“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.
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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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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I had a shocking experience today. I have a cordial and somewhat of a “working” relationship with the local public library. Now.
I remember the librarians’ trepidation when as new residents I would stroll in with six children in tow, confident in my ability to maintain “order”.
There is one librarian in particular is, well, just the cranky type. Over the years, I have listened to my fair share of curt reprobations and reminders, and I have tried to respond to with consistent smiles, patience and cheeriness. Over the years she has come to understand that my children actually won’t trash her library. She has come to appreciate my desire to not only respect her, but the library itself. My volunteering to teaching music programs there hasn’t hurt. I only learned this year that the library is her baby. She is responsible for its existence, and has been there tending to it since it was a storefront with some boxes of donated books. So, she is naturaly protective. I have come to understand and have tremendous admiration for her efforts and concern for the library. I recognize her worries as those of a mother cub, the library being her baby.
I gave a performance at the library yesterday, a celebration of Jewish music for children and their families. I went back to the library today for some follow up, and she was very kind and appreciative.
And that is when she said it: ”You know, I have to say, you are just, well, more put together than a lot of those Orthodox women. You should talk to them. You know it really is such a shame.”
She truly meant it as a compliment. What I think is lost on her is that when I go into the library the VAST majority of the people coming in are in T-shirts, tank tops, jeans, shorts, flip flops, etc. It is totally, utterly normal in our small, rural town to be very casually dressed. From where I am standing, “dressed” is a very kind adjective some of the time. Yet it’s those “Orthodox women” that are slobs. Isn’t it always?
I think it goes without saying that the only reason she noticed so starkly and felt she could say something to me is because she is a non-Orthodox Jew. You know the lack of funkiness on the part of us religious ladies is really giving the rest of the Jews such a bad name… and clearly it isn’t appreciated.
I don’t resent her feeling the way she does, or even her telling me. In fact, I am glad she feels she can speak plainly to me with candor.
Having lived in the US as a non-Orthodox Jew, Israel as an Orthodox Jew, and then back in the US as an Orthodox Jew, I really, really do understand exactly how she feels.
Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock* produced an album of original songs called No Limits. On that album he has a song called “Representing”. “Every day we’re representing…” he sings. And we are. We are Hashem’s agents. Ambassadors. Everything we say and do is watched, noticed and judged. By EVERYONE who isn’t a religious Jew, especially other Jews. It is true all of the time.
This morning I put on a little makeup and jewelry to go to the library and grocery store. I am known in both. (Did I mention this is a small, rural town?) No one who spends what I do in the grocery store on a weekly basis goes unnoticed. Consistently needing two shopping carts doesn’t help either. Today they remarked on the miracle of my having no kids in tow. Really.
Part of me feels really silly getting done up for the library and grocery store. Why take the time? Who cares what other people think? It is a trip to the grocery store, after all.
The other part of me knows that every three to four weeks a complete stranger will stop me while I shop and tell me about their intermarried daughter, their trip to Israel 15 years ago, or even that they have a “baal te-something” child that won’t eat much in their home. Do I mind if they follow me and watch what I buy?
There was a day I was wearing particularly shlumpy clothes into the local CVS. Who would notice? Who would even know I was a frum Jew? In a denim skirt, sweatshirt and baseball hat I could be anybody…. only I forgot that my son with his tzitzit and kippah was with me. A Jewish couple that had just moved into town stopped me outside and introduced themselves as I went back to my car. I have (embarrassing) reminders like this happen to me all of the time.
It is Elul, and we are supposed to remember now more than ever that Hashem is always watching us. That he sees what we do, how we behave, and that he deeply, deeply cares. It can be a positive motivator to remember that people are watching too. Whenever you think “it’s just me” and they aren’t watching you, they are. It isn’t just a question of whether we bothered with makeup or some jewelry, or clothes that have even some modicum of fashion.
We frum Jews sort of think that the world is holding us to a higher standard when it comes to how we speak, how much we smile at others, our patience when waiting in line, etc. But “we” is awfully communal and vague. Each and every individual one of us really is. The way I see it, it is an obligation and a burden, but also a privilege .
It is a burden of privilege the same way that living in Israel is: it is a burden of relevance.
*Shlock Rock is coming to the US later this year and I am booking engagements for them, so if you are interested, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The two halves of the removed cast
My two year old broke his leg a little less than a month ago. It was traumatic (mostly for me) and painful (for both of us) and I didn’t blog about it at the time because I was not really interested in explaining how it happened. I am still not. (Sorry.)
In fact, not satisfying people’s curiosity about the circumstances was something completely new for me, and I was rather proud of myself! I have never been one of those people that could just leave people hanging without the story they so want to hear. This time I had good reasons, which I explained were why he “just fell”, and moved on. Some people really didn’t like that. But it was liberating for me, and yet one more sign that this is really the year I have gotten older.
When the little guy got his cast he was so cautious, and just sat and whimpered until we came over to carry him from place to place. After a couple of days he was scooching on his tush. Then crawling with the cast. By the beginning of week three he was climbing on and off the furniture, dancing, running, jumping – even on beds – and moving so fast and so well that I couldn’t get a diaper on him.
Today he sauntered into the orthopedic surgeon’s office with such cast-finesse that the experienced surgeon was shocked.
They decided they had to take it off to get the x-ray they wanted in order to check his progress. Off it came. I sat with the baby in my lap, cradling him in my arms. He immediately recognized “Luke” (who was just amazing, by the way) and started screaming. This was the horrible man who had put him in the thing! Now, this same person was coming towards him with a small electric circular saw. Can you imagine the scene?
Of course the little guy couldn’t understand the freedom he was getting. He couldn’t understand the kindness being done to him. He was just scared and upset.
The x-ray showed a miraculously and completely healed leg bone, and they left the cast off. As he sat there with a completely healthy leg, he refused to step on it or use it in any way, never mind walk. Of course he has to readjust, and I wouldn’t push him. He will get back to being a crazy monkey, eventually, just like he did with the cast on.
By this evening he hesitantly stood and limped along using both legs, declaring “yay feet!”.
But I had a real revelation today about our human nature as I sat holding my terrified little baby getting freed from his bondage.
There are so many times that we cling for dear life to whatever it is that has most recently become familiar. Even if it is itchy and “weighs us down”, it is what we know. And since it is what we know that is how we want to move, run, dance – even if life could be lighter, easier, faster and smoother, we resist the adjustment process itself. We are just like Hashem’s scared little 2 year old, having no idea that this scary circular saw coming at us is really truly “l’tova“, for the good.
I am happy this moment came during the counting of the Omer. This is our personal and national ascent in spiritual heights to become the person we need to be in order to personally receive the Torah on Shavuot. I know that at least for me, this will definitely have to involve casting off some shackles of my own, and learning to walk again.
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I attempted to make hamentashen with 6 children last night.
Dear stepson is 15 and interested in lots of things; baking with 6 little kids not being one of them.
My 22 month old wasn’t really baking, more like “interfering”, but he definitely felt part of the process, and wore an apron sewn by Safta just like everybody else. My ten year old patiently showed him how to “pinch pinch” and then had the restraint to let him try while she sat on her hands, so to speak. There are many times a day that I am struck at how much better a mom she will be than I am. Thank G-d.
We used Homeshuling’s ”Best Hamenstaschen Ever” recipe, which is my new favorite. If it isn’t the best ever, it is the best I have ever used.
Interestingly (at least to me) her daughter and mine both came up with the “mini hamentashen” version… I would argue there is a direct connection to Polly Pockets. Hmmmm………………..
So my lesson-learned-the hard-way of the day:
We made two batches. With the first, everyone took turns doing everything. We went in turns measuring and pouring the ingredients, and then took turns rolling the dough, cutting circles, filling, pinching, etc. Sounds great, right?
That was not really a lot of fun. No one was happy with their lot, and they all spent a lot of time “critiquing” their fellow chefs. While trying to manage them all at once, the baby somehow managed to spill popcorn kernels all over the floor.
There was a time in my life that would have phased me, too.
Second batch: I made the dough, told them to deal with that; they had to let me do that part. I then rolled 5 approximately even balls of dough, and let them each choose one to make into hamentashen from start to finish, one at a time, in ascending age order.
I believe that such plans aren’t necessary when you are baking with two. But baking with six (five, really), well, it made a huge difference. Everyone had their chance, without interference, to do it “their way”. They each had the same number of hamentashen come out of their “batch” (6) and peace and order (relative of course) was restored.
In my own defense, batch number two probably wouldn’t have gone as smoothly as it did without the “tutorial” of batch number one that we did together. Still, next year we will bake together — separately.
5 of the 6 all in aprons sewn by their Safta.
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1. Peel a clementine/tangerine. If you start it, they can peel off the rest. It gives you more time, and they are sooo happy, with a yummy reward for a job well done.
2. Putting the silverware from the dishwasher basket into the drawer. So it won’t be sorted properly. You can always do that later. Just take out sharp knives first.
3. Turn off the lights in their room at bedtime. Very empowering.
4. Put their own shoes on the right shelf, in the right drawer, or in the right closet.
5. Push the stoller… okay maybe only for fives steps, but still.
6. Get out of the car, once mobile. They like the extra time it takes once you have taken them out of the car seat to climbing out of the car — sometimes it is a lot of extra time.
7. Putting the groceries into the back of the cart. (Bet you already knew this one.)
8. Play with push pins. No; it isn’t too dangerous. Tlhey can put them into the top (or side) of a cardboard box, especially if you do it first and make holes. Great for their dexterity, and keeps them busy and out of trouble for a number of minutes. Works best when they are in a high chair, so you don’ t have to worry about push pins everywhere. They also get that the ends are sharp, and avoid them. This is also a great lesson. Not for every kid, I admit.
9. Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar. I use this instead of honey and syrup on food. Much less sugar. They love to do it themselves. A one year old can sprinkle it on unsweetened apple sauce without any help.
10. I was waiting to post this until I came up with a tenth. But I think it would be more fun if you sent me your suggestions….
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