Small piece of business first: If you're a real-life or online friend of mine, you've already seen and heard that Dovi is doing very nicely at his new digs. I visited him on Tuesday and it was wonderful. If you're not, here's a secret egg: Somwhere in this post I snuck in a photo I took of a very happy Dovi in his new room.
Now, on to the meat and potatoes of the blog. Finally I will take a deep dive into the next topic I wanted to explore.
But first, a bit of a preamble here, and this will very likely apply to many upcoming posts, if not all of the posts to ever be posted here.
When I first started the blog, I tried to keep it carefully neutral so that much of what I write would apply to and appeal to the general audience. I gave Dovi's caregivers generic names. I didn't really talk too much about the lifestyle and community I live in, etc. But as time went on I realized that a) the vast majority of my audience are people who know where I come from anyway, and b) it was too cumbersome and complicated to remain general and neutral. So while I will still try to make my articles applicable across the wide spectrum of readers, my experiences and stories will definitely be more reflective of my background, which is extremely important to the story. If I don't, I will be too occupied with explaining / apologizing / justifying everything. Of course, I will provide translations, explanations, and context whereever I feel that my points might be misunderstood. But in general, you can safely assume, whereever you find yourself a bit perplexed, that I am coming from a specific cultural background with its own unique societal, social, religious, domestic, and etiquette norms and expectations.
With that being said, I want to issue a disclaimer that this entry might be a bit more of the 'mature' variety. Nothing explicit - G-d forbid! However, if you're a sheltered teenager, maybe delete this email now ;). If you're not, go right ahead and read on.
As I said, I will pick up the narrative after the summer when Dovi had turned four. As you all know, I was pregnant while writing this blog. I didn't write much about what transpired during that exhausting but fascinating year. There's a preface to those amazing stories. From the moment the thought of having another child came into the picture, HaShem quietly guided everything, down to the precise moment, in His Divine Wisdom.
Some of you already know my life story. I struggled with infertility and pregnancy loss for the first 9 years of my marriage. When Chaim was 2 years old my husband and I discussed leaping back into the craziness that is infertility treatment. I wanted to wait until Chaim was older, because I worried whether I'd be able to juggle a pregnancy and an active, high-needs toddler who was not yet toilet trained or in playgroup. My husband reasoned that the first try wouldn't work anyway, so let's at least get started. Surprise, surprise - the first cycle worked. 9 month later Dovi was born.
The pregnancy was very hard on me. I was considered a high risk patient due to all the prior losses and Chaim's premature birth. I was monitored very closely, which meant spending close to a full day in Manhattan every 2-3 weeks, which meant finding childcare for Chaim for those days. I was exhausted and craving daytime naps desperately, which I couldn't have since Chaim was no longer napping but also not in playgroup. I tried toilet training him all winter so I could send him to preschool, where toilet training is a requirement, and it was a no-go. Chaim finally started preschool exactly a month before Dovi was born. It was rough. That's when I told myself that I wouldn't repeat the same mistake, and the next time I would start treatment again, it would be only when the Dovi was already toilet trained and in preschool. I reasoned that he would probably be easier to toilet train - Chaim did have language processing issues and was quite spoiled - so I figured that I would cycle when Dovi was about 2.8 yrs old, instead of 2.2 like we'd done with Chaim.
When Dovi was two weeks old I developed a pelvic infection and was hospitalized for a week. It took two months for the abscess to drain. I lost 30 pounds and was very weak. My high risk obstetrical team could not figure out what had caused the infection. Only one doctor came up with a possible theory: When my water broke, I never had a gush of fluid, only very slow drips. It's possible that the fluid became trapped in a small 'window' in the previous C Section, and collected there and turned into an abscess. With this thought in mind, I visited my infertility specialist when Dovi was 16 months old to discuss what my childbearing future could possibly hold. She was downright nasty to me for some reason, but when she did the ultrasound she told me she was shocked that my insides seemed pretty much unscathed - she was sure she'd find a war zone and declare that my childbearing years were over. As such, she told me to do a sonohysterogram, which would give a more detailed picture. I put the prescription aside, figuring I'd take care of it after Dovi was two years old.
Well, we all know what ended up happening. Dovi was diagnosed with PDD-NOS/Autism five months later, and all thoughts of having more children receded to the background. Life was so consuming and overwhelming that there was no point in exploring the topic. But several months later, something in me snapped. Life was so crazy and abnormal that I was desperate to do something to make things a little more normal and happy. I decided to go ahead and do the sonohysterogram, so that at least I would know if I was medically cleared to go ahead and do another infertility cycle. Thank G-d, the findings were that there was just a really tiny thinning of the uterine wall and it wouldn't be dangerous to have another child - via C-section, of course.
Relieved, I scheduled an appointment with the doctor to plan out the cycle. It was pretty close to Pesach (Passover) already, so the plan was to do the cycle about two weeks after Pesach was over. The doctor was pleased with the results of the sonohysterogram. But during the visit I casually mentioned another small fallout of the birth which I thought was more of a nuisance than a medical issue. The doctor, however, was more alarmed, and she would not even discuss scheduling a cycle before I had that issue thoroughly checked out.
I was thrown for a loop. I panicked. There wasn't enough time to still go see a specialist before Pesach so that I could still do the cycle right after Pesach. I started burning phone lines and driving people crazy, scheduling an appointment with the specialist literally several days before Pesach, trying to find childcare, driving people up a wall. It was insane. During the whole craziness I happened to talk to one of my sisters in law who had given birth a month earlier and asked her what it was like, how she managed to get Pesach done when she was still recovering from childbirth and had a small baby. She told me it was really hard. I confided in her that I was planning to do an infertility cycle after Pesach, which if it worked, would put my due date about a month before the coming Pesach. She said: "If you can help it, I don't advise giving birth so close to Pesach. It is very, very hard."
I was dumbstruck as her words penetrated. I realized that this new obstacle towards having another baby was the greatest favor HaShem could have possible done for me at that point.
Normally, in the ultra-Orthodox community, family planning isn't a given. Sure, if there are legitimate reasons to delay having more children - be it medical, emotional, financial, or what have you - people do what they need to. But regular, average parents don't have the luxury to sit with a calendar and plan out when the ideal time would be to have a baby. They deal with the timing as it comes up, no matter how inconvenient. Mothers have had babies before Yom Tov, during Yom Tov, before making a child's wedding, after a child's wedding, on Yom Kippur - whatever. However, since I need medical assistance to have children, at least I could try to plan it for a manageable time period instead of it happening in any random month. The calculations were painstaking and precise, because I had to take into account the month I was actually running back and forth to the doctor - I needed my husband to put the kids on the buses in the morning, so it couldn't be during his busiest seasons at work - and I also looked at the general time of year I'd give birth. The month leading up to Pesach, over Pesach, during Tishrei, etc. etc. - tend to be a more difficult and busy time of year, so if I could help it, I tried to avoid planning it that way. But this time I had chosen to brush aside the concern of giving birth a month before Pesach, telling myself that if everyone else can manage, so can I. Speaking to my sister-in-law, who was living the stress of recovering from childbirth while making Pesach at that moment, put a break on my runaway plan. I took a pause and let the facts sink in.
The next day was a particularly trying day for me. The kids woke up very early and I had a very busy day. While making all the frantic phone calls trying to make my appointments line up, I found my stress building up to explosive levels. As I rushed out the door to pick up Dovi from his ABA sessions and take him to OT, then rushing home and dragging him up three flights of stairs, feeling my last vestiges of energy depleting with every second, I was struck by two epiphanies.
1) I should not be having another baby while living in this small apartment.
We were living in a railroad-style apartment, with the boys' bedroom attached to ours. Chaim woke frequently from nightmares, screaming, and Dovi would remain awake for 2 hours after that. That left me sleep-deprived and bleary eyed most of the time. The three flights of stairs were a tremendous burden; Dovi would put up a big fuss going up and down the stairs. He also needed much more room to roam; he felt confined and often tried to leave the house or even climb over the porch railing to escape the house. I could not picture myself being highly pregnant and trying to coax Dovi up or down those stairs. We definitely needed to think about moving before we could think about having another child.
(Boruch HaShem, we did move to an amazing apartment several months later.)
2) I am not doing anyone a favor by having another baby now. Not to my husband, not to my kids, not to myself, not even to the baby born into this chaos. Again, had I gotten pregnant on my own, without medical intervention, I would have welcomed it as a blessing and dealt with all the issues and hardships that came along with it. But the fact that HaShem was clearly placing huge obstacles in my path was a message to consider. Our lives were so chaotic and insane at the moment, and adding the craziness of cycling, a high risk pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and all that on top of it, would not be beneficial to anyone. I was being simply selfish with my need to have something normal and happy to make me feel better. It was no one's benefit.
Making the decision to put the brakes on my quest for a sibling for the boys was so liberating. A huge burden had been lifted. I knew that I would know when the right time would be. I figured I woudl wait until the following winter, when Dovi was 3 1/2 years old and going to the Center and things were a lot calmer.
But the following winter, things had not yet calmed down at all. True, Dovi was out of the house every day from 9 to 3, but I still running myself very much ragged. Between taking him back and forth to the Center, managing him in the evenings, getting a handle on Chaim's behavior and issues, and trying to keep the house running, there was no space in my brain to consider the overwhelming spectre of going through an infertility cycle.
I made the calculation that I was the best off doing it the following winter, when Dovi would be four years old. This way, I would be due in the summer while Dovi was in summer camp - sleepaway camp for special needs children starts at age five - and when he came back from camp and started school, he'd be gone for most of the day, from around 8 to 4. That would make it a lot easier to deal with a newborn baby, plus it would fill the long days with him out.
It seemed perfect.
And so, I spent the next year simply getting my life together and juggling a zillion balls in the air. I saw the doctor again in September of 2012 and we set up the financial and medical portions of the upcoming cycle. Then I left the rest in HaShem's hands.
And boy, did He have some amazing stories prewritten for me.
To be continued....
P.S. You hung on til here, now you deserve that promised pic of Happy Dovi at his new residence. Which you probably have already seen anyway . :)