Category Archives: pregnancy

Recognize and value your needs – stop thinking everyone else matters more!

Today I got a call from a young mother, and as soon as I heard her voice, I realized she was working hard to keep herself together.  I was in the middle of cooking for Shabbos so I asked my kids to keep an eye on the things on the stove and in the oven and told them I’d need some time and privacy to speak to her.  Then we started to talk.

She started to cry within a few seconds.  It all spilled out – she’s due to give birth in two days, her doula just cancelled on her which means she’ll have to go to the hospital on her own to give birth since her husband will need to stay home with their two year old.  Her oven isn’t working and the repair man wasn’t going to be arriving until later in the day, leaving her without time to cook for Shabbos.  And her city is having some problem with the water quality so everyone needs to boil all their water or buy it; her husband doesn’t want to spend the money on bottled water so she needed to boil a large quantity of water to last for all of Shabbos.  She’s very pregnant and very stressed and very overwhelmed.

The first thing I said was that the most important thing is to preserve her physical and emotional strength so she can go into labor feeling good.  That means simplify everything as much as possible.   I gave her some practical suggestions of how to cook a simple one pot meal so the oven not working wouldn’t be an issue and so she wouldn’t spend so much effort cooking a variety of dishes she didn’t have energy to prepare.  She was like, really, you can do that?  Really.

Next, the doula.  We talked about options for this; she has a backup doula and can meet her at the hospital.  (She lives in a different city and wouldn’t be able to come to her home on Shabbos to support her in early labor.)  She said her friends had offered to watch their toddler when she went into labor so her husband go with her, but she thought it would be too hard for her child and it would be best if her husband stayed with their little boy.  There’s a lot we moms give up for our kids and often it’s  necessary, but as much as I value doing what we can to give our kids a feeling of security, this wasn’t the right time for that to be the issue of overriding importance.   A laboring mother’s needs take priority.

But of course it’s important for her son to be in a safe and loving environment where he’ll feel good.  We discussed which people in her life her son felt most comfortable with, and she decided on one friend who has a child the same age he’s very friendly and said she’d call as soon as we finished talking to make those arrangements.  

Next – the water situation.  We women put so many demands on ourselves and surprise, surprise, everyone around us assumes that’s okay and they make demands as well.  The problem is even people who care can’t read our insides to realize when we’re overstretching to do all that we’re already doing.  Husbands, especially young husbands like hers, don’t understand what’s involved in being pregnant and taking care of a young child and doing all she was responsible for.  We’ve got to tell them and to do that we have to recognize our needs and feel they’re valuable.  I’m sure he had no idea that his request that she boil the water would cause his wife so much stress.  I suggested she ask for his help – let him know that it’s too much for her (without drama and accusation) and ask him to please take care of it.  Maybe once he has to do it himself he’ll understand the work involved and decide it’s worth spending the money.  Or maybe he’ll boil it all himself.  Either way it will get done.

In all of these cases, the real issue was that she was giving priority to what others wanted and needed from her more than she was recognizing and validating her needs.  Don’t we all do this sometimes?  Or maybe more than sometimes?!

What I offered her was recognition that her needs were legitimate and important, and then helped her find practical solutions to address them.  Inside our own heads we can lose perspective and sometimes things are obvious to someone outside of the situation.  Once we get clarity on what we really need, it’s a lot easier to find solutions that work.

Avivah

31 for 21 – No regrets

Today is Day 7 of 31 for 21, a blogging effort to raise awareness for Trisomy 21.

So many times when people have a situation in which something has gone wrong, knowing that they did something wrong that added to the problem exacerbates their pain.  I’ve read several accounts of women who had babies with Trisomy 21, and they all went through a period of blaming themselves for something.  We moms can always find something to blame ourselves for!  Whether it’s not eating well or taking prenatals during pregnancy, feeling guilty about their negativity or ambivalence when learning about T21 or crying and being upset after the baby was born, there are lots of things that moms later look back on with regret.

I’ve thought a number of times about how grateful I am in this regard.  I have a tendency to have high expectations of myself, which makes it easy for me to feel like I’m not doing enough for my children.  So it’s especially amazing that regarding Yirmiyahu having T21 that I’m able to accept what I did throughout pregnancy as having been enough.

I was thrilled when I became pregnant, and although there are definitely some discomforts that come along with pregnancy, there wasn’t even one minute that I wasn’t grateful for my pregnancy.  My husband often remarked about how consistently positive I was, even at the end when I was having a lot of sciatic pain.  I had conversations in my mind every single day with my baby, telling him how much I loved him and later on when I started having premonitions about the baby having T21, added in the message that we loved him as he was.  I had a pervasive sense of emotional well-being and consistently positive thoughts about life in general and towards our baby.

On the Weston Price site there’s an article with a theory that older mothers have babies with T21 because of pregnancies that are close together, leading to mothers who are  nutritionally depleted.    My youngest child was over three when Yirmiyahu was born, so I had a solid block of time to build up my nutritional reserves before he was conceived and I don’t have guilt over this possibility.

I’ve been eating according as much as possible according in line with a traditional foods approach for years, and this pregnancy I was especially careful about what I ate.  Except for a few chocolate bars, my diet was excellent.  I took cod liver oil and early in my pregnancy, ate liver regularly for the iron.  In addition to this, I took homeopathic cell salts.  My general position is that it’s better to eat good quality real foods and supplementation has always been on the back burner for me, so it was unusual for me – a first, actually – that in addition to the above I took prenatal vitamins during this pregnancy.

My birth experience was traumatizing (for my husband, too) but one part of the unpleasantness that I’m grateful for was the extensive fetal monitoring at the hospital.  I haven’t had this kind of fetal monitoring since my second birth, and it’s not something that added positively to the experience, but the monitoring consistently showed everything progressing normally.  Yirmiyahu was born very suddenly at home (if you’re wondering how I labored in the hospital and then gave birth at home, you can read both parts of the birth story, here and here) and wasn’t breathing, and when I later looked back on this I didn’t have to wonder if this was a problem that could have been anticipated and avoided – it wasn’t and it couldn’t.

When we were told the news that our baby had T21 a few hours after he was born, along with the list of other things that were happening medically, it took me a very short time to process.  There are a number of reasons for this- I’ve shared about a couple of aspects of that, and another big factor is that as a mother of a large family, I know that every child comes with their issues.  I know right after finding out is a really hard time for most people and I feel very lucky in this regard that I was able to be happy with our baby as he was from the very beginning.  He was loved totally and fully from conception through birth and beyond, and as a mother I feel a lot of gratitude about that.

Avivah

Goodbye ‘Squiggles’ – our new baby has a name!

Today I looked in my planner and saw the following notation:  !!due date!!

Guess we’re past that.  :)

But it’s the perfect day to share about our new baby’s bris and name!

On Sunday afternoon we had his bris at a local shul, and were delighted by how many people made time to join us.  It was a diverse crowd, with people identifying as secular, traditional, Torani and charedi all attending.  We had Israelis and Americans, those who were living here for many years and those who were just visiting for a short time.

There were so many nice things about the people who came that I’m afraid to share about some and not others in the fear someone will feel I appreciated the presence of some people more than others – and every single person literally added to our simcha.  But I’ll say that it was especially wonderful to have some friends from Baltimore who were able to be there with us – there’s nothing like old friends!  Dd15’s best friend came with her brother, who is a very good friend of ds13.  And another family we’re friendly with came as well, with three of their children (all of whom our children were friendly with); all of these people happened to be visiting Israel now.  So our kids also had the chance to share the simcha with people they had known for a long time (and then three of their friends slept over so they could have more time together – so, so nice!).

Until now, the kids have been calling the baby ‘Squiggles’, and three weeks was a long time for them to wait for his real name!  After the name was given, a number of people asked me if he was named after anyone – no, he wasn’t.  He was given a name that we felt was a reflection of his soul.

In Jewish tradition, it’s believed that after a baby is born, the parents are given a measure of divine inspiration to choose a name that fits the soul purpose of the child.  For every child, dh and I have discussed possible names during pregnancy, and every single time, the names we thought we liked and would want to use were put to the side for names that we thought of after the baby was born.  So we learned the futility of trying to plan ahead!

However, this baby was different.  When I was pregnant, we were talking about names, and dh made this suggestion.  As soon as he suggested this name (because it ties in well with the Three Weeks, this time period in the Jewish calendar), I knew it was the right name.   So much so that I did something I’ve never done before, I called’ the baby this name when I had conversations with him in my head and then used this name when speaking to him soon after he was born. (I’ve never used a name until the baby was officially named.)  After his birth when we learned that he had Trisomy 21, I said to my husband, “Now we can see what a perfect name it is for him!”

Yirmiyahu (3 weeks) at bris

So what is this marvelous name for our marvelous baby? :)  The baby’s name is Yirmiyahu (in English, Jeremiah or Jeremy), and it means ‘G-d will uplift’.  We have seen so much blessing in our lives, especially in the last eleven months since moving to Israel, even in the face of many challenges.  Now we were sent our new baby boy, and this is a special gift on top of all the other gifts.  We feel G-d has uplifted us with his birth and that’s why his name is so perfect for him!

Avivah

The Special Mother

Below is the second piece that a friend sent me after I shared with her that we were awaiting results of genetic testing to see if our baby had Trisomy 21.  I had never read this before, and it brought tears to my eyes when I did.

The Special Mother 

by Erma Bombeck 


Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice,
a few by social pressure and a couple by habit.
This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children.
Did you ever wonder how these mothers are chosen?
Somehow I visualize God hovering over Earth
Selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation.
As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes in a giant ledger.
“Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron Saint, Matthew.”
“Forrest, Marjorie, daughter. Patron Saint, Celia.”
“Rutledge, Carrie, twins. Patron Saint…give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.”
Finally he passes a name to an angel and smiles. “Give her a handicapped child.”
The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”
“Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a handicapped child a mother who knows no laughter?
That would be cruel.”
“But does she have the patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she’ll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair.
Once the shock and resentment wear off she’ll handle it.”
“I watched her today.
She has that sense of self and independence so rare and so necessary in a mother.
You see, the child I’m going to give her has a world of it’s own.
She has to make it live in her world, and that’s not going to be easy.”
“But Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”
God smiles. “No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.”
The angel gasps, “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive.
Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect.
She doesn’t know it yet, but she is to be envied.
She will never take for granted a spoken word.
She will never consider a step ordinary.
When her child says momma for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it.
I will permit her to see clearly the things I see–ignorance, cruelty,
prejudice–and allow her to rise above them.
She will never be alone.
I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life
Because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”
“And what about her Patron Saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in the air. God smiles.
“A mirror will suffice.”

Avivah

Welcome to Holland

When I first got the news that our baby might have Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), I shared this with just a couple of friends.

One of them sent me two beautiful pieces, both of which I’ll share with you (one today, one in a day or two).  The  first was this one, which I had actually read years ago.  I think this applies to so many areas in life; we think we know what we want and that’s what is best for us.  And then we have to resolve within ourselves the difference between what we wanted and what we got.

WELCOME TO HOLLAND

By Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

 Avivah

Acceptance of genetic test results and intuition

I shared in my last post how several medical professionals all commented on my positive response to the possibility of our baby having Trisomy 21.

I value emotional honesty and I’ve asked myself a number of times in the last couple of weeks if I’m suppressing my true emotions about our baby’s diagnosis.  After all, it seems most people cry and are upset about this before moving on to happiness or even acceptance – why didn’t I cry?  Why am I not upset?  It’s not because I’m on a high spiritual level, that’s for sure.  But it’s also not because I’m in denial or shutting down emotionally.  I think that Hashem (G-d) prepared me for this emotionally when I was still pregnant and that’s why I was able to so quickly come to terms with our baby having Down syndrome.

When the doctor told me that first night that they saw signs that made them suspect Down syndrome, I suddenly remembered the strong feeling I had repeatedly had in the middle of my pregnancy – that our baby would have Down syndrome.  I kept pushing this thought to the side as being illogical and eventually forgot about it until that moment.  As I thought about it, I also remembered the reading online I had done at that point – I don’t know what made me read about Down syndrome because this was certainly not relevant to my life at the time and I don’t make time to read about things that aren’t relevant or of interest to me; maybe you could say it was intuition.

Whatever you call it, I didn’t just passively follow a link that happened to be about Down syndrome.  I actively did a google search – “inspiration about Down syndrome” – searching for something to allay the strong inner feeling I had.  I did a lot of reading – I even read an e-book about how to homeschool a child with Down syndrome! – and shared with a couple of my children some of the pictures on the websites that I was reading.  It was after that I did all of this reading that I stopped having thoughts about the baby having Down syndrome and totally forgot about my concerns until it came flooding back to me right after the doctor told us.  And when she did speak to us, the feelings of appreciation and joy for their special children that parents expressed was all that I thought of.

I also remembered two key statements.  One was from a friend (whose nine year old has DS) who told me several years ago, “If there’s something that’s got to be wrong, Down syndrome is the absolute best thing you can have.”  She went on to tell me, “Down syndrome is just not that big a deal.”

The other statement was from a blog reader in my comments section –   “At his upsher my husband said that he cried when he realized that he had down syndrome…..and that is his only regret!!!! He said they should have been tears of joy!!!”  I shared this with dh several months ago when it was posted, and then again that night.  The perspectives of all of these parents gave us something to hold on to, a path to walk down without feeling afraid of the unknown.

When I had conversations in my head with my baby while pregnant (I don’t talk out loud, though many women do), I had two phrases I would always ‘say’ to him.  I would tell him, “We love and accept you just as you are”, and “Don’t worry, it’s a good world.”  The second phrase was my personal response to a true story I read many years ago by a mother who during labor that stalled ‘heard’ a message from her baby, saying she was afraid to be born because she had Down syndrome.  And the mother basically reassured her baby that they would love her, her labor restarted, and the baby was indeed born with Down syndrome.  Why was this the story that I repeatedly thought of when I was pregnant?  I didn’t know then, but I had a very strong feeling of needing to reassure our baby that he was wanted and that this world would be a safe place for him.  When he was born it became obvious to me why those were the messages that he needed to ‘hear’ throughout pregnancy.

Also, for the past few months I’ve been giving classes on the weekly Torah portion.  And as much as I’ve been thanked for this, I can say with certainty that it’s been of more value to me than anyone attending.  That’s because each and every week, I spend a significant amount of time learning and reading, looking for messages that resonate with me that I want to share with others of practical day to day wisdom from our Torah.  Often, this message has been connected to how everything that happens to us is for our good and for our growth, even when it doesn’t seem that way at all – sometimes I wonder if I’m being too redundant about sharing thoughts on this! And when you think about something so much, and then share about it with others, it makes an impression on you.

Overall my feeling is one of being very fortunate and blessed!  This baby is our tenth child and our seventh son.  Both the numbers ten and seven have the spiritual qualities of completion in Judaism, and I feel certain that this baby is bringing some kind of spiritual completion to our family.

Avivah

Genetic test results…

This morning dh and I traveled to Nahariya to meet with a genetic specialist to get results of testing that was done when the baby was in the hospital.  After 2.5 weeks, we finally have some definite answers!

When our baby was about three hours old, a doctor told dh that he had some features that are common to babies with Trisomy 21 ( also known as Down syndrome), but, she added, sometimes within a few hours these features change.  When dh told me that, I paused for about half a minute to think about that, and then said, “That doesn’t make any sense.  How can features change, and what features is she talking about?”

Dh didn’t know, and when I saw the doctor for the first time an hour or so later, after she finished telling us about all the medical issues the baby was facing I asked her what features she was commenting on.  After she told me, I said, “You’re pretty sure it’s Down syndrome, aren’t you?”  “Yes”,  she nodded, as she looked back at me worriedly.  Okay, I thought to myself, so that’s it.

I took the baby for a nursing session and told dh what she said.  We both felt that Hashem (G-d) was giving us a vote of confidence, as if to say, “You’ve dealt with all the challenges I’ve sent you so well that now I know you can be trusted to raise this special gift.”   It’s hard for me to describe this without sounding woo-woo, but I had a sense of Hashem shining a loving light all over dh and me and our baby.

The next morning, a nurse came in to ask me how I was doing and talk to me; she was sent because they want to be emotionally supportive of parents who are getting news like this.  It turns out she was an English speaker and I enjoyed chatting with her.  She told me what an amazing attitude I have, and that she’s not worried about me emotionally – she even told me that I’m going to add a lot to the support community for DS here in Israel!  (I thought that was highly optimistic of her being that after the first night in the hospital I was seriously sleep deprived.)

After her a social worker came in to talk to me, and within just a minute or two of meeting me said, “I don’t know why, but I have a sense that you’ve already accepted this and feel peace about the situation.”  And I told her she was right, and then shared with her my thoughts that our newest baby was purely a blessing and nothing else.  Our baby is our baby and he is precious to us no matter what; hearing about the likelihood of Down syndrome didn’t change our feelings toward him at all (except to make us feel even more loving and protective of him).

Later on I would speak with doctors, mostly neonatologoists – though at one meeting I met with the head neonatologist, the pediatric hematologist, and the geneticist all at once.  (Having these medical conversations in Hebrew was definitely a linguistic stretch!)  Each of them told me all the specifics about the baby’s situation that they were each responsible for; the geneticist was last.  And she said to me, “I don’t know how – is it faith? – but you seem very accepting about this.”  But we still didn’t have a firm diagnosis, and until the testing was done, we didn’t discuss the possibility of T21 with any but a very few close friends.

Unfortunately, the first testing results failed and had to be done from the beginning, which meant that we didn’t get a diagnosis until today.  Waiting was really the hardest thing about this situation, since our inclination was to be open with whoever we spoke to about the baby and we couldn’t do that.

Dh and I left the house at 5:40 am to make our bus connections to get to our 8 am appointment at the genetic institute – they won’t give results over the phone – and it was oddly anticlimactic once we got there.  Basically the geneticist said, “Just as you already thought, it’s Down syndrome.”  Then she showed us a picture of the typical chromosome arrangement, then a chart that showed the T21 chromosome arrangement, then asked if we had any questions.  (I thought to myself, “This is what I woke up at 4 am for???)  When scheduling appointments they leave time for counseling the parents but we really didn’t need any help in coming to terms with this, so that’s why our appointment was so brief!

We had to see the pediatric hematologist while there, as well as the social worker, and dh commented when we finally left the hospital that it seemed as if all the staff we encountered was expecting to catch us emotionally as we fell apart -they all had furrowed brows and concerned looks as they asked us what we had heard from genetics that morning, and then asked us how we were doing when we told them the results showed T21.  (I told him that’s how it was the entire time I was at the hospital -he wasn’t there after the first night.)

I’m really glad to have the official diagnosis and no longer have ambiguity about what we’re dealing with.  Not only that, today we got the go ahead from the hematologist for the bris, which will take place on Sunday afternoon.  We feel so blessed with all the good that is overflowing in our lives!

Avivah

Thoughts on our NICU experience

I mentioned in a post last week that we were fortunate to end up at the hospital that had a good NICU, but I didn’t say that it is not only good, but actually the best neonatal unit in northern Israel.  Our experience at this hospital – Western Galilee Nahariya Hospital – has been very positive, and I want to share about some things that we appreciated.

Firstly, the staff in the NICU is warm and supportive as was the staff in the high risk maternity ward, where I stayed for four days after the birth).  The NICU has a high ratio of nurses to babies (I don’t know if it’s always like this, but our nurse was responsible for just two babies and when he was in isolation he had his own nurse), and it felt like someone was always watching our baby and making sure things were okay.

The neonatal doctors were very professional, and I was impressed at how available they were.  Literally any time I went over to any doctor to find out what the latest with our baby was, they were right away available to speak to me.  Not only that, they always knew the details of what was happening with the baby without having to even check the records.  There were specialists who also checked the baby, and they also made time to sit down with me to detail everything and be sure I understood what was going on and had a chance to ask questions.

The nurses were extremely encouraging and supportive of breastfeeding.  They encourage all mothers to pump milk for their babies from the very beginning, and have a room with two hospital grade pumps, seating, a water cooler, and a privacy screen for when two women are in the room at once.  They show each mother how to use the pumps, where the equipment is, etc.  If you don’t have enough milk, they will supplement with formula but prefer not to have to do this.

Logistically I wasn’t able to pump enough for my baby’s needs for part of the time he was in the NICU (got behind when I was away for Shabbos) so he did need to be supplemented.  The nurses regularly reminded me to be sure I left him enough milk so they wouldn’t have to give him formula.  One nurse told me, “Mother’s milk is the best and most precious thing!”  This seems to be the feeling all the nurses shared.

When I was gone for Shabbos, I left several containers of frozen milk there for the baby, and though they prefer that parents prepare the exact amount necessary for each feeding, they understood that I wouldn’t know how much to prepare in advance (since every day the amount the baby was given was upped, usually twice a day), and were willing to defrost it and take care of it themselves rather than give him formula.  When I was finally able to nurse my baby, the nurses offered breastfeeding advice and made sure that I knew what I was doing (though the social worker and nurse joked together that I could probably give the staff lessons!).

The day after I left, I had to call the NICU about something, and the person who answered the phone immediately knew who I was.  There are so many nurses and staff on hand at all times, that this was impressive to me – they all know what’s going on with the babies, and which parents belong to which babies.

I’m really glad to be home but the NICU at Nahariya Hospital was a very positive experience for us.

Avivah

Taking steps to avoid postpartum depression

I don’t want to be presumptuous nor hurtful, so please ignore me if I’m out of place, but…

You did undergo a majorly negative emotional experience and also don’t have as much time to bond with your baby as usual, and I’m concerned about the potential of PPD creeping in. I am positive you know the best ways to abet it and I’m not here to tell you that, but with all that is going on, please watch out for yourself too…not just the health of your baby.

Firstly, I appreciate the concern!

I’m in no way an expert about postpartum depression – far from it.  But I’ll share my thoughts about this here, because it is something I’ve thought about for the last few weeks.  Why for the past weeks?  Because I’ve had a lot on my plate recently and I think these things can dribble over beyond the birth experience in how they affect you if you aren’t consciously dealing with them.

As mothers we can’t just take care of everyone else.  At a certain point we’ll just collapse physically and/or emotionally if we can’t find space for ourselves.  This is something I was very consciously trying to attend to, to find space for me to take care of myself.  I was talking with a friend who shared with me her thoughts about how crucial fun is, especially for people like us who are so responsible that we consider checking off everything on our ‘to do’ list to be the  most fun thing about our day!  :)

Yesterday she sent me an email in which she followed up with our recent talk, and shared her criteria for fun: 1) it feeds your soul; b) it empowers you; and c) there isn’t a goal.  What’s fun for you might not be fun for someone else.   My husband plays tennis, guitar and draws – all of which are renewing for him but not one of those things would be fun for me.  If I sit in front of a waterfall by myself for an hour, that’s my ‘fun’ – not what you might think of when thinking of fun as it’s typically defined, but it definitely meets the three criteria.

For me, it’s ‘fun’ to have time to myself.  That’s why my hospital vacation was so valuable for me at this time.  These last few days have been invaluable in processing the birth and finding a lot of inner peace.  It’s been very renewing to have time to myself and that’s why I haven’t answered the phone hardly at all and have told anyone who wanted to visit that I really would rather be left to myself for now.  It’s been great!  Even my husband wasn’t here after the first night, until he came to pick me up yesterday (before we knew I’d be allowed to stay another day).

People sometimes tell me how positive I am, so this next point is one that I also try to be conscious of.  I think a person has to be very careful about being positive versus putting on a happy face for the world and being miserable inside.  You really have to be honest with yourself about who you are and what your limitations are.  There’s a lightness inside when you’re feeling positive.  When you’re putting on a happy face, it’s more like you’re weighted down by smiling because you know that you’re fooling everyone else but really inside you’re miserable.  I don’t feel I have to tell everyone around me how miserable I am but it’s not a value for me to pretend to be what I’m not.

Physically, I’ve been loading up on B vitamins because that’s an important preventive aspect for PPD – I’ve been taking two heaping tablespoons of brewers yeast in my milk every morning leading up to the birth (don’t have it here in the hospital), in addition to herbs, rescue remedy (for the trauma), and other vitamins.

As far as bonding with the baby, it’s been amazing being at the hospital with just him, and getting to sit and be with him for hours without interruption. There’s no pressure or expectation of how much I have to be with him or how I should interact with him – it’s my experience to have in the way that’s meaningful to me.   I can stand over his crib and talk or sing to him, or massage him, or give him a kiss – or none of those – and it’s all okay.  If I just sit next to him without touching him or talking to him, it’s okay. If I rest my head on the side of his crib and fall asleep holding his hand, it’s okay.  It’s been another renewing and relaxing aspect of being at the hospital – I’m here as his mother because I want to be, not because he’s screaming to be held or changed or fed and I have to do it.  I don’t have to do any of it; all of those things can be done by the NICU staff.  But they can’t be his mother and love him like I do.

Last night I was with him when the nurse suddenly said to me, “Your baby loves you, do you know that?”  I looked up and asked her why she said that.  She pointed to the monitor and she said, “Look at how his breathing gets better when you’re here.”  I didn’t know what numbers on the monitor corresponded to what, so she showed me how his oxygenation level went all the way up to the maximum when I was with him.  So it looks like we’re bonding  pretty well even if I’m not nursing him.  :)

I’ve been thinking about how to manage the transition back to home.  After being gone for four days – and I’m hardly ever gone more than a few hours – I’m anticipating a lot of emotional intensity on the part of the littles, and just because the older kids are older doesn’t mean they don’t have some emotion to me not being around.  I’ve made the effort to physically rest earlier in the day so I’ll have energy to actively be with them, and also thought about some special ways I can be with them each one on one.

This birth experience definitely had some strongly negative aspects to it, but I haven’t denied my feelings to myself about it, or suppressed it or not felt the sadness of the difference between what I wanted and what I got.  I’ve been resolving it inside myself.  And you know what?  Sometimes you get powerful help in putting things in perspective.  Yesterday the baby in the incubator right next to my baby died – he was born the day before my baby.  The day before another baby died just an hour after she was born.  I feel like a very lucky woman to have my gorgeous baby boy.  And that’s not just putting on a happy face.

Avivah

Moving from shellshocked to grateful

Shellshocked – that’s how I was feeling after this birth.  I felt disconnected from almost every part of the process.  Here’s what I wrote to process some of my feelings while waiting to see our baby:

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I feel powerless at how so many people were suddenly involved in our private moment and there was no time to savor the birth. I didn’t have any time to process any part of the birth or to have quiet moments to share with my husband or our children.

I feel upset to have been treated like I was controlling when I wanted to at least have some say in things that were important to me after the birth, not even to be able to go to the bathroom or shower without someone trying to walk in.

I feel frustrated to get to the hospital and not feel even minimally equipped with what I would have felt was important to have on hand.

I feel cheated of a certain kind of experience, of serenity or at least privacy.

I feel so upset that my baby almost stopped belonging to me after I got to the hospital; it feels so wrong to be apart from him for such a long time and to hardly be able to catch more than a glance of him from the time he was born until now.

I really want to go home and be in my own bed, to be with people who I love around me.

I want to cry for all that I missed in this birth, and I feel guilty for feeling so sad and empty when I should be so happy. It’s just all so different than what I wanted.

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At about 11 pm, the nurse from the nursery asked me to come and try to nurse the baby again since he had woken up.  (I had to give him back to be put on a warmer after the first time I tried to nurse him.)  After I finished holding him (since he was too sleepy to nurse), we were asked to come to the nursery to speak to the doctor.

This was the point when I was able to change from sad/mad to glad.  I had made a list of things I was grateful for before this but I didn’t make the internal shift until this conversation.  This was the first time a staff member told me what was happening, and it changed my entire view of the situation.

The baby had been having trouble breathing since he arrived, and had to repeatedly be stabilized.  In addition to this, his heartrate was fluctuating significantly and had to be monitored.  He wasn’t maintaining his body temperature.  The blood test showed an extremely high white blood cell count.  He was jaundiced and was too weak to physically nurse.  And the doctor told us at this point that they wanted to move him to the newborn intensive care unit immediately.

It was when I looked in the eyes of the doctor that I saw how compassionate she was, that she had been trying not to overwhelm us by telling us all these things at once.  This is why they kept pushing off letting me hold the baby, and why they insisted I had to stay close by the nursery when I held him.

And when I understood this, I suddenly was able to see why everything had to go the way it did so that our baby would be in a place where he could be best taken care of.  If I had had a good experience at the first hospital, he would have been born there, but the hospital here has a much better NICU.  If he had pinked up even a couple minutes sooner, we wouldn’t have called the ambulance and wouldn’t have been transported immediately, and we wouldn’t have noticed signs of these issues as they arose the way a professional staff did.  So all of that chaos and seeming unpleasantness of the birth was really there for our good – which intellectually I always know is the case, but it’s so amazing when you have the opportunity to see it clearly.

And now I feel the entire birth was really the way it was meant to be; though that doesn’t erase the unpleasantness, it makes it much easier to accept.

The baby is currently in the NICU, and my plans to leave as soon as possible have changed to hoping to stay here as long as possible so I can be with him.  Right now no one knows how long he’ll need to be here; it depends on his response.  Today I was able to pump my milk and that’s what he’s getting now through a tube, which I’m happy about (have to go prepare more feedings after I post this – I put it in labeled syringes of the current amount he’s supposed to eat per feeding).  I spent a long time today just sitting next to him and keeping my hand on him and talking to him so he knows I’m there.

They’re running a lot of tests on him to see what is wrong, and for now the tests are coming back looking good.  They thought he might have severe heart problems and I was mentally imagining complicated surgeries, but now it looks like his heart is just enlarged.  His breathing is getting better, and he’s under the   phototherapy lights to address the jaundice.  We have to wait out the white blood cell situation (which has already shown improvement), and wait for confirmation on a couple more tests.

He looks a little like he’s in a spaceship, with so many wires coming out of him and these cute little sunglasses looking band over his eyes to protect them from the bright lights!  He’s as cute as can be, and we’re looking forward to being able to bring him home soon.

If you’re able to say a prayer for him, I would very much appreciate it.  He hasn’t yet been named so for now, you can pray for Rach hanolad (the newborn baby) ben (son of) Avivah Michaela.  Thank you!

Avivah