Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
The best laid schemes of mice and men – and apparently, women – go often askew. Or in our case, entirely askew. Sure, I had a birth plan. In today’s developed world, this is quite common. An outline, detailed or not, of how you’d like to see your birth experience play out. My birth plan was to have a natural, unmedicated birth. The goal was to use Hypnobirthing techniques (meditation and breathing) to remain calm—the basis of Hypnobirthing being Grantly Dick-Read’s book Childbirth without Fear, which advocates the idea that fear of birth leads to tension and this tension leads to pain.
As it turns out, either I was full of unrecognized fear that led to pain, or quite simply, childbirth is painful. The truth is, I was under no illusion that it would be easy or entirely pain-free, but I was hoping that my months of preparation emotionally and physically (prenatal yoga) would help me come through the process with a beautiful baby girl and somewhat (at least a little bit?!?) unscathed myself.
Life, or nature, it seems, had other plans for me. As I look back at my birth plan now, I think EVERY SINGLE ASPECT OF IT went ENTIRELY the opposite. Truly, without exception, everything I had envisioned did not turn out how I had thought I wanted it to. Well, the baby still arrived, but that was sort of an assumed part of the plan that I didn’t include in the written version.
And so, now, a short and hopefully not-too-graphic version of the day of Ella’s arrival into our world and lives:
Wednesday, 3am: Contractions start. They’re slightly uncomfortable and coming around every 10-15 minutes. I breathe through them just fine and let Nadav sleep a bit.
By 8 am they are coming more frequently, but I stop timing them due to the tediousness of timing 50 second contractions every 10 minutes.
As the day goes by, the contractions eventually get stronger, slightly longer and more frequent. Around 2:30pm, we decide to head to the hospital, a mere five-minute drive away, and call our doula to meet us there.
While in the women’s ER, with a fetal monitor strapped to my ginormous belly, contractions are getting stronger but it turns out I’m just under 3cm dilated, so they send me outside to walk around a bit, in the hopes that I’ll progress soon and be sent up to a delivery room. About 10 seconds later, my water breaks and I go back in to be checked again. They tell me that I’ll now be sent up to the delivery room—which I’m looking forward to, since there I can take a hot shower and hopefully get some relief from the increasing pain. Now is an important time to mention that the hospital we’re in—Ichilov in Tel Aviv—is a VERY busy hospital for births and has 15 delivery rooms, twice the amount of most other hospitals in Israel. Due to this, TONS of women go there. So, I only get into the delivery room around 4:30pm, thus enduring my contractions in the hallway, hanging on Nadav and moaning for the world to see.
Upon arrival in the delivery room, we tried a variety of methods to cope – hot shower, music, breathing, movement—in short, all the “typical” natural childbirth methods of dealing with pain. Around 4 hours later, and seeing I’d only progressed to 4cm dilated, I finally broke down and asked for an epidural. Unfortunately, for me and for another 12 or so women, the anesthesiologist was called away to anesthetize a woman having an emergency C-section. Which means, we waited and waited and waited and waited—and I moaned and groaned and contemplated just jumping out the window and ending it all—when finally around 2 hours later, I got the epidural—in the middle of a contraction (try holding completely still during THAT!). It helped. I could still feel the contractions, but it was like going back to earlier in the day concerning the intensity of them. I could breathe through them again and thought maybe, just maybe, I’ll survive this after all.
With my entire lower body now relaxed due to the drugs in the epidural, within an hour-and-a-half, I dilated to 10 cm and we were on course for pushing little (or big!) Ella out. It took 2 hours and 15 minutes and I can honestly say it was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt. One thought that crossed my mind was, “How, if this little girl is supposedly coming out of me soon, can I still feel her feet in my ribs?” Another was, “Isn’t the epidural supposed to be helping this pain?!?”
Nadav and my doula, Michal, were amazing – helping me get through the whole process in one piece. Also, our supporters who held down the fort outside and popped in to give words of encouragement—my mom, and Nadav’s parents—were great. Afterwards, they told me that my mom, Linda, and Mina, Nadav’s mother, were standing at the door, pushing with me every time! At one point the midwife asked me if I wanted to touch her head. I must have looked at her with a strange expression (which meant, please no!), because she asked me again, in English the second time, and I said to her and Nadav, “No, that’s ok, I’m getting the full experience from this vantage point!” (Well, maybe it wasn’t quite so eloquent, but those were my thoughts)
As she FINALLY came out—after some Pitocin to help make my contractions more consistent and an episiotomy (dear G-d, this was TRULY my worst fear and I somehow survived it)—it’s like everything faded into the background as they placed her on my chest and her purple body, also exhausted from our efforts, wriggled up close to me. I exclaimed something like, “Oh my G-d, she’s amazing” and all the anguish I’d felt just seconds before was covered by a cloud of euphoria. The little girl that we’d been waiting for and dreaming about was finally here.
Everyone outside—the grandparents—cried. I don’t think Nadav or I did, but if I have to give an answer why, I think it has to do with the fact that they’ve raised children and they know, more than we can at this point, just how much of a miracle a child is, all the joy that she’ll bring to our lives.
In the week since Ella’s birth, I’ve experienced a range of emotions – marveling at her adorable facial expressions, which bring me a sense of calm and satisfaction, as well as letting myself breakdown at the thought of another painful breastfeed at 3am (thank G-d, we’re finally improving our technique).
Sometimes, I just look at her and wonder how this little 9lb body rode around in my body and in the end came out of me. Welcome Ella Miriam Rotem, to the world. We love you and wish you a lifetime of happiness and wonderful experiences.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
In the meantime, I’m making preparations – largely in the form of lists – since my pregnancy-fogged brain is as sharp as a tack – shoved into a piece of gum. It’s like the gears just don’t work anymore. (Ask me sometime about how fun it was writing a PhD proposal with this level of clarity) There’s a list of things to put into my bag for the hospital. I’ve started packing it, but nobody seems to mention to you, “Oh, yeah, you’re gonna need all those things in the lead-up to the main event, so it’s not so convenient to have them all packed away.” More than once this week, I’ve rifled through the bag looking for essentials (slippers, pajama pants that actually still fit over my butt, etc.). I’ve got another list going of things that we need to do before the baby comes, including such thrilling tasks as:
1. Clean trunk (no, SHE won’t ride there, but some of her aforementioned paraphernalia will probably need to)
2. Check that car seat fits in back seat (positive, but apparently it doesn’t recline enough for newborn necks – what happened to the days of just strapping babies in a papoose and hoping for the best?)
3. Clean closets (since the dresser/changing table we ordered may arrive AFTER our little bundle of joy and she apparently, in utero, already owns more crap than Nadav and me put together)
4. Clean kitchen cabinets, inside and out (yes, I know, completely unrelated to a baby, but nesting is apparently expressed in a variety of random ways)
Sunday, August 01, 2010
It just hit me – I’m halfway there. More appropriately, the darling little fetus growing inside of me (yes, I’m going to assume she’s darling already, I mean, just look at her mother) is halfway to the point of being a full-grown baby, who will hopefully enter our lives in a more visible – and of course, noisy – manner come December. I’ve known all week that I’m 20 weeks along in my pregnancy. But yesterday when I read that she’s around 10 inches long from head to foot, and without a ruler in the house (especially one with the English measurement system) to be found, I started trying to imagine about how long 10 inches is. This morning, as I started working on my computer, I realized that the screen is 11.6 inches. Ok, so assuming 10 inches is an estimate, and assuming that she’s actually a bit longer since she’s got Nadav’s genes in her, she’s the size of my laptop screen! Now THAT is something substantial.
Sure, I felt connected to her since I found out I was pregnant, but the amazing thing about pregnancy, at least my experience has been, that each milestone brings with it another level of realization about the crazy endeavor you taking part in. The first, truly glorious (not to mention relieving) time we saw her little heart beating on the screen at the ultrasound around 9 weeks. The next time we saw it – and heard a computerized version of it – at our 13 week ultrasound. And, of course, this past week, as I’ve begun to feel her squirming (or I’d like to think dancing) around in my belly.
My new comprehension about her size is apparently just one more step on this journey towards bringing a new life into the world. It’s funny that I’m likening her to my laptop. Just last night, I commented that Nadav’s grandmother is knitting up such a storm that there must be pink yarn fuzz flying out her windows – a friend on Facebook then asked me if she could knit him a laptop cover, and I said, “No, she’s too busy making baby clothes.” I guess babies and laptops have more similarities than I realized.
For those interested, I’ve now posted (below) some of my (mainly bodily function-related) insights from earlier in the pregnancy – written back when the info was still “classified”. But as with every conspiracy – there comes a time when the truth comes out: in this case, due to photographic evidence received by the court, in the form of documented growth of aforementioned belly.
My Streak is Broken
I'm reminded of "The Dinner Party," that Seinfeld episode where Jerry eats a black and white cookie and it makes him throw up, ending his 14 year (or something like that) non-vomit streak. I'm not sure the last time I vomited, but let's just say that whatever streak I had, it's gone after this morning's events.
In any case, grilled cheese is certainly not on my list of things to eat in the near future (I know, weird that I had grilled cheese for breakfast, but's like the only thing I could think of eating, and apparently, even IT was the wrong one).
Now, I'm working from home (which I'd planned to do anyway) and nursing myself back to a normal (whatever that means during pregnancy) feeling stomach situation with chocolate biscuits and sips of water.
Eventually, I'll have to shake myself out of this stupor and eat something normal, but I don't wannnnaaaaa . . .
May 5, 2010
To puke or not to puke . . .
So, no, not that I'm trying to equate myself with the Bard himself, but I gotta say, yesterday it was a real dilemma. I felt soooo horrible, and was a second away from throwing up for about 5 hours straight, not to mention wonderful heartburn, something I've only experienced during pregnancy. Anyways, nature played its course, deciding for me that vomiting was the way to go, somewhere around 5 pm, and I felt much better (everything is relative, remember) afterwards.
Anyways, today I am giving a presentation in my thesis advisor's seminar class, around 2:30, and I'm REALLY hoping that my stomach cooperates. I've decided that if I even feel like I have to vomit beforehand, I'm just gonna do it (oh, how I hate it, I will usually do ANYTHING to avoid it). It's not worth the risk of being in the middle of presenting my research and suddenly having to excuse myself. "And previous researchers have found that. . . " (wretching sound) Yeah, not worth the risk.
May 20, 2010
I feel like a failure (or "Does projectile vomiting warrant a sick day from work?")
I feel like a failure. I should, I guess. I failed not one but two tests today. I should have known when I woke up this morning that I was not going to do well. Last night and this morning, the omens were there: grumbling tummy in the middle of the night since I hadn't eaten enough before going to sleep, and in the morning, I barely peed. Just to catch you up to speed, I was on my way to blood and urine tests this morning at the local clinic - about a 10 minute walk away - and I had to fast the night before. I got there, didn't have to wait very long and went into the nurse's room. Blood pressure: Check. Weight: Check. Height: Check (well, kind of, I am apparently 2 cm shorter than I've been telling everyone). Blood test: Check. She stuck me, got a good vein the first time around and I didn't even feel woozy at the sight of the needle poking out of my arm.
Now, the big show: urine test. Well, I was a bit worried since I felt dehydrated yesterday - and I'd only had half a bottle of water during my 10-minute walk to the clinic that morning - that I wasn't going to get an A plus on this test. But I did not expect such a poor turnout by my kidneys. I mean, I'm a pregnant woman, for G-d's sake. Isn't that what we do? Pee? All the time? Apparently not. This morning it was not happening and I squeezed out about enough liquid to wet a postage stamp. The nurse shook her head at me dolefully and gave me another cup to try again at home another morning.
I thought to myself: Ok, I do NOT want to fast again. And I am SURE I can pee. I mean, this is not rocket science. So, I went downstairs, filled up my trusty water bottle, and went outside to sit on a bench, binge-drink, and encourage my kidneys to start filtering away. This, it seems, was NOT the best idea. The best idea would have been for me to eat the banana in my bag, walk home slowly, and try again another day. It seems that cold water, drunk like a woman exiting the Sahara doesn't really agree with a 10-week along fetus, who at this hour of the morning would like to still be in a cozy, warm bed (preferably being fed dry Cheerios).
I drank one bottle and still didn't have to pee. So, I decided to start bottle number 2. If anyone ever asks you the question, how much water can a 10-week pregnant woman's stomach hold before exploding like the Icelandic volcano, the answer is: 1.5 bottles (or to be exact 749 ml). Milliliter 750 put me over the edge, and put my head in the bushes. "Luckily" for me, I was next to a hedge, which doesn't really allow for easy maneuver - let's just say, more discreet vomiting than this has certainly been accomplished by others. The water exited my body with the gusto of a fire hose and I managed - through a combination of leaning over INTO the hedge - to get it on my entire face, jeans, and open-toed sandals. Lovely. I did have a beautiful scarf with me (thanks Mom) that allowed me at least to wipe my face and glasses.
I wasn't sure how much I'd really thrown up, but I figured at least SOME of the water I'd drunk must still be in my stomach. So, a few minutes later, I climbed the clinic stairs once again, for round number 2 (I'm a glutton for punishment). My showing was a bit more respectable this time around, but certainly not enough, and I decided to call it a day - at least in this realm - at the early hour of 8:15. There's always next week.
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Anyways, this tree provided me with an idea of what the weather was outside: “If the tree is blowing in the wind, it’s windy, if it’s wet, it’s raining.”
Now, from my blue chair, currently located much more in the middle of things –in our new apartment on a main street in Tel Aviv – I don’t really need a tree to tell me what’s happening. I simply open the giant window in my living room, feel the weather, hear the traffic (and of course, a few birds determined to tweet their messages to one another despite the honking cars), and know what’s going on. After all, now we’re “above the ground people,” no snobbery intended.
From here, I can see a tree (two even!) the way I think they were supposed to be seen – not by humans of course, but by our flight-blessed friends, the birds. I left a small rug out to dry on the railing guarding our picture window and yesterday a bird decided it was a much nicer landing pad than the bare railing. I’m thinking about just leaving it there – just in case he visits again.
Of course, as one can imagine, Tel Aviv is not all about nature. We can also see from our window 3 tall skyscrapers, which at night are lit up. This is Nadav’s favorite view. Me, though, I think I’ll stick with the birds.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
I’m sitting here in the blue LazyBoy, wrapped up in a blanket, with a warm (slowly cooling) cup of coffee next to me. It’s early—7:40 am. Too early to be up on a Friday morning. All I can think of is that my body is programmed to wake up early on Christmas. What? No presents under the tree. What? No tree, even?? Well, no, but I’m ok with that. I mean, I AM Jewish, and it IS Israel. But I still would have liked to sleep in; that would have been a nice present.
It’s been a rough two weeks. In fact, as we lay in bed last night, and snuggled under the warm covers, Nadav labeled it “The worst two weeks of my life.” I’m not sure. Granting it a title such as that will require me to think a bit harder and longer. But I can say, it was a damn hard two weeks.
I feel that up until now, I’ve been in this whirlwind of activity and only now, as the week draws to a close am I able to sit down, drink something warm, breathe and decompress a bit.
It began last week, when we “lost a friend.” I realized the irony, or just ridiculousness, of euphemisms, when I said that to a friend, whose native language is not English: “We lost a friend this week,” I told her. “What do you mean?” she asked me, forcing me to be more specific. “A friend ours,” I continued, deciding in my mind how to phrase it, “A friend of ours committed suicide.” But in my head, I still think of us as “losing him.” It’s no coincidence that in Hebrew “to commit suicide” and “to lose” or “lost” are from the same root. I only realized the connection—and depth—of this fact this week. We truly lost him. To his own depression, to his internal suffering, to his fear, to something. I’ve figured out the only way I can really cope and move on is to pretend to myself that he was killed by some outside force. Accepting that someone could go against a human being’s most basic instinct—to survive—is too much for a normative person to fathom. But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps our most basic instinct is to preserve ourselves—not only in the physical manner—and his choice (the way I see it, forced upon him by something I cannot understand) allowed him to reach that goal.
Though I knew it would take some time to deal with this loss, I thought at least we’d be able to see it in the perspective of our lives—overall, a positive, loving, supportive environment that Nadav and I have created together for our mutual benefit.
The fact that we were still able, despite the shock and the pain and the sometimes turbulent emotions we had expressed only moments before, to lay down together at night and hug one another and even laugh impressed upon me that I am truly the luckiest person in the world.
However, as it tends to do, life surprised us yet again. The following week, we arrived at the women’s health center to have an ultrasound. Yes, the young couple (“ha-zug ha-tari”) is expecting a baby. Though I had planned to go in myself, for some reason I asked Nadav to come with me. I even said to him, “When we hear the heartbeat, I’ll want you there. And G-d forbid, we don’t, I’ll need you there.” Unfortunately, it turned out to be the latter. I was 9 weeks, 1 day pregnant. The fetus had stopped developing at 8 weeks and 3 days and there was no heartbeat. We were crushed. Yet, when I realize what the alternatives are: finding out, by accident, that I’d miscarried, or worse, losing the developing baby later in pregnancy, I am grateful that it happened this way.
“In times like these, it is always good to remember, there have always been times like these.” I didn’t think this at the time, but now it pops up in my head, and I think that thoughts like this—understanding that so many women experience this—helped me cope. The statistics vary, but I’ve found online that between 15-25% pregnancies end in miscarriage. Why do we not know this? Well, if you have a miscarriage you will. Because when women find out, they begin to open up and share their stories.
I decided that this “silence,” on such a (common) physically and emotionally traumatic occurrence, is the reason I wanted to share my experience. I’m not sure of exactly all the emotions that I’m experiencing right now, but when I think about it, the emotions I have possibly experienced, and those that have been shared with me since I have spoken with others in the past week include:
• Bewilderment – But why did it happen? What did I do/not do? What could I have done differently?
This bewilderment, of course, is accompanied by:
• Feelings of guilt – Imagining, even though you’ll never know the reason, that you may have pinpointed what happened and then blaming yourself for it.
Not to mention:
• Fear for the future – Which I have luckily managed to avoid feeling, since I have been blessed to hear the stories of other mothers with miscarriage/s in their past.
For the purpose of illustration, in my case, the week our friend died, a week before we found out about the miscarriage, I experienced severe lower back pain (before we found about our friend). Since I wanted to avoid taking medicine during this early stage of pregnancy, I tried using a bit of heat (not too much) and a bit of massage. Additionally, I visited a reflexologist. Here, already, in the span of two sentences, I have three possible “culprits” for the miscarriage:
1. Maybe I used too much heat, something that is known to be bad for the developing fetus?
2. Maybe we massaged the wrong part of the back, inducing a miscarriage?
3. Maybe the reflexologist—despite being trained to treat pregnant women—did something wrong?
Or, more likely, maybe the back pain—which since going through the miscarriage has disappeared—was an indication of problems with the pregnancy and rather than serving as a cause of the miscarriage was a sign of it.
Here, I will mention, that when discovering that a pregnancy has ended, and the miscarriage has not yet fully happened, there are several options (from what I know):
1. Waiting for the miscarriage to naturally occur
2. D & C – a surgery to remove the fetus, placenta, etc.
3. Medication to induce the cleansing of the womb
The specialist I was referred to suggested option 3, which taking my traumatic appendectomy experience into account, seemed a good option to avoid surgery and not have the miscarriage take me by surprise.
What is interesting is that you’ll find plenty of articles, especially on pregnancy websites, about “dealing with the loss,” coping with the emotional side of the miscarriage. This should, of course, be applauded—that there is an awareness of the gut-wrenching, soul-searching experience miscarriage constitutes for expecting women and their families. Yet there is strikingly less (publicly available) literature about the physical experience of miscarriage.
It is not overly shocking, when we think about the taboo placed upon menstruating women and the “impurities” traditionally associated with “womanly processes.” Most of what you’ll find are descriptions of a “heavy periods.” My dear readers, I do not wish to shock or offend your senses, but I will tell you that some women—including myself—experience much more than a heavy period. There is very strong pain—“cramping” does not do it justice, it is more similar to contractions.
In my case, I experienced two heavy rounds of this—one about 8 hours after taking the medication to induce the miscarriage and another 4 days after. I had already begun feeling a bit better, and I was (thank G-d) on my way to the doctor, when I began to feel severe cramps. I arrived in tears and doubled over in pain, and thanks to quick and competent care by my doctor and several compassionate nurses, I passed what I hope is the last chapter in this story.
Yet here it is only right for me to mention why my I granted my post a double title: The worst two weeks, or My renewed faith in humanity. Despite the rollercoaster of emotions we’ve felt in the past two weeks, despite the loss and the pain, both emotional and physical, despite the fear and the desire to never again experience either of the two experiences we’ve dealt with, despite all of this—I have witnessed and been the recipient of true compassion, in both words and actions. I have seen the true suffering of people I thought were one-dimensional, showing me that everyone has “another side.” I have heard the stories of those who have experienced what I have and conquered their doubts and gone on to have happy, healthy children. I have been called “sweetie” by an entire medical staff and received the treatment a child receives from her mother—from people who just met me. In short, I can say now that when it happens—one day, when have our child—I will be happy to bring it into this world. There are people and experiences here that make life worth living.