I’m Not Broken

Nearly three weeks ago, I gave birth to a stillborn. I’m not sharing this because I want sympathy. I’m sharing this because after having gone through this experience myself, I hope that my story can help someone else find strength when going through a similar situation.

I guess I’ll start at the beginning. On November 22, I woke up in the middle of the night with contractions. Never having had Braxton Hicks contractions with my previous pregnancy, I though that that’s all these were. Once I finally realized a few hours later that these were real contractions nearly half-way through my pregnancy, we made arrangements and headed for the hospital. I’ll spare you the details, because it was quite traumatic, but the visit to the emergency room ended in the delivery of a stillborn at eighteen weeks and five days.

From the moment it happened I didn’t feel this sinking feeling of loss or depression. Of course, there were tears and there was sadness, but I didn’t feel like how I thoughI should be feeling. Mind you, Avital was with me only moments after it happened and I was trying to keep it together for Ira, but even after they had both left the hospital and I was alone I didn’t have a breaking moment. I felt like something must be wrong with me. Did I not love this baby enough to be broken by the loss of it?

In the moments immediately following the loss, I turned to God. I am a woman who believes in God and in His love for me. Being a parent myself, I have come to better appreciate and understand the parent-child relationship we have. I know that there are going to be times in my life where I am not going to always understand or like His decisions for me, but that He is making the right choices for me and my life. I don’t always have to understand them or like them, but I have to trust Him. That was the ongoing message that I kept bringing up anytime someone had asked me how I was coping. A lot of people told me I was showing incredible strength given what I had gone through. I didn’t feel exceptionally strong. I felt at peace.

I feel at peace with the fact that this is my destiny. For whatever reason, this baby was only meant to be in my life for a few months. I feel blessed that I already have one incredibly perfect (I may be biased) child who is sensitive, strong-willed and hilarious. We hope to expand our family one day soon, but even if we never get that opportunity I am already incredibly blessed beyond measure with this little threesome that I get to call mine. They are more than I could have ever asked for and for that I am grateful every single day. Together we got through this, and together we can get through anything.

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Happy Birthday Avital!

To my darling little girl, on her first birthday –

A year ago you entered our lives and changed it in ways we could have never conceived. I had dreamed of being a mother ever since I was a little girl, but our lives with you in them are far greater than any dream I could have ever dreamed.

We spent almost ten months together, just the two of us, and I thanked God everyday for the miracle He was crafting inside of me. I spent those months day-dreaming about you. Would you look like me or like your Abba? Would you have his silly sense of humour or inherit the stick that is forever up my butt? Would you be shy and cautious or outgoing and friendly? I wondered what kind of relationship we would have. Would it resemble the relationship I had with your Safta? Would you pay me back for all those teenage years? What would we call you? Abba and I were forever disagreeing on names and I was worried that we would never find a name we could both agree on.

But from the moment I first saw you, I knew. You were Avital Chana – no doubt about it. In that single moment, you forever changed our lives.

In one short year you have taught me so much about life. Being a mother has taught me that I really knew nothing at all before this. I thought that I knew what love was, but that first look we shared taught me about more love than I had learned in twenty-three years. Not the kind of love you read about in fairy tales, but the kind of unconditional, all-encompassing, stand-in-front-of-a-bus kind of love. You taught me that all those no’s that your Safta so generously shared with me, especially in those teenage years, had meaning and purpose. That no one knows what her daughter needs more than her mother (even when she’s halfway across the world). Suddenly all those years of teenage angst had so much clarity. Suddenly my life had so much more purpose and meaning.

But with all those fluffy, happy feelings, came feelings of anxiety too. Any mother that says she hasn’t had even a glimmer of anxiety is lying. I worried how we would fare, just the two of us, when all the visitors had gone home, Abba had gone back to work and it was just you and me against the world. I was anxious about the first time you would cry inconsolably and how I would handle it. Would I know what you wanted and needed from me? I hoped that years down the line, when I faced the payback for the hell I put my mother through, that I would do right by you; that you would know in those moments how much you were loved.

Watching you grow and develop has brought me so much joy and so much pride. I will never forget that first smile we shared, the first time that I made you laugh or the look on your face when I come into your room every morning. I love the special relationship you have with your Abba and with your puppy dog. Watching from the corner as you interact with them never ceases to fill my heart.

Every moment of discomfort during the pregnancy, the twenty-four hours of labour and sleepless nights were all worth it for those moments every day when you look up at me with those big beautiful eyes and that wide smile with those two little teeth.

Thank you for giving me a gift far greater than I could have imagined – the gift of being your Imma.
Thank you for teaching me about the world in ways I could have never thought of before.
Thank you for teaching me to stress less and love more.
Thank you for teaching me to stop and smell the roses, because those moments are always so fleeting.
Thank you for inspiring me to be my best, because you deserve nothing less than my very best.

Thank you to God for watching over you and our family for this last year, for providing us with all the blessings in our lives.

I pray that in the years to come I will be able to merit the gift I have been given. I pray that you will always know that while I can’t always protect you, I will forever be a safe space to come back to. I pray that you will know that in those moments when you don’t understand, I am always doing what I think is best for you.

Happy Birthday to my sweet little angel. I love you.

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New Years Thoughts

I have to be honest, New Years for me doesn’t really hold much significance. My New Years eve was the definition of #momlife. Ira was working late, Avital was sleeping like an angel in her room and I didn’t even realize that midnight has passed.

I took a 6-month hiatus from this blog, partly because I just needed to take time to re-evaluate. If you’ve been following me, you’ll know that almost a year ago I gave birth to our little girl, Avital. We had been living in a new community that I was still adjusting to, setting up our new home and now I had to adjust to this shift as well. Every time I thought I was getting a hang of this parenting thing, Avital would go ahead and develop a new skill. I finally feel like I can handle whatever she decides to throw at me. (We’ll see how well I fair when she starts walking and climbing on furniture.) And now that I feel like I have a handle on that, I want to take time to set some new goals for myself. Like I said, New Years is kind of meaningless for me, but I guess January 1st is as good a time as any to set some new goals for myself.

Be Consistent : I go through phases in my life where I go crazy and do something in excess, and then overwhelm myself and give up. This goes for cleaning, maintaining Avital’s schedule, cooking, etc. In the new year, I want to try to develop routines for myself that can be maintained.

Me Time : As women and as mothers, it’s so easy to put ourselves last. We’re so busy trying to be the best wife, the best mother, the best friend, the best sister, the best, the best, the best… that we often forget to leave time for ourselves. I have gotten back into the habit of reading and have actually finished a lot of books in the past month – I forgot how much I loved it! In theory, I know that taking time for myself will only benefit those around me, but it’s harder in practice. I want to take time to do some small things each day for me – to get dressed every morning instead of declaring every day a ‘PJ Day’, to put on some makeup, straighten my hair. Just little things that I do for no one else, but me.

Get Creative : As Avital is growing and developing, I want to create memories that will last her a lifetime. Mind you, she’s only 11-months old, but now’s as good a time as any. I want to start getting creative in the way I play with her, take her on outings and let her discover the world beyond the walls of our home. Years down the road from now, I’m probably not going to remember how many loads of laundry I did on a particular day, but I’m sure I’ll remember the look on her face the first time I take her to the zoo.

I am limiting myself to only three goals for this year, as I’ve learned from experience that setting too many goals is setting myself up for failure. My plan is to check back every month or two and see how I’m progressing.

I would love to know what goals or resolutions you have for the New Year, if you care to share below in the comments.

Until next time…

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MY FIRST MOTHER’S DAY

As I made my routine Mother’s Day phone calls this morning, I actually forgot that Mother’s Day is actually my day too now that my little girl is in my life.

It’s my first Mother’s Day and I don’t even know what to think. It took me a while before it hit me. But then I took some time to reflect about the women in my life, about the precious gift I had been given 3 months ago and about what it all meant.

Like most girls, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs with the women in my life as I’ve grown up. Of course, I always loved them, but there were definitely times when I didn’t like them or understand the decisions they made. At 18 years-old, I decided that I was moving halfway across the ocean to pursue a new life. I was by no means leaving behind the life I lead up until that point, but I felt a calling to live in Israel and I chose to pursue it. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I don’t know if it was the distance, the fact that I was growing up and had some more perspective and maturity under my belt, or now that I am a mother myself, but as time has progressed I have come to have nothing but love and admiration for the women in my life.

I know that girls tend to say about their mothers, “If I am only half of what you were to me I will be a very lucky woman.” That is the understatement of the year. The women in my life have gone above and beyond to educate me, protect me, and love me.

It’s crazy to think that you literally grow this little person inside of you for 9 (or 10) months and all of sudden in a matter of moments you’re a mother. Motherhood so far has not been without its fair share of struggles and challenges as I learn to adjust to my new normal. But there is nothing in this world I wouldn’t do for that little girl. I am so incredibly grateful for this little person I’ve been blessed with, so incredibly scared that I won’t do right by her, but mostly so incredibly filled with love for my little girl, my mother and all my surrogate mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas out there! Would love to know some of your favourite memories with your mom or with your kids.

Until next time…

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MY BOOBS, MY BABY, MY CHOICE

Now before we get into the meat of this post, let me say that the content is no where near as controversial as the title. But when I thought about writing this post, that title just popped into my head, and I couldn’t kick it.

Ever since I can remember, I knew that when the day came for me to have my own children I would choose NOT to breastfeed. I can’t really pinpoint what led me to make this decision. There was no pivotal moment when I said, “THIS is the reason”. I just knew. I can’t tell you if it’s because my mother didn’t breastfeed (unless you count the 8-day stint with my brother), or if maybe somewhere in my subconscious I was holding on to a memory I wasn’t even aware of, but deep down in my heart of hearts, I knew that this was the decision that was best for me.

And then I became pregnant. It was one of the most common questions I received. Actually, it was less of a question, and more of an assumption. “You’re planning on breastfeeding, right?” No, I wasn’t. And then when I explained that it was just not for me, I received puzzled looks at best. At worst, people would tell me that I was doing a disservice to my unborn child by not even trying. As if I didn’t have enough thoughts swirling around in my head, wondering if I was going to be a good enough mother to our little boy/girl. (We didn’t find out the gender.) All I needed was (sometimes) complete strangers making me question even more if I was being a bad mom for choosing not to breastfeed our little one.

So I started to weigh my options. Should I at least give it a try? Maybe I would pump? Was I absolutely sure that this wasn’t the right choice for me? Now, for those of you that know me in real life, you know that I’m a fairly decisive person. And to everyone on the outside, I was steadfast in my opinions. But I couldn’t stop these thoughts from swirling around in my head.

I wasn’t choosing not to breastfeed because I didn’t want to be “chained to my baby,” as I have heard other women say. I wasn’t going back into the workforce. (I quit my job when we moved out of the region when I was 5 months pregnant.) I wasn’t choosing not to breastfeed so that my husband would get up in the middle of the night instead of me. It had nothing to do with convenience. Actually, two and a half months into it, I’m almost exclusively the one feeding her since it’s just the three of us at home every day (me, my little girl and my little puppy). Even when my husband is home, I’m doing the night-time feedings. My logic is, even though I’m working from home, I have the privilege of flexible hours and the ability to nap while she’s napping. My husband needs a good night’s sleep so that he can go out into the world and provide for his girls. (Yes, I work, but he’s the main breadwinner. We wouldn’t survive without his income.)

Now, I’m the kind of girl who HAS to read a book from cover to cover. That means that I couldn’t skip over the breastfeeding sections even if I wanted to. And who knew? Maybe when I held my little girl in my arms for the first time, that’s all I would need to change my mind. (Turns out that even she couldn’t change my mind.) I knew all the benefits of a mother’s breast milk and what it could do for my baby. I knew that it provided antibodies that no formula in the world could replicate. I heard it all. From the women in the doctor’s waiting room who offered me phone numbers for lactation consultants, to the “non-biased” nurse invited to our birthing class who would not stop talking about the benefits of breast milk.

And then the day came. Our little girl was born. Thank God for my midwife. We had spoken about it while my labour was progressing, and she knew that I didn’t want to be pressured to breastfeed once Avital was born. She protected me and my wishes when that time came. But, unfortunately for me, Israelis are very big advocates for breastfeeding. They’ll  talk your ear off until they’re blue in the face, trying to make you feel guilty for depriving your baby of the best thing in the world.

The nurse who brought Avital to me for the first time when I was recovering offered to help me latch her the first time. And when I proceeded to tell her “thanks, but no thanks,” she tried to pressure me into at least pumping some colostrum for her. Like, after 24 hours of labour and 4 hours of pushing, this lady was the last thing I wanted at six-thirty in the morning. I became so overwhelmed and so uncomfortable, that my husband had to sternly ask her to leave. And then I asked for the pills that would prevent my milk from coming in. And boy, oh boy, did the nurses push that off. I should have received them at nine o’clock, when the doctor did his rounds and wrote a prescription that morning. But no. The nurses waited until six o’clock in the evening when I had asked for them four or five times and they could see that I was not giving in.

I strongly believe in a mother’s intuition. I believe that every mother knows what’s right for her and her child. I can (almost) always tell what Avital needs when she’s being fussy or when she starts crying. And I know that I made the right decision for us. I still can’t tell you what it is, or why it is, all I can tell you is that it’s my mother’s intuition. And that’s a good enough answer for me.

If you’re a mommy, I’d love to know why you chose to breast-feed or formula-feed, or both.

Until next time…

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MOMMY FAVOURITES | 2 MONTHS

Now that I have a two-month old, it’s safe to say that these products have been put through the ringer. With a baby, especially, products have to withstand a lot of wear and tear and endure the test of time.

Without further ado, here are my top Mommy Favourites:

1 – The Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper

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I cannot rave about enough about this product. This product came highly recommended from fellow blogger, Jen from Pretty Neat Living. (If you haven’t checked her out, you seriously should!) But the real credit goes to a family friend of ours who bought it for us. Her children swear by this rocker and now I do too! Not only does it have a vibrate which helps soothe baby when she’s a little irritated, the incline helps reduce spit-ups, she rocks herself with every move she makes, and it folds flat! Just a few days ago, little girl was fussy from receiving multiple shots and she refused to sleep in her crib. Rock ‘n Play to the rescue!

2 –Summer Infant SwaddleMe

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I learned very early on that my little girl loves to be swaddled. There was only one problem – she would inevitably wiggle herself out of the blanket swaddle every night and startle herself awake. Enter the SwaddleMe! This is so easy! And because it’s velcro’d shut, she (usually) can’t wriggle out – unless her sleep deprived Imma didn’t wrap her tight enough. And now that she’s older and likes to move her arms around, I can easily wrap it under her arms so she can have control of her arms.

3 – The Nose Frida

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When I was six months pregnant, my sister-in-law presented me what looked like a torture device and told me that her sister had forced her to buy it for me. A few weeks after my little girl was born, I couldn’t bear to hear her have one more congested night. With a little hesitation, I used the Nose Frida for the first time and I’ve been addicted ever since. The filter makes it super sanitary and there’s no squeezing of some weird ball contraption. It’s as simple as sucking a straw. And it gets it all out! Who knew that so much could fit up such a tiny nose.

4 –  Baby Jogger City Mini GT

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Let’s start with the fact that it’s so light-weight and easy to fold. And it basically folds flat so it’s super easy to store. I went with the 3-wheel option because it’s extremely easy to maneuver – I can push the stroller with one hand while holding the dog’s leash in the other. I decided to purchase the bassinet as well, because I use the stroller most often to go for walks around our neighbourhood. I did purchase the infant car seat that works with the same adaptors, so I actually have the option to use both based on convenience. When we’re walking the puppy we use the bassinet, and when we’re out on the town her carseat clicks right it.

So there you have it – the four products this new mama cannot live without.

I’d love to hear your recommendations for other must-have products if you care to share them down below in the comments.

Until next time…

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*This post is not sponsored. I really do like these products!*