The road we traveled to bring our son into the world was long and painful. There were several pregnancies during which fetal anomalies were discovered, and one that ended with the birth of our first son in the 26th week of pregnancy – a preemie born very small with birth defects who managed to survive for just over six months. During those nine years of failed pregnancies, endless tests, hope and despair, I tried to understand how all of this happened to us. The doctors didn’t know what to tell us, and the geneticist that joined my circle still hasn’t managed to connect all of the anomalies – including those with which I was born, rare defects that were fixed in the months following my own birth.
During my first pregnancy, when I was still innocent, inexperienced and not terribly knowledgeable, the detection of a grave defect was explained as bad luck that probably wouldn’t happen again. We painfully accepted this and continued to try. We were less naïve and more cautious, but still believed that everything was behind us. With the discovery of other defects in each of the subsequent pregnancies, my frustration increased. I chased after answers and explanations with no success, and in a moment of crisis, when it seemed that wherever I looked, women all around me managed to get pregnant and give birth to healthy children, I started to look at my situation from a different angle.
My geneticist tried to convince me that even though she hadn’t succeeded in understanding what caused of all the problems we were having, she could tell us that despite the fact that different defects had been found in all of my pregnancies (aside from the last one, of course, which resulted in the birth of our now 11-year-old son), that there was no medical explanation – we simply kept falling on the wrong side of the statistics in a very drastic way. In other words, it was all a matter of luck, and in our case, this luck had been horrible.
So how did we deal with such news, that even though I did everything I was told to do, that I was cautious and careful (and more than a little worried), something went wrong time after time? I turned into something of a genetic and medical expert as I tried to find even a small clue that would hopefully lead to more meaningful one, without much success. I became familiar with all the right websites and pressured my geneticist to find different tests and speak to as many experts as possible in our quest for answers (though there wasn’t a need for too much pressure – she was just as curious as I was).
Friends and acquaintances talked to me about plans and God, and tried to comfort me by saying that everything was in accordance with his plan – a plan that I didn’t necessarily need to know about. It was hard for me to accept this, even though there were moments when I began to think about my experiences and the chances of experiencing so many tragic coincidences. It’s hard for me to believe that there’s some sort of plan whereby I was supposed to suffer loss after loss, and each instance joined a seemingly endless succession of physical and emotional pain. It was inconceivable. I don’t believe in God, but even if I did, I couldn’t believe that he would actually choose me to go through so much anguish. And even more than this, I wasn’t ready to accept that God had plans for all of my unborn children, or for my prematurely born first son, who never spent even one night outside of hospitals, who knew only the suffering of operations and tests. Who would create such a nightmarish plan for such a tiny, fragile baby? Why the hell were we chosen for such plans? I absolutely refused to accept this option.
My anger was mixed with feelings of guilt and I wondered what I’d done in my lifetime (or in earlier lifetimes) to end up in this situation. I was sure that I must have done terrible things in a previous incarnation (even though I still haven’t decided whether or not I believe in reincarnation…), things that somehow justified what we’d been through. But there was no medical explanation, and it was hard for me to process the bad “luck” that hit us every time I’d managed to get pregnant.
I wasn’t ready to accept that this was my destiny. Why did we have to endure these tests, this suffering? There are those who say that God doesn’t give people more than they can handle, and this was something I heard more than once from individuals I met along my journey, apparently intended as words of comfort. But for me, however, it was no comfort at all. I didn’t want tests, and saw it as being a bit sickening, to be honest. It was as though God wanted to fling me into hell and see how I dealt with it – because he knew that I was capable of getting through it and not falling along the way. Why me? Why did I need to go through this again and again? And it’s not that I want to see others going through it instead of me. God forbid. I wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone.
Following four unsuccessful pregnancies and years of despair and frustration, we discovered that I was pregnant again. To say that it was a high-risk pregnancy would be an understatement. Under the guidance of my geneticist, I underwent every possible test. We ruled out all of the defects that had been found in the previous pregnancies and dealt with problems like gestational diabetes and others that I won’t bore you with here. I was made to stay home from the 16th week, and in week 39 (one week before my own birthday), I gave birth to a healthy little boy. As a final “test”, I almost died shortly after giving birth, but the amazing, talented doctors surrounding me saved my life – and it’s good that they did, since I don’t think I would have been able to successfully deal with such a definitive, final test.
And today, eleven years later, I look at my son and feel so incredibly blessed, as if I’ve won the lottery. I suppose it’s possible to say that our persistence brought us to these moments, and that if we hadn’t succeeded in handling everything that came before, we wouldn’t have gotten so lucky in the end. When I look back over our journey, I still can’t accept the explanations about divine plans or targeted “endurance” tests. What I can accept is that everything we’ve been through turned me into the person I am today. I know that I can cope with a lot of pain, and that I’m capable of pulling myself out of the darkness. Sometimes, I allow myself to believe in destiny; if there’s something I really want even though the chances are slim, I can convince myself and calm myself down with the thought that if something is supposed to happen, it will, and if not – it won’t.
And if we say that there are plans, tests and some sort of fate and karma, and the result of this is that we were granted the privilege of raising a boy who surprises and impresses (and sometimes also tests) me every day, a boy of whom I’m so proud, then I can try to accept it – if it’s my destiny to do so.by Liza Rosenberg
דרכינו להביא את הבן שלנו לעולם הייתה ארוכה וכואבת. היו כמה הריוניות שנתגלו בהם מומים, ואחד שהסתיים עם לידת הבן הראשון שלנו בשבוע 26, תינוק שנולד קטן מאוד עם מומים, שבכל זאת הצליח לחיות קצת יותר מחצי שנה. בתשעה שנים האלו של הריונות נכשלים, בדיקות אינסופיות, תקווה וייאוש, ניסיתי להבין מאיפה זה נחת עלינו. הרופאים לא ידעו להסביר לנו, והגנטיקאית שהצטרפה למעגל שלי לא מצליחה עד היום לחבר בין כל המומים השונים – כולל את אלה שאני נולדתי איתם, מומים נדירים שתוקנו בחודשים אחרי שנולדתי.
בהריון הראשון שלי, כשעוד הייתי תמימה וחסרת נסיון וידע, גילוי המום החמור הוסבר כמזל רע שסביר להניח לא יחזור על עצמו. קיבלנו את זה בכאב והמשכנו לנסות. היינו פחות נאיבים ויותר זהירים, אבל האמנו שהכל מאחורינו. עם התגלותם של המומים האחרים בהריונות הבאים, הוגבר רמת התסכול. רדפתי אחרי תשובות והסברים ולא מצאתי, וברגעי משבר, שהיה נדמה שכל כך הרבה נשים סביבי נכנסו להריון והצליחו ללדת ילדים בריאים, התחלתי לחשוב על מצבי מזווית אחרת.
הגנטקאית שלי ניסתה לשכנע אותי שאפילו שלא הצליחה להבין מה הגורם לכל הבעיות, מה שהיא כן ידעה להגיד לי הוא שלמרות שהתגלו מומים בכל הריונותי (חוץ מהאחרון, כמובן, שממנו הגיע אלינו את יוגב), לא הייתה לזה שום הסבר רפואי – פשוט נפלנו בצד הלא נכון של הסטטיסטיקה באופן חריג. כלומר, הכל עניין של מזל, ובמקרה שלנו, המזל הזה היה רע מאוד.
אז איך מתמודדים עם בשורות כאלה, שלמרות שביצעתי את כל מה שנאמר לי לעשות, שנזהרתי ושמרתי (ודאגתי לא מעט), משהו חדש התפקשש פעם אחר פעם? הפכתי לסוג של מומחית בגנטיקה ורפואה כשניסיתי למצוא אפילו רמז קטן שיוכל להוביל לרמז יותר משמעותי, אבל ללא הצלחה של ממש. הכרתי את כל האתרי אינטרנט הנכונים ולחצתי על הגנטיקאית שלי (אבל לא היה צורך ליותר מדי לחץ – המקרה שלי סקרן אותה לא פחות) למצוא בדיקות אחרות ולדבר עם כמה שיותר מומחים אחרים ברדיפה שלנו אחרי תשובות.
חברים ומכרים דיברו איתי על תוכניות ואלוהים, וניסו לנחם אותי בזה שהכל הולך לפי התוכנית שלו – תוכנית שלאו דווקא עלי לדעת מהי. היה לי קשה לקבל את זה, למרות שברגעים מסוימים, התחלתי לחשוב על החוויות שלי ואת הסיכויים של כל כך הרבה צירופי מקרים טרגיים. קשה לי להאמין שיש איזושהי תוכנית שלפיה אני אמורה לסבול אבדן אחרי אבדן, שכל מקרה מצטרף לשורה אינסופית של כאב פיזי ונפשי. זה פשוט נהיתה אפשרות בלתי נתפסת. אני לא מאמינה באלוהים, אבל אפילו אם כן הייתי מאמינה, לא יכולתי להאמין שהוא דווקא בחר בי לעבור את כל הכאב הזה. ואפילו יותר מזה, לא הייתי מוכנה לקבל את זה שלאלוהים היו תוכניות לכל הילדים שלי שלא הצליחו להיוולד, או לבן שלי שנולד כפג, ילד שלא יצא אפילו ללילה אחת מבתי החולים, שידע רק סבל של ניתוחים ובדיקות? מי היה מפיק תוכנית כזאת סיוטית עבור תינוק כל כך קטן ושביר? למה, לעזעזל, אנחנו נבחרנו לתוכניות האלה? סירבתי בתוקף לקבל את האופציה הזאת.
הכעס שלי התערבב עם רגשי אשמה ותהיתי מה עשיתי בחיים האלה (או בחיים קודמים) כדי להגיע למצב ההוא. הייתי בטוחה שעשיתי דברים נוראים בגלגול הקודם (למרות שאני עדיין לא החלטתי אם אני מאמינה בחיים קודמים…), דברים שאיכשהו הצדיקו את מה שעברנו. אבל לא נמצא הסבר רפואי, והיה לי קשה לעכל את ה”מזל” הרע שהיכה בנו כל פעם שהצלחתי להכנס להריון.
לא הייתי מוכנה לקבל כמובן מעליו שזה הגורל שלי. למה עלינו לעבור את כל המבחנים האלה, את כל הסבל? יש אנשים שאומרים שאלוהים לא ייתן לבן אדם להתמודד מעבר ליכולות שלו, ושמעתי את זה יותר מפעם אחת מאנשים שהכרתי לאורך המסע שלי, כנראה כסוג של נחמה. אבל אותי, זה בכלל לא ניחם. לא רציתי מבחנים, וראיתי את זה כדבר קצת חולני, למען האמת. כאילו שאלוהים רוצה לזרוק אותי למין גיהינום ולראות אותי מתמודד – כי הוא יודע שאני מסוגלת ושלא אפול בדרך. למה אותי? למה אני צריכה לעבור את זה שוב ושוב? וזה לא שאני רוצה לראות אנשים אחרים עוברים את זה במקומי. חס וחלילה. לא הייתי מאחלת את הגורל הזה על אף אחד.
אחרי ארבע הריונות ללא הצלחה ושנים של ייאוש ותסכול, גילינו שוב שאני בהריון. לומר שההריון היה בסיכון גבוה יהיה בלשון המעטה. תחת הניהול של הגנטיקאית שלי, עשיתי כל בדיקה אפשרית. שללנו את כל המומים שהתגלו בהריונות הקודמים והתמודדנו עם בעיות כמו סכרת הריון ואחרות שאחסוך לכם את תאורן, אז תצטרכו להסתפק ב”משהו לא כיף במיוחד”… הייתי בבית מהשבוע ה-16, ובשבוע 39 (שבוע לפני יום הולדתי), נולד לנו ילד קטן, בריא ושלם. כ”מבחן” האחרון, כמעט מתתי אם סיום התהליך, אבל הרופאים המקסימים ומוכשרים שהיו סביבי הצילו את חיי – וטוב שכך, כי לא נראה לי שהייתי מצליחה להתמודד עם מבחן כל כך סופי.
והיום, כעבור כמעט 11 שנים, אני מסתכלת על הבן שלי ומרגישה כל כך מבורכת, כאילו שזכיתי בלוטו. אני מניחה שאפשר להגיד שההתמדה שלנו הביא אותנו לרגעים האלה, ושאם לא היינו מצליחים לעמוד בכל מה שבא לפני כן, לא היינו זוכים כל כך בגדול. כשאני מתבוננת מאחורה בכל התהליך שעברנו, אני עדיין לא מקבלת את ההסברים על תוכניות אלוהיות או מבחני התמודדות ממוקדים. מה שאני כן מקבלת הוא שכל מה שעברנו הפך אותי למי שאני היום. הבנתי שאני יכולה להתמודד עם די הרבה כאב, ושאני מסוגלת להוציא את עצמי מהחושך. לפעמים, אני מרשה לעצמי להאמין בגורל, כלומר, אם יש משהו שאני מאוד רוצה למרות שהסיכויים לקבל אותו הם קלושים, אני אשכנע וארגיע את עצמי במחשבה שאם זה משהו שאמור לקרות, זה יקרה, ואם לא, אז לא.
ואם נגיד שבכל זאת יש תוכניות, מבחנים וסוג של גורל וקארמה, וכתוצאה מגורמים אלה זכינו בזכות לגדל ילד שמפתיע ומרשים (ולפעמים גם בוחן) אותי לטובה כל יום, ילד שבו אני גאה כל כך, אז אני מוכנה לנסות לקבל את זה – אם זה יהיה הגורל שלי.by Liza Rosenberg
More than 25 years ago, I spent my gap year in Israel on Young Judaea‘s Year Course program. One month of that year was spent living with a family in an agricultural community (a moshav), and while I can’t remember the names of anyone from the family I stayed with, I do remember the family below, which hosted a friend of mine (and was actually much nicer to me than my own host family). Arlene is also a former Young Judaean.
What follows is the text from an email that Arlene sent to a local mailing list that I moderate, and she quickly agreed to allow me to share it here. Please do what you can to help, and please share this note with your networks.
Note that (as mentioned below) Israeli hospitals conduct worldwide registry searches for suitable donors, so being registered in almost any country can potentially help someone in need, no matter where in the world they happen to be.
Our son, Guy Bar-Yosef, was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia this past April. He has undergone aggressive chemotherapy, and now the doctors are saying that there is hope for recovery only if he receives a bone marrow (=stem cell) transplant from a matching donor.
We are turning to everyone and anyone who may be able to help. Healthy donors are accepted into international registries between the ages of 18-45. Blood type does not matter. Because of Guy’s genetic lineage, we are specifically looking for donors with mixed genetic backgrounds – Ami’s parents were of Moroccan and Lithuanian origin, and Arlene’s parents hailed from Latvia (Baronovich, Russia, and nearby).
In Israel, the organization which does tissue typing and matching is “Ezer Mizion”, and in the USA, it’s “Be The Match” or “Gift of Life”. People in the USA can ask for a kit to do the test at home and mail it in. All other developed countries have similar setups, and Israeli hospitals conduct worldwide searches.
The initial test is merely a saliva swab taken from inside the cheek. It is painless and quick. If the person is found to be a tissue match, he/she will be asked to donate blood on a given day, at the hospital in Tel Aviv. If the person is from abroad, the flight to Israel and all expenses will be paid. It is similar to donating blood at Magen David Adom – no surgical procedure is involved.
Many of Guy’s friends, colleagues and family members are coming forward to be tested, but they can’t all afford to pay for the tests themselves. So another way to assist is by a monetary donation, in any amount to “Ezer Mizion” in Israel. It costs 250 NIS ($65) to process each test, and as they don’t have the necessary budget, they seek donations to cover the costs.
Ezer Mizion: 40 Kaplan St., Petach Tikva, Israel. Tel: 03-9277772, via check, telephone, or online, (there’s a place to name the person in whose honor the donation is being made).
The website is: https://www.ezermizion.org/Donate (Donations are tax deductible and receipts will be issued).
Anyone making a monetary donation as well as those who go to Ezer Mizion to be tested should mention Guy Bar-Yosef’s name.
Time is of the essence. Anyone who has Facebook or other social network media, or who work or study in places where they can notify friends, colleagues, etc., is kindly asked to help spread the word. We sincerely appreciate every and all effort made on Guy’s behalf.
Thanks so very much.
Arlene and Ami Bar-Yosef
If people in South Africa are interested in finding out more about that country’s bone marrow registry (which would also be scanned for possible donors for Guy), please contact the South African Bone Marrow Registry:
South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR)
Match codes: South Africa [ZA]
Groote Schuur HospitalE52,
Old Main Building
I wish I had more time to tell you
All the words I want to say
About everything and nothing
And how you make my days
I wish I had more time to show you
Just how much I care
For even when we disagree
It helps to know you’re there
I wish I had more time
To be there by your side
To sit and hold your hand
To hug you as we cry
I think of all the things I’d do
Just to have more time with you
All the things I’d gladly give
If only you could live
Let’s say you’re a woman. You’re with a male partner (long-term, short-term, very short-term…) and you’re feeling rather, erm, amorous. Having a baby may or may not be part of your bigger picture, but it’s definitely not what you’re looking for right now. So, what do you do? If you’ve planned in advance, perhaps you’re on the pill, or maybe you open the nearest drawer or scamper off to the bathroom to grab an alternative form of contraception. In the worst-case scenario, one of you quickly throws on some clothing and runs off to the nearest pharmacy or convenience store. With protection taken care of, you begin to…
Ok. Now that I’ve got your attention, try to imagine what might happen if you couldn’t get those contraceptives. Try to imagine that you are one of the more than 200 million (!) women around the world who are denied access to any form of modern contraception, or even to decent reproductive health care. Without access to family planning and maternal and newborn care, one woman dies every minute during pregnancy or childbirth. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
When I gave birth to the Little One, I almost died. The pregnancy itself had been a difficult one. Questionable genetics combined with a bad obstetric history (and that would be putting it mildly) dictated that I would be watched carefully, and that we would always err on the side of caution. Once we cleared the initial genetic hurdles, I found myself faced with such issues as the unexpected discovery at week 16 of an incompetent cervix (resulting in urgent surgery to put in a cerclage and me working from home for the remainder of the pregnancy) and the subsequent diagnosis of gestational diabetes. To make matters worse, I was utterly depressed. Despite the fact that the pregnancy was progressing relatively decently – if not smoothly, the fear that something would somehow go horribly wrong was never far from my mind. Four failed pregnancies led me to believe that the odds were not in my favor, which meant that I basically spent my entire pregnancy holding my breath and waiting for something to go wrong.
Nothing in my wildest dreams – or nightmares – could have prepared me for what I experienced when I gave birth. The bleeding began once my son was out, and it simply wouldn’t stop. The placenta wasn’t coming out and my uterus wasn’t contracting as it should have. In short, I was hemorrhaging. I suddenly felt weak and sick, and as the blood drained from my face and I turned white, I heard my husband pleading with me to stay awake.
As the medical team worked feverishly to get my body to do what it was supposed to, I was consumed by sheer terror; I was sure that I was dying, and even began to think about my husband having to raise our son as a single parent. An anesthesiologist was hovering outside the room, ready to rush me into surgery in the event that the doctors wouldn’t be able to stop the bleeding, which would have necessitated the removal of my uterus in order to save my life. Fortunately, we didn’t reach that stage. The doctors managed to stop the bleeding, employing a number of often painful techniques and persevering until it worked. I received four units each of blood and plasma, and was hooked up to oxygen after they discovered that my oxygen saturation levels were low. I remained in the delivery room for approximately twelve hours after giving birth, at which point I was moved to a room in the maternity ward that was directly across from the nurses’ station.
While the doctors in the hospital refused to discuss it, my own doctor confirmed what I already assumed to be true. My life had been in danger, and I could have died. While the birth itself had been fairly routine, my condition deteriorated rapidly within an hour. There was no indication that what I had experienced was in any way related to the problems I’d had during the pregnancy. What had happened to me could happen to anyone, without any prior warning.
And that’s why I was so utterly appalled by this article in last Friday’s Haaretz Magazine about unassisted home births. Don’t get me wrong – I can certainly respect that there are some women who are turned off by the hospital experience, or that some women wish to give birth naturally and with no painkillers (I, on the other hand, informed the nurses every ten minutes or so that without an epidural, I wouldn’t give birth…). I also realize that most births tend to proceed as they should, and that complications are minimal. But what about those few births that go wrong, those births that go so spectacularly off course that the lives of the mother and and/or the baby are in danger? What do you do when you’re giving birth alone in your bathroom and your baby won’t come out? What do you do when the bleeding just won’t stop?
I was shocked by the women in the article, angered by what I perceived as being ignorance and misguided priorities. Isn’t it more important to survive a birth procedure that might not be precisely to your liking than to die as a result of the “perfect” birthing experience? I realize that given my own background, I may not be the best person to judge. Perhaps I am overly sensitive when it comes to such issues, but I cannot help becoming incensed by women who naively believe that nothing can happen, that despite all of the medical technology placed at our disposal, they are prepared to turn their backs on modernity in the most extreme manner possible. Some of you will condemn me for being judgmental, and I accept that there’s truth in that. I just cannot help but think that had I chosen this path, my son would not have a mother.by Liza Rosenberg
Eshchar Hochman, a 36 year-old father of two little boys, was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago. During an operation to remove the tumor, Eshchar had a partial hemorrhage that rendered him paralyzed on his entire left side. Doctors said that Eshchar wouldn’t be able to walk again, but using astonishing strength, he can now walk using of cane.
Unfortunately, the tumor has returned and is far more aggressive this time. Eshchar requires the latest medical technology, and this technology isn’t available in Israel. It’s available in Belgium, and of course, it’s very expensive, with a staggering price tag of $250,000. Family and friends have given everything they can, but it simply isn’t enough. The Defense Ministry refuses to acknowledge Eshchar’s status because it’s very difficult to prove a connection between his illness and his military conditions.
Eshchar’s family and friends believe he can get better, but they need help. On Friday, May 22nd, a “Run for Life” will be held at Ganei Yehoshua in Tel Aviv. The goal is to raise the funds that Eshchar desperately needs in order to cover medical costs in Belgium, and while registration has already been closed, donations can still be made.
The Shikma foundation for Eshchar Hochman
Account Number: 114085
Branch Number: 646
My pregnancy with the Little One wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. Once we managed to get past the genetic issues (though until he was actually born and shown to be defect-free, my suspicions never fully abated), I was hit with a number of other problems. There was never any escaping from the fact that my pregnancy was high-risk. All of my prenatal testing was performed by top specialists at Hadassah Hospital, under the careful management of my geneticist, and once my gestational diabetes was diagnosed, I switched from my regular gynecologist to a high-risk gynecologist, who agreed to take me on despite the fact that at the time, she wasn’t taking on new cases. From the 16th week, I found myself working from home, on doctor’s orders
Somehow, we made it to the 39th week, and giving birth proved to be even more fraught with danger than the pregnancy itself, as I lost a tremendous amount of blood and ended up receiving four units each of blood and plasma. At one point, I actually turned white due to the rapid loss of blood, and my husband and I were both convinced that he was going to end up a single parent. There was an anesthesiologist on call, in the event that they might have to rush me into surgery to remove my uterus, and once we got past the crisis several hours later, they gave me an oxygen mask because my oxygen saturation levels were low. In total, I spent more than 26 hours in the delivery room, even though I gave birth just after the 14th hour passed.
While I certainly would never have chosen this path for my pregnancy, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I learned a lot during those nine months.
In a nutshell, here are ten things I learned during the course of my high-risk pregnancy, in random order:
In honor of my 40th birthday, I’ve decided to share 40 facts about me that you may or may not know…
1. My favorite colors are hunter green and burgundy.
2. My first pet was a gerbil. His name was Ninky. My second gerbil was Harvey.
3. I was born with a bilateral choanal atresia. This means that I was born without air passages leading from my nose to my throat.
4. I was also born with thin bands of skin tissue over both eyes.
5. I was also born without tear ducts.
6. All of these defects were fixed before I left the hospital after I was born.
7. I was in an incubator for the first two months of my life.
8. When I was nine, I had to have surgery on my nose because the air passages created when I was born had begun to close up.
9. Both of my parents are left-handed. My brother and I are both right-handed.
10. I throw a Frisbee with my left hand.
11. I’ve eaten frogs’ legs. They do taste like chicken.
12. I played Little League baseball/girls’ softball for ten years. My favorite position was first base, though at one point or another, I also played at second and third bases, shortstop, and pitcher (in softball). I’ve also played the outfield.
13. I traded away my Snoopy pencil sharpener to get my first baseball glove.
14. When I was in fifth grade, I won a pre-Thanksgiving archery competition. First prize was a 20-pound turkey.
15. I was born in Brooklyn, NY, and lived in Staten Island, NY until I was six years old.
16. I missed my kindergarten graduation when we moved.
17. One of the earliest memories I have is being in my grandparents’ synagogue in Brooklyn when an elderly woman – Mrs. Goodman – fell down a flight of steps. I can still remember watching her being carried up the steps.
19. My mother once had to take me home from a birthday party because I was petrified of the clown. I still don’t like clowns, though I no longer run away screaming and crying at the sight of them.
20. I was in the Brownies, and I still remember the song we sang at every meeting. I never made it to Girl Scout level. I do, however, like Girl Scout Cookies, especially Samoas. I do not like Thin Mints.
21. I liked Hebrew school. Enough said.
22. I can’t ski. I was in the lowest level at Maple Ridge Ski School, and they had to bring in a private instructor because I couldn’t keep up.
23. I’m a sucker for certain accents, and have even gone out on dates with guys just because they had these accents (though not since meeting my husband, obviously).
24. I’ve never been really drunk, nor have I ever been stoned. I’ve never had a hangover.
25. One of the first R-rated films I saw was “Animal House“.
26. When I was six years old, I wanted to be a boy because I was always being picked last for sports teams during recess. Then I became better than the boys.
27. I was always a tomboy, and have never been a girly girl. I’m still not.
30. I grew up with the wife of one of our local bloggers, and have been friends with another local blogger since meeting in the bus station in Schenectady, NY when we were teenagers.
31. My parents took me on the NY subway when I was a little girl. I believe they very nearly crapped themselves when I pointed out a black man and said, “Look, a robber.”
32. My friend Sheri and I refer to a certain period of our lives as “the geek years”. Today, Sheri is gorgeous, successful, and very hip. I, on the other hand, am still stuck in the geek years. And I still use the word “hip”.
33. I cried when my sixth grade social studies teacher – Mrs. Tolar – made me stay after school on my birthday.
35. I hate being the center of attention, and more often than not, I blush when given any kind of compliment.
36. I know at least three other people who also have birthdays today. One of them is my brother-in-law.
37. I knew I was going to marry my husband two weeks after we started seeing each other.
38. I never sleep on the train during my commute, no matter how tired I am. I’m more concerned about drawing attention by snoring than I am about missing my station.
39. If I could have lunch with any famous person, it would probably be Bill Bryson, whose writing style not only keeps me in hysterics, but also influences my own style. At times, his writing inspires me to keep writing.
40. I still have no idea what I want for my birthday.
“Am I different? Am I a different person from the one I was before we lost our first child?” This is what I asked my best friend recently, the person who probably knows me better than anyone, the person with whom I have shared memories that go back more than twenty years.
It was something I’d been meaning to ask her for a while now, a question that had been swirling around in my head as I witnessed friends and others recount the life-altering tragedies in their lives. I observed intently as they pondered similar questions, as they wondered what their lives would be like – indeed, what they themselves would be like – had things not veered so dramatically and horrifically off course. I listened to their stories, their perceptions; I listened as they spoke of their battles to move beyond what had happened – what they did, how they coped.
And then I began to think about myself. Had I changed? How had I coped? On the outside, I believe I appeared to be normal. On the inside, however, it was a different story. On the inside, I was screaming with frustration, unable to rid myself of the demons that rarely left my side. I was stressed out and I was emotional, and I did my best to keep it under wraps. I didn’t want sympathy. I didn’t want pity. I was not prepared to share my weaknesses, and I was very selective with regard to those who were invited to pass that barrier. I was not especially secretive about all that we had been through, but at the same time, I refused to let most people see the emotional toll it had taken. And, now that I think about it, I realize that those people who “saw” the most were my friends who lived the farthest away – the ones to whom I conveyed my feelings in writing, the ones who couldn’t actually see my face, my body language. I was unable to let my guard down enough in front of the people who were always around me, unable to risk the possibility of letting my emotions get the better of me in the company of others. Instead, I relied on emails and chats, relishing the safety and security of physical distance, allowing me to maintain some semblance of control over my own volatile, wildly unpredictable emotions.
It was during this period in my life that one such friendship really stood out. This wise, dear friend gave me a piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten. “Life is a series of choices,” he said. “You’re going to get hit with a lot of shit, and it’s up to you to choose how to deal with it.” What he said made sense, and without really realizing it, in some ways, it was something I’d been doing all along. After each setback I’d allowed time for the dust to settle, and then I’d more or less picked myself up and moved on. I kept going, kept trying. I refused to give up. My inner turmoil continued, but instead of allowing myself to be completely engulfed by it, I used it as the impetus to keep going. I chose to fight.
Of course, in a sense, it was easier to keep trying than to stop. To stop would have meant that I’d lost hope, that I didn’t believe we would ever succeed. It would have meant accepting defeat, which I believed would be far more painful than meeting each individual failure head on, while at the same time retaining some small modicum of hope that persistence would eventually bring success. Encouragement came in a multitude of forms, as I scoured the internet in search of “suitably favorable” medical statistics and people shared the stories they’d heard. Sometimes, I’d listen to the stories, unable to decide if I should laugh or cry. Laugh, because the moral of the story always seemed to be that persistence would win out in the end. Cry, because the end could be years and years later, after 14 assisted cycles. On the one hand, I wanted desperately to succeed, but on the other, I could not imagine going through so much for so long. The prospect terrified me; it exhausted me.
In the end, nature won out over advanced technology and we were blessed with the Little One. So many years of frustration and sadness culminated in the birth of this wondrous little boy, and simply put, we cannot believe our luck. And yet, despite the fact that those years are now behind us, they have not been forgotten, and I suspect they never will be. The pain will always be there, sometimes just below the surface, and at other times, deeply buried. In some ways, I am more sensitive than I was, yet in other ways, I am less tolerant. According to my best friend though, who I was before did not disappear.
Apparently, I am still me.by Liza Rosenberg