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Sep 23 2014

I Need to Stop Worrying About My Sister’s Worrying

By at 3:49 pm


My sister gave birth to her first baby last night. Her voice on the phone was both heavy with exhaustion and fluttery with joy. My heart ached to be so far away from her during this blessed beginning.

I was light and cheerful while we spoke. This was a happy occasion, of course. Perhaps the very happiest life has to offer.

Still, something about our conversation unnerved me. It wasn’t until hours later that it struck me. I’m worried about her. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 22 2014

The Importance of Being Honest About First-Time Parenting

By at 10:05 am


After giving birth to my second child about a month ago, I shared a hospital room with a woman whom I’d describe as one of the most cheerful and glass-half-full people I’ve ever met. Mara–the polar opposite of a jaded New Yorker–is a midwestern transplant to New York whose optimism felt contagious.

Despite having just come out of a very difficult 24-hour labor, she was nearly all-smiles–friendly and kind to everyone who came in and out of our room (and anyone who’s given birth in a hospital knows that lots of people come in and out post-labor). I will never forget how excited she got each time she was served the hospital food, which I, of the more jaded New Yorker variety, barely touched, and managed to complain about plenty.

It wasn’t until after several unsuccessful attempts to breastfeed her less-than-one-day-old son that I saw Mara’s optimism hit a bump. I could tell just how frustrated, guilty and disappointed she felt because–like every mother on earth–I had been there too, during those early days of motherhood. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 11 2014

My Sister’s Stillbirth

By at 4:13 pm


On October 31st, 2012, I awoke to a phone call from my sister. “I think I’m going to have a baby today. Maybe baby!” I pretended to be calm and collected and told her I would be right over. She only lives five minutes down the road.

When I got to my sister’s house, her curly-headed 2-year-old Rachie greeted me at the door with a big grin. My sister was trying to stifle her own excitement, knowing that while she had been having steady contractions since 3 a.m., birthing is unpredictable–it could be an hour or a day. As we watched television, she wiggled around on the birthing ball, shifting positions, walking around, breathing deeply as her contractions rose and fell. I was mesmerized. This woman before me, sister of my blood, seemed elevated with grace and knowing even in the throes of her primal ache. What a great laborer, I thought to myself enviously. I wish I could do that.

When it was almost noon, we noticed that the contractions were coming a bit less frequently than the morning. “When they get back from the store, Rachie will nurse,” my sister said confidently. “That will get the contractions going again.” Sure enough, the arrival of her big girl sent strong clenches through her uterus as we awaited the midwife. Not just any midwife, but the woman who had gently steered and caught my son and both my sister’s older children. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 21 2014

My Emergency C-Section Gave Me PTSD    

By at 10:34 am


My first delivery went textbook-smooth. From the time my water broke until the time I delivered my daughter was nine hours, which is under the average of 10 to 24 hours for a first labor. The one thing I hadn’t liked: To get me through the first part of labor, my doctor had ordered some Stadol, a narcotic that is supposed to “take the edge off the pain.” It made me alternately sleepy and groggy. It was only supposed to last an hour or two, but it lasted much longer, and I was totally out of it by the time my baby was born.

By the time my second child was ready to be born, I was determined to do it differently.

When I got to the hospital, I wasn’t in active labor. I was contracting now and then, but the contractions didn’t hurt. The only sign was the bloody show I’d experienced overnight. My obstetrician insisted that was enough–I’d gone so quickly last time, and I was five days overdue now, so it made a lot of sense to get me into the hospital sooner rather than later. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 25 2014

The Miracle of Life Begins with Housework

By at 12:06 pm

Mopping floor

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Masei. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

Baby #2 is due any day now. Since I never went into labor with my daughter–long story short: “failed induction” ending in a c-section–in a way, I feel like this is my first birth. So, now I’m back where I was a couple years ago during the last weeks of my pregnancy with Sylvie: curious, nervous, excited, wondering what it will be like, and reading a lot of birth stories to try and prepare.

The first time around, reading these birth stories, I was just trying to get a handle on the process. Transition, timing contractions, pushing…it was all new information. This time, even though I haven’t experienced those things, I know about them, so I’m focusing a little less on those details and more on the overall stories. And I’m noticing a common thread, which surprises me: Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 19 2014

Prayers for Preemie With The Help of Google

By at 4:00 pm


The last thing I told her before it happened was, “Oh my goodness, Aliza, you’re so tiny! You’re barely showing!”

My oldest childhood friend was starting her sixth month of pregnancy, and she had the cutest baby belly I had ever seen. I couldn’t wait to see how enormous she would grow in the months ahead, and neither could she. But neither of us got the chance.

At just 24 weeks pregnant, she unexpectedly went into labor. She delivered a 1.5 pound baby boy, who was immediately rushed to the NICU. Aliza’s early labor was an incomprehensible fluke–up until that point her pregnancy was completely healthy; even her doctors were stymied. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 10 2014

10 Ways the Second Pregnancy is Different Than the First

By at 12:10 pm


Pregnancy is a great divide. My mothering life bears little resemblance to my pre-pregnancy life. But my second go-round is reshaping my thoughts about pregnancy. Being pregnant while parenting a toddler is so much harder. Now wiser, I offer 10 of my own second pregnancy lessons:

1. Hello, Exhaustion. When I was pregnant with Lila three years ago, I slept nine hours nightly. For the first time since kindergarten, I was also eager to nap. And nap I did. If I was tired and didn’t have anywhere to be, I indulged. No such luck now. I’m learning what tired really means. Even though this has been an easier pregnancy, I’m still tired and all-over achy. Handling that while chasing an über-energetic preschooler is tough, especially since she’s often awake before I am and is outgrowing her nap. If it weren’t for decaf, I’d be a complete zombie.

2. Less Anxiety. I generally know what to expect where pregnancy is concerned. Sure, I still have periodic questions for my OBGYN, but I don’t need to call all the time like I initially did with Lila. So, whereas an unexpected pain might have scared me last time, now I typically just shrug. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 6 2014

Why I (Mostly) Love My Post-Baby Body

By at 12:59 pm


Two weeks and one day ago, I gave birth to my daughter. It was a pretty amazing experience, all the way up to the point when she was born. Then, while I was luckily distracted by holding my little girl skin-to-skin, I had a postpartum hemorrhage, eventually treated by a Pitocin drip, and some stitches.

With those two surprises on top of the exhausting work of giving birth, I was glad to spend those first two nights in the hospital. Knowing that help getting to the bathroom was just a call button away, that lactation consultants were at our beck and call, and that for a few hours each night a nurse was willing to “borrow” Penrose so my husband and I could get some uninterrupted sleep was precious. Suddenly, in addition to a child and all the accompanying emotion, stress, and responsibility, I also had a “peri care” routine and a drastically lower hemoglobin count to deal with.

But even as each trip to the bathroom revealed a new adventure in inconvenience and pain, I reveled in my post-baby bodyRead the rest of this entry →

May 22 2014

Leaving the Only Home My Kids Have Known

By at 4:33 pm


Three months ago, I moved with my family into a new home six blocks and a few avenues from our former home. This was my first move with young children and I was deeply concerned about how it would affect them.

I wondered how uprooting them from the only home they had known in their few years of life might upset and confuse them. I stressed about the boxes that slowly overtook our old apartment, eating into my children’s play space, and nearly swallowing us all. I thought often about whether they would miss our neighbors, our doormen, our block, and the routine that had made up their lives. And, I worried about how my two daughters would adjust to sharing a room for the first time (we always had one of them in our bedroom previously).

But, as with many other things in parenting, I learned that these fears were mostly about me, not my children. Read the rest of this entry →

Sometimes, It Takes an Island to Have a Baby

By at 2:06 pm


Living on an island in Maine–unreachable other than by boat, plane, or helicopter–has its challenges and its pluses. For every moment of feeling like I live in a Manhattan-sized fish bowl–for every canceled ferry boat–there are moments when our tiny community, with just 350 or so year-round residents, functions like a loving family.

If someone has a medical emergency, not only are they often cared for and transported off the island by our volunteer emergency medical service, but a card will appear at the island’s one grocery store, available for all to sign. Donation jars appear in the same spot on the counter for families in need. And perhaps because each new resident represents the continued sustainability of North Haven, the island family is never more functional, motivated, and caring than when it comes to welcoming new babies to the island.

I’ve gotten to see this first hand over the last week, since I had my baby. Read the rest of this entry →


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