Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Jewish Man's Rebellion

I've been caught up reading the reactions to Carey Purcell's article (given the green light by editor Lisa Bonos) I'm tired of being a Jewish Man's Rebellion.  Ms. Purcell has been branded by the twitterverse as being at worst a Nazi and at best a terrible writer.

Whatever my thoughts on the article, I would not label Ms. Purcell as anti semitic. I think Ms. Bonos is more problematic for publishing the article, but that's for the Washington Post to sort out.  What I do think Ms. Purcell was trying to do was explain the unexplainable.

In life we have control over almost everything except our genetics and ultimately who wishes to settle down with us. If a break up was as clear as changing car insurance companies (lower price, more coverage), there would be no such title as "my psycho ex" or description of a person as bitter over a prior relationship. The word baggage would simply mean luggage.

I experienced a lot of breaks up during the 35 years prior to getting married, and although I could surmise why men no longer wanted to be with me, I never actually knew for certain. I remember being told:

1. My feelings aren't developing for you at the rate that I'd like.
2. I don't love you anymore.
3. I met someone else and am going with her.
4. I'm not the right guy for you.
5. You are too old and too Jewish for me.
5. And my favorite - (silence).  I guess that's called ghosting these days.

By blaming her two failed relationships on being Christian and on being a "Jewish Man's Rebellion,"  she is simply trying to make sense of loves' endings. Unfortunately for her, and for all people trying to find "the one," she is not entitled and probably will never know the exact reason why her relationships did not work out.

It is an incredibly difficult part of life; one that I found especially challenging to navigate.  It sounds like Ms. Purcell is having a hard time, too.

Jewish Man's Rebellion on Passover. Those bagels looks so good right now. 




Monday, February 19, 2018

Polish Government Criminalizes History

These are Facebook posts I wrote about Poland criminalizing talking about Polish atrocities during the Holocaust. 


The Polish government is releasing disgusting, sophisticated propaganda to justify their asinine, autocratic, ethnonationalist, backwards law criminalizing discussing Polish atrocities during the Holocaust. No one refutes that the Polish people suffered during WWII. No one refutes that many Poles were righteous among the nations. Also, no one thinks that Poles today need to take responsibility for the atrocities of their ancestors. HOWEVER, that does not change the fact that ordinary Poles indeed committed atrocities against their Jewish neighbors. You can't change history to suit your narrative and these lies spit in the faces of not only those murdered, but the Poles who were righteous. This is a shameful turn in Polish history and portends more bad things to come.

........

The Polish Prime Minister explains that Jews perpetrated the Holocaust to explain criminalizing history. Some Polish people are excited by this! But guess what? That's not news.


To my Polish friends, there were Jews who collaborated with Nazis: Capos and the head of the Judenrat. But they all met the same fate as the people that they betrayed, and if they didn't, they were put on trial for war crimes or exiled from the community. During slavery in the South, there were slaves who supervised other slaves or were the head of the household. Does that mean they weren't slaves? The Jewish collaborators were so few when you think of the 6 million who died. But why is your prime minister's focus on this? Why does he have no problem calling out these problematic figures, yet he supports a law that criminalizes mention of Polish atrocities during the Holocaust. There is no such laws about discussing or learning about Judenrat or Capos in Israel or anywhere else in the world that is democratic. When your leader and your people feel the need to distort history, you are heading down a very dark path. I hope that the people of Poland have the courage to confront their leaders and leave the past in tact, for better or worse.

There are many Nikolas' Cruz's in the world but only one America

Let's take a look a Nikolas Cruz: Adopted father died 10 years ago. Adopted mother died suddenly in November. Suffered from depression. Was bullied. Wrote scary, stupid things on social media. Fixation on guns. This profile is not that unique, especially on a global scale. However, the difference between Nikolas and the rest of boys in the world with this profile is that he had easy access to buying an "5.56×45mm, magazine-fed, gas-operated semi-automatic rifle." So the argument that people kill people; guns don't kill people, is really stupid. Because if you gave every depressed orphan boy in the world, who was fixated on guns and hated other people an AR-15, you would have even more violence in the world. (In fact, those people are often illegally conscripted as child soldiers.) You want to own a hand gun? Fine. Buy a hand gun with a certain number of bullets. You want a couple of hunting rifles to go kill bunnies. I think that's crazy, but go ahead. No one needs an AR-15 in their home. So here's the thing. We are at a crossroads. If Congress does not pass common sense gun legislation, our representatives are actively saying that they want children to be killed; that the NRA's money is more important than the lives of children. Let's be clear. If you vote for someone who takes money from the NRA, you are voting for someone who is okay that children will be killed. You are prioritizing whatever it is that makes you vote for said person over the lives of children. That's your choice, that's democracy, but own your choices.




Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Stroller

The Stroller

At 7:30 a.m. every day, Hannah walks around the neighborhood, like many moms, pushing her stroller. 

….

It was their fourth child, an accident if there are such things, and after acknowledging when she was 38 weeks pregnant that this was really happening and that they needed to take out the stroller from storage, they discovered that the decade old City-Mini was covered in mold. So they purchased a new one, with new features that they didn’t pay attention to as the salesperson calculated his commission, and opened their brand new, light weight green stroller with an attachable bassinet. 

Hannah and her husband moved to Israel to a new neighborhood with all of the trappings of America. They purchased the apartment with the money she inherited from her parents when they died; a four bedroom, two and a half bathroom, large apartment with a partially obstructed view of the Mediterranean. Hannah was a 45-year-old orphan who was pregnant. Hannah was an anxious person, and during pregnancies her anxiety was off the charts. During her first pregnancy she reached out to a friend in San Francisco, a high risk OBGYN, who affirmed her difficulties: every mental health problem that you have when you are not pregnant is exacerbated by when you are. 

She didn’t take antidepressants with her first child until she was 20 weeks pregnant. She had stopped taking them, under doctor supervision, two months prior to getting pregnant. However, despite upping the number of times she saw her therapist, psychiatrist, and attending mindfulness classes, her anxiety increased until her heart beat as if it were going to leap from her throat. So, with each of her pregnancies she took an antidepressant, Zoloft, and dealt with the silent and sometimes vocal judgment of the neonatal pediatricians after her children were born.  Her husband Jacob was supportive of her decision to medicate, grateful in fact. Their marriage was built on being supportive of one another and being honest with each other. 

They named the fourth child Lev Shmuel in Hebrew and Lev Samuel in English, after her father. Despite the financial pressure having a fourth child would place on them, he was now an indelible part of their hearts. Her husband was against the name Shmuel, because no respectable liberal Israeli would name their child “Shmuel,” but it was her father, and Jacob had loved her father, even though he never called him “Dad” like Americans do with their fathers in law. Besides, no one pays attention to middle names.

Delivering a child is not easy, but Hannah worked out through her pregnancy and was ”fit but fat,” as they say. At the end of the 24-hour labor, the epidural had worn off, and the pain she experienced was surreal, indescribable in fact, but then he was born. And all of the cliches of motherhood, once again, came true. She loved him fiercely from the moment he was born. She felt great and was ready to leave the hospital before they were ready to release her. 

The other three children loved their litter brother. They wanted to call him “Tauti,” which means my “my mistake” in Hebrew, but Hannah and Jacob wouldn’t let them. So they called him “Tooti” which means “my strawberry.” They were too tired to argue with them, and it was their fault that they had overheard them talking about how the pregnancy was accidental, if there are any accidents. Eventually, they noted their nonverbal cues, and by the time he was three-months old called him “Levi,” my heart. 

In Israel, everyone puts their babies until they can sit up in bassinets attached to strollers. Hannah conformed to the bassinet by her third child because she received comments from her in-laws and strangers when they saw the infant strapped into a car seat that attached to the stroller. 

“The baby needs to move.” 
“The baby’s head will be flat.”
“The baby will not learn how to turn over.”

The child is not properly secured in the bassinet, but it did seem as if there was more freedom of movement there. Also, the bassinet could then be removed and used as a co-sleeper at night so they didn’t have to buy or rent another one. 

Hannah dealt with her postpartum anxiety by walking and of course taking antidepressants. It also helped her lose the 10 kilos she had gained while being pregnant. She received a lot of feedback from strangers on these walks. “He needs another layer of clothing.” “He needs warmer socks.” “He needs a heavier blanket.” She thought that the bassinet would alleviate the need for pedestrians to make their comments, but it’s the nature of the culture. One time when she wore the baby in a wrap, she was stopped on the sidewalk and asked if he could breathe properly or if his circulation was being cut off. Hannah didn’t get annoyed by these comments. She knew that in Israel that everyone felt like every child was their own, and that the remarks were coming from a good place. Jacob found them more annoying. 

“Just tell them to shut up,” he said. 

Like she would do that. 

…..

Every morning at 7:30 a.m. for the next seven years Hannah would walk with the stroller. Her husband would sometimes accompany her as would one or two of her children. But usually, she walked alone. When she walked, people would stare. They would whisper. Her children noticed, but she didn’t notice. Her daughter Eva wondered if this what was like for Hester Prynne when she exercised. The walk became so much a part of her routine that she never returned to work full time. School started at 8, and she could only get there at 9 because of the walk. Her husband was supportive and they lived with less money. 

….

During the seventh year, Jacob’s mother Nadia came over to stay with the family for Shabbat. On Saturday morning, at 7:30 a.m., Hannah took the stroller and went for a walk. The eldest child David, home from the army, accompanied her. 

“See you in an hour,” Jacob said. 

“I love you,” Hannah said. 

As the door shut Jacob’s mother, ignoring the fact that the two other children were there, began her planned intervention.

“Jacob, she has to stop going on these walks,” Nadia said

“Why?” Jacob asked.

“It’s time. It’s not good for the children. It’s not good for her. It makes the neighbors uncomfortable. They speak about her like she is a freak,” Nadia said.

“Let them talk,” he said. “The children understand. I understand.” 

“It has been seven years, Jacob. Seven years! She can’t do this forever,” Nadia exclaimed. 

Jacob grew angry. He didn’t usually grow angry, but he knew it was the only way to quiet his mother.

“Neither you or our neighbors are the gatekeepers of time and healing. She disassociates for one hour a day and then she is a loving mother, successful teacher, and doting wife. Why the fuck do you care?” he said. 

She didn’t relent. 

“I did the math. She has spent 150,000 minutes on these walks. Nine million seconds. When will enough be enough?” Nadia asked. 

“First of all, you are off by one day. Second of all, that’s not our decision to make. We don’t get to control her grief,” Jacob said looking down at his phone. The gesture and his tone made it clear that the subject was closed. 


…..

Seven years prior, on one of those walks on a very warm spring day at 7:30 a.m., Hannah and Lev were in the crosswalk when they were struck by a speeding motorcyclist who was on his phone. The bassinet did not protect Lev from the impact, and they said that he died immediately, although Hannah wondered how anyone could possibly know that. Hannah suffered a broken arm and skeletal-muscular problems that were already problematic from four pregnancies, but she would heal, physically. At the shiva, as she sat on the floor using the wall to support her back, a friend’s three year old daughter, Mia, asked if she could sign Hannah’s cast. 

Just prior to the shiva, before the doors flooded with friends and family, Hannah had, using her working left hand, set up a play area for her friends’ children filled with markers paper and Hello Kitty stamps. The rabbi had gently scolded her: “Shiva is a time when people are supposed to focus on you. You are breaking the spirit of shiva.” Hannah gave him her trademark teacher stare and he backed away. Hannah told Mia to grab a marker. The little girl drew a misshapen heart, as she did not know yet how to sign her name. Her friend was mortified that Mia had asked Hannah to sign her cast. She told her friend to relax; the heart was perfect.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Not Enough Diapers

When I was about 7 months pregnant with my son, I was offered and accepted the opportunity to spearhead the design of the school’s new website to complete my teaching contract. This opportunity was afforded to me because In 2000, I graduated from the first New Media Journalism class at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Even back then, I could see the decline of newspapers and knew my print media degree from Indiana University was not going to mean a secure career. I was right. Although since the election of Donald Trump, online subscriptions to newspapers and magazines have skyrocketed, still, during the last recession, almost everyone I knew in the business lost their jobs or changed careers.
I was trained in Dreamweaver, some HTML, Photoshop, and a bit of Flash. My first job after grad school was working for a  website that covered news of the US Supreme Court. However, while getting my New Media degree I had already decided to become a teacher. And although I obviously went in that direction, still, life has always brought me back to this 21st century form of media. Even at my first school I was in charge of technology and the e-newsletter. At my last job, I updated the website and wrote very simple code for the back end of a database.
So here I was, history repeating itself, my third year at my new school, working on the school web site. Only, this time I had a two year old, an infant, and a husband who travelled a lot, and when he was home, was busy on training calls in the evening.
On such an evening, my husband and I had double booked training conference calls.  However, we determined that I would take the baby during my call; luckily, our toddler daughter would be asleep. The baby would also probably just sleep or I could feed him. Although a terrible sleeper, he was a happy, easy going baby. My conference call was with the hosts and “designers” of our web site. I put “designers” in quotes because they really expected us to do all of the work. So, I needed to be trained on how to use their web site development tools. The company is in the USA and the conference call has to be scheduled at night in Israel.
Like any multitasking mom, I came prepared for the call. I looked over the development tools and I had 10 diapers, a pack of wipes, and a bottle ready. I had enough juice in my computer, and it was plugged in. The internet was working well. I also had my hippy mom wrap in case the baby needed to be held the entire time and burp cloths. I was ready.
Do you think Pamper's would sponsor this post? :)
It was time for the videoconference to begin. I logged onto Skype. It would be just Tina and me. Although we would be using Skype, it was against their company’s policy for me to see whoever I was talking to. I can only imagine the origins of said policy, but it made for odd communication. However, by the end of this training call I was grateful for said policy.
When the Skype tune sang, I closed my other tabs, so that I could use the time well and focus.
“Hi, Sharna, I’m Tina, corporate trainer.”
“Hi Tina, nice to meet you.”
“Are you ready to get started?”
“Yes,” I said.
At that moment the baby burped. I’m referring to him as the baby because he no longer resembles that tiny, tiny, helpless infant that he was then.
“What was that?” she said.
“Oh, I’m here with my son. He just burped. But he’s very good. He’ll be quiet,” I said.
Now, you can tell a lot about a person by what she says next after learning that you are doing business with your child in the room.  If she asks “how old is he?” or “does he have siblings” the person would be working-mom friendly. If she doesn’t, she probably isn’t. It isn’t indicative of whether or not she has kids if she is working-mom friendly. Frankly the most intolerant people of working moms are not single women or stay at home moms, but other working moms.
“I see,” she said, not hiding her disappointment.
“Do you have kids?” I asked cheerfully, hoping that my theory was wrong.
“Yes, they are with their nanny,” she said a bit condescendingly.
Tina was probably the type to make sure she and her spouse’’s schedules didn’t conflict, and if they did, she would have the proper child care arranged, and a backup for that child care, etc.
“Let’s get started,” she said.
At first, I was very attentive and the baby was fine. But like storm clouds on the horizon,  his face grimaced and turned red.
“Now our web site is very user friendly. I’m going to show you what every button and icon mean and how to use them,” Tina said getting more excited with every word. “This horizontal icon…”
And that’s when the gas began. He sounded like a steamboat featuring a fireworks show. I raced to mute the audio and did as Tina continued not missing a beat even with the loud noises coming from my end, or I guess the baby’s end.
While the gas was embarrassing, it was manageable as long as I could mute my audio. But every time Tina would ask me a question like, “Do you see how your school could use the multimedia feature?,” I’d have to press unmute the button to answer, and the baby would pass gas, which as the call progressed was getting worse and worse. The noise emerging from him sounded as if I had put a microphone and amplifier in his diaper. But what was strange is that Tina never reacted to the noise, never once asked what was going on. There was no nervous giggle. No sigh. Nothing.
The sounds emerging from the baby continued at their alarming decibels when suddenly his face tightened, tightened, and tightened some more until a look fell over him that again was new and alarming.
Then came the loudest sound of all, a cargo ship pulling into port if you will, followed by a rancid smell that I can only describe as bile mixed with phosphorous.
“Now, we recommend that you include action buttons on every page,” Tina said as the baby began to unleash the biggest poop of his life. At first, I was relieved. I’ll just change him and it will be over. So I grabbed wipes and diaper, still listening to Tina, cleaned him up, but the poop wouldn’t stop. It came out like a yellow and green snake hiding part of itself in the bushes. At first, it just seemed like a regular snake poop, but this poop was the king snake of the jungle. I started catching the poop with diapers, but understand, that infant diapers are very small. They are not meant to handle a king snake.
Tina continued, “Action buttons are typically red, but some of our customers use other colors. I don’t recommend it though.”
I had brought in 10 diapers for the conference call and had gone through them all. So I took out a disposable changing pad and decided to just let the snake come out as it would.
“Sharna, do you plan on using action buttons?”
I unmuted the audio surrounded by tiny diapers and a disposable changing pad filled with poop, “Yes, (insert terrible pooping sound) I believe so.”
“Good, so let me tell you about another feature,” Tina said.
Ten diapers, two packets of wipes, and five disposable changing pads later, the epic poop was finished. I also had poop on me, so I  rubbed antibacterial alcohol gel on my body and on the computer. The baby was exhausted. I put on my hippie mommy wrap and inserted him in the little pouch. At this point he was wearing a diaper I had fashioned out of a burp cloth and put together with safety pins. I knew I would end up with pee all over me, but I needed to get through this training phone call.
“Okay, Sharna, now it’s time for the quiz,” Tina said, very seriously.
“Quiz?” I asked after I unmuted the computer.
“Yes, you must get the majority of questions correct or you will have to repeat the seminar, which will be at an extra cost to you school,” she said, suddenly sounding like a driver’s ed instructor
“Really, a quiz, is this necessary?” I asked feeling the drops of warm pee sieve through the makeshift diaper.
“It’s corporate policy,” Tina said.
Ok, I can do this.
“Which color button do you move when you want to publish a page?”
“Green,” I answered definitively
When uploading multimedia to the web site, what extra step must you take?
“Compression?” I answered.
“No, you must click yes that you would like it uploaded.”
1-1. The baby was wet. I was wet with pee.”
“If you want to save your work, but not publish it, which button do you select?”
“The yellow one?” I asked.
“Nooooooo,” her voice rising in concern. “It’s orange.”
1-2
If you are uploading a photo to the site, what do you have to select to ensure that it’s uploaded?”
“Start upload now. “
“Correct.”
2-2
“Now, you must get this next one right, or you will need to repeat the seminar, at an extra cost to your school.”
I pulled the wrap tight, focused on the screen, determined never to talk to this woman again for the rest of my life.
“If you want to tell call your viewers attention to the website to let them know something was important, what would you use?”
“What is an Action Button?”  I screamed like I had just won the lottery.
“Correct,”  she said, sounding relieved. “Well, Sharna, you just passed. Thank you for taking part in the training. Do you have any questions?”
“No,” I said, looking at all of this poop filled diapers and laundry.
“I also have great news for you,” Tina said. “This audio was recorded so that you can revisit this training it any time you are having problems.”
“Oh, that’s not necessary,” I said thinking about all of the gross sounds that would live forever as an MP4.
“Already emailed it to you,” Tina said cheerfully.
And then I prayed:
Dear Internet Gods, Wherever that audio is stored, please strike the server where it sits with lightning. Thank you.
After my prayer, I chucked all the diapers down the chute, bathed the baby, and went to see how long my husband had remaining on his conference call.  
There he was sitting at his computer reading the New York Times.
“Did your call end early?” I asked.
“No, it was cancelled,” he said, still staring at the computer. “Was the baby okay during the call? I would have taken him, but I didn’t want to interrupt.”

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Supermoon

I had one of the most moving experiences of my life today.
How does one qualify what is most moving?
Was it my first real kiss?
Or when my Bubbie taught me in my dream how to make a recipe and died two days later?
How about the February day my husband told me he loved me for the first time?
Our wedding day?
The birth of our children?
When my father received a liver transplant?
The first time my daughter said, “I love you mommy.”


Perhaps how I feel will change upon reflection, but today I think what happened to me has no competition, as it shook me to my core. Two years ago, a person verbally attacked me. I can’t get into details, and maybe one day I will, but it was by all accounts verbal abuse and it lasted for several minutes. After the exchange, I felt unprotected and unvalidated by the people around me. Perhaps it was because they didn’t hear or witness all of it. They didn’t see the person’s rage or hear their accusations. No one heard the person question my integrity and the essence of who I am.
There were two witnesses: she and I. And the scar that remained after the berating was just something that I would have to get over, like a fall off of a bike or a bad breakup.
And I did get over it. My life didn’t change after that incident. However, the part of my heart where my spirit lives endured the virus that was the person’s anger. In  life, you catch many viruses. Hopefully, most are cured, but some stay in your system, waiting to be awakened by another bully, heartbreak, or injustice.
I knew I would be seeing the person today, and my anxiety levels were high. So when the person didn’t come on time to our meeting, I was relieved. However, 10 minutes later the person strode in and I began to feel my palms and underarms sweat. How much sleep would I lose from this meeting? Would there be a scene? How would I handle it?
As the person approached, instead of sitting across from me at the table, the person came to my side and said, “I need to give you a hug and a big apology.”  The person admitted that he/she had been avoiding me for two years. The person was embarrassed by what the person had done and that I hadn’t deserved the tongue lashing. I held back tears as the person spoke, feeling the injury dissipate. I accepted her apology. I said that I had always know I was just the vestibule for her misplaced anger, and that her motivations were out of love for someone else, not hatred toward me. However, I allowed the person to speak her peace and did absolve the person of his/her actions.  Because they were not ok. But I did forgive the person completely and totally, and told the person not to think about it beyond that day.
I have been wronged in my life. I don’t think I’ve been wronged more than the average person. Actually, if I were to guess, I’ve probably been wronged by less people than most. However, before today, of the people who mistreated me only two have ever apologized. And those apologies were extremely insincere without taking responsibility for their actions.
The person today completely atoned for the misdeed. And even being beyond grateful that the person acknowledged the pain I had experience, it was extremely humbling to watch someone admit their failings and ask for forgiveness.
Perhaps in a world where newsmakers apologize only after polling constituents or conducting focus groups, I was party to a rare event, like a Supermoon. Only the bright light came from within this person’s heart and will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Happy Birthday

I had been waiting for you for a month when you arrived. I thought like your sister you would be early. And as every very hot day passed, I invited you to meet your dad and sister. I knew you would be a boy, and to be honest, I wanted a boy. I didn’t want to know your sex, but it was listed atop an early blood test. I was excited to meet you and impatient.  
8.5 months pregnant with your sister and cousin Talia
You weighed 6 pounds 1 ounce or 2.75 kg. 


So many prenatal tests. You were born in Israel, a country that must do more prenatal testing than any other. You even had an echocardiogram of your baby heart. After the doctor pressured me into an amniocentesis, I could see on a flat screen as the needle avoided your position in the womb. I felt bad for bothering you. The results came in and you would be, indeed, the perfect genetic specimen, at least the genes that they know about and can test for.


As I waited for you, I tried to figure out how I could breastfeed you because I was unable to do so  with your sister. I met with one if not the best breastfeeding experts in Israel. She and her staff were amazing. I credit them for the fact that I could breastfeed you, that I’m still breast feeding you. I wonder if I should put this in writing. Will you be grossed out? I hope that you will read this when someone is feeding your baby, and maybe it won’t bother you.


You were ready on your due date: August 13. At midnight, as I chatted online, I felt the pangs of back labor. I googled a contraction clock and timed them. At six minutes apart I woke your dad. Your Saba and Savta were staying over because I had planned to go into the hospital to try and get induced the next morning. My doctor wrote me a prescription to get induced, but it was really up to the hospital.


We decided to have the baby at the large hospital in Tel Aviv. There were closer alternatives, but I wanted to deliver at a place that did a lot of epidurals and would likely have English speaking midwives. Yes, in Israel, they use midwives, but you weren’t delivered by a midwife. More on that later.


We drove to the hospital happy that there was no traffic. I knew there would be a chance I wouldn’t be admitted. With your sister, my labor was slow. It took me forever to dilate. However, when we arrived at the hospital I was having horrible back labor. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced.

They admitted me and I shared a very small pre-labor room with another woman. We alternated moans. The nurse told me to sit on a ball or sit in the shower. Your father rubbed my back as I screamed. I’m not sure why, but after a couple of hours they allowed me to go to the birthing room. To my disappointment, the midwife did not speak English. We also did not gel. It was very difficult to do what she wanted, although your father translated well.


Finally the epidural came. It worked amazing for one hour. I sat with your father excited for your arrival. But after an hour the pain returned, and then returned more, and then returned fiercely. They upped my dose, but it didn’t work. The last hours of your labor and pushing you out were horribly painful. I know I’m not supposed to say that, but it was. Your father may have lost some of his hearing. When it was time to push, the midwife was very frustrated with me and called in the resident to help her with the delivery. I will never forget him, although I do not remember his name. He was soft spoken, calm, on the shorter side, with blue eyes. After one excruciating push and screaming he said to me calmly, “Screaming takes too much energy. Push without screaming and the baby will come out.” I listened to him and pushed you out.


You didn’t look very good. You were gray. I held you from a moment and then they whisked you off to the NICU. I wasn’t panicked though. The same thing had happened with your sister. I knew you would be okay.

They wanted me to stay in bed because of the after effects of the epidural. But I shot right up on my legs and jumped into the shower, despite the nurse yelling at me. I was ready to jog a 5K after your birth. I had never felt better.


But you weren’t doing as well as me. Your pulse oxygen was a little low and your heart rate was a little fast. The doctors weren’t sure what was wrong. I still knew you would be okay. They told me to go get some rest and I listened. I went back to the room I was now sharing with another new mom and her partner. Minutes into sleep I was awoken, shaken, by a nurse.


She said in Hebrew, “You need to get to the NICU now.”


She ran with me. A doctor took me aside and said in English, “We ran a blood test. Your son had too many red blood cells. His blood is too thick and could cause brain damage. You have five minutes to consent to a procedure which would replace some of his red blood cells with saline.”


“Where do I sign?” I said.


I signed the paper and called your dad. He had just gotten home, fell asleep, and then drove back to the hospital.


Meanwhile, the doctors set up a theater right in the NICU and rushed me to a separate waiting room.


While he was driving, I called my dear friend Dr. Jennifer Miller. I told her about his condition. She was with her father, a long time pediatrician, and his response was, “Tell her Mazel Tov.” I knew from that response that he wasn’t worried, so neither was I. I would later find out that you had gotten a partial exchange for polycythemia. It is still unclear why you had this. The treatment that they did was controversial. But it seemed to work.


You began to perk up with bottle feedings. It took me almost three months to breast feed without severe pain. Maybe I have a low pain tolerance. The lactation consultant said that it was the way that you were feeding and that I should take you to an Osteopathic Doctor for cranial treatment. But, I didn’t.  I didn’t want someone touching your head. I guess that was a bit provincial of me.





When you were two days old you met your sister. She fell in love with you at first site. I can honestly say she has only been jealous of you one or two times. She sometimes hugs you and says, “Benchuk, I love you so much.”


Five days after you were born your Zadie came to meet you.  He was the Sandek at your brit milah (ritual circumcision). So many people came: your dad’s whole family, my cousins,  and friends. I ordered way too much food. I mean way too much food. It was a really nice event. You slept through most of it.


We stayed home together for 14 weeks while I worked a little bit on a web site. You were a mostly quiet infant. You only cried when you were hungry or needed to poop. You were great on our trip to the US when you were nine weeks old. You met your aunts, uncles, cousins and Bubbie. Everyone loved you immediately. You were already smiling your big smiles that you are known for.  




After we returned from the US, and started day care you suffered with a lot of respiratory illnesses. You needed a nebulizer and at one point you were on five different medications. But once summer arrived, you were fine, and I hope that you will continue to be.

To be honest, I have struggled having two kids. You and your sister are great, but no one tells you how hard working and parenting are while maintaining a household, marriage, relationships, and staying emotionally and physically healthy. I will try to do better.




At almost 12 months old you have met all of your milestones early or on time. You’re still not walking quite yet, but I expect it will happen any day.


You love everything except sleeping in your own crib. I’m not sure you will ever sleep there. Right now you sleep for a few hours in a portable crib. That will have to do.


I know I’m making a lot of mistakes with your sleeping. You fall asleep breastfeeding. I don’t let you cry. But I don’t want to. I just don’t. I worry that I messing up. I worry about it all the time. But you look happy and you have quadrupled your birth weight.


You have so many people who love you and the women who you are named after, Grandma Birdy and Aunt Sharon are looking out from above. They would have loved you.


So Benjamin Shia Chacham, this is the story of the first year of your life.  One of the women at day care calls you (in Hebrew) “the prince.”  It’s a cute nickname, but you can grow up to be whatever and whomever you want.




Just know that your Mommy and Abba will always love you.


Happy Birthday.