Baby #8

March 31st, 2014

I have had some interest from Kveller to possibly blog there. Which is a big honor. Since I currently don’t have time to blog here, I assume taking that on just now would be a supremely bad idea.  It’s nice to be asked… maybe one day.  Kveller asked me to submit a sample piece, perhaps on how the 8th child is different.

The answer is, of course, that they are all different. Bringing a baby home to no children is just as unique a circumstance as bringing home a baby to four children (under the age of 5) or bringing home a baby to a house full of pre-teens that talk back and lecture you. I didn’t say they were all the same, I said they are all consistently unique.

… But when it is baby #8, one stark difference is that Ima is only sitting down now that he is 4 months old (!!!)  (coincidentally when I should be Pesach cleaning and  not procrastinating) to finally explain the baby’s name, Yehuda Chaim.

Rav Chaim Lifshitz, z”l, was a tzaddik, and an important Rav and teacher in my husband’s life.  He passed away last year. He was a brilliant man, studied directly with Piaget, and was a renowned handwriting analyst who had questions sent to him from around the world. He was also the father of our Rav,  about whom I have written here. I never met him personally, which is quite sad.  But he read our handwriting while we were dating and was astonishingly accurate in terms of how and why we would be a good match and what our primary challenge would be if we got married.

I am blessed that the majority of our small family’s members that would have a baby named for them have been memorialized by family already, or are alive and well.  Remembering Rav Lifshitz in this way was important to my husband, so this is what we did. We were honored to have his son, our Rav, present at the brit milah to talk about his father and his amazing qualities.

IMG_0093

I knew I was having a Chanukah baby, and a boy. I still didn’t think Matityahu was a good idea. Looooots of name for a very tiny person.

Yehuda was also a Maccabee, and that was one reason I thought of naming this little boy Yehuda. And that was before I knew he would be a headstrong and fierce fighter even during pregnancy and delivery.

The real reason I was set on Yehuda comes from Leah’s words in the Torah when her 4th son is born. She says “HaPaam Odeh Li Et Hashem” (Parashat Vayetze). It says directly in the Torah that this is the reason she named him Yehuda. Rashi explains to us that Leah knew that Yaacov was to have 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes, and therefore the future of Israel. She also knew Yaacov had 4 wives. Doing the math (apparently Leah was taught math ) she reasoned that her fourth son meant she got more than her “fair share” of Yaacov’s legacy.

I don’t think Leah felt like she got much of any fair share in the marriage/love department. But when it came to having kids, she recognized blessing – the special blessing that feels like it goes beyond destiny, or logic, or even-handedness by the creator. Just a blessing. So his name expressed her gratitude.

In some irrational recesses of my brain and heart, I used to feel at many times that I was blessed with easy fertility and a stepson and such a house-full of children as some time of “consolation” for the twelve hard years I had to be exiled from Israel and living in New Jersey.

No, I am not comparing Leah’s “My husband meant to marry my sister not me and now I have to live with him adoring her as his new wife” hard to my “Stuck in suburbia with a Target 10 minutes away” hard. Everyone’s hard is different, and for me, twelve years forced to live outside of Israel because of a decision my husband’s ex wife made was hard.

We finally came home, returned to Israel, and chose to settle in our favorite place outside of Jerusalem’s Old City Walls, which is the hills of Judea, “Harei Yehuda“. This place means so much to me. The hills of “Yehuda” are an ever present gift outside my window, one I appreciate ten-fold precisely because of the time I couldn’t be here. 

After being blessed with our return, I feel “dayenu moments”, as we refer to them, every single week, if not every day. Singular moments that in and of themselves would each be enough to say “dayenu” – to make all of the struggles of aliyah – twice – totally worth it, just for that one moment.

So when we finally made it home, and the kids are finally settling into life here, and I can finally feel like we are really here, really home…. Hashem blessed us with another healthy, happy baby. And he feels like that “extra portion” that was just a gift from Hashem. Of course they are all gifts. Yet, at 41, with a full house, my youngest already 5 1/2 and a busy, heaping full plate of noise and hugs and love and mess and holy holy chaos… “Hapam Odeh li at Hashem”.

This time is just “Thank you”… hence, the name “Yehuda“.

The Judean Hills, or “Harei Yehuda”

 

 

 

 

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Post-Partum….

December 1st, 2013

“This is your seventh baby? This one is going to just pop right out, you will see…”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard that over the past few months.

My youngest is 5 1/2 – which means it has been a while since I have been pregnant. I was younger, fitter, and while I had my hands much more full with a house full of little ones, I also had more energy.

This pregnancy was harder. Much harder…… but it was nothing compared to the labor/delivery.

None of my other deliveries were easy, but they were pretty straightforward. I have shared with just about any woman who will listen that I proudly delivered twins without an epidural or surgery at 40 weeks – and 6.5 and 8 pounds.

This labor was more than a day, on no sleep, with a “failure to progress”. I was spared a c-section, but at the price of tremendous amounts of strain on my body, the likes of which I have just never experienced.

… I don’t know if it is my age, the hormones, the difficult labor, the very full house or a grand combination of them all, but this time post-partum hit me BIG TIME.

I found myself just crying for what seemed like no good reason. I felt overwhelmed, and mostly I resented every single person that tried to check in with me, asked me what I was doing, expected me to be chipper, friendly, happy, open or affectionate. Including  my own children.

“Can’t they see I am trying to recover?”

“What is wrong with them? Why are they calling me? ”

“How can they possibly ask me for a hug.”

“Just stopped by? Seriously?”

More than anything else, my moodiness, touchiness and lack of ability to be a charming friend and hostess to others seemed to be met with consternation at best, horror at worst, rather than compassion. 

I am in week two now, and what an amazing difference a week makes! My milk is flowing, my child is occasionally sleeping for a whole couple of hours not in someone’s arms. I am no longer taking pain medication round the clock, feeling achy and weak the minute it starts to wear off. I can put on my own shoes. There is a rush of relief that the Shalom Zachor and the Brit are both over. The trauma of the birth doesn’t come to me in flashes like it did last week. Neither do the unexplained bouts of tears. I am able to smile when someone walks in the door, and you might, just might occasionally find me answering the telephone.

The help, advice and meals I have received have been just amazing.I think that religious Jews who have a community that takes turns at lifecycle events  being there for each other, are the luckiest people on earth. And I count myself as one of the most blessed because I live in Neve Daniel.  The love and support expressed from around the world has been so touching, so wonderful.

The most positive experience has been the communal celebration of this birth by our neighborhood, family and friends.

Why write such a negative post during this weekend of thanks??? Why bother writing this? Because I think that when we are truly happy for people we want to connect to them. To reach out and let them know. I also think that 9 times out of 10 a new mother, at least for that first week, needs exactly the opposite. Sometimes love means giving someone space.

I have always dropped off donated dinners to new moms with a note and a delivery person, and I have never thought to make a visit or a phone call in the first week. But I also doubt I have ever been sensitive enough to avoiding asking “how are you” for a week, or assuming that maybe a hug for the new mom is not in order at a bris. I never knew that difficult sleeping when your baby sleeps is a primary symptom of post-partum baby blues, but I have always known that lack of sleep makes everything else harder.

I have had many friends who suffered from post-partum depression, but I didn’t see  it – that is part of what I am describing, which is a desire to shut everyone out during such a dark time. I heard about it after the fact. Until now, I never understood why it was traumatic enough to cause some of them to think twice before having another child.

I haven’t enjoyed the experience, but I do hope it is going to make me a better friend, relative, neighbor and eventually mother to new moms. That I will have a newfound appreciation for that space.

If you ever give birth and I seem aloof during your first week, please don’t be offended, I will just be giving you your space, whether you need it or not. My guess is that if you are a brand new mom, you will be FAR too busy to notice, no matter how you are feeling.

yehudanoam

 

One last note: our beautiful new baby’s name is Yehuda Chaim, and I will post our thoughts and words on the baby and his name just as soon as this little newborn will grant me the time. In the meantime, wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and Chanukah!!! 

 

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The hard part.

August 24th, 2012

Ask most moms, and my guess is that they will agree that labor is not the hard part of having a baby.

Okay, labor is really hard. It isn’t the hardest part. That is day 3, or 4, or 5.

When you have a baby you have all sorts of drugs (natural as well as perhaps otherwise) in your system from the pain and adrenaline. You are thrilled to be done, G-d willing successful, and no longer pregnant. You have this beautiful baby!

A few days pass, and you come home from the hospital. Your milk comes in, suddenly your baby wants to eat in a serious way – and all of the time. Your hormones kick in. Your husband turns to you and says that work is done cutting him slack and it is time to go back/get serious/work more hours. Your other children decide they have had enough being big and brave and supportive and are ready for some “you need to show me you love me too” attention. All at once. And somehow you realize that your house is a disaster and a week’s worth of laundry has piled up. And this all comes down on you as day 3/4/5 of sleep deprivation makes your coping skills really, really limited.

Am I right?

So this is what this particular phase of our aliyah feels like.

The kids put on a brave, positive face. They made it through camp, and have really made tremendous efforts. But one month without furniture and a whole week home without camp in which to notice is just about enough. School starts soon and the “orientation” meetings didn’t really help, they just brought the reality of starting over in a new language to the forefront. Anxieties are at an all time high. Places of refuge and comfort at “home” are at an all time low.

My husband and I too are done allowing all of the take out food and the ‘getting by’ – we are also anxious for familiarity, routine and doing one thing – anything – that doesn’t take three times as long as it should.

The heat is at its highest and patience is at its lowest.

On day 3/4/5 after having a baby I routinely want to handle the situation by crawling under the covers, ignoring everyone and falling into a deep, blissful sleep for three or four days. I dream of someone else coming along and being the Ima for a day or two, taking care of it all — including me. None of that happens, but the phase does pass.

I find myself craving the same solution here.  And similarly, I usually manage a daily escape into sleep for about 45 minutes instead. It helps.  Now, as then, there is no one else to be the cheerleader and to say “yihiyeh b’seder” (it will all be all right) another one hundred times. There is no one else to make sure I drink enough, sleep enough, eat enough.

There is no other Ima coming along to say “I’m sorry” after every complaint, and the complaints these days are endless.  They are entitled.  This move is asking so much of them.

Everything I learn as an Ima is a tool to help me be wiser in the rest of my life – at least if I am fortunate enough to learn as I should. I know this too shall pass. The time will come when they will tell me I am exaggerating their current woes when I recall them. There is a time that the “aliyah baby” will coo and be adorable and I will forget just how miserable day 3/4/5 was. I know the day will come.

But I gather my strength and endurance to make it through until it does.

 

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Moving is nuts….

June 26th, 2012

I have to be out of my house by Friday. My aliyah date isn’t until July 22nd, but we won’t be here. We are going back to my parents’ house/summer getaway/magical place on Cape Cod first.

Uprooting your life to move with school-aged children is honestly crazy. Finding a way to say goodbye to your close friends and family is crazy. Finding a way to say “goodbye” to my stepson as he leaves for college and finding a way to tell him we are still his parents and love him but will be six thousand miles away? Definitely crazy.

Love makes us do a lot of crazy things, and my love for the land and the people of Israel are worth it. But right now in the middleof the storm of crazy I am spending a lot of time trying to have faith and hold on tight.

This move feels a lot like giving birth. And we are getting close. I think I am in the ninth-month-with-braxton-hicks phase right now, and when I was pregnant, that made me pretty crazy too.

Just as then, I know what will come in the end is all worth it.

….But if anyone wants to borrow some stir-crazy, bored, emotionally strained children for a few days, just let me know. :  )

 

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Meeting Mayim

May 30th, 2011

About a month ago, I went to a fundraising event for Jew In The City where I got to meet Mayim Bialik. Probably best known as “Blossom“, she now plays Amy Fowler on The Big Bang Theory.

The main reason I attended the event was to support Allison Josephs, the one-woman-show behind Jew In the City, and the amazing work she is doing for the Jewish world.  I was determined not to be a groupie. I am embarrassed to admit that prior to the event I had never watched Mayim on The Big Bang Theory. I have been privileged to spend most of my life meeting and speaking with prominent,  people for one reason or another (none of which have anything to do with me).  I don’t fawn, and have always prided myself on relating to the famous just like everyone else.  (*Margaret Thatcher was the exception to that.  I don’t consider her a real person; she is history and larger-than-life, right? )

But this scenario was different. I spent my entire childhood dreaming of a life on stage. I performed from age eight. I took singing lessons, dance lessons, acting lessons and spent summers at BU Theater Conservatory. When I was  a junior in high school and the hobby wasn’t going away,  I was told by all of the well-meaning adults in my life that I was  “too Jewish” to make it in “the business”. It wasn’t just my parents who discouraged me, telling me that Bette Midler and Barbara Streisand were the exceptions to the rule, but all of the  professionals in show business who I came into contact with as well….

… And then the movie Beaches came out. And Mayim Bialik was literally playing a young Bette Midler.  And her movie role led to her own TV show. So she became a hero to me, and a symbol that all of those adults were wrong. (Somehow I drew that conclusion a lot at 17.) I continued to pursue a career on the stage for many years after. I subsequently dropped that plan for my own reasons, almost all of which had to do with my religious growth and shift in priorities.

So here is the very same Mayim Bialik talking about her religious growth with me in the center of the second row, hanging on her words like a full-blown groupie.  It didn’t help that we are both into attachment parenting and healthy eating (“both into”  as in she has written a book on holistic parenting and I do what I can when I can.) Or that the first thing Mayim said to me when I walked in was:  “Oh my gosh, I almost wore that dress tonight!”.

Yes, she did say that, and this is the dress.

I tried not to gush, or to tell her all of this background which would have sounded ridiculous to her, but to instead maintain my customary non-groupie-like composure. Since I  fell out somewhere between polite and out-right gushing, I think I came across as a complete weirdo.  I also think she must be really used to it.

More than anything else, I really appreciated learning from her that evening. Much more than an actress she is a true thinker. A PhD in Neurology, she is intellectual and deliberate in her approach to just about everything, including her faith.  One of the things she said that struck me the most is that she knew she was on a ladder of personal growth. But she needed to understand the shape and structure of the ladder, i.e. Jewish law, philosophy and theology, before being able to reach her hand off of it and safely out to Hashem. I have used the analogy of a ladder often in describing my own personal Jewish reality  and  I found her description so apt.

I left the evening sure that if we just had some time together Mayim and I would just be great friends. This woman who had the career that I tried not to covet as a teenager is now in the arduous process of melding her love of acting with her growing love of Judaism.  I feel for her, relating so strongly to the many choices and changes that I made along the way. Okay, so I didn’t exactly have to contend with being on a PRIME TIME SITCOM, but I made my own sacrifices.

I think it is to Mayim Bialik’s credit that she left me with that impression that we would be buddies if only…  as well as no doubt 90% of the other people in that room, and 90% of the women all over the country who watch her and have met her.

One other comment she made that stayed with me was her retelling of a fundamental question Allison asked her when they began learning together many years ago as chevrutot,  or study partners: “Why do you think G-d gave you this amazing success and what do you think he wants you to do with it?”   She didn’ t have any answers then, but it was a life-changing reference point that she said Allison has stuck with and revisits with her.   She is taking a lot of composed, rational middle-aged women like myself and turning us into groupies, and getting an increasing amount of attention about her Jewish growth and her holistic parenting choices.

So she  is doing much with her notoriety, and I think she is at least part of the way towards figuring out an answer.

 

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Another Baby?

December 21st, 2010

I am NOT having another baby right now. No big announcement happening here on the blog. Sorry.

But it is the conversation that I, and many of my peers, friends – and fellow bloggers – have to have. For some of is, it is a conversation we keep revisiting.

I realize that for some people it isn’t as easy as a conversation or just deciding. I also know there are plenty of times we have “the conversation”, make a decision, and G-d just has other plans.  For better or worse, as Scary Mommy puts it: “It seems like all I need to do is think about a baby and poof, nine month later, I have one in my arms.”

So there are those of us who have “the conversation” because we do think that we have the ability to decide,at least on some level.

The decision can be about a lot of things, and I am hoping that you will chime in about some of them. There are two things I hear most often. For some, it is a question of family size above all else. “How could I possibly handle more? I can’t handle what I have!”, for example. Or, “I always thought I would have X number of kids, but maybe that is just my ideas getting in the way of what is practically best for us.”

For some, it is the AGE thing… “well, I am going to be/am/am over  40, so it’s now or never!” I hear too. I am going to be 39 in March, and I guess, well, I fall in this category. I say I am done, but saying so when you still have time to change your mind is one thing…..

When I was in labor with my youngest child (who will be 3 this spring), my husband said to my doula “the next time, we will…”  There was no rest of the sentence, because I threw the birth ball at him.

Seven is a lot of children. (And any of you tempted to say, or even think ” six and a stepson” you will just have to read this post on the matter.) It is a lot.

Everyone has to do what is right for them, and for many of us that means not only having “that talk” with our spouses, but with a Rabbi.  But I do want to address those of you who are considering going from 2 to 3 or from 3 to 4, because this is a group of women I think I hear from the most.

Here is my two cents, which may be worth much less than that:

  • When you have two kids, you can have a lifestyle. I mean hobbies, vacations, date night… a lifestyle.If you want to maintain a lifestyle and choose to have a third, you have to stop and consider how close your parents live, how good a roster of babysitters you have, and how flexible you are. I believe it can be done, but with effort.
  • However, if you want or are willing to have parenting be your lifestyle, than three is nooo problem, because parenting is what your lifestyle will become. You will take vacations around the kids, and basically do what you do for and about them – at least for a decade or two.
  • … And if you have chosen parenting as your lifestyle, then four is really not a big change over three. Very often you can then have “team A” and “team B” for the purpose of logistics. Who is on which team is constantly in flux, but you can divide up the kids while doing  playdates/errands/ naps/baths/homework… you get the idea.  The kids have taken over the life, then house, the plans, so a fourth means more diapers and less sleep, but not much of an adjustment.

A friend recently related her feelings of still yearning, loving pregnancy and child-bearing, and wanting to enjoy yummy little babies. She is not sure if those feelings are a sign she should keep going, or just some biological stirrings that she needs to learn to contend with. Another friend told her of a woman in her fifties having a hysterectomy and crying, because for some, there is no magical age when that feeling just fades away on its own.

People often talk to me about this very personal issue, telling me that they wonder how can a person do what they do, times seven. “It seems so crazy!”

I tell them that it is crazy, and fun, and joyous and hard and full of love. That when I became a mom I wasn’t a patient person who could live with clutter or a lack of control. I had no choice but to become that kind of person along the way. I remain organized, I prioritize my expectations, I ask LOTS of people for help (and try to help in return whenever I can, ) and I am married to someone who LOVES babies, and loves kids and loves being involved with the poop-changing and bed-timing, etc., which is a HUGE factor in the equation for me.

My husband’s involved co-parenting is the primary, if not sole reason I have the family I do. However, it is precisely because he really does love babies that much, we do end up still having “the conversation“…..

What about you? Are you having “the conversation”???

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Heart held by many Hands

“You have seven kids? Wow! That’s a lot… I only see six. ….Oh? He’s your stepson… so he lives with you? …………….No? Oh, so you have six kids of your own………..”

“You have seven kids?! What’s the age range? …………………Oh, so one is your stepson. So you really have six kids, then.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard comments like these, or countless variations on them.  Almost all of them are conversation with well meaning, kind, good people. I am certain that if they knew how hurtful and upsetting these comments are, they wouldn’t dream of saying such things.

I am an “Ima” to seven children. The first, my stepson, who I love and who yes, does not live with me, chose the name of this blog. So, yes, I am an “Ima” to seven children.  My relationship with my stepson is different than my relationship with the other six of my children. My relationship with each of my children is different. I have one child who has another parent, another house, another way of doing things. It is different. Not less, not more. Different.

I could write a long post about the credentials that give me the “right” to say that I have seven children, although I did, yes, give birth to six, and I do, yes, have six children living in my house. I could regale you with tales of cleaning up vomit, wiping tushies, midnight peepee accidents, holding hands during scary stuff, scheduling and logistical gymnastics, school meetings, laundry, flexibility on every tiny detail of life, etc. I could talk about tailoring meals, trying to build character, discipline and learning from as well as teaching to this child. I could, in short, tell you the story of 11 years of parenting.

I could tell you that I would jump in front of a bus to save seven children without a moment’s thought. I could tell you that stepparenting can take more time, more energy, more patience than parenting a biological child living in your home.

I could also write about how adopted children are “counted” by strangers as our children. Children who go to boarding school are “counted”. Neither womb dwelling nor number of days living in one’s house each year constitute parenting.

There are women with children who have addiction problems (G-d forbid) that they are not in touch with, or barely see. There are women who don’t even have a speaking relationship with their children. And I seriously doubt that someone they just met would suggest to them that they need to edit or clarify the number of children they “actually” have.

But I don’t think any of that really gets to the point. The bottom line is that when I say I have seven children, I have seven children…..because if you could shrink yourself and get teeny tiny and crawl inside of my heart, you would find special little spaces that have grown in it. Spaces that weren’t there before, spaces that have caused me growth and pain and joy and  limitless capacity for love.

And there are seven of those spaces.

The next time you meet a mom and she tells you the number of children she has, and she mentions that one/some of them are stepchildren, I hope you don’t qualify her numbers for her.  I hope you don’t ask if they live with her. I hope you smile.

I really cannot presume to know how much this does or does not bother all other stepmoms. I also cannot, however, believe that it is just me.

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Letter to Cousin on BIRTH:

August 11th, 2009

Read the rest of this entry »

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