Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My 5-month Fantasy

I love my child, and I would love to have a small gaggle of children to cal my own.  Here in Israel the waiting list for adopting within the country is something like 8-10 years long and surrogacy isn't an option for us (not because we're in Israel, just because).  So that means that any kids we want, we have to make ourselves.  Lovely.

At any rate, I keep having this really wonderful fantasy where one day I suspect that I might be pregnant and then I get a positive test.  I run to the doctor as fast as my legs will carry me, only to discover that I'm already 5 months along and everything is perfect and dreamy and I float through a meadow with flowers and butterflies all the way to the wonderful, blissful birth and we all live happily ever after.

Great, right?

I figure the chances of that happening are so minuscule that I would be more likely to win the lottery once a week for the rest of my life.  In other words: zero.

A girl can dream, can't she?

High Risk

What do you think of when you hear the term "high risk obstetrics"?  What does it bring to your mind?  Before now, I always thought of someone pregnant with multiples, someone with underlying health issues that can complicate matters, someone with God knows what complication that I don't even know about.

But I never thought about me.

It is difficult to come to terms with the fact that yes, I actually did have a high risk pregnancy due to the HG.  The second OB I saw (I switched after the first OB didn't give me proper care) was indeed a high risk OB, but at the time I kind of just thought that was a great perk, not a necessary measure.

It can be very difficult to come to terms with the fact that despite having no underlying conditions, despite having an otherwise model pregnancy (if you completely ignore everything HG-related), I now have to consider myself high risk and plan accordingly.  The second I have a positive pregnancy test, I need to beg for an immediate appointment with the doctor and get my meds all lined up, among the other zillion things that I will need to do.

I don't like the term "high risk".  It makes me feel like there is danger, where all I want to do is block it all out and pretend that nothing is happening and that life will just be perfect.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Value of a Friend

Back when I was pregnant in 2010, I pretty much had no one to talk to about what was going on with me - no one who could understand, that is.  Of course my husband was there for me but he was sort of at a loss as to what was going on and what to do with me (as was I).  I had some friends who stuck by my side during that time but none of them had ever been pregnant much less had HG, so they were also clueless.  Of course it didn't help that I could barely talk on the phone or in person.

Even though I became involved with the forums at and eventually on babycenter, all of the women were in America or other countries and I never really made that connection with any of them.  So as nice as it was to read that other people were going through the same things as me (actually, most of them were much worse than I was), I didn't really get that bond that I had been looking for.

Then comes a random private message from K earlier this year, asking if she could ask me a specific question.  Sure enough, K is another unfortunate HG sufferer here in Israel where the care for this debilitating disease is subpar, for the most part.  She was already in her third trimester but was still suffering a lot and struggling with an OB who didn't really have a clue about HG but was willing to go along with some suggestions that she brought to his attention.

Oh boy, was it nice to be able to help someone out while I didn't need help at that point.  And you know what?  I think that the relationship is very good for both of us.  We both get it.  Most people don't realize that the effects of HG don't just go away once you give birth.  Physical recovery can easily take a year and emotional recovery - heck, I'm still working on that one and LH will turn two next month.

All of our non-HG friends get tired of us talking about it and more or less tell us to shut up and leave the past in the past.  What they don't realize is that HG isn't only our past - it is also part of our present and, most likely, our future.  We can't just shut it out and forget about it.  For us, talking it out is therapeutic and helps us work through some of the fears and anxieties that are left behind.  We just need a supportive ear to listen.

I am so glad to say that I have found that supportive ear in K, and I really hope that she feels the same about me.  To give you an idea about the kind of person she is - she knows another HG sufferer (TG), currently in the hell of her first trimester.  TG is currently hospitalized and has been for more than a week because her HG is just out of control.  Well K hopped on a bus one day with her baby and went to the hospital to visit TG, then stayed late so that she could be there when the doctor made his rounds so that she could talk to him and be an advocate for TG and make treatment suggestions.  Thank goodness she did - the doctor actually listened to her and implemented several of the suggestions.  Mind you, she had 3+ hours of bus travel each direction to do this.  Isn't she awesome?

So yes, I have found a gem of a friend and that is so so so so so so so important when you are in the HG world, just trying to get by one day at a time.  If you are an HG survivor, network and try to find an HG sufferer and befriend her.  Advocate for her.  Do for her everything that you wished someone had done for you.  You never know, you might save a life.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some People are Buttheads

My friend K recently sent me a great article that had been written by an HG sufferer and survivor for a women's magazine.  In it she details her journey through her first pregnancy with severe HG in all its wonderfulness.  I think she did a fantastic job, although I must say that if I had been the one writing it there are certain parts that I would have stressed more to help get the seriousness across.

The next thing I hear is that in a later issue of the magazine a woman wrote in to the editor saying that since this wonderful HG momma hadn't had a PICC line, then clearly it wasn't severe HG and she demanded the magazine print a correction saying so - which they did.

If only I could get my hands on that letter to the editor, I would write such a scathing reply that that woman wouldn't know what had hit her.  How dare she do something like that.  Seriously - how dare she?

A little education here: just because you don't have a PICC line doesn't mean you don't have severe HG.  Some doctors are unwilling to place one because of the inherent risks, and I have never ever heard of a woman being given a PICC line for treatment of HG in Israel (where the original writer suffered through her pregnancy).  There are a million and one reasons why a woman wouldn't get one.

If you look at the HER Foundation website at the list of signs of severe HG, there is nothing there saying "you don't have severe HG unless you have a PICC line".  I mean, seriously, are you kidding me?

Do you know what it feels like when you go through all that pain and suffering - and yes, it is pain and suffering - and then when you open yourself up to the world in the hopes of educating others, helping other mothers going through it, and perhaps finding some closure yourself - do you know what it feels like when someone comes along and says that you weren't really suffering like you said you were?

Let me tell you a story.  There was a terrible car accident and both drivers are severely injured.  One driver needs a leg amputation, the other leg is shattered, his liver is lacerated, he has severe whiplash, and multiple head injuries.  You would say that this man is in critical condition, yes?  But wait - the other driver has all of these injuries plus seven more and spends three weeks in a coma etc. etc.  Now are you going to go back and tell the first man that just because his injuries aren't as bad, he really wasn't injured at all?  No, because it would be completely ridiculous to say something like that.

So Ms. Letter to the Editor, let me tell you this.  No one makes up having severe HG.  No one will give herself that label just to feel 'cool' or to make things seem more serious than they were.  If she was diagnosed with severe HG, she had severe HG - end of story.  You, someone looking in from the outside who has absolutely no clue who she is and what she actually went through, have no right to belittle her suffering and to demand a correction.

It doesn't matter if you yourself are an HG sufferer, if you are a medical professional, if you are random Joe Shmoe off the street.  Unless you are this woman or her doctor, you have no right to say anything.  The only appropriate response to an article such as hers is "I'm so sorry that you went through that.  I will pray that you never go through that again.  Now I know about HG and if I come across a woman suffering from it, I know where to send her for information and I better know how to support her."

Clearly the woman who wrote in to the editor knows something about HG because she knows that (in the US) a PICC line is frequently used to treat the worst cases.  But she clearly doesn't know enough to shut the hell up and not make a bad situation worse.

So please, think before you open your mouth.  Sometimes really stupid things come out.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In Denial

I have reached an interesting stage in my HGness: a sort of kind of quasi-denial.  You see, I would so much love to have another baby right now.  I mean, the cuteness of the first one (now about to turn 2) is just so amazing that you can't help but want another one.

The fact that I had HG in my previous pregnancy is indisputable.  Sometimes I try to talk myself into believing that it really wasn't so bad and that with proper care I would have been totally fine.  With proper care I would have been better, I'm sure, but I wouldn't have been totally fine.  And I can't let myself forget what happened because if I do that - I won't be adequately prepared for what might come with a positive pregnancy test.

Another interesting side effect that has manifested is a decided aversion to doctors, especially new ones.  We moved to a new city two months ago and even though I know I need to see a doctor for something, I have been stalling and 'forgetting' and refusing to make the appointment.  I saw a doctor every week while pregnant and so many times it was a disappointing experience where they had nothing to offer me but a 'wait and see' approach.  I just can't bring myself to pick up the phone now and schedule anything.

As I wrote in my previous post on preparing for an HG pregnancy, it is best to sit down with your doctor in before even trying to conceive and to agree on a plan of action.  I know how crucial this can be to keeping away from the worst of HG, and yet I still can't bring myself to go in.  What if this doctor is no good?  What if she doesn't know how to treat HG or won't treat it aggressively?  What if she won't give me the higher dose of zofran that I never got last time and yet could have made such a huge difference?  What if, what if, what if?

I know that eventually I'll just have to suck it up and do what I need to do.  But I can't quite bring myself to do it yet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Preparing for Another HG Pregnancy

I had hyperemesis with my first - and as yet only - pregnancy.  According to my doctor and research, however, I have a very high likelihood (60-70%) of having it in future pregnancies as well.  Since I gave birth 21 months ago, I have been preparing myself for another pregnancy.  The physical preparations are pretty simple.  The emotional and psychological preparations are not.

Here is a list of things to do to prepare for another HG pregnancy.  I have compiled this list from the list here from the Help HER website, as well as feedback I received from other HG mothers when I asked them what they thought would be good to do in advance.  I have split it into several categories for the sake of clarity and organization.


If you have older children, be sure that they are taken care of.  Have a rotation of friends and family look after them, but keep in mind that they will sorely miss you.  For younger children, consider having a basket of quiet activities to keep near you so that they can play near you and with you if you are up for it.  For older children, let them know that you are willing to listen whenever they want to talk and ask them to come sit with you and tell you about their day each afternoon.  See if there are any activities you can do together while you lay down.  Board games?  If they are in a sport/dance/play/whatever and you can't make it to their performances or events, have someone videotape it for you and make sure to watch it with your child afterwards.

For pre-school-aged children, consider getting together with other mothers for a round-robin playgroup.  If there are five children then each mother has the children only one day a week.  Perhaps you can get a family member or friend to be at your house the day the kids are 'yours' and run the activities and take care of them.  It would even be worthwhile to hire someone to help, if that is a possibility.


Make sure that you aren't planning a move for the next year or more.  Moving while pregnant sucks, especially if you have HG.  Take if from me.  I did it.  DON'T DO IT.

Stock up on EVERYTHING beforehand.  Your husband/significant other will be so overwhelmed just with taking care of you and trying to keep things somewhat sane that you don't want to add extra stresses.  Stock up on all non-perishables, and if you have a deep freeze you can stock up on some frozen goods as well.  Don't forget about things like toilet paper, soaps, cleaners, clothing, etc.

In all your stocking up, try to avoid anything perfumed or otherwise scented as this can be a trigger for vomiting.

Cook and freeze in advance.  Again, a deep-freeze is good for this because the food keeps longer.  Store the food in containers that are the correct size for one meal for how ever many people are eating.  Last time soups wound up being good for hydrating me, so this time I will precook soups and freeze them in single servings in the hopes that they will work again.

Look into grocery delivery services.  Again, this will make your husband's life easier.

Do a deep clean of your house beforehand or hire someone to do it for you.  Organize.  If possible, arrange for a cleaner (or an awesome friend) to come by once a week and help out with cleaning.

Keep a cabinet full of new toys/activities to keep older children busy when you're at your worst.  Go to the dollar store or the dollar section at Target and stock up.  Brainstorm and write up a long list of fun activities so that when your brain is in HG mode you don't even have to think too hard and come up with something new.


Go to the dentist for a cleaning and x-rays and address any cavities or other issues.  Also ask the dentist about a sealant for your teeth to help protect them against all the vomiting.


Address any other health issues before considering trying to conceive.

Quit smoking, drinking alcohol, reduce caffeine intake.  Avoid artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, etc.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet and make sure you have moderate exercise.  With severe HG you will have muscle atrophy.  It helps if you have some muscle to begin with before it atrophies.

Make sure you are slightly above (10 lbs above) your goal healthy weight.  If you are overweight, don't add these 10 lbs.  If you are underweight, spend some serious effort bulking up.  You don't want to do this by eating ice cream all day.  You want to do this by increasing your intake of healthy food and increasing the amount of healthy fats in your diet.  For example, never eat a naked salad - always put on dressing.

Ask your doctor for a comprehensive blood test to check B12, CBC, Ferritin, Potassium, Vitamin D, folic acid and any other levels he thinks it appropriate to address.  Address any vitamin/mineral deficiencies BEFORE trying to conceive.  This blood panel will also serve as a reference point for what your blood looked like when you were healthy.

Start taking prenatal vitamins 3-6 months before trying to conceive.  Don't forget to take folic acid.  Also, magnesium deficiencies have been shown to contribute to nausea so ask your doctor if you should take a supplement and how much.  And don't forget B6 - while I didn't notice it helping any when I tried it, I was already pretty far gone before it was suggested.  Taking it in advance or from the positive pregnancy test may work better.


Educate yourself.  Educate your family.  Educate your friends.  Educate your doctor.  Educate your community.  Educate, educate, educate.  I can't stress how important it is.  The HER Foundation has fantastic resources in this area.  Use them.

Obviously there are about a zillion and one other things you can do as well.  I didn't mention a lot of the things on the list at the HER Foundation because - well, why duplicate effort?  Each individual will have their own needs as well.  The best thing to do is to sit down with your doctor in advance and make an action plan.  Of course we all hope that all of this planning will be completely useless because we'll have happy, fluffy, non-HG pregnancies - but we can't count on that happening.

I hope that this list provides at least a springboard for planning for your next HG pregnancy.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Baby Dolls

There are those moments in your life when you just look at your child in amazement and wonder how such an incredibly precious creature came out of you.  LH is always full of wonderful surprises and is at a very fun (if trying) age.

What I really get a kick out of is seeing how she interacts with her baby doll.  I've always thought that you can tell something about parents just by watching the behavior of their young child.  Well LH simply lavishes her love on this poor, bedraggled doll.  Whether it's gently laying her down in a basket and rubbing her head so she'll go to sleep or carrying around patting her back or strapping her into the high chair and giving her water from her own sippy cup, LH just mothers this little doll to death.

And then there are the times when she is very clearly NOT modelling her behavior after us.  We have never thrown her to the ground, stepped on her, or used her as a comfy chair.  We have never bitten her or strangled her with her headband.  And we most certainly have never tried to stick her in the garbage.

But it's those nice moments when she is being such a mensch that really get at me.  I can't help but be a proud mama when I see how sweet and loving and caring my little girl is.  She can only be learning her behavior from N and me (as I am a stay at home mother) so it's so nice to see that she's picking up on all the right things.

Now we just have to convince her that I'm not a trampoline, either....

Friday, June 1, 2012

Busy Times

I haven't been on here to post in a month.  I have been so busy with so many other projects, work, finding a place to move, etc. that I simply haven't had a chance to write things for myself.  Mostly the only writing I do nowadays is writing that pays, even if it is only a small amount.

So yes, I've been busy.

You know something that really annoys me?  When people are hypocritical.  I'm sure that I am also guilty of this offense at times, but I try not to be.  I have a friend who gets angry at me when I'm too busy to call or get together, but when she's too busy it's not a problem.  You see, I wouldn't see it as a problem if she didn't see my busyness as a problem, but she does so I do.  If that made sense.

A different friend lent me Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy recently.  I've read the first book before and liked it, but never continued on with the series.  Let me tell you, it's worthwhile.  I just started the third one last night and I'm very excited to see what happens with it.  The second one left off at a major cliffhanger and I'm just itching to see what becomes of everyone.

Okay, so there's really no point to this post.  Just a bunch of rambling on and on, and if you're still reading then I apologize.  Heck, even I'm bored at this point!

Okeydokey, no more torture.  Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Just get over it already"

I was just downstairs speaking with a relative of N, who is over right now to babysit to that I can get some work done.  She so kindly brought over some fish and some soup for us to eat.  When I mentioned that I haven't really been into fish since my pregnancy, her response was "just get over it already.  Pregnancy is the only way to make babies.  You don't have a choice.  So just get over it."

Aside from the fact that there are other ways to get children (like surrogacy or adoption), I can't just "get over it".  It was a very traumatic experience in many ways and has shaped both my life and my marriage.  I can't just throw away an important piece of my personal history because someone thinks I should eat fish.  I never liked fish to begin with and only ate it for a few years.  I don't miss it.

The fish really isn't the point, though.  HG, along with every other serious illness, has long-lasting and long-reaching effects.  Just as you wouldn't tell someone who survived cancer to "just get over it" or you wouldn't tell someone who suffered a heart attack to "just get over it", you also can't tell an HG sufferer or survivor to "just get over it".

If you have HG with one pregnancy, then the odds are against you for having subsequent normal pregnancies.  I am well aware of this fact.  I am hoping and praying for only the best pregnancies in the future, but I am also very aware of the other possibility and am preparing myself accordingly.  My doctor agrees with me (and she gave me even slimmer odds of avoiding it in the future than what the HER foundation website provides), so I really don't care what other relatives think of it.  Sometimes I just wish that they would shut up and leave me be to do what I need to do without being made to feel guilty for it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

No More Milk???

Sadness has come over this household: my milk supply suddenly disappeared.  One day we were doing just fine, and the next I'm running on empty.  I know that breastfeeding all the way until 18 months is quite an accomplishment and I really am proud of myself, especially seeing how LH thrives on my milk.  The thing is, neither of us were ready to give it up quite yet.

It's been a rough few days so far, with no signs of my milk supply returning, despite my best efforts.  LH is taking it really hard, and I can't blame the kid.  I didn't prepare her for this.  It wasn't the gradual, baby-led weaning I was planning on.  She just had to quit cold turkey.

And just when I finally got around to converting my regular bras into nursing bras, too...

Finally fat!

I know that most people don't celebrate weight gain, but I am so happy!  My old clothing finally fits me properly.  No more safety pins, no more constant hiking up of my skirt, no more baggy shirts.  Yay!

I weigh more now than when I got pregnant, although at that time I weighed the least I ever had.  Recently, while shopping for a new outfit with some of my husband's family, one of the lovely ladies commented that I looked skinnier if I didn't wear the matching belt.  I just took the comment and ignored it, but really it bothered me a little bit.  My goal isn't to look skinny.  I did the whole skinny thing and I didn't like it.  My goal is to look healthy, and if that means that I have a little tummy, then so be it.

I have worked so hard for the past 18 months to gain all this weight.  While society generally does not find fat attractive, I don't see a problem with showing off my hard-earned belly fat.  Yeah, I know, that doesn't sound so nice, either.  But I am at a healthy weight for my height and build, I am purposely gaining in preparation for another pregnancy, and I don't think that I should be made to feel fat and unattractive when I'm not.

Wow.  That post went off on a little tangent I wasn't expecting.  At any rate, my point is that I am so happy to be me again after such a long time of being only half of me.  Wearing clothing that fits is such a pleasure.  Getting rid of those safety pins is such a pleasure.  Not having to constantly check to be sure that I have no skin peeking out where it shouldn't be is a pleasure.  And looking and feeling healthy is a pleasure.

So I don't care what other people think.  I am happy with me.  That's all that matters.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Car Seat Safety

In general I love living in Israel, but I must admit - the driving here is absolutely dreadful.  There also seems to be a general disregard for safety (like children riding on motorcycles, use of carseats that are older than I am, children not properly strapped into their seats or not belted at all, etc.).  More often than not I see all of these in circumstances when I can't speak up (not that I would have the guts to).  It is very frustrating, though, when I see these practices in people close to me.

A couple weeks ago I happened to spend half the day with a family with six children, newborn to 13 years old. The newborn, when she was in her car seat and not on her mother's lap, was not properly strapped in.  The next oldest child (2) was also not always strapped in, let alone properly.  Is the kid a little fussy?  Okay, take him out, give him what he wants.

This is a huge contrast to what we do.  Last night N, LH and I were returning from a mini vacation and we got stuck in a major traffic jam, so a car ride that should have taken 2.5 hours turned into 4.5 hours.  Of course LH did not appreciate being tethered and unable to wiggle around all that time, but she never left her seat.  The most I did was unclip her chest clip so that I could take off her sweatshirt while we were stopped, and then she was clipped right back up.  In the middle she very much wanted to nurse - a feat which I accomplished without touching her restraints at all and with a minimal adjustment of my seat belt.  I don't care if we were going under 30kph; it's not worth it to risk my child's safety for the sake of comfort.

Obviously there are people out there who disagree with me, and I know exactly how annoying it can be to have a screaming baby in the car because they don't want to be in the car seat.  Trust me, if something happened to your babe because you weren't taking the precautions you could have, you would beat yourself up forever that you didn't just suck it up and listen to the screaming for a little bit.

It doesn't matter what our parents or our grandparents did.  It doesn't matter that the old car you grew up in didn't even have seat belts in the back seat, or that holding a baby in your lap was the norm.  Just because you were never hurt, just because your friend was never hurt, doesn't mean it can't happen.  A properly installed, properly used child restraint system saves lives.  Don't take the risk.  God can only do so much against stupidity.  Think of the car seat as the protective hug that you are giving your child while you are driving.  Never stop hugging your children.

Starting 'em Young

Everywhere you look these days, you can find articles about how terrible it is that people - especially young girls - are faced with these 'perfect' bodies in the media and expected to look the same.  Nevermind that there is heavy use of Photoshop and that many of the models aren't healthy.  There is a picture portrayed in the media of the perfect woman and so many people try to become that imaginary woman.

I know that the incidence of eating disorders among young girls and teens has skyrocketed.  I mean, why is it that I'm hearing about 8-year-olds battling anorexia?  What happened to 8-year-olds dealing with normal issues like how to spell and who to sit next to at lunch?  Why are they suddenly obsessed with their bodies from such a young age?

This issue really started to hit home for me when I started seeing more Sesame Street clips on YouTube.  Alongside the classic clips preaching tolerance and acceptance no matter race, gender, parental status ("I have one Daddy, I have two"), etc., they now have clips promoting healthy and positive body images for the children.  For example, they have a little black Muppet girl singing about how much she loves her hair - how it looks good in cornrows, as an afro, etc.  That is the first example that comes to mind, but I have stumbled across several others as well.

I am all about positive messaging in children's programming.  After all, what child wouldn't want to brush his teeth after seeing how much fun Elmo has with it, or wouldn't want to try some fruits and veggies after even Cookie Monster advocates for it?  I just think it's sad that because of societal pressures for girls to look a certain, unrealistic way, they also need to add songs and themes to try to unbrainwash the kids (or as a preemptive strike against the outside pressures).

This is the world in which I must raise my daughter?  Heaven help us.

"I survived, so you can, too"

The internet is a wonderful thing where anyone can write anything.  Sometimes, though, I really think that people should shut up.

One of my more recent encounters with someone who should not be allowed to post some things was on a post a friend of mine made somewhere about her HG and how she was having such a hard time with it.  One brilliant woman replied saying that she had gone through HG, too, and "I survived, so you can, too."  She was basically saying that my friend should just suck it up and deal with it and not complain about it so much.

I think that she was essentially trying to be helpful and trying to say that we could get out of this whole on the other side, but it didn't come across like that.  It came across as, "shut up and suffer in silence".

Few enough people have HG to begin with, and there is so much misunderstanding out there about the disease, that it really is not wise to just shut up and deal with it.  There is a big psychological factor involved (NOT as the cause, but rather an effect of being so ill).  Many mothers wind up feeling very isolated, among other issues. One way to combat this isolation and general feeling of desolation is by connecting with other women going through the same issues - or who have gone through and come out the other side.  It can become a wonderful support network.

To tell someone to just suck it up and deal with it is so not helpful.  A forum like the one where I saw this post should be a safe place for everyone to complain about everything going on, because chances are it's the ONLY place they can do so.  Think before you write, people.

A Year of Change

I was recently looking through an album we have, with pictures of me and N from the time we started dating, through our engagement, our wedding, the oh so wonderful pregnancy, and finally the year and a half since our little angel was born.  The album begins three years ago, and it is amazing to see how many changes can happen in such a short period of time.

I was particularly struck by the difference between two pictures.  The first was taken on Chanukah in 2010, when LH was 2 months old; the second exactly a year later.  Of course the babe is completely different, but that's to be expected.  What shocked me was the huge difference I saw in myself.

In the 2010 picture, I am very skinny, very pale, and just generally sickly-looking.  The 2011 picture looks like a completely different person - healthy, happy, clothes that fit, color in the cheeks, and a good weight for my frame.

As soon as I delivered the placenta, my health took a major turn for the better.  In normal illnesses, two months is a long time in terms of healing and getting better and looking healthy.  And the funny thing is, I really did look healthy two months later - but only in comparison to how I looked while pregnant.  Now, looking back, I can't believe that I thought I looked so much better already.  How I look now is how I should always look (although I could do without the bags under the eyes).

Women are always asking when they can expect their body to go back to normal after pregnancy and childbirth, and the usual answer I see is that it took nine months to get that way, so you need to give it nine months to get back to how it was.  This was actually quite true for me in many ways, too, although excess weight and a flabby stomach were not my issues.

I didn't return to my pre-pregnancy weight until 10 months postpartum.  I only had to gain about five kilo to get there, but between the breastfeeding and the eating issues I was having, each kilo was a huge struggle to get and to keep.  Part of it was trying to rebuild my lost muscle mass, while at the same time keeping my activity level relatively low in order to conserve calories.  Not an easy balance, I can tell you.

But even from the expression on my face you can tell that my outlook has changed.  At two months postpartum, if someone had mentioned to me thoughts of having another baby I probably would have had a panic attack.  Now, I am much more emotionally healed and have come to terms with the fact that I want more children = I have to have more pregnancies = I run the risk of HG repeating or even worsening.  And you know what?  Even though I still have a hard time saying 'yes' when someone asks me if it was all worth it, I wouldn't trade my daughter for the world.  If there was an easier way to get another little treasure I would take it, but apparently pain and suffering are the way to go.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Of Questionable Sanity

After going through HG, thoughts of having another child - let alone several more, as we were (and still are) hoping seemed crazy and basically sent me into a panic.  Which is why I find myself questioning my sanity since I know have baby fever.

It's amazing how resilient both the human body and the psyche can be.  Or maybe how forgetful.  Do I not remember the pain and misery?  Do I not remember how I couldn't even get out of bed?  How am I supposed to do all of that with a toddler underfoot, and in the future more than one older child?

Of course I know the answer already.  Yes, I do remember, and that is why I have spent the past year making preparations of mind, body, and house in order to make things go more smoothly.  I have a document on my computer of lists of things to do beforehand and during to try to keep things good.  I speak with many people about various ideas and options, doctor recommendations, etc.

I still feel pretty insane to be considering this again.  Kids must really be something special for a mother to be willing to risk her life (pretty literally, in this case) in order to bring more into the world.  I guess I just take the commandment of "be fruitful and multiply" very seriously.

I'll do everything I possibly can to survive.  The rest is up to G-d.

Pesach (Passover) with HG

This post is inspired by K., who is currently suffering from hyperemesis and recently got in touch with me to ask questions about how I handled Pesach while pregnant.  To those of you who are not religious Jews this may seem like gibberish.  I'm just hoping that some poor woman who doesn't know what to do with herself for the week-long holiday will find this post and feel just a teeny tiny bit better.

Unless you are Sephardic, and even depending what kind of Sephardic you are, chances are that you don't eat kitniyot (legumes and more) on Pesach in addition to the restrictions that everyone has on chametz (leavened bread).  If you are suffering from HG and your food intake is already severely limited, these additional restrictions can seem stifling and even problematic from a health perspective.

K. mentioned to me that she knows she could get a rabbi to give her a heter (permission) to eat kitniyot foods on Pesach, but that it just didn't feel right.  If it was medically necessary then she could understand it, but since she has improved a bit she didn't feel that it was really as medically necessary.

I think that women with HG have a skewed sense of health and sickness.  If you have gone a week without an IV or if you can now eat 800 calories a day then you're doing great, right?  Well yes, but only in comparison to how poorly you were doing before.  Try to look at yourself from an outside perspective, from a 'normal' perspective, before saying that you're well enough that you don't need to get permission to eat normally 'forbidden' foods (although these foods are only half-forbidden, in a way).

My point is, if you are suffering from hyperemesis around Pesach time - even if you aren't in your first trimester, even if you are doing miles better than you were - get the heter from the rabbi for kitniyot.  What's more, don't let even the slightest bit of guilt enter into your conscience.  Even if you feel pretty good your body is still not itself and you have to worry about the little one growing inside.  During an HG pregnancy there are so few foods that you can eat to begin with that you don't want to limit yourself unnecessarily.

If you are living in America, getting the heter might not actually provide a huge amount of relief simply because you can't find so many kitniyot items that are labeled as Kosher for Pesach.  In Israel, however, you'll find everything labeled as kitniyot, from cream cheese to chocolate to coffee to more obvious things like rice and beans and the like.  Buy them.  Have them in your house.  Even if you wind up not using them, at least you know that you have the option.

This is not a time to tell yourself that you're better just to avoid doing something that is outside your comfort zone religiously speaking.  Health comes above all else.  Take care of yourself and your little peanut.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Life is Good

It seems that I am perpetually stressed out, and yet I find that I am also very happy with life.  I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful daughter who can be trying at times but gets forgiven whenever she smothers me with kisses (a few times a day), and a job that keeps me very busy and doesn't pay a lot, but I love.

N. and I are financially a bit iffy at the moment, but we are planning a move in July to a cheaper place and then he will start working as well, so our situation should get much better.  I just like having a plan in place.  Even though the move is months off and we don't have a place yet, I've still been planning tons of little details surrounding everything.  At first it seemed like such a daunting and difficult task, but as I make a plan in my head I find that things seem a bit easier.

Of course it's always nice that I am valued so highly at work, and they consistently pile on more than I am scheduled for (hence the stress).  But I know that they wouldn't give me so much if they didn't have so much confidence in me.  I am highly motivated to keep this job for so many reasons, not least of which is that I actually like it.  It is very satisfying work and I love seeing my improvement even week to week, sometimes.  I am really stretching myself in terms of skills and gaining new ones all the time.  When I first applied for the job they said that there was room for advancement in the company and they weren't kidding.

Not really sure what my point here is, except that despite the stress and hardships of life sometimes, it's still good.  With so many things to love and be happy about, how can it not be good?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Broken Shofar Blast

A friend of mine suddenly passed away as a senior in high school, seven years ago last month.  My high school arranged school buses to take us to the funeral and had counselors on hand for us to talk to.  But only one thing sticks out in my memory: the sound her father made, standing over her grave, watching as each person took her turn shoveling on dirt.  The following is a short piece that I wrote a couple years later.

I remember the sound he made as his eldest daughter was lowered into the ground.  It was the most heart-wrenching sound I had ever heard.  It was like a broken shofar blast, a prayer and a cry to G-d that was so full of pain that no words could begin to express it.

I remember how he gathered his next daughter to his chest, trying desperately to hold on to her, keep her safe; how he was surrounded by all five of his surviving children as they all looked on, dazed.

I remember how his wife was stoic as could be, not shedding a tear that we could see.  She spoke the eulogy calmly and cleanly, outwardly accepting her eldest child’s death, inwardly torn to tiny little pieces.

But most of all I remember the sound.  The pure, inarticulate cry of unallayed grief that only one who has lost a child can possibly comprehend.  It is the sound of a soul, devoid of words to say and filled only with intense feeling, calling out to G-d.

We all miss you, Tanielle.  A"H.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Changing Face of Leisure

I find it amazing how my definition of leisure seems to be in a semi-constant state of flux.  At the beginning of our marriage it might have been watching a movie together with a hot cup of cocoa or sharing a quiet dinner together without food flying through the air.  When I was pregnant leisure was a day that I felt nominally healthy and could pretend to be a normal person; it was a day that I didn't have to go see any doctors, fill a prescription, or get fluids.

Now, though, leisure is totally different.  With a toddler running around the house, leisure has turned into 30 seconds to pee alone without someone banging on the door.  Leisure is sneaking in a shower while the babe is distracted.  Leisure is eating with both hands or going to the grocery store alone.  Leisure is reading a book that is longer than 10 pages, doesn't have pictures, and doesn't rhyme.

And you know what?  It's so worth it.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm Not Debbie

All my life, people have kept trying to call me Debbie.  I can understand that in America Devorah might seem like an unusual name, so people go to the closest name they can think of and say, "Oh, so your name is Debbie."  Um, no.

I thought that all those troubles would be behind me when I moved to Israel.  After all, having a Hebrew name in a Hebrew-speaking country shouldn't be a problem, right?  Wrong.

You see, whenever an Israeli hears that you're from the States, they try to speak to you in English and show off their knowledge.  Or play Jewish geography ("I have a cousin who's sister-in-law once visited New York for a week.")  So when they find out that I'm American, they say, "Oh, so your name is really Debbie."  Um, no.

I have a copy of my birth certificate and I can assure you that the name Debbie appears nowhere on it.  I see the name Devorah in nice, clear letters in the little box that say "first name", but no Debbie.  I have even offered to show it to people who were especially difficult to convince, but no go.

Generally speaking, I'm a stickler for getting people's names right.  Either you get it right or it's not their name, right?  I may have gotten this partially from my father, who is a public school teacher and comes across some pretty wacky names sometimes.  Many of them are foreigners and my father goes to great lengths to learn and memorize the proper pronunciation.  After all, if you don't call the kid by their correct name, then how do you expect them to act towards you?  Show them a little respect and they'll return the favor.

Really, people.  My name is Devorah.  I promise.  A little respect.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The dangers of co-sleeping

People always go on and on about the dangers of co-sleeping for the child.  They neglect to mention the dangers to the parent.  Aside from bruised ribs, falling out of bed, crushed noses, and sore backs, there is another danger to parents: suffocation.

Last week I was putting L.H. to bed and dozed off a bit laying beside her.  I wake up a while later a bit hazy and out of it and feeling as though I'm not getting enough air.  As an asthmatic that happens sometimes, but this felt different.  Finally I fully woke up and realized that the problem was that L.H. had shoved her pudgy little arm into my face in such a way that it was completely blocking my nose.  And voila, there you go - parental suffocation.

In all seriousness, though, I think that co-sleeping gets a really bad rap.  There was recently an ad campaign in Milwaukee which pictured an infant in bed sleeping with a butcher knife, with the caption "Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous."  The AAP also recommends against co-sleeping (baby should be in his own bed in his parents' room).

I do agree that co-sleeping can be dangerous - if you don't do it properly.  We made a safe environment for our child.  N. and I are never under the influence of drugs or alcohol; I stopped sleeping with a comforter and instead just use a top sheet and lightweight, breathable blanket - pulled up only to my waist; I didn't give up my pillows but kept her head at least six inches away; and made sure that the sheet was tight-fitting and the mattress wasn't too soft.

There aren't very many statistics available on the topic, but what I have gleaned off of what was available was that most co-sleeping deaths occurred when the parameters for safe sleeping were not met.  As a breastfeeding mother, sleeping with my babe just about saved my sanity.  It took several weeks until I was comfortable sharing my bed with her and until she and I mastered nursing laying down, but once everything clicked into place - suddenly I was actually getting sleep at night.

I don't advocate this practice for everyone.  I just think that there are a lot of scare tactics being used out there that shouldn't be.  If the AAP says that co-sleeping is bad, there are still people who will do it.  Really they should put out a comprehensive list of guidelines for making bed sharing as safe as possible so that those who still decide to do it at least know how to do it right.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The joys of breastfeeding

After having such a terrible pregnancy and always wondering if the baby would come out okay, it was such a relief when L.H. was born skinny but wholly healthy.  I was blessed with a relatively fast, easy labor and delivery.  I think I may have mentioned before that when L.H. was born she took one breath and immediately started looking for food.

It was such a relief to me that I could finally feed the poor kid, and I was confident that I would somehow find my way in breastfeeding.  Thankfully, we both caught on pretty quickly and I never had any terrible issues with it.  That's not to say that it was easy, but it was fine.

Even though I was worried about my body being low on nutrients and therefore not being able to provide her with adequate nutrition, my fears were quickly dispelled.  L.H. was born at 2.948 kg, dropped to 2.750, and at 11 days old was up at 3.5.  For those of you who don't do metric, she gained more than a pound and a half in under two weeks.  Now if that's not cause for celebration, I don't know what is.

From being somewhere around the fiftieth percentile in weight at birth, L.H. quickly rocketed up to the ninetieth and above and has stayed there.  At 12 months she was the size of an average 18-month-old.  She is often mistaken for an older child because of her size and the way she looks at the world.

I exclusively breastfed her until 6 months when I started adding in solids.  But to know that her size and remarkable growth comes from me, from my milk - it can't get better than that.  I felt like a bit of a failure at pregnancy (not my fault, I know), and suddenly not only was I doing something right for the babe, but I was doing a super job of it.

We recently visited the pediatrician for one of L.H.'s rare bouts of illness.  This doctor commented how L.H. was really big and asked if she was born large, to which of course I had to reply no.  "You must be breastfeeding, then," was the reply.  It made me so proud to hear the from the mouth of a professional - to have someone say gee, you've been working hard and you did a mighty good job.

I can only hope that my breastfeeding relationship with my future children goes as smoothly and produces such amazing results.  I have such nachas when I sit and look at her.  It's the best thing in the world.

Coming soon: DIY bra conversion tutorial

So you know how it can be difficult to find a bra that fits nicely and is comfortable, plus a good price?  Now imagine adding in an additional parameter - a nursing bra.  Yep, you got it, really not that easy to find.

Which is why I was ecstatic earlier today when - 16 months after starting to use nursing bras - I discovered that you can convert your regular, comfy, slightly cheaper ones into nursing bras with a minimum of effort.  Of course I ran to my drawer and pulled out all of my regular bras to see which ones were convertible and to my pleasant surprise, almost all of them are.

I am currently waiting on my materials to arrive in the mail (nursing bra clips and elastic), but as soon as they do I promise a pictorial tutorial that will be easy to follow.  I did find a few tutorials online, but none of the ones I saw used the clips that I like so much and weren't exactly what I was looking for.  So here will be another one, floating around on the internet.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm super excited.  Now I never need to worry about not being able to find a store that carries nursing bras or tanks, or ordering online from America.  I can just get pretty much any bra that's comfy and make it work for me.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Respecting other's hardships

When you are living your own life with your own good and bad bits, it can be very difficult to step into someone else's shoes for a minute and realize that they have their own good and bad bits, as well. Life isn't a contest to see who can one-up the next person (oh, your baby isn't crawling yet? Mine's been crawling for ages). This goes both ways (oh, you have no idea how hard it is - you just have one baby. That's a breeze. I have twins).

I am on various parenting boards with other mothers of children around the same age as L.H., and today one of them said something that I appreciated so much and is so true. To quote: "Kids are hard regardless of how many you have. I know it's especially hard if the twins are your first but any firsts are hard."

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have people ask me about L.H. and then proceed to tell me that
she's just the first; that's nothing. Wait until I get to (insert number of children said person has).  What people don't realize - and I am undoubtedly guilty of this, as well - is that each person must pass through each stage of life, and just because you have already passed through it and gotten out fine doesn't mean that the next person won't struggle with it.

We each have our struggles.  You might find a mother with twins who are perfect angels and relatively easy to take care of; or you might see a mother with one child who is colicky, doesn't eat well, doesn't sleep well, and is generally a holy terror.  Which one of those is having a harder time?  There is no way to tell.  Even though babies are babies, comparing those two situations is like comparing apples and oranges.

To apply this to myself, just because I had severe HG doesn't mean that the other pregnancy complications some of my friends had are any less serious or difficult (and I am very careful about not making it seem that way, either).  I have one friend who didn't want to tell me she was pregnant because I was having such a tough time with my pregnancy, and then when we talked about her pregnancy she would never complain to me about her severe heartburn and back pains, even though they really bothered her a lot.  She felt that she had nothing compared to me.  And you know what?  As much as I appreciate the thought, I wish that she would have shared it with me.  It would have brought some small sense of normalcy back into my life.  It would have been nice if for five minutes I could be there for someone else, instead of everyone else needing to be there for me for eight months.

The bottom line is, until you have been in someone else's shoes - you can't say anything.  And even if you think you have been in their shoes chances are you haven't.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Communal caring

One of the things I love about Israel (and I think I've mentioned it before) is the population's great love of children.  When you're walking down the street people really pay attention to your child and will often offer you friendly advice, usually involving piling on more and more blankets until you're suffocating your child.  They're not doing it just because they're being nosy and in your face and trying to get into your business; they're doing it because they want the best for each and every child.  Having gone through the Holocaust, the survivors who made it to Israel put such a high value on each and every life and that value has been passed down to today.

Case in point: today I was patiently waiting on a corner for an old man to complete his turn before I crossed the street.  His window was open and as he turned he called out to me to make sure that L.H. was drinking enough because it was a hot day.  And yes, I know that it's February, but today I was walking outside without any sweatshirt or anything and I was sweating.

But my point is, that would never have happened to me in America.  Here there seems to sometimes be a mentality that each child belongs to everybody, which gives everybody the right to look out for that child's well being.  It can sometimes be annoying when you're out and people are telling you, "don't let her touch that" or "put on her sweater" or "take off her sweater" or "where's her hat?"  As annoying as it is, however, it is also comforting to know that other people truly care.  I just hope that they show equal caring and forthrightness if they see a child who is being neglected and abused.  I can only hope that they speak up then - to save the children.

Squash tea

Today L.H. and I went over to visit my friend I.  She was busy making orange soup from yummy squash.  She prefers her orange soup to be based on milk, not water, but she cooks the squash in water first before separating, mashing, and mixing in milk.

That's a shame, you might say.  All that cooking water, full of valuable nutrients, and she's not even going to use it.  Except that she does - she drinks it as tea.  It may sound a little odd at first, but let me tell you - it is really, really yummy.  She adds a little bit of brown sugar, some milk, and then drinks down this delicious, nutritious beverage.  It's not the kind of tea that I would necessarily want every day, but boy is it yummy as a once-in-a-while kind of thing.

So the next time that you are cooking up some squash and don't plan on using the cooking water for anything, keep this in mind.  Squash tea is simply amazing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Friends vs. Children

I got a little bit of a lecture today from a friend who was telling me that some people (in her eyes, most people except for me) make sure to make time for friends and put their friends first.  They force their babies to be okay with taking a bottle so that they can go out whenever they want.  Either the baby takes the bottle or the baby goes hungry, end of story.

How did this all come about?  We are a group of four friends who met in university and have kept in touch.  We try to get together every so often to catch up and whatnot, but since we live in two (soon to be three) separate cities and we all have different work/school schedules and three of us have babies, things don't always work out.

Getting together with them is always nice, but it's such a headache to go back and forth until we finally agree on a time and place.  Basically, as nice as it is, these get-togethers are usually very stressful for various reasons.

So to cut a long story short, we were planning on getting together on Monday this week and then that didn't work out for various reasons.  So then it was changed to Wednesday evening - in a different city.  First I was made to feel bad by one of them for saying that I can't go because I have to work so that we can put food on the table.  Can't I change it?  Why no, I can't.  It is the night before and the plans still aren't fully finalized.  I can't just take off work on a whim.  If I go to this play date then I'll be losing out on around $50 - and that's quite a lot.

Then, in speaking with another friend, I happened to mention that anyways I couldn't go because it was too late in the day and would conflict with bedtime.  That's when I started getting the lecture on putting myself first and how I made a mistake in not making L.H. take a bottle and how I made a mistake in nursing her to sleep more often than not.  "Oh, not to say that your parenting is wrong, or anything."  Yeah, right.

I will concede that sometimes having a baby who is tied to you is not the most convenient thing.  However, I still wouldn't change the way I have done things.  As far as I'm concerned, if a breastfeeding mother has the opportunity (in our case, necessity) to stay home with her child, then there is really no reason to give the baby a bottle.  She wants it straight from the source - and I can't blame her.  Mind you, for the first 7  months of her life I was still in school and of course I always left bottles for her when I was in class, but mostly she would just drink enough to take the edge off her hunger and wait for me.  She clearly was unhappy with bottles so since I wasn't working outside the home  I saw no reason to push the issue.

Does this sometimes limit me?  Sure, but I think it's in a good way.  Yes, it's nice to get out with friends every now and then.  But you know what?  I'm so tired by the end of the day that I anyways am not interested in going out in the evening.  Getting home at 10 is late for me and aside from the fact that N. most decidedly can't give L.H. her bedtime nursing, bedtime is one of those sweet moments of the day that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Sure, I frequently gripe about it and ask N. why he can't just put her to sleep.  But then when L.H. and I are laying there side by side and she's snuggling into me or she suddenly pops up on hands and knees to smother my face with kisses - well, those moments are priceless.  She will only be this small once.  I don't want to just go out and do whatever I feel like doing whenever I feel like doing it because it would be a missed opportunity to have that wonderful quiet time with the babe - the time that allows both of us to sort of de-stress at the end of a long day.

Friends are important - very important - and always will be.  But when seeing them comes with so much stress and at such a high (to me) cost - well, I'd rather stay home for cuddles. :)

To soothe the crying babe

In case you couldn't tell, I am very into attachment parenting.  It just makes sense to me and it feels right.  I have gotten comments from several people who have negative views of extended breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, etc.  And you know what?  They aren't my child's parents, so I just ignore the comments.

One of the things I struggle with, though, is how to approach her crying.  Of course I pick her up and try to comfort her and if I know what's wrong then I fix it.  But let's say that she falls down and bangs her head against something on the way, causing her to dissolve into a screaming puddle of tears.  There are two conflicting ways of comforting her that come to mind every time: pick her up, comfort her, and tell her that really it's nothing; or pick her up, comfort her, and tell her that I bet that really hurt and it's okay to cry.

The first approach tries to tell her that falling down and bumping your head isn't the worst thing in the world and that happens in life.  But it also, in a way, invalidates her feelings and her pain.  Telling her that it's nothing is like telling her that she shouldn't be crying - when clearly she needs to.  Maybe if she had the words to come to me and verbally tell me that she fell down and she got an owie then she wouldn't need to cry, but at 15 months L.H. can't quite get the message across with words or signs.

The second approach empathizes with her and validates what she's feeling, giving her a comfortable outlet to express her pain and frustration while also helping her calm down.  On the other hand, one must be careful not to overdo it.  If you make too big a deal of it, then I would think the child would learn that a small little bump really is a big deal and worthy of a meltdown.

I think that the best thing is to find the balance between the two.  For a younger child who is still very far away from being able to express himself through words, I think that the validation is very important - within reason.  For an older child who already has language and other means of communicating aside from crying, I think that it is worthwhile to downplay small bumps and bruises enough so that they learn not to get too upset about them, but not so much that they feel that you are uncaring and don't understand them.

I suppose that that's really what parenting is all about - finding the balance.

Fruity Wheat Berry Salad

As part of my quest to include more whole grains in the family diet, I have been experimenting with all sorts of different salads based off of bulgur, kasha, and wheat berries.  My friend L. has a fantastic wheat berry salad that she makes and everyone loves, but I was looking to change things up a bit and make them more interesting.  So after some internet searching, I recently found a new recipe here and then modified it to fit what was available in my cabinet and the grocery store.  So here it is:

1.5 cups wheat berries
1/3-1/2 cup Craisins (or raisins or dried currants)
1 red bell pepper
1 cup chopped peaches (preferably fresh, canned and frozen also work)
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
2 T honey
1 T lemon juice
1 T vinegar
2 T canola oil
1/2 tsp salt

Rinse the wheat berries.  Place in a pot and cover with enough water to be about 2 inches above the wheat berries (around 4.5-5 cups, usually).  Bring to a boil and then simmer for around an hour, stirring occasionally, until the wheat is soft.

After cooking, allow the wheat to cool before adding Craisins, pepper, and peaches, and then topping with the dressing.  Taste and adjust as needed.

This salad is a big hit with L.H., who tends to be a little picky.  N. and I also enjoy it very much and it's great because you get a whole grain, a fruit, and a vegetable all in one delicious dish.  It can also be easily transported for lunch away from home and will survive the long hours out of refrigeration.

The end of co-sleeping: continued

Now I know why I didn't try this transition sooner - I don't operate too well when I don't get enough sleep.  L.H. loooooooooves her new sleep area (I made it very fun for her).  The problem is that she doesn't sleep through the night and never has.  When she was in my bed that didn't bother me so much since I just had to wake up enough to get her started nursing and then I could fall asleep again.  Now, though, her nighttime wakings involve me getting up, going to her bed to nurse, staying awake until she's finished and back asleep, and then somehow crawling back into my (now cold) bed and falling back asleep.  Even if this entire process only takes 10 minutes, it's still very annoying and really breaks up my night.  Some days now I feel like a zombies, and I am drinking caffeinated coffee every day - if not twice a day.

I know that the smart approach might be to try to night wean her and somehow teach her to sleep through the night, but I'm also not so sure about that.  What if she's not ready?  Not all people are wired to sleep through the night until later.  What if she really does need those extra feedings because she's too distracted to eat properly during the day?

I know that I can't live off of caffeine forever and that I need to find some solution so that everyone gets proper sleep.  On the other hand, I also don't want to force L.H. into something that she's not ready for.  Sometimes it's hard to find the proper balance between the two, and I know that she is looking to me, as the parent, to make the right decisions for her.  I just hope that I can find a solution that will make all of us happy and well-rested.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Music lessons

We have, thank G-d, been blessed with a musically talented child.  At least, from what we can tell so far.  She sings, she dances, she plays her instruments - and she is absolutely mesmerized by music.  Need to get something done?  Play some music and you've got yourself 10 minutes.

Of course the music that a 15-month-old can produce isn't exactly Mozart, but it's still pretty amazing to hear.  Just last week she discovered how to blow through the recorder to make sound, and she is always handing it to me to hear me play it before she tries to copy me.  The same thing with the xylophone - she'll bang on it a bit and then give me the sticks to play something, then try to copy me.

I can't wait for the day that we can get her some music lessons.  Of course it's too early now, as she doesn't have the coordination or the ability to sit still for longer than three seconds.  I just think it would make her so happy to be able to make the music herself, not just listen to it.

I grew up with a piano in the house, and I think that was really great.  In fact, once we get on our feet financially I definitely have my eye on buying a used piano to keep in our home so that our children can learn music on a real instrument.  We already have a clarinet, but that's a tough instrument for a little kid.  Piano is much easier to start with.

Do I see my child becoming a musician?  Not necessarily, no.  But I think that music enrichment is such an important part of life that to neglect it would be sinful.  Especially when you have a child who shows aptitude and who loves it so much, why not encourage that?  So when L.H. is old enough and when we have the means, I plan on getting her serious lessons.  If she loves them - fantastic.  If she doesn't - it didn't hurt to try.  Who knows, maybe something will come of it after all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

And the worst parenting award goes to...

There are some parents out there who make me feel like a really bad parent.  You know, the ones who are "supermoms" and run themselves ragged trying to make everything perfect for their little ones.  And then there are parents who make me feel thankful for having a brain, some common sense, and a background of having had good parents.  Compared to them, I feel like gold.

I encountered a set of the latter parents today.  L.H. and I were strolling down the block when we saw a little boy, probably around 20-22 months old, standing in the leg space of a scooter with his grandma sitting on the seat.  The scooter was off and parked so I thought it was a little odd, but I know how much L.H. loves motorcycles and scooters so I figured she was just taking the chance to let him explore one a little bit.  Then the kid's mother comes out and stands there chatting with the grandma, smoking a cigarette in her little boy's face.  Just to set the record straight, I have very little respect for people who smoke next to their children.

In the meantime, L.H. was busy investigating some weeds growing by the side of the sidewalk.  The next thing I know, the boy's father comes out wearing his motorcycle helmet, gets on, and starts up the engine.  What about the little boy, you ask?  Oh, he's still standing on the scooter.  His father starts driving the scooter up and down our (one-way) street with this little toddler standing on it and holding on to the handlebars.  I was shocked, to say the least.  The women of the family were standing on the sidewalk cheering them on, and from the behavior of the kid I could tell that this wasn't his first ride, either.

I debated back and forth a little bit whether or not to speak up to them about the dangers of the whole situation.  In the end I decided not to.  First of all, I'm not sure that I have all of the vocabulary needed to tell this people how much harm they could cause their child.  And secondly, if both the boy's parents and his grandmother were all participating and they all clearly thought it was fine, then why on earth would one little person on the street telling them it was dangerous change anything?

I just love how the father wore a helmet and heavy leather jacket, while his son was just in sweats and a ponytail.  You care enough to protect yourself, but not your precious child?

It is days like today that I feel like a good mother for not doing stupid things with my daughter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Disconnect

When I look at my daughter, my mind knows that it is courtesy of her that I went through the terribleness that is HG, but my emotions don't know that.  Intellectually speaking I know that my body couldn't handle the hormones necessary to build her little body from scratch and therefore it rebelled against me.  From the first moment I saw her, though, I couldn't connect that suffering with this squirming little bundle of beauty in my arms.

I always say that if babies weren't so darn cute, their parents would kill them.  I'm not talking in general, I'm talking after weeks of no sleep, a colicky baby who just threw up everywhere and pooped through five sets of clothing in the past three hours.  The only thing that saves babies in times like that is that they are so ridiculously lovable and cute.

It's the same thing here, in a way.  I bonded with L.H. in a very limited fashion when she was in utero because I was simply trying to survive and she was making that quite difficult.  But if I looked at her today and saw her as the cause of those eight long months of hardship, then how could I love her as much?  How could I bond with her?

They say that women forget the pain of childbirth, and that's why they go on and have more.  After all, if each woman only had one child then the human race would die out.  HG is awfully difficult to forget and in many ways I don't want to forget how horrible it is so that I go into pregnancy the next time prepared for the worst.  But if I was to look at my child and think to myself, gee, look what she did to me - then I would never consent to go through it again.  She didn't ask to be grown inside me; we kind of did that one on our own.  So as much as it's "her fault", she is blameless.

As much as I hate the disconnect and the fact that I couldn't really relate to her prenatally, in some ways it is good because it preserves a perfect, clean relationship between us and ensures that at some point in the future, a little brother or sister will join her.

Baby sign

I frequently hear new mothers asking about baby sign and if it's beneficial/harmful/worth it.  I never really knew anything about it until my two older sisters started using it with my nephew (one sister nannies the other one's child).  They had such wild success with it that when I was looking forward to the birth of L.H., there was no doubt in my mind that I would use it, too.

Let me just clear up a few common misconceptions that I hear.  Most people are convinced that teaching your baby sign will delay their speech development.  There are no studies that have shown signing causing any speech delay.  In fact, it seems that signing gives babies an earlier understanding of language and a bigger vocabulary once they do speak.  Not to mention that if you use real signs from ASL or IS (or any other real sign language) instead of making up more "baby-friendly" signs, then you are actually giving them some basics to communicate with those who use sign due to deafness or other special needs.

Think of it this way: my seven-month-old was able to tell me when she wanted milk or when she needed a diaper change.  How many times are parents left guessing as to what their infant or toddler wants?  How many parents have wished that the kid could just talk so that they could fix whatever it is that is making the child scream?

L.H. is hearing two languages at home (English from me and Hebrew from N.) and this is causing some people to be concerned that she will not talk until later.  Aside from the fact that this concern is unfounded (at 15.5 months she has a vocabulary of nearly 20 spoken words), she also has the signing to rely on.  She has basically the same number of signs and spoken words and for the most part they don't overlap.  But imagine if she didn't speak until the age of two or beyond - with the signing, she would still have the words she needs in order to communicate with us.

Many people think that signing will be too difficult for them (or the babies) to learn.  Keep in mind that you're not learning the full language; you're learning individual words and the alphabet in order to spell words that don't have a sign.  If I actually encountered someone who communicates through sign then to them I would sign like a baby - no sentences or structure, just disjointed thoughts.  You can learn as few or as many words as you want.  I started with the things that were most important to her and as time goes on, we add more and more.  Whenever she shows interest in something, I look up the sign so that she can talk about it.

The best part of it all is that L.H. can communicate with us and is confident that her needs will be met without her screaming.

Mommy award

As I lay awake in L.H.'s bed last night, trying to convince her that she really did want to sleep there and not in my bed, I was thinking: all mommies should get an award and reward at the end of each day.  I know, I know, the wonderfulness that is children is our reward.  But seriously, we work hard.

It doesn't matter whether you stay home with the kids or work outside of the home; whether you have one kids or many; whether you are a single parent or you have a partner.  It also doesn't matter if it was a day where you had to spend the entire time with your cranky little one or a day when you played with the babe, cleaned the bathrooms, did three loads of laundry, cooked healthy food for the family, cleaned the kitchen, changed two poopy diapers, and fished five toys out of the toilet.  Both of those days are equally challenging and exhausting in their own way.

I recently saw an article that went through what a typical stay-at-home mom does every week and tallied up how much money she would make for each of the marketable skills she does (kissing away boo-boos isn't on the list, unfortunately).  You know what the total was?  Nearly $100,000.  Man, do you know how many years it will take me to earn that much at my current job?

A friend of mine several months ago told me that I don't know anything about working and having a babe and that I've never had a 'real' job so how can I know how it is?  Sorry to break it to you, dear friend, but I have had many different jobs since the age of 15.  I don't know what you count as a 'real' job, but just because my job is at home instead of in an office doesn't mean that it's not real.  In order to do my job, I sacrifice all the personal time I would otherwise get (as well as a clean house).  Baby's asleep?  Want to take a shower?  Nope, you've got to go work.  Why waste precious time when you so desperately need the income?

Unfortunately, real life doesn't just hand out awards like that.  Out of the millions and millions of hardworking mothers in this world, how many of them actually get mommy awards on a regular basis?  And why, oh why did I move to a country that doesn't celebrate Mother's Day?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Co-sleeping: the end

Before L.H. was born, I thought that I wouldn't co-sleep.  To be honest, the idea of it kind of scared me.  What if I rolled over on her?  What if she fell out?  What if, what if, what if.  Then she was born and things changed.  She slept mostly in her crib for a few weeks, I think (my memory is kind of foggy) until we mastered nursing laying down and I discovered that the only way I actually got any sleep was by keeping her with me.  I also discovered that what 'they' say is true - my own sleep patterns changed, I completely stopped moving in my sleep, and I was super aware of the babe nestled by my side.  N. could be making noise downstairs and I would never no, but the slightest little sigh from L.H. woke me.

From one side of the family we had people who were very against it and kept trying to talk us out of it (actually, they still do, and have already voiced opinions about the next baby's sleeping arrangements) and on the other side we had former co-sleepers who were very supportive of whatever decisions we decided to make and offered tips for any situation.

And so L.H. shared my bed for 15 months.  I must say, waking up to that precious face every morning is unbeatable.  Nowadays she pats my face and smothers me with kisses to let me know that it's time to get up in the morning.  Not to mention that if I'm ever worried about her - or even if I'm not - she's right there and I can hear her steady breathing and feel her little fit wiggling around.

All good things must come to an end, however.  She is huge and my bed is small and I miss being able to sleep in comfortable positions without worrying about squishing the babe.  I'm also hoping that if she's not right next to me she won't smell my milk and will sleep more consecutive hours, thus affording me more sleep as well.

It is with mixed feelings that I make this transition.  On the one hand the time has come and I know that she has to grow up eventually, not to mention that at some point there will be another baby who will sleep with me.  On the other hand, I don't want her to grow up and me say that I didn't cuddle her enough.  Not likely, I know, but still.

I am sure that there will still be many nights where we will find a little body mysteriously crawling into bed to look for comfort or a nursing or warmth, but it won't be the same.  Our little baby isn't so little anymore, and we have to accept that.  Right, Ima? :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Donating eggs

A friend of mine recently showed me a Craigslist ad for a Jewish family dealing with long-term infertility looking for a Jewish woman to donate eggs for implantation.  What a wonderful idea, I thought.  Such a simple way to give two people their greatest joy in life.  The compensation for such a donation isn't bad, either.

If you had asked me two years ago, I would have thought this was a great idea and would probably have willingly given away a few eggs to help another couple.  Now, though, I'm not so sure.  Of course the infertile couples are looking for eggs from a healthy woman, and for the most part I fit that bill.  After having HG, though - research indicates that there is a strong genetic component to it; a component that can be passed even through the men.

I know that however many daughters I myself bear are unfortunately at high risk for following in my footsteps.  I don't feel that I could inflict such a thing on someone else's daughter, however.  When my daughters reach their childbearing years, I will know what to look out for and how to help them.  For a family that has never dealt with the horrors of HG, though, this would seem even more terrible and very daunting.

Egg donation is a great idea and a great option for couples who can physically carry the baby to term but who can't, for whatever reason, use the woman's eggs to begin with.  I would be so happy to donate my eggs.  Heck, so long as they covered my medical expenses I would even do it without compensation because I think that it is so important and wonderful.  To them the HG might not even seem like a big deal.  First they have a 50/50 chance of having a girl.  Then, it's still not guaranteed that she will inherit the HG.  Either way, it's something that she wouldn't have to deal with until she is an adult.  But still, it wouldn't feel right to me.  I can inflict my own children with it (kind of unavoidable, if you want kids) but inflicting someone else's kid just isn't fair.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mourning pregnancy

I very much mourn my pregnancy.  What do you mean? you might ask.  You have a happy, healthy child in your arms, and you yourself are happy and healthy.  You didn't lose your baby, so what are you mourning?

What do you think of when you think of pregnancy?  As the youngest child in my family, I never saw my mother pregnant or had any real contact with pregnant women before becoming one myself.  I knew that there are things that go hand-in-hand with being pregnant that make it less than fun.  I knew about morning sickness, and heartburn, and backaches, and preterm labor, and gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure, and other various and sundry ailments.  I wasn't looking forward to any of that but I knew that it was all normal or within the normal range of complications.

I did not know about HG.  It was this terrible monster that reared its head around six weeks in and just wouldn't go away.  I didn't understand what was going on and didn't have the strength (physical, emotional, etc.) to find out.  I spent months mostly confined to my bed, when my biggest accomplishment was to make it through one more hour, even one more minute without throwing up; when 100 calories was a normal day and 400 was a miracle; when my social life didn't exist because I couldn't even talk much without risking losing what little I had gotten in.

So when a woman says that she's mourning her pregnancy even though she has a healthy babe, it's not that she's mourning something she lost - she's mourning something that was never there.  How I wished that my biggest complaint was terrible, debilitating back pain!  How I wished that I 'just' had gestational diabetes or high blood pressure or something - anything - that could be controlled.

There are women with HG who have had medical terminations due to the disease.  Sometimes they feel that they simply can't handle it, and sometimes the doctors advise them that either they terminate or they risk losing their own lives.  I, thankfully, was not put in this situation.  But I would never in a million years judge someone who was.  Never would I just a woman for terminating her pregnancy due to HG.  She would probably beat herself up over it for a long time, though.  The effects of HG fade so quickly, but the pain of losing your baby lingers on.

Not only am I mourning those lost months and the lack of normalcy, but I also regret the lack of connection I had to the little person growing inside of me.  It is hard to love and bond with a creature that has turned your life into a living hell.  Okay, so it was our fault, not hers, but when you're in the middle of things you just know that that tiny little heartbeat is what's causing all this illness and you just want it to end.

Can you imagine that?  A perfectly healthy fetus, a very wanted pregnancy, and you just want it to end.  You  haven't even gotten past the first trimester, you aren't anywhere near viability, and you just want it to end.  Everyone wants a baby in their arms at the end of it all, but sometimes that journey is unbearably long.  I was bitterly disappointed when I didn't give birth early, and the stress and disappointment nearly crushed me when I wound up delivering nine days late.  Even though I was greatly improved by the end, it was still nine extra days of hell.

So my mourning is not, as one insensitive person suggested, coming from a place of me expecting the perfect pregnancy.  It is not coming from me comparing myself with others and being jealous (although I do get jealous, at times).  I went through a legitimately traumatic and potentially life-threatening event, and I am mourning the normalcy that I should have experienced instead; the connection with my baby that couldn't happen until later.

Baby wipes

I love baby wipes.  They are one of the most amazing inventions ever.  Spill something on your white shirt?  No problem, whip out a wipe.  Blood, poop, wine, food?  All magically gone with the help of a wipe.

I have recently expanded my use of baby wipes.  They used to be just for L.H.'s butt or other baby-related cleanups, but the other day I accidentally pulled out a wipe when I meant to take a napkin to clean something up.  It did such a good job that I just kept going.  My most recent baby wipe awesomeness came when I decided to clean my stove with them.  Who would have ever thought to clean the stove with a baby wipe?

Under our kitchen sink we have various cleaners, especially one that is specifically supposed to do good work on stoves, counter tops, and ovens.  It works okay, although there is still some scrubbing involved.  Then I tried my trusty old wipes and voila - everything was gone!  No more oil, spilled things that are hardened and cooked on, splashes, dust - nothing.  Everything came right off without me even needing to work at it.

True, it left my stove kind of streaky and true, it seems a little weird to clean my kitchen with the product that I usually reserve just for poopy butts, but hey - it's cheap and it works wonders.  Baby wipes are my new hero.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Where to live?

It's amazing how hyperemesis can wind up effecting your life in ways that you would never have considered.  I am no longer pregnant/not yet pregnant again, and yet I find myself planning my life around my next pregnancy. I am gaining a few extra kilo, I am planning ways of arranging the house, thinking ahead to what special toys/games/treats I can have on hand for an active toddler on my bad days.

And I'm choosing a place to live.  The city we live in now is not one that we particularly care for, but it is right next to the university where I learned and where N. is finishing up his degree at this year.  We are living here out of convenience, and already from the beginning of our marriage we agreed that this wasn't long-term and we would move away as soon as his degree was finished.

We wanted to move to a small community (100-500 families small), and even researched several different options.  We are limited by several factors such as cost, public transportation (can't afford a car), availability, etc.  And then it hit me: we're planning on having more kids.  This means that I'm planning to be pregnant, and that in turn means that we need to live near a hospital so that when I get dehydrated I can get the help I need without an hour's nauseating drive into the city.

Now our options are very limited, especially given that Israel doesn't exactly have hospitals on every street corner.  Heck, not even every city has one.  So suddenly, instead of looking at small communities like we wanted, we are back to looking at cities or smaller towns that are next to a big city.

While I am a city girl by birth, I really like the idea of a smaller setting to raise my children in.  There are many bad things that come with living in a city.  Unfortunately, they are also very convenient in many ways and offer by far the better medical care.

It is very frustrating that the HG rules our lives so much that it is now dictating where we can and cannot live.  How is that fair?  Why can't I have my dream place to live and also my dream of having more than one child?  Why do I have to give up one for the other?  Obviously children will always come first, no matter what the decision is, but I can always wish for the other.

I never would have thought the HG would dominate my life to this extent.  It seems as if I will never be free of it and its long-reaching effects.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Clothes are overrated

You know those special moments with your children, like a big good morning kiss out of the blue or the way that their little faces light up when you come home at the end of the day?  How about the moment when you open the bedroom door that your toddler is resolutely pounding on only to discover a stark naked child who is very pleased with herself for having gotten to said nudity?

That's right, we have a nudist on our hands.  I think that every child (and probably most adults, too) has an inner nudist, but at this age it's still acceptable.  L.H. is so committed to disrobing that we have instituted nakey-time every night before changing into pajamas, just so that she can get it out of her system.  The biggest giggles of the day come from these 5-10 minutes of freedom.

There's one thing I really don't understand, though - doesn't she get cold?  I know that we live in a relatively warm area, but our apartment seems to trap the cold and it is frequently colder inside than outside.  During the winter I always dread changing into or out of pajamas or taking a shower, simply because I get so cold.  And yet I can barely get my little girl to put on her clothing to begin with.

I guess that there are some things in life that are just worth it.  I'll accept being cold because in return I get to be naked.  I'll accept having piles of dirty laundry on the couch because in return I get a happy husband.  I'll accept the crazy bureaucracies of this country because in return I get to live in the land that I love.

All of life is give and take; sometimes it's just not readily apparent.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Working from home

The beauty of having a work from home job is that you never actually have to deal with people face-to-face.  In fact, it is rare that I even have to speak with them on the phone.  I like this arrangement very much as I am more of a shy, introverted person and not so good with the spoken words.  Writing, however, is a cinch.  That's why I'm a pro at interpersonal relations when it comes to emails.

Something else that I really appreciate about not having any clue who my coworkers are, however, is that I get the feeling that I am one of the younger employees.  As an editor, I am in a position of power and responsibility over the typists.  If they need to be patted on the back, I do that.  If they need to be dressed down, I try to fob it off on someone else and if I can't, then I do it.  I'm comfortable doing what needs to be done and giving criticism because there is an anonymity to it all.

If, for example, I knew a specific person personally in real life, I might be more hesitant about telling them what I really think.  Or let's say that I know that my typist is older than me, especially if it is quite a gap - I wouldn't feel so comfortable giving them the criticism that they need to hear and internalize in order to improve their work.

I guess that a large part of this is due to my upbringing - you must respect your elders.  I'm not talking about unconditional respect, like if you see someone committing murder it doesn't matter who they are - obviously they are no longer someone you should respect.  But respecting your elders is more generally realizing that people older than you have experiences and knowledge that are valuable and that they can share with you.  You should respect everyone, but those older than you get a little extra.  You can't talk down to them.

So for me, who feels very young despite having just marked off another year, to be having to pass along less than positive comments to people who are potentially my 'elders' can be a little bit uncomfortable.  This is why I very carefully do not ask personal questions about age or where people are in life.  My curious side would very much like to know, but the side of me that just wants to do what needs to be done and doesn't want to feel bad about it runs away.

Does any of this make sense?  I'm scared to find out if the people below me in the company are older than me because then I might have to respect them more and then I'd be afraid to criticize them.

And this is why I love the anonymity of the internet.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I am obsessed with food.  I don't mean that I like food; I mean that I am completely obsessed.

Aren't we all? you ask.  Nope.  I distinctly remember that I used to like food, I used to think it was yummy and all and I would eat regularly and with relish, but I didn't spend my entire day thinking about it or planning in detail what I was going to eat next.

Do you know how on a fast day you might spend hours - particularly the last few - fantasizing about the food to come?  You can almost taste it and your mouth waters in anticipation.  Now imagine that for eight straight months of your life, you have access to plenty of food but can't eat any of it.  Do you see where I'm going?

I spend an embarrassing amount of time on cooking websites and blogs, just looking for ideas or even just looking at recipes so I can say 'yum' and then go grab myself a snack.  There are some days when I eat like there's no tomorrow, and other days when I'm afraid to eat top much because it might come back up - except that the pregnancy is already a distant memory, and I know that nothing short of the stomach flu will make me upchuck now.

There must be some trick to convincing your brain that really, the nightmare is over.  It's okay to go back to normal now.  But is it really?  My stomach is permanently more sensitive than it used to be and still can't handle a large amount of food in one sitting, and there is a list of foods that I still have a strong aversion to and simply can't convince myself to consume.  N. is always asking me to make lasagna, but I know that I won't eat it so I keep putting him off and putting him off.  Will I ever be able to eat lasagna again?

Knowing that the HG is more likely than not going to plague me with future pregnancies also makes me cautious, because in a way it seems like it can hit at any moment - even when I know logically that it won't.  It is difficult to break free of a fear and an expectation when you know that it lies in your future.

I suppose if an obsession with food is the worst problem I have, I'm doing pretty well - so long as I don't overdo it.