Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shabbos with family

We are back from an exhausting but fun weekend with some family that lives in a different part of Jerusalem. Definitely glad to be back in our own space and our own schedule. While it was nice to spend time with our siblings and see the community they live in, it was very difficult to meet all the kids' needs while we were away. Meals, playtime and bedtime become a challenge when you are not at your home base.
The theme of this weekend was clearly diaper/toilet issues as Y had two incidents that required clothing changes, Baby M lost his diaper in the middle of the night which resulted in a very messy crib and baby in the morning and A refused to use the bathroom there because it wasn't clean enough for her. The joys of three children under five!
The weekend was a good trial run for next shabbos, when we will be traveling up north with my parents, 5 siblings and altogether 13 grandchildren for two whole days of family bonding. It will be chaotic and fun.
I now know that I need to pack for all eventualities, meaning more diapers, wipes, changes of clothing, toys and definitely more patience. Now if I could just figure out how to stock up on patience by next Friday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New VBAC guidelines

I have been so busy enjoying my vacation that I almost forgot to blog about some significant changes regarding childbirth in the US. Right on the heels of the Midwifery Modernization Act, ACOG- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists have put out new guidelines and recommendations for VBAC- Vaginal Birth after Cesarean.
A quote from their press release states: "Attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is a safe and appropriate choice for most women who have had a prior cesarean delivery, including for some women who have had two previous cesareans."
Furthermore, they say :"In addition to providing an option for those who want the experience of a vaginal birth, VBAC has several potential health advantages for women. Women who achieve VBAC avoid major abdominal surgery, resulting in lower rates of hemorrhage, infection, and a shorter recovery period compared with elective repeat cesarean delivery. Additionally, for those considering larger families, VBAC may avoid potential future maternal consequences of multiple cesarean deliveries such as hysterectomy, bowel or bladder injury, transfusion, infection, and abnormal placentation such as placenta previa and placenta accreta."
Basically, doctors are admitting what the research has shown all along; that VBAC is a safe option for most women. What remains to be seen is if this statement will actually change the standards of practice of most OBs. Is it still possible to change the high rate of repeat cesareans and to allow more woman a trial of labor? I guess we will have to wait and see. To see the full press release, just click here. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

My little tzaddik

I recently came across a blog post by someone, claiming that people in Israel are so much more tolerant and open to people with disabilities. I was a bit skeptical at first but just judging by the day we have had today, that person may be on to something.
By now everybody reading this knows that our darling little Y has Down Syndrome. It is a disability that is pretty apparent, as you can see it on his cute little face. Everywhere we went today, we were met with comments about our son. Not the comments that make you cringe, good comments and compliments :)
We took several cabs today, trying to get around Jerusalem and keep the kids entertained. Our first cab driver was a real sweetheart who told me not to worry about M crying in his car. When I tried to quiet him, he said, "Let him scream here, I don't mind." As we were leaving the cab and Y tried to stay in the car as he usually tends to do, the cab driver asked him his name and told us that he was a neshama- a pure soul.
Our second cab driver had a fancy car and was concerned about his leather seats. When Y got in the car, he started yelling at him to get his shoes off the seats. When he turned around and saw that Y has Down Syndrome, his tone completely changed. He apologized and called him a tzaddik, loosely translated as a "righteous person." Later on when walking down the street, a stranger spotted Y and started showering him with blessings. He told us that G'd should bless Y and called him a tzaddik several times.
That was three times in the span of about three hours. I know it sounds all romantic and idealistic. I am sure we will not be showered with blessings everywhere we go but it is reflective of an attitude that seems to exist here. The attitude that children with disabilities are "special" not just because they have extraordinary needs but because they truly are special and unique.
Y was actually born in Jerusalem, 5 years ago, in one of the larger hospitals. As soon as word got out, there was a network that sprung into action. We were getting visits and phonecalls and supports from so many people; people we barely knew or did not know at all. It was a bit overwhelming at first but it was also comforting to see so many people who had been there personally. There was such a strong emphasis on the fact that this was a difficult time for us but that there was so much good to come. There was an attitude of joy, love and acceptance at a very early stage. Looking back, I don't know how this scenario would have played out in the US. G'd puts us all where we need to be at different times in our lives
So while the services such as OT, PT and Speech may be better in the US, Israel definitely seems to have a leg up on attitude.
 Maybe it is just the prevalence of Down Syndrome in Jerusalem. Orthodox women have large families and generally do not do genetic testing. In our neighborhood alone at the time, there were about 20 children of different ages with an extra chromosome. Maybe it all comes back to the general feeling here that we are all family, we are all connected somehow and need to be there for each other.
Whatever it is, I am enjoying the TLC. And definitely agree that Y is a little tzaddik.
Our little Tzaddik with his sister, who is not too bad herself :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

We have arrived!

Well, actually we got here Thursday morning already, but have been busy getting unpacked, settled and unjet-lagged. The flight was pretty smooth all things considered. The older 2 watched a million hours of DVD and movies and slept a bit so they were pretty easiy. Baby M on the other hand is at a terrible traveling age. He did not have his own seat and even if he did, he can't sit still anyway! He spent a lot of time walking up and down the aisles and being squirmy. Kudos to my husband who handled him for most of the flight and even got him to sleep for a bit.
We arrived at 7 30 am but it took us a while to get out of the airport. They had lost one of our carseats so we had to file a missing luggage claim. It actually was delivered to our apartment tonight so all is well again.
The apartment we are staying in, is perfect for our needs. It is cheap, in a great location and very kids friendly- lots of toys, very little to break and child-proof locks on everything. When I walked into their bathroom and saw the garbage can on the toilet, I just had to laugh because I have totally done that!
We have spent the last few days just getting acclimated, buying groceries and other essentials, and going for walks around town. And today of course was Shabbos, a quiet and relaxing day.
It is just so nice to be here. People ask me what I want to do while we are here but I don't really have a big agenda.  Take walks, go to the Kotel, see people I know, spend time with family, sit in coffeeshops and write in my much-neglected journal. Just be here and pretend like I live here...and maybe blog about it too. First of hopefully many posts from the Holy Land. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quick travel story

We are heading to the airport soon so no time to post too long but wanted to share a funny apropos travel story. As an orthodox woman, I cover my hair with a wig. To secure my hair under the wig I use two big metal clips underneath it, that are not visible .
Whenever I travel, this causes trouble as I set off the metal detector and then have to do the whole song and dance check up on the side-lines. Not too much fun when you are traveling with kids and your husband has to watch all three and collect the stuff from the xray machine by himself!
Last time we were traveling, just as I was walking through the metal detector, I remembered the clips and must have made a face. The security guard noticed and said, "You look nervous, is something wrong?" I said "I am wearing a clip under my wig and am about to set off the metal detector!" The guard's eyes went wide and he said "You are wearing a wig? That's so awesome!" Sure enough, I set off the metal detector but at least I got a laugh out of his reaction!
Wish us luck on our journey!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

And the winner is...

After much contemplation, I have decided that the winner of my little give away is... Melissa, my fellow doula and birth advocate. I was really flattered and gratified to get all the positive feedback from many of you. I know most of you thought I was nuts (and you may be right) but you were good sports and played along.I thank you for that.
 Melissa is the only one of the posters who I don't actually know IRL (in real life, for those of you who dont do internet-speak) so I thought it was really cool that she participated and shared some of her interests as well! Plus she wins through sheer numbers- she left me three separate comments :)
To the anonymous poster with a special needs child- I would love if you got in touch with me privately. My email address is in my profile. I am always looking to meet new people in the SN world.
So Melissa, I have yet to check out your blog but I will, and I will also be in touch in the next week or so about finding a cute knitting project for you or your kiddos. Right now I am in knitting limbo because one is not allowed to knit during the Nine Days, a period of mourning we (Orthodox Jews, that is) now find ourselves in. I have to say, that I of all the restrictions of this time,and there are many (no swimming, doing laundry, eating meat, drinking alcohol, knitting, listening to music, getting haircuts), knitting is actually the thing I miss the most. I am so used to being busy with my hands that I really don't know what to do with myself at times.
Starting Wednesday though I will be back with my clicking needles. In fact I already have a few projects lined up to keep me busy in Israel...speaking of which, packing starts tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Our yearly trip

The countdown is on for our yearly summer trip. Every summer we try to spend a few weeks in Israel, as long as possible really :)
My husband and I started our married life in Jerusalem and feel a very strong connection to Israel. Most of our family lives there but I also really value the way of life there, the fact that the popular culture there is Jewish, the beauty of the country, the spirituality, I could go on and on. Our older two were born in Jerusalem and it was a very difficult decision to move back to the States almost four years ago. There are so many things I miss about it.
That is why it is so important for us to go back there whenever we can. It is definitely not cheap but that month can sustain me for the rest of the year so it is worth it.
The only problem is that in order to get there, we have to get on a plane, with 3 children and a ton of suitcases, strollers and carseats. And then entertain those children for 10-11 hours. And deal with the jet-lag when we get there. This year we are actually traveling on my birthday, this coming Wednesday. On the one hand it's a great gift to go to Israel for your birthday. On the other hand, traveling is not exactly conducive to a relaxing, fun day.
People sometimes ask us how we do it, how we travel with our crew. My answer is always that it it is hard, but it is totally worth the effort. After all, even the worst flight from hell ends eventually and then we get to spend 4 weeks in a place we love, spending time with people we love and don't see enough.
Of course it is easier to stay home but it is also really boring! That doesn't mean I take traveling lightly. I try to be over-prepared. I make sure to stack up on food, snacks, toys and books. I charge the DVD player and bring along our whole collection (don't get me started on children and DVD/TV. That is a post for another time). This usually works reasonably well, although at some point we will have exhausted all our play options and the kids will get antsy. And there will still be five hours left to the flight. And I will probably not get any sleep. But that's okay. This too shall pass is my mantra, that I repeat over and over again.
Just to be clear, I am not saying this is easy at all or that I stay cool and relaxed throughout our trip. Things like being late, delays or long lines really stress me out. Just ask my husband who has to deal with me when I get all tense and crazy :) But I still think it is worth it. I would not give this opportunity up for the world.
I have started making lists but have not packed or bought a single thing yet. I have a long way to go till we're ready. But I know we will get there. And I'm sure I will have some crazy story to share with you when we do.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another Give-Away, Not Mine this Time

Ellen over at Love that Max is having a much cooler contest than I am. She is giving away a 100 dollar shopping spree at the website Fun and Function that sells toys and therapy products for children with special needs. Most of you don't need these things, but for those of us who do; you know how expensive these toys can be. I checked out the site and they have a nice selection- sensory stuff like chewies and weighted vests and also many language-based cards and games that I would love for Yedidya. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you are very lucky!!
If you do know what I am talking about and want in, all you have to do is go to Love that Max and leave a comment on what you would like to buy from the site. And while you are there, take some time to read Ellen's blog. As a fellow mother of a special needs child, I very much enjoy her take on things, especially her sense of humor.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Siyum

Tonight we had a special event in our home. My husband made a siyum, a celebration marking the completion of a tractate of Talmud. My husband has spent the last three years studying Kiddushin in depth. This was a long term project that he put a lot of energy into, and I am very proud of him.
So friends and family gathered as he finished the last few lines and recited the prayers customary at a siyum. Then we had a festive meal cooked by yours truly.
I love the wording of the tfillot said at a siyum. They speak of a longing to learn more, to return to this tractate and others and to have a part in the "yoshvei beis hamedrash," those who are fortunate to sit in a house of study.
When we were in seminary and learned about the importance of Torah-study in Judaism, it all made a lot of sense in theory. Of course we wanted our husbands to learn and grow, to become great Torah scholars. After all, Torah is the foundation we wanted to build our home on.
Once you are married, though, it is not always as easy and self-evident. It requires sacrifice on the part of the spouse. The time that he is learning is time he could be theoretically spending with you or the children- at night, on weekends, those long afternoons in the park.
I will be the first to admit that I did not always stand up to the challenge of giving my husband enough time to learn and of respecting the times he had set aside. I could be doing much more to encourage him. Yet I do take pride in how far he has come and feel like I have a small part in his success. And hopefully, with my renewed resolve to do better, he will continue on this path of growth and continue to bring Torah into our homes and lives.

Update on Contest

I am really serious about this contest, by the way and I do hope more of you will participate. I know you are all shy but do it for me, make my day :)
I am giving you all till Sunday to comment and am making it easier- you do not even have to comment on a specific post. Just comment to say hi and/or something nice.
As an incentive and to prove to you all that I actually do knit, here are some pics of my recent projects
This is a sweater I knit for myself, although I obviously will not be wearing it in this weather

Sweater for my newest niece in Israel. Again, for colder weather

Ok, now do you believe me?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Happy 100th Post

Blogger has informed me that this past Friday I posted my 100th post on this blog. Not sure if that is a real milestone but it feels like one. What started as a mini-experiment has turned into something I really enjoy and I hope that those of you who read semi-regularly enjoy what I have to say too.
In that spirit, I am asking all of you readers (and I know you are there bec. I have a device that tracks my traffic on this site!!) to share a specific post that you particularly enjoyed and why. You can check the archives for inspiration.
I am even offering a prize for the most original comment- winner gets a hand knit small item of your choosing- think hat, scarf, bookmark, booties, etc. I know it's too hot to be thinking of hats and scarves but trust me, I knit cute things. Just ask my husband and kids. Now go ahead and post!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Childbirth and Loss

In the recent edition of DONA's quarterly magazine International Doula, there were two interesting articles that dealt with miscarriages and stillbirth. Both writers spoke of their experiences as mothers, dealing with the loss of a pregnancy or a child and how it connected to their work as doulas. The articles struck a cord with me because I have often thought about the interface between pregnancy/childbirth and loss.
Fortunately, most pregnancies and births run smoothly without too much going awry and so the work as a doula is really to be with women and their partners at a joyful time. But there will always be that time when things go wrong and we need to know how to deal with that.
The level of loss can be very different. While some may scoff at it, some woman profoundly feel the loss of the perfect birth they envisioned, whether that was an intervention free birth, a VBAC or a homebirth. More significantly, there is the loss of a pregnancy at an early or a later stage. There is the loss of the dream of the perfect healthy child, that my husband and I experienced personally when our oldest was born with Down syndrome. And, most terrifyingly, the loss of a newborn child.
I am not trying to make a list of all the things that can go wrong. I am sure nobody needs that anxiety and no one should spend their pregnancy worrying about worst-case scenarios. As a birth professional, though,I do need to acknowledge this reality.
I think what is most jarring at these times, is that the couple is expecting pure unadulterated happiness and then that picture was altered in some way. There are so many hopes and dreams bound up with the creation of a new life and it is very hard when this is shattered. Especially when everywhere you look you see women having healthy pregnancies, births and babies, all the things you were yearning for.
I think what is most crucial for doulas at that time is just to be there for the woman. To hear her pain, to allow her to express it and to validate her feelings. So many of us are uncomfortable when others are hurting and so we try to make it better by denying their feelings or offering platitudes such as "you will feel better in a few days" or "you will have another one soon." That may or may not be true. What is true is the pain the woman is feeling at this moment.
Going through that stage of mourning in whatever way is meaningful to the woman and her partner is the only way to get through an intense experience like that. To truly express one's feelings until one is ready to move on. It may take a few days, weeks or months. It may take a year. It is not up to us to dictate when it is time for someone else to "get over it".
I find that my personal experience of loss has been a big source of growth for me. I have learned to deal with difficult things and keep going. There are days, though, when no matter how much I love and cherish my son, I still mourn for my perfect child that could have been. It is a process.
I have also gained a lot of empathy for others. When I, unfortunately, hear of a tragedy, I can tap into my own feelings of loss and, in a small way, understand what someone else is going through. I think these emotions are important to understand my clients and to truly be there for them in a meaningful way.
What I am trying to say is that loss is as much a part of our life experience and life cycle, as birth and growth is, and we need to acknowledge that. And maybe our understanding of pain and loss can make the experience of a new life even more meaningful to us.
On that happy note, have a wonderful shabbos.

Still here

Sorry it's been so quiet here. I have had a busy week and have been contemplating a lot of different topics to post but just haven't gotten around to anything. And right now it is way too late and definitely not the time to start. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 4, 2010


For those of you who have been up at night worrying about the future of midwifery in New York, I am happy to announce that the Midwifery Modernization Act has passed and now just needs to be signed by the Governor. Homebirth is once again legal in New York.
In that spirit, I would like to share a video of a homebirth that I came across on the lovely internet. This video is part of "A Baby Story" and features an orthodox Jewish couple having their second child at home with the help of , you guessed it, a skilled midwife.
No worries, the filming is done very modestly and there are no close ups of the baby being born. Still a wonderful video that shows how normal and safe homebirth can be. I am including the first part, and the rest of it can be found on youtube. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Apologies are Hard

In this week's New York Times Magazine, Lisa Belkin has a fascinating piece on apologies. She writes that there have been so many apologies in the media these days, but that many of them seem insincere. She asks what makes an apology really meaningful and then posits some answers.
First of all, there has to be an actual taking of responsibility for one's actions. How many of us like to do the "I'm sorry, but..." routine. I particularly am very good at this. Kind of like- I was wrong but you made me do it or I was wrong but you are wrong too! Not very helpful.

Belkin then writes that when making a sincere apology, there has to be some risk involved. If you take responsibility despite the fact that you may actually face a consequence for doing so, whether it is a monetary fine, anger or humiliation; it shows the person involved that you are sincere and truly regret your actions. People respect that kind of strength.

It really comes down to vulnerability. Nobody likes to admit they are wrong, that they have weaknesses, needs or flaws. I know that I don't. How many of us will truly apologize to our kids when we lose our temper and yell, rather than saying: you were misbehaving so I was justified in yelling. How often do we unconditionally say we are sorry to our spouses.

During the Three Weeks, this might be a good thing to work on. When you do something wrong (which obviously never happens!), take responsibility for your actions. Take a risk and admit you were wrong. Say you are sorry. I can guarantee it will make all the difference to the person involved. And to you too.

And now for something completely unrelated; my little blogger-in-training

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Oma

I only have one living grandparent and that is my Oma, my father's mother. She is also the grandparent I am closest to and know the best. We grew up down the block from Oma and she was always at our apartment. We ate shabbos lunch there most weeks and hung out there in the afternoon so my parents could rest. If my parents ever had to go away for a few days, she moved in with us and took care of us.
Oma would bring us cut-up fruit while we were watching TV and go to the park with us to feed the ducks or run around the playground. She had a lot of energy for us, even for my youngest brother, who was born when she was 72. She used to play soccer with him in the hallway of our apartment and use a broom to kick the ball.
We always marveled at her youthfulness and strength. We threw Oma a big bash for her 80th birthday. All the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren flew in for the big event. After that milestone, things slowly started to deteriorate. She became physically weaker and more and more forgetful. Her memory was not as good and she would sometimes get confused and speak to us in Hungarian, the language of her youth. Pretty soon after that, my father and aunt decided to hire an attendant to live with her.
I left home at 15 to attend high school in the US and as I got older, my visits to Vienna ( did I ever mention I am from Vienna? Post for a different day) got less and less frequent. I feel fortunate that Oma was able to attend my wedding in Israel in 2004 when she was already 83. Her attendant came with her and Oma looked great at the wedding. She even danced with me.
Whenever we used to visit Vienna, she would always ask my husband if he was happy, if I was a good wife to him. I always found this amusing because she should have been asking me, her granddaughter, how he was treating me :)
We usually visited once a year and though her memory was failing her and she was more and more confused, Oma met all of my children, including Baby M last summer.
If this post sounds like a eulogy, that is not my intent at all. My Oma is still here with us, 89 years old, though only semi-conscious and with the recent addition of a feeding tube. But the Oma of my youth, the Oma who was such a big part of my growing up is no longer here. I did not recognize her in the frail woman in the wheelchair I saw last summer. She exists only in the memories and stories that my siblings and I will always cherish. But I do hope that when I see her next, I will still be able to conjure up the image of my young Oma, laughing with us, playing Rummy Cube and thoroughly enjoying her 9 grandchildren and now 18 great grandchildren.
If you have a minute, please say a prayer for Leah bat Litsha.