. All the things about her was perfect.
Gazing my daughter, I made a decision to call her Eve, in honor of my mother, whose English name was Evelyn, and since she was my first girl.
I used to be still within the maternity ward, where I could hear the opposite newborn babies crying, so I asked if I may very well be moved to a different floor. When it was finally time at hand Eve over to a nurse, I couldn’t do it. So, I handed her one last time to Peter. He carried her out of the room, and I never saw my daughter again.
Years later, Peter checked out me from his own hospital bed and told me not to fret. “I’ll go to heaven and handle Eve, when you stay here and handle Lael.”
He said it with amusing. He was so thoughtful in that way, attempting to reassure me when he was the one facing his own mortality. I managed a weak smile. “I suppose that’s one solution to take a look at it,” I said.
Bozoma, Peter, and Lael the day after Peter came upon his cancer could be terminal in October 2013.
Courtesy of the writer
But a number of days after he died, his brother Neil called me. Giavanna, his seven-year-old daughter, had had a dream and he or she needed to inform me about it. Gia, as we called her for brief, had been especially near Peter. When she got here to the phone, she was crying.
The night before, Gia dreamed that she was in school, on the playground, and there was an enormous tree. When she looked over, she saw Uncle Peter, peeking from behind it. Confused, she walked over. When she rounded the trunk, he was standing there holding just a little girl. Gia wasn’t sure who the opposite child was, but she said Uncle Peter smiled and told her to inform me that every thing is okay. Then she woke up.
Our families never talked about Eve. I don’t even think Gia knew that I’d lost a baby. And I’d never told anyone what Peter said to me within the hospital.
If considered one of Peter’s siblings or friends had called me and relayed that dream, I may need doubted it, wondering in the event that they were just attempting to make me feel higher. I’m sure that’s why Peter picked Gia to return to. She was the right messenger.
My eyes welled with tears. And, for the primary time in weeks, I smiled.
From THE URGENT LIFE by Bozoma Saint John, to be published on February 21, 2023 by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023 by Bozoma Saint John.
Bozoma Saint John is an influencer and American businesswoman who has had a stellar profession in marketing, most recently because the Global Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix. She began her profession at Spike Lee’s promoting agency, then occurring to turn into a senior marketing executive at Pepsi, Apple Music, Uber, and Endeavor. She has been featured on the quilt of Adweek as “one of the crucial exciting personalities in promoting” and has been inducted into the American Promoting Federation Hall of Achievement, in addition to the American Marketing Hall of Fame, amongst others. Bozoma was named the #1 most influential CMO by Forbes in 2021, and has created a successful online tutorial “The Badass Workshop” which teach others to be their biggest selves. Headshot taken by Amy Lombard.