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.