Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy English Birthday

At 7:50 am this Saturday, October 2, marks the day that Raphaela officially becomes a one year old Toddler, according to both the Gregorian and Lunar calendars.

Thank G-d she has recovered from the one week of Hell that was Roseola Infantum, and has returned to herself in every way that I know her. Raphaela's appetite has returned as well, and at her swim lesson she went down the water slide by herself, swam under the water and emerged with a huge smile on her face. How I missed that personality, joy and energy for the one week that she was ill.

I find it comforting and wonderful that this year her English birthday falls on the same day as my grandmother's Yartzeit, the woman for whom Raphaela Rivka was named, the woman who made me feel so loved and so special, especially when the rest of my life seemed chaotic and scary at the time.

Happy birthday Raphaela, my angel and inspiration and joy.
Your Mommy loves you, inside and out.
Be who you are, and may you be blessed in all that you are, all the days of your very long life.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dating Ambivalence

A friend of mine, the President of the confirmed bachelor club, recently announced his engagement to a woman he has known for almost nine years. Over the years, so many of us looked upon this relationship with confusion, wondering why this woman followed around this man who proclaimed that he would never be ready to commit. Her wait was apparently worthwhile.

I gushed for both of them; he was my back-up plan, years ago we had discussed being together if we got old and grey and remained single.

In honor of the holiday, I received an email that a well-known matchmaker would be in Jerusalem, and that she would be hosting a singles' function on Saturday night, Chol Hamoed Succot.

I am feeling surprisingly ambivalent about the concept of men, dating and marriage. I even found myself thinking today that somehow, I have lost my need for expressing my sexuality. I look at some people's husbands and married life, and think, "What's so great about that anyway? I am a happy person right now." After years of terrible dates, and with all the activity I have in my day-to-day existence as a full-time doctor and a full-time mother, I would have to decide to find the time and more important, open myself to the possibility.

That being said, I do love myself and know that I have a lot to offer. I want to feel loved as an adult, as a wife with my life partner, exclusive of my position as Raphaela's mother, but I am loathe to get involved with a man who may impact me or my daughter negatively.

Is it the fear of rejection that holds me back, or the fear of getting hurt, or more insidiously, the fear of actually snagging the good guy and feeling like I don't deserve it?

This past week at some point on Yom Kippur, perhaps induced by exhaustion combined with fasting, I looked at my body and felt ugly and out of shape. That counter-productive voice in my head started putting me down until I was able to dismiss it and banish those nasty thoughts.

I know many single mothers by choice, and most of them have in fact not married since the birth of their children, and I wish it bothered me more than it does.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Health Status Update

Raphaela's fever broke Wednesday morning, Erev Chag.
For the past three days, she has been ingesting nothing but Electrolyte Punch, and this morning she agreed to eat Cheerios and a few pieces of banana, and she asked to nurse.
And yet, her behaviour still does not resemble the Raphaela I had taken for granted, but after three exhausting days of illness, I do not blame her.

Thank G-d we are on the mend.

There will be a few habits to break after this whole affair wraps up, including the changes in the bedtime routine and regressive tendencies. She has gotten used to me holding her throughout the day, and falling asleep on my shoulder, rather than in her own bed. Last night, we lay down on the futon in her room, I played the disc for Peter and the Wolf and we both fell asleep together, her little head and curly hair resting on my chest.

I love that feeling, snuggling with her, and yet I know well enough that now she is one year old, and she will become more independent, and I welcome it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Hebrew Birthday

At 7:50 am on Erev Succot, Raphaela was born one year ago today, at Hadassah Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.

Happy birthday my sweetest girl, the little person who has changed my life in ways that I could have never anticipated, and who has given me moments that I would not trade for anything in the world.

Predictably, disregarding for the moment that she has been ill this week, I am awake at two in the morning, checking emails and sterilizing bottles, so I can spend uninterrupted time with Raphaela later today, during normal daylight hours.

The End of Breast Feeding?

Given that I have not eaten properly in the last two days, and Raphaela has not had the inclination to eat or drink much of anything, never mind nurse, I am trying my hardest to activate the milk flow by pumping. I can't gage the success of this plan, as I was producing less milk in any case.

After a follow-up visit with the doctor this morning, he has decided that she is 60% improved, and I disagree. The Raphaela I know smiles and plays and loves eating; this little girl sleeps a lot, cries often, and has no interest in food or drink. She has barely cracked a smile in two days.

I want my Raphaela back.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Doctor's Visit

Picture the scene: Raphaela is hot to the touch and since noon has refused to eat or drink anything. We arrive at the doctor, and not only are all the seats in the waiting room taken, but four people stand outside.

When I tell the secretary that we have arrived for our emergency appointment, she looks at me and says, "Sweetheart, all these people are emergencies." She continues, "Maybe you should take the baby for a very long walk, it's not good for her to be in the waiting room, there are sick people here."

I start to cry.

Immediately the assembled waitees split into two groups, one consisting of Israelis who mean well and try to help, and the other who pull out all the stops and take the opportunity to make me feel like the Shittiest Parent of Century.

Helpful Israeli Group:
"Is everything OK?" (They asked the crying mother with the screaming baby...)
"Did you give her a bath?"
"Did you give her Children's Tylenol?"
"Maybe you should give her some water to drink."
"I can't believe the doctor did not take you right away!"

Unhelpful Israeli Group:
"She's been feverish since this morning and you are only coming to the doctor now?"
"Why didn't you take her to the emergency room?"
"Why didn't you bring her a bottle with water, or a baby bag?"
"My god, you are such a first time mother!"
"How could you let her diaper rash get that bad?"
"What, are you alone? Don't you have any help?" (They asked the crying single mother...)

Then Raphaela had the diarrhea to end it all, and the secretary, who until now had been less than sympathetic, stepped up her game with wonderful statements like:
"I can't believe she dirtied that chair, we just bought new ones."
"Well, no one will be able to sit on that chair anymore."
"Just put the baby in the stroller and clean up that mess, it stinks!"

Finally, after a wait of close to an hour, a woman gave up her appointment so that I could take Raphaela for her examination. The doctor checked her chest and her ears and told me that indeed my daughter is sick, but otherwise is in excellent health.

I laughed and cried at the same time, because clearly, Raphaela was not OK.

His biggest fear at the moment is dehydration, and has directed that I take Raphaela to the emergency room for an IV in the middle of the night, should I be so concerned.

My sweet daughter, no matter how uncomfortable she may have been, still said hello in her cat voice to Harry as we walked in the house.

Out with a Wimper

Raphaela's new nursery would only accept her when she officially became a one-year old, and so for September - whatever isn't Jewish holidays- we had returned to the care taker from last year. This caring woman was the perfect fit when Raphaela was a baby and didn't do much; I now remember several of my motivations for switching Raphaela's day care program for this coming year.

I give this care taker so much credit, two of her three children are special needs, and she manages her house and works in between providing all the basic needs of her family. But because she has children who require more, it limits the hours in which she can care for Raphaela, thus limiting the hours in which I can work and support my little family. In addition, this care taker always seems to have notifications of emergency meetings and doctor visits, and I can only snag a last-minute baby sitter 1/3 of the time.

Today, case in point, Raphaela woke up with a fever and was therefore not allowed to spend any time at the care taker. I get it, there is no reason to give other children a virus, if it can be avoided. Except that in my uneducated medical opinion, I think that all the symptoms she has been experiencing in the last 24 hours have to do with teething: diarrhea yesterday, low grade runny nose, difficulty sleeping last night and the fever this morning. You can't "catch" teething, last I checked it made a child unhappy, but was not contagious.

I didn't need the care taker chastising me for even thinking about taking Raphaela out of the house, and treating me as if I were a stupid child. New mother, yes, inconsiderate and stupid, no.

I certainly didn't criticize the care taker last week when one of her children left a pistachio shell on the floor, and Raphaela almost choked on it.

And so I canceled my whole work day, and we have a doctor's appointment this evening, where he will most like say to me, "Well, you know there's this virus going around," or "It could be allergies, or teething."

Honestly, this is the first time since Raphaela's birth that she is sick, for real, and it pains me to see her miserable, and I am terrified by this fever.

Good thing the care taker canceled her services for tomorrow altogether, as one of her children has a doctor's appointment. I want Raphaela close to home when she feels this way.

I do hope that her situation improves for Succot, with her one-year Hebrew birthday only two days away.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yom Kippur 2010

Two years ago, I observed Yom Kippur in protest. After almost one year of fertility treatments, I suffered a major miscarriage three days before the significant fast day. For three days I vomited and bled, knowing that I had not achieved the pregnancy I so desperately desired. When Yom Kippur itself arrived, I spent approximately five seconds address the heavens and said, "You know what I want," and then refused to enter a synagogue or open a prayer book. I did fast, because that superstitious part of my upbringing would not consider any other action, no matter how angry I might have been at the Greater Universe.

Last year, I fasted on Yom Kippur to try to convince my daughter that conditions outside the womb might be better than inside. The baby was pushing on my hips and coccyx, and the OB-GYN was threatening to induce labour, and so I abstained from eating and drinking. I spent the day alternatively talking to my stomach and talking to G-d, asking for the gift of love and kindness for this life I carried, for this soul I could not wait to meet in person.

Of course my strong-willed daughter ignored the obvious withholding of nutrients and arrived four days later, when she was ready, exactly nine months to the day she was conceived.

This year on Yom Kippur, I will be nursing Raphaela, in between negotiations for a solid and fruitful year for myself and my child. And I will be planning Raphaela's first birthday party.

May we all be inscribed onto G-d's "nice" list this year.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Taking Notes and Saying Thanks

Today I had the sad and unfortunate task of having to tell a patient that I suspected a diagnosis of mild autism in her daughter. This little girl, while physically active and possessing an obvious close bond with her mother, clearly tuned out most of the world around her. This little girl did not make eye contact with me, seemed to burst into crying and angry tantrums with no provocation. At the age of almost two years, this little girl refuses to walk, and does not play with the other children in nursery. The grandmother confirmed for me that she had always thought her grand daughter "didn't like her own family."

One of my nephews had been diagnosed several years ago with a mild form of autism which mostly expresses itself as a social disorder; though my nephew has a savant element as well, and is quite musically talented.

I recently heard from a religious single woman around my age, who made the JSMBC choice, and after many attempts, got pregnant. Based upon ultra-sound and other pre-natal exams, it appears that her fetus has a high probability of some mental or physical disability. It breaks my heart.

So much could have happened during my pregnancy with Raphaela, during her birth and in the last year. I look at Raphaela, and she is a happy, verbal and socially developed child; other than season allergies which she inherited from me, she is thank G-d healthy and developing ahead of schedule in many respects.

I thank G-d every day for the blessing that is my daughter, this little bundle of smiles and babbling and sharing Cheerios. I pray with everything I have and more, that in this season of High Holidays, when the Universe opens itself up to our thoughts, prayers, hopes, fears and requests, that G-d grant me and my child full health, and the resources for me to be able to continue to care for her and allow her every opportunity to make this world a better place.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Most Glorious Word in the World

Approximately five days ago, Raphaela started calling me "Mama."
Nothing in my life prepared me for how I would feel at that moment.

R"H, Day by Day

Rosh Hashana at Savta Shira's house, Day One:
Morning wake up, 5 am
Shul attendance, three hours, with some parallel play with another little girl. She sleeps through shofar
Nap time, Mommy, five hours total
Nap time, Raphaela, two and a half hours
Allergic situation, high tissue alert for Mommy and Raphaela
Bedtime for Raphaela, 8 pm

Day two:
Morning wake up 6 am
Shul attendance, three hours with some interactive play with same little girl, awake for shofar
Nap time, Mommy, four hours total
Nap time, Raphaela, three hours
Allergic situation, high tissue alert for Raphaela, medium for Mommy
Raphaela falls off the guest bed, but does not seem to suffer damage. (Mommy suffers guilt)
Bedtime for Raphaela, 7:30 pm

Day three:
Morning wake up 5 am
We both have diarrhea, and don't eat much all day.
Shul attendance, one hour, Raphaela and I leave because she's talking too loudly, and she takes home one of the toys without my noticing.
Nap time, Mommy, one hour total
Nap time, Raphaela, four hours
Allergic situation, medium alert for Raphaela, low grade for Mommy
Bedtime for Raphaela, 8 pm, in car back to Jerusalem

Sunday morning:
Morning wake-up at 4 am, who pays attention to the clocks changing...
On the good side, she learned this weekend how to make "nice" to Savta Shira's cat, and Harry will be quite relieved as his New Year begins.

Raphaela Rivka Danzig Leeder

Click here to view this photo book larger

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Genetic Memory or Baby Instinct

As a Chiropractor, I adjust Raphaela as necessary, trying to avoid the cliche of "The cobbler's children don't have shoes..." She enjoys the treatment, even laughs at certain points.

With the arrival (finally!) of her first tooth, she has been suffering lately from a runny nose and has been playing with her ears. I started to adjust her yesterday, and she grabbed my hand, placing it gently at various points on her head, neck and hips, directing me to the areas that required Chiropractic realignment.

She literally showed me the exact spots in her body that were out of balance, as if she had years of Chiropractic training.

I suppose it could be argued that as the daughter and granddaughter of Chiropractors, Raphaela has some genetic memory and heightened awareness of her physical state. Or it could be said that children are far more advanced and tuned in than we rational adults give them credit Either way, needless to say, I am amazed beyond words, at the miracle that is this small and wonderful life.