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
When I heard that the wife of one of my brother’s oldest friends had lost a child, I sent a carefully worded email to her husband, asking if Stacey might want to talk to someone who had been through something similar. She did, and the connection was made.
That was approximately eleven years ago, and over the years, Stacey and I kept up our correspondence at varying degrees of frequency, never losing the special connection we’d created out of a mutual, almost desperate need for support from someone who understood. As we managed to have other children and move on to other subjects, that shared, profoundly visceral understanding of devastating loss has always been at the heart of our friendship.
Stacey and I have exchanged hundreds of emails, yet no opportunity had ever presented itself for us to meet in person – until recently. My brother and his family were celebrating the Bat-Mitzvah of their eldest daughter, which – conveniently for us – fell during my son’s Passover vacation. I was looking forward to seeing family and friends, but from the moment I decided that we’d make this trip, much of the joy I felt was in knowing that I would finally have the chance to meet Stacey, whose painful journey had been such an integral part of my own healing process. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
Earlier today, I spent some time reorganizing my bookshelves which, on the face of it, probably doesn’t sound terribly significant. Shifting books to and fro is hardly cause for excitement, nor is putting books away in a closet in order to make room for other books. Unless, of course, the books that you’re carefully piling away in storage are your pregnancy books, and you’re putting them away because you’ve more or less reached the conclusion that you’re not going to be needing them anytime soon.
For a long time after The Kid (I’ve decided he’s too big to be the Little One anymore) was born, I refused to even consider the possibility of having another. After all, it had been a difficult pregnancy and a complicated birth, one that could have cost me my life. We’d tried to have a child for nine years, and now that we’d finally succeeded, I couldn’t imagine putting myself through all of that again. I was emotionally drained from my pregnancy experience and terrified by my birthing experience, and the prospect of pushing our luck and trying for a sibling was simply too exhausting to contemplate.
To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I wanted another child. I liked the idea of giving our son a sibling, but when it came down to it, was that really reason enough to try again? At some point, though, I realized that perhaps it would be nice to have another, but that I wasn’t prepared to take extraordinary measures to do so. If it happened – great. Our son would have a sibling, and people would stop asking us when we were going to give him one. If not, well, we had somehow managed to bring a pretty fabulous little boy into the world, and given the road we’d traveled to do so, counting our blessings would not be difficult. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
During the long, painful years when we were having so much trouble trying to bring a healthy child into the world, many well-meaning friends would often say – in a soft, gentle voice, “have you considered (pause for dramatic effect) adoption?” And I think I did a pretty good job of being patient with these people, especially as I understood that they were only trying to help. The obvious truth is, though, that of course we’d thought about it. When you find yourself on the far side of four problematic pregnancies and several egg donation treatments with no surviving children, it’s a pretty safe assumption that you have, indeed, considered a multitude of options, exploring and researching all possible avenues as you discover what you are and are not prepared to do in your quest to be a parent.
And without a doubt, adoption can be the right choice – for some. Despite everything we went through – the disappointment, the agony, the physical (mine) and emotional pain, the loss of a child… The path that I simply couldn’t bring myself to choose, let alone embrace, was adoption. I’m not one of those people who is immediately drawn to all babies, and I just don’t have that natural, instinctive, wonderful ability to bond with other people’s children (and I’m pretty sure children can sense that). While I was reasonably certain that I would love any child I managed to bring into the world, I was terribly, terribly scared of going the adoption route, frightened that I would not be able to connect to the child who would enter our lives in this way. I didn’t feel that it was fair to subject a child to such an experiment, especially when I couldn’t get past my doubts regarding the outcome. How could I even consider adopting a child when I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to love that child as it deserved to be loved? (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
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
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:
Four years ago today, everything changed. The Little One pushed his way into the world, hijacking our lives and our hearts. I spent a good part of those first few weeks crying, usually when I set eyes upon the little guy, but often while watching random television commercials as well. Officially, I chalk it up to the hormones that were raging around my body, but there’s also a big part of me that believes I just couldn’t get over our great fortune, that we’d finally, finally managed to have a child.
I was almost at a loss, really. After nine years of trying, failing, trying again, suffering, agonizing, here we were. One epidural, four units of blood and four units of plasma later (because god forbid I should have an easy, uneventful birth with no nearly fatal surprises), the race was suddenly over. And it was strange. Strange that everything we’d been through was now behind us, that we were no longer struggling to achieve what so many others around us had achieved with relative ease. Strange that the battle that had been with us constantly, the struggle that had been the very center of our lives, was now a moot issue. I can’t even begin to describe how that felt, to realize that we no longer had to deal with this all-consuming saga that seemingly affected every aspect of our lives, every decision we had to make. Every. Single. One.
Not only had we finally succeeded, but with the Little One, we hit the jackpot, far surpassing our wildest dreams. We have a warm, intelligent, charming little boy with a marvelous (bordering on devilish at times – where did that came from…) sense of humor, a twinkle in his eye, and a smile that makes his whole face light up. And, while there are certainly times when we’d be happy to auction him off to the highest bidder (or perhaps pay someone to take him), we are very much aware of how truly blessed we are to have this beautiful little boy in our lives, especially today, on his fourth birthday.by Liza Rosenberg
A news brief in yesterday’s Haaretz newspaper caught my eye.
“WIZO: Increase in firings of pregnant women
There was a steep rise last year in the number of women who complained they were fired or had their work conditions significantly worsened because they were pregnant, or after they returned from maternity leave. The numbers were published by WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, in Israel. The number of complaints from women who claim they were fired while pregnant, undergoing fertility treatment or immediately after returning from maternity leave was up 64% last year. It is illegal to fire women in all these cases, unless the employer has received special permission from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor. The number of women asking for advice about these matters rose 70% in 2007 compared to 2006. According to WIZO, the increase is partly the result of women’s increased awareness as to their rights. Nevertheless, there is also a real rise in the number of firings or other forms of harassment against women. At the same time, many women are still afraid to lodge a complaint against their employers for violating the law. (Haim Bior)”
The statistics are indeed alarming, but what disturbed me even more was the irony of the source. I worked for WIZO in the mid-1990s, writing speeches and other documents, performing secretarial duties and undertaking the occasional translation. At some point during my approximately 11-month stint there, I fell pregnant (in what was to be the first of my five pregnancies). And at some point during early pregnancy, I was given a letter, informing me that I was to be let go. Because I was pregnant at the time, I was told that the firing would go into effect at the conclusion of my maternity leave. In other words, that I wasn’t to return once my leave was up.
As I recall, they were claiming budgetary issues, but given that around the same time they brought in another young native English speaker who began to take over my responsibilities, I assumed it was due to a “difference of opinion” that I’d had with one of the senior board members. In any event, the reason didn’t really matter – what mattered was that I’d been given notice that I was being given the boot.
We were still in the early days of the pregnancy, and I figured that I still had several months to plan my future. I continued fulfilling my duties, such as they were, and continued to be pregnant. I wasn’t happy with the situation (an understatement, to be sure), but as long as I was pregnant, I had my job and my paycheck.
Without going into the gritty details, suffice it to say that working for one of the largest women’s organizations in the world was often a rather demeaning experience. I can remember at least two situations where people tried to use me and trick me in order to obtain information to which they were not privy. I remember how various board members (and often their secretaries as well) treated those of us without any real status. I would get reprimanded for not taking more initiative when editing documents, and would then be reprimanded for making too many changes (one instance of which, I believe, is the reason why I was fired). In short, outside of our little translators’ office (and our extended circle of administrative colleagues), the environment there – for me, anyway, was not terribly pleasant.
When I began to have problems with my pregnancy, I was doubly concerned. I was, of course, concerned for my pregnancy, and, unfortunately, I was also concerned for my job. It appears that my concerns were not unwarranted. Due to the nature and severity of the problems, we had to end the pregnancy. I was home recovering for several weeks after the procedure, and spent a great deal of that time worrying about my job, given that I was no longer pregnant. My experiences thus far in my workplace did not lend to optimism, and I wondered how things would play out.
I didn’t have long to wait. The day of my return, I was called into the director’s office. She left the door open while expressing her sympathies and asking how I was feeling, but shortly thereafter, she closed the door. She didn’t mince words. Now that I was no longer pregnant, the redundancy letter that I had received earlier on would go into effect immediately, and I was put on thirty days’ notice. She also said she was sure that I’d go on to have more children, and hoped that I would still enjoy the upcoming holiday (it was shortly before Passover). I was shocked, but not really. Through the grapevine, I had heard at least one other story about a woman who had lost her job there shortly after returning from maternity leave, though as it had been before my time, I wasn’t able to corroborate the story. So, when I was fired on the very day that I returned to the office after having terminated a second-trimester pregnancy due to a very severe case of Spina Bifida (the ultrasound technician running a routine scan in preparation for the procedure actually exclaimed out loud at the severity), it didn’t come as a huge surprise. I assumed they didn’t want to put things off, given that I was nearing the one-year milestone of my employment, and had I passed it, they would have been required by law to up the severance pay amount.
I probably should have pursued legal options, but in my naivete, I simply let it go. I was unable to verify if the actions they had taken (namely the firing letter while I was pregnant) were in fact legal, and I didn’t like the idea of taking on such a vast organization. That being said, they will never find support in my home. My second-hand clothes will be donated elsewhere, and I’d rather keep my son at home than send him to one of their child care programs. I realize that they do good work, but I’ve also seen the way they treat their own employees, and to this day, find it hard to believe that an organization that purports to stand up for women’s rights could fire a woman when she was pregnant (even a firing that was not supposed to come into effect immediately), and then kick her when she was at one of the lowest points in her life after losing that much-desired pregnancy.by Liza Rosenberg