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
During a work outing several years ago, my colleagues and I were given an opportunity to make ocarinas out of clay. While the others created instruments that looked like delightful sea creatures, dragons and other fictitious members of the animal kingdom, I suspiciously stared down at my lump of clay without coming up with a single idea. In the end, I created a simple, goofy smiley face on one side, and on the other, I wrote “My talents lie elsewhere”, since when it comes to envisioning and creating my own piece of artwork, I’m utterly and unapologetically hopeless.
That’s not to say that I don’t love art however, for I do – it often brings me great joy. I can, quite happily, spend hours wandering aimlessly through art exhibitions and galleries, and the genre of naïve art (discovered after I visited a naïve art gallery in Tel Aviv for an article I was writing) seems to reach into my soul and make my heart race with emotion. It touches me in ways that I simply cannot describe. I love the colors, the detailed intricacies woven into every scene that invite me to stop in my tracks and stare in open-mouthed wonder…
And now I’m going to let you in on a little secret. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
I know for a fact that there are Israelis who think I’m crazy for choosing to leave the United States to live in Israel – I know it because they tell me. Repeatedly. It’s not all Israelis or even most, but those who do have a tendency to question my sanity for reaching such a decision. They aren’t interested in hearing about my former identity as a Diaspora Zionist or my pro-Israel campus activism. They’re not impressed that I fell in love with the country when I was just fifteen years old, vowing on that first trip that I would someday move here (much to the chagrin of my parents who, more than 30 years later, are still hoping it’s merely a phase). The bottom line is that everyone wants to know how I could choose to leave a country where the salaries are higher and the living is easy.
Sometimes, I wonder the same thing. I’ve lived here for more than twenty years and have no plans to leave. I do, however, occasionally fantasize about having a life that’s financially easier, a life where I don’t feel compelled to make professional compromises that enable me to take my son to visit his grandparents in America once a year and pay for his Waldorf education. Of course, with the amount of money we save by purchasing Legos in the US, the trip practically pays for itself, but still… (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
By the time our son was in pre-school, we already knew that we didn’t want to send him to a regular public school. My husband grew up in the Israeli school system and didn’t like the way it had evolved over the years and I, who had grown up in an idyllic small town in Upstate New York, was disturbed by the prospect of turning my son over to a seemingly problematic educational system that I could hardly relate to at all. We examined our local options with increasing dismay; when someone mentioned Rimon, a young, growing Waldorf school about 15 minutes’ drive away, we jumped at the opportunity to check it out.
We didn’t know anything about the Waldorf philosophy (which draws on Anthroposophy) when we started, and while we were skeptical of certain aspects, there were others that resonated right from the start – the strong emphasis on creativity, learning through art and music, the connection to nature and an appreciation for spiritual values, to name just a few. I have fond memories of the art and music classes that were an integral part of the elementary school I attended, and Rimon seemed to present a curriculum that touched on the best parts of the public school education I’d received. I’d be lying if I said we were completely sold, but given that the pros (including the fact that our local elementary school had approximately 40 children in each first grade class as opposed to the less than 30 students we could expect at Rimon) far outweighed the cons, we decided to go for it. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
Every year in the days leading up to my birthday, I enter a period of self-reflection. I look back on the events of the past year and think about how they may have reshaped my life. In the years before we had our son (who arrived just over a week before my birthday back in 2004), I would often see my birthday as a milestone that marked another year of failing to achieve our goal of having a child, and of course, everything else just seemed to pale in comparison. These last six years with my son have been a gift that knows no bounds, and every birthday celebration of mine is now intertwined with the joy that his birth has brought me.
But I digress. The past year has been interesting, to say the least. I went from having two part-time positions in technical writing to becoming a full-time freelancer, having successfully managed to lose both jobs within weeks of one another. I’m certainly enjoying the variety that being a freelancer brings, not to mention the freedom to make my own schedule and do more of the writing that I actually enjoy (such as the pleasure I derive from writing poetry – a relatively new hobby, or the essays I submit to various anthologies); it also means that I have to work harder to ensure that I include social interaction with others. Of course, whatever my gripes might be with this new situation, it’s still infinitely better than my life before, when I was coming home every evening at 7:30, miserable and unable to find a satisfactory home-work balance. Now, my office consists of the corner of our blue, L-shaped couch (which is now at least several centimeters lower than every other part of the couch), and I’m trying to figure out which cappuccino maker to purchase (suggestions are welcome!), given that good coffee is missing from my life these days almost as much as good opportunities for social interaction. And, while I currently have a rather healthy load of writing projects, I’m always on the lookout for more, so feel free to give a shout if you think you’ve got something I might be interested in (end of professional plug). (more…)by Liza Rosenberg