Saturday, January 11, 2014

Letter to my Daughter on her First Birthday

Dear Maya,

On the day you were born, after having contractions for two days, I woke up and my water was leaking. Even though you were only 35.5 weeks, it seemed like you were done hanging out and wanted to meet all of the people who love you. Your abba drove in heavy traffic to Northwestern University's Prentice Hospital. It took 45 minutes to drive five miles. 

You probably wanted out a little early because I had something called cholestasis of pregnancy.  My entire pregnancy I had a pain in my upper right quadrant and the last few weeks of your life, terrible itching on the bottom of my feet, my hands, arms and legs. Your abba and I kept saying that I was a chatul, which is Hebrew for cat.

He pulled up the car, walked us to their intake room. I waited as he parked, which is no easy task between 9-10 a.m.  Then we were sent to a triage to make sure that my water had really broken and it wasn’t something else.

The lovely nurse did the test and 15 minutes later she came back with the results. “You are having a baby today!” she said. Your abba and I both said, “Yeah!!!” and I started texting family and friends.

We were taken up to a delivery room and I was given petossin to move the process along.  On a side note, two other Israeli babies that we knew were being born on the same floor, but they pulled rank on you and were born on the 9th.

Happily, my doctor, Dr. Moses, was at the hospital that day, and he came to check on me several times. My old friend Dr. Jennifer Miller was also at the hospital that day and she came to visit. Your Uncle R-Jay is an anesthesiologist at the hospital, and came to visit a lot.  Your dad was sitting at the table finishing a paper he had due that day for his history class. At some point, I think our entire family, mom, dad, Eric, was there visiting, too. Although this is where it gets a little fuzzy.

Later in the evening, my body wasn’t exactly doing what it was supposed to and I wasn’t progressing. At some point, your heart rate dropped and I was on my hands and knees on the bed with what seemed like 20 medical professionals in the room. It was very scary. Your heart rate went back to normal and from then on I wore an oxygen mask. I was a little scared, but I really had faith in the doctors. At this point it was evening and Dr. Moses had already gone home to take care of his three beautiful, smart kids; Dr. Starr was on duty. I had never met Dr. Starr before, but I liked her immediately because she exuded confidence.  She told me after the heart rate incident that if it happened again, there would be a good chance that you would be born by C-Section. I was okay with that, as my best friends and your Bubbie had all had C-Sections.  Dr. Starr did something though to help me progress, and it worked and I began to dilate faster. I was not quite fully dilated when your heart rate dropped again. A team of about 20 again came in and Dr. Starr looked me straight in eyes and said “this baby needs to come out now.” She took the forceps and after a few pushes, took you out.  Sometimes your mom thinks of things at weird times, and when she took you out I was thinking that I hope you would grow up to be as confident and competent in whatever you do as she was.

We didn’t know your gender and were excited to find out that you were a girl. You didn’t cry at first, but after a team of doctors worked on you for probably 30 seconds, maybe more,  you screamed! It was the best sound I have ever heard. 

Then I can’t remember who held you first, me or your abba.

We were taken to our room and you were declared healthy. You were five pounds, two ounces. You were a little small, but didn’t need any medical intervention. You were so cute and had the biggest eyes ever. 

Minutes old.


On the day of your first birthday, you woke up with those same eyes, only brighter, but you were also a little crabby. I changed your diaper and got you ready for school. After a bottle, you were your usually smiley self.

 I dropped you off, and you had a huge smile because you love the woman who takes care of you.  I went to work, but all day all I could think about was you.  I picked you up at 3:15.

Your Sabba and Savta came over at 4:30 and you and I got in the car at 4:45 to head to Jerusalem to spend some time with your Abba on Shabbat.  They came over to help on Saturday so I could get some rest (although I’m writing this while they are out on a walk with you).

Your Abba has been leading tours for 18 to 26 year olds and hasn’t been home in a month. You and I also just made a trip to and from the US, your third trip!!!! You already have 36,000 frequent flyer miles at age 1. We drove to Jerusalem. You slept the entire way. I used Waze and it took me down a road that had I actually evaluated, I would have avoided. First we stopped at our friends' house,  Yaniv, Dafi, Guy and Michael. They gave us some supplies we needed. Then we headed to meet your Abba at the hotel.

Your Abba had bought you a cake, and we were trying to figure out when to give it to you. It was already Shabbat, and although we aren’t observant, we didn’t want to bother anyone else.  We asked the hotel for dairy plates and went to a corner of the lobby with a candle and the beautiful cake that your father bought. Luckily, just as we were about to do the cake, our old colleague Sara Weiner came in and agreed to be our photographer. THANK YOU SARA.  We lit the candle and sang happy birthday.  You, me and your Abba blew it out and wished for you a healthy, happy year. 

Your father had to take care of some business and I went to eat with his group: 40 college students from Brown University and 7 IDF officers. This was an apropos way to spend your birthday, because your dad and I met on one of these trips!!!!

The Brown students were so sweet and loved you. You were flirting with them like crazy. Your abba and I didn’t know this, but they planned a surprise. They had the hotel bring out a piece of cake for you with a sparkling candle. All 50 of them sang happy birthday, and well, you started screaming and crying. The right word is whaling. It was a little too much for you, but I was impressed by how sweet they were and thanked them profusely. This is a credit to them but also to your abba, who everyone loves as their tour guide.

Maya, this is definitely not how I envisioned my child's first birthday. I would have thought of a big celebration with other kids, cake, balloons, my parents, brothers, their wives, your American cousins.  Next week you will have that kind of celebration with your Israeli cousins, and I'm sure it will be beautiful, there will be an awesome cake, and the food will be delicious. 

But on the day of your birthday, I pictured it differently.  I pictured you unwrapping presents and playing with the boxes. I pictured you throwing your face in a Dainty Maid cake.

But I want you to learn something that  took a long time, too long, for your mommy to learn. Sometimes the way we picture things are not the way they are meant or need to be. 

And the way that things are is just perfect.

We left the hotel at 9:30 p.m and arrived home at 10:45. It was a quick trip and a bit chaotic, but I don’t and didn't regret it. I wanted you to spend your first birthday just like you spent the first hours after you were born: with your abba and me. 

And it was perfect.

 Video of Maya eating her cake.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Iran or Israel?

Two weeks ago my daughter had a 103.5 fever,  hours before we were leaving to visit my family in the United States. Luckily, my in laws were with me. We decided because she and I  were flying, we needed to go to the ER for a clear diagnosis. For example, if she had strep throat or an ear infection, we wouldn’t fly. The nearest hospital to our apartment is Laniado in Netanya. I knew nothing about this hospital except that there was a sign for it on the highway and a friend of mine had delivered her baby there.

First, and most importantly, the medical care she received there was excellent  (especially from one of the nurses), thorough and fairly fast for an emergency room. She was diagnosed with something not contagious, but that for sure required ER care, and we made our flight to Chicago.

However, the hospital experience was the most bizarre I have ever experienced in Israel. I have been to five medical facilities in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Be'er Sheva. Laniado was my sixth in this country. When we pulled up to the hospital, the parking lots were gated off. When we asked a security guard to open the gate, he gave us a hard time: “It’s Shabbat,” he said.  My mother in law told him that we have a sick little baby, and he relented after a bit of back and forth. However, he said to drop her off, and then park blocks away from the hospital. When we entered the hospital, I was taken (my mother in law came with me) to a back room with my daughter. The intake person  (who was also lovely) handed me a cell phone. There was an unidentified man on the line that said, “Listen, it’s Shabbat. No (pediatricians) are around. Can you come back tomorrow?”

Clearly, I wouldn’t have come to an emergency room if I could have come back tomorrow, but I explained my situation, and he said, “Well, can you wait around until Shabbat ends so you can pay your bill.”

I told him I didn’t understand what he was asking – although I did because I wanted him to actually say it: They didn't really want me receiving care on Shabbat, but if my daughter really needed care, they didn’t want payment on Shabbat, but they didn’t want me skipping payment.  There is a clear sign at the admissions' window that says how much tourists and residents must pay for an ER visit.  (My daughter and I are not citizens of Israel). I said he could have my place of employment, my address, my passport number, and that I would for sure not forget to pay my bill.  My mother in law also offered her address and passport number. He argued with me some more (by the way, I still have no clue who this was) and then again relented.

While we were in the waiting room, I called my husband to give him an update. A different security guard scolded me me, “No cell phones; it’s Shabbat.”  My father in law wanted to entertain my daughter with a little video on his cell phone. Again, a security guard looked over and said, “No cell phones; it’s Shabbat.”

This is the video my father in law wanted to show my daughter. 

Because of all of the tests my daughter needed, by the time we left, Shabbat was over and we could pay our bill and be on our way.  But regardless, here are my questions:

1.     Why is an Emergency Room open on Shabbat if they do not want people to come there on Shabbat?

2.     Is this kind of Sabbath intimidation legal? It’s the hospital’s right, I guess, to close off its parking lot, but do the security guards have the right to demand that I not talk on my cell phone because of the Sabbath? (It’s not a rule because cell phone use is annoying; it’s a rule because it’s a “commandment.”  Do they have the right to not let us drop off the baby at the front of the hospital?

I ask these questions for two reasons:

a.     I have friends who live in this area (Even Yehudah) who are not Jewish, and would not understand the hospital’s behavior and be really put off by it Despite the good medical care, I would probably steer them clear of it, unless this was an anomaly.
b.      What are my rights in a situation like these, besides to go to a hospital in Tel Aviv if we, and I hope we don’t, need an ER again?

Looking forward to your responses.