Friday, February 27, 2015

I'm definitely an epidural kind of gal. I have a pretty high threshold for pain but honestly, I'd rather avoid it. Mace's birth was a scheduled induction. My doctor felt that he'd be another big baby (Mo was 9.5 pounds) and, as he put it, he felt that "there was something to be said for sexual function and bladder control". I agreed -"sign me up", I said. My friend and doula, Courtney (who was at Mace's birth as well as Mo's) explained to me that a pitocin labor is synthetic and that I shouldn't be surprised if the contractions felt stronger and came on faster than with Max. She was right - It was fast and angry. The contractions were relentless. I was in agony but my doctor told me to wait for the epidural because it could slow down the progress or stop it entirely. I didn't wait long, but I waited and during that agonizing wait, all of my grief (which I mostly keep neatly stuffed down I to my inner core) came storming to the surface. 

Labor, if you've ever been in it, feels (to me) like the physical manifestation of grief.

Nurses telling me to breathe through it, reminding me to take one contraction at time, and that this will pass. Lying there unable to hear them...the pain so great, so relentless. The sound of my own heavy breathing, the sensation of my pounding heart drowning out every other noise. Literally wondering how I could possibly get through one more minute...unable to use sensitivity in telling someone not to touch me or to back off. It literally felt just like the long, long year and beyond - of grief. I found myself crying, not because of the pain of giving birth, but because of the pain of losing Max. Awful and heavy and I just couldn't process it. I haven't even really tried since either because now I mostly just feel bliss at Mace's being here. 

Unlike the pain of childbirth, which goes away, and which you eventually do mostly forget. The pain of child loss never goes away and often comes back in heavy waves - like being right back in the middle of contractions. My heart breaking and relentlessly pounding - sending waves and waves of pain through my soul - just as intensely as it did in those early, early days and months all over again.

Mace Jacob Leviss

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Our third little boy, and fourth baby, entered the world yesterday. Mace Jacob Leviss. He is 7.11 pounds and 20.5 inches. He looks so much like big brother Mo. In fact, we think he looks more like Mo than Mo did when he was born! Super cute and pretty hungry - we love him so much!!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

I can't say that Ted and I would have ever chosen to have two children nine months apart or three under the age of three. Don't get me wrong, of course we are grateful and excited. I just don't think this timing would have been the plan - had we actually "planned" it.

You may remember that we had been trying to get pregnant for over a year. We had also been hoping to adopt during that period. We were thrilled to find out last April that we'd been matched with a family for adoption, and had I actually brought Myla home from Georgia after she was born, I'm sure we would have stopped trying to get pregnant naturally.

But I didn't get to come home with Myla. We felt defeated and crushed and frankly, more determined than ever to get pregnant. Within a week I had an appointment with a wonderful fertility specialist (ask me if you are interested in knowing who). She identified a small irregularity in my ovulation cycle and I took a few weeks of herbs that seemed to correct the issue. Either that or it was just luck that had me pregnant within a month of Myla's birth. It turned out that by the time she finally came to live with us in July, I was already pregnant. Having had a few miscarriages, I didn't really know whether this pregnancy would stick or not - but, obviously, it has! 

You often hear about the couple that tried and tried and tried to get pregnant naturally and finally did, right after they adopted. People like to attribute this phenomenon to a sudden lack of stress around the pregnancy issue. This is not our story. I can honestly say that my stress levels surrounding the issue increased after returning home from Georgia empty handed. I partly want to tell you that in case you are beating yourself up over being stressed about not getting pregnant. As my doctor has always said: women manage to get pregnant during war, genocide and famine. Stop beating yourself up.

We are very, very excited about our new arrival. We can't wait to see his little face, hug him and hold him. But, I'd be lying to you if I didn't mention that it's also pretty daunting! Mo is in preschool, we have a nanny, and I will be out on maternity leave. Of course we will manage - but it's still kind of daunting. 

We may not have chosen this timing but if things hadn't happened exactly the way they did, we wouldn't be looking forward to another little boy this next week. We may not be looking forward to this exact little boy. I don't believe that "everything happens for a reason" anymore since losing Max. But in this case, things happened so that one more baby boy could join our family and so that my two little sweet peas would have another friend for life, to play with, confide in, share with (hopefully - eventually) and love. I know these guys won't complain, and even if I do - I wouldn't have it any other way.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dayenu - HEBREW for "it would have been enough". 

We Jews sing this song, "Dayenu", at Passover as a reminder of all of the miracles that came with our release from Egypt - ie: "if g-d had only just taken us out of Egypt - it would have been enough"; "if g-d had only given us the land (of Israel) - it would have been enough".... You get the picture.  If we'd just been given even one of these things - it would be more than enough - but we got so much more.  The song is repetitive and tune-less.  By the end - Dayenu - I've generally had enough.

Today I am taking the liberty to use Dayenu in a different context.  I've been impressed at how well Ted and I have actually managed to ride this crazy train that we are currently on, but once in a while the waves of overwhelmedness are a little much.  We take on too much as it is, but our timing - holy cow - it's the worst.  Like, when we were knee-deep in a kitchen remodel when Max came a month early.  Or, when we decided to go into escrow on our house just weeks before leaving for Costa Rica to get married.  These are all good things - but stressful on their own.  Hence - Dayenu.  Right now, we are living in layer upon layer of it:

1) If only our house was in escrow - Dayenu
2) If only the house Ted was working on was in the final stages with a deadline of my due date - Dayenu
3) If only I had what seems like 5 million deadlines for work in the next month - Dayenu
4) If only we were just moving into my mother's house for the next 2-3 months - Dayenu
5) If only we didn't have a clue where we were moving to after that - Dayenu
6) If only I was 37 weeks pregnant (and my doctor was expecting that I'd go into labor any day now...) - Dayenu
7) If only my beloved pup, Jake, had a growing and bleeding tumor in his mouth and we knew the end was near - Dayenu
8) If only Myla was 9 months old - Dayenu
9) If only we were about to start a new chapter in our lives with 3 kids under 3 - DAYENU!!!!

We often wonder if we are secretly craving this kind of chaos - I sure hope not.
Dayenu - I definitely need a break!

Myla Nine Months Old

Monday, February 2, 2015

Our Myla turned 9 months old yesterday.  9 months old carries so much weight for us, but ignoring that for now - I will focus on Myla and who she is today!  She is a happy girl (I'm repetitive, I know, but it is the best way to describe her).  She is good at sitting up, though still tumbles over from time to time.  Seemingly no interest in crawling but loves assisted standing and pulling herself to peek over the side of her crib in the morning.  She has NO TEETH.  I'm told this is no biggie.  She LOVES eating food herself (one of the reasons I wish she would get a tooth or two) - mostly puffs, teething biscuits and cheerios.  She loves to stare people down until they make eye contact with her and then she flashes her gigantic smile.  She is SO into Mo - anything he does is funny and special in her eyes.  She is also already a daddy's girl.  Ted carries her around on his shoulders around the house and she looks so proud.  She also started sleeping through the night this past month - HALLELUJAH!  She is the cutest.  Honestly.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

At times it feels like life started for me on July 19th, 2011.  And, in some ways, it did.  There have been many, many pivotal times that came before that date - but none that so fully changed the entire makeup of my being like that one day and all of the days that have come since.  The memories of my life before that date often feel like the memories of a stranger - as if I'd read them in a book or seen them in a movie.  I know that they exist, but I have a hard time reconciling the truth of the fact that they actually belong to me.  I know that on the surface, there is so little difference between the old me and the new me but the fact is that every little piece of me has been permanently altered.  And so oddly, only the memories that have existed over the past 3 and a half years feel like they are really mine.  They are the only memories I "own".  I have spent countless hours of my time trying to analyze what this is all about and why this is how I feel, but I don't come up with much that makes sense.  Only that that other person, the one I was, is someone I hardly know now and so her memories are just that - hers.  To me they are like stories told by an old friend - and what is most troubling about it for me is that Max's chapter belongs to her (and not me). 

Mo's favorite things

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mo's teachers had all of the kids tell them all about themselves. The answers to the questions they asked were posted on the walls of the classroom as a surprise for the parents who visited the school last night for Back to School night. This was just too awesome not to share:

Mo's First Week of Preschool

Friday, January 9, 2015

This week was monumental at our house - but I mostly think that every time Mo passes a new milestone it is monumental.  Maybe that is just how all parents feel (I think they do).  Maybe it also has to do with him passing milestones that I remember dreaming about for Max, that he never got to (I think it is that too).  Mo started preschool this week.  He went every day until 1 pm.  It is the school we planned on sending Max to. It's connected to the synagogue where we spent high holidays. We did two and a half sessions of Mommy and Me there last year and Mo loves the children and the teachers.  I have known that he has been ready for preschool for some time now but we had to wait for an opening.  He LOVES being around other kids and he needed more stimulating play than he was getting here.  I am so happy for him.  SO SO happy that he is here - at this new place in life, such a happy and good boy.

I often say he saved my life.  He saved Ted's too.  We marvel at how much happiness he has brought us and when I say we were in a dark place before he came along - I am not saying we were disappointed, or depressed, or sad.  I am saying that we literally didn't know how we were going to get through the next day.  It was that bad.  Mo's spirit has lit up our lives in a way that I did not think was possible three years ago.  There are actually moments of time when I feel blissfully happy....and I do my best to bask in those moments and be present.  I cannot believe how full my life is - how much I love these children.  These week was full of those moments:

Myla Eight Months

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Late again - and maybe you should just count on that because I've only got about 7-8 weeks left in this pregnancy and our house is in escrow and Mo started preschool yesterday (more on that later).  The truth is that it feels so good to be SO busy.  I never ever thought life could be like this again.

As I am sure you can guess, little Myla keeps me VERY busy (and tired).  She is always wanting to switch up whatever she is doing.  She likes sitting on the floor with toys, being in her stand up activity center, swinging in her swing (yes, it's an infant swing and yes, she's a little old for it, but she still likes it), eating (especially butternut squash, bananas and cheerios), chewing on everything, looking at videos and pictures of herself and carefully watching every move that her big brother makes.  We are CRAZY about her.  She has the best smile and I could chew on those thighs all day every day.

Here is the recap (her 8 month birthday was on January 1st!):

One small shred of truth

Monday, December 22, 2014

A woman in one of my grief groups tells us the story of a man, with whom she had been quite good friends for a long time before her daughter died.  After her daughter's death, every time she saw this friend or heard from him, he kept pushing the same message: "Get over it".  As is common in these situations, the two grew apart.  She found she had no room left for him in this new life she was living - the life without her daughter, and he grew bored of hearing that she was "still" in pain.  There could never be common ground......UNTIL.....his son died - and he fell into the abyss.  After that, she heard from him daily - usually multiple times per day.  He relied (and still relies) on her, the way that so many of us tend to rely on the people who started on this road before us.  And while she knew how important her support was to him, and how much he needed (really NEEDED) her, she couldn't help but feel a little bitter.  His words had so often hurt her before he lost his own child.  He had spoke of her daughter with such little care, as though her life hadn't mattered at all, which cut this bereaved mother to her core.  In his new place of grief, it was all about him.  HE was the one in pain, HE was the one who had just lost a child, HE continued not to mention her child - probably because he was in too much pain to think about her.  Of COURSE she would be there for him - because he was not the same man he was - he too was now changed forever and he FINALLY understood that there was no getting over it - only through.  What a terrible way for him to have learned.  Really - the absolute worst.

I have not had this exact experience - though it resonates with me so much.  I remember that years ago (when I was a teenager) an older mentor of mine lost his sister to cancer and I didn't say a thing.  I hadn't said a thing and I was VERY aware of the fact that I hadn't.  "I didn't know what to say" - so I kept quiet.  I think I even avoided him for a period, which still makes me feel sick to think about.  A few years later, my grandfather died - and I knew.  I didn't know what it was like to lose a sibling exactly, because that is unique and frankly, a much more shocking and awful kind of loss in the fact that she was a young woman, with her whole life ahead of her - but I knew what it meant to know that I would never see this person who I loved so much ever again in my life - and it was more pain than I'd ever felt.  I wasn't sure if it was too late to do so, but I did approach this friend/mentor and I apologized for my selfishness.  TWO YEARS AFTER THE FACT.  I told him that I only now understood a tiny fraction of the pain he must have felt.  I am willing to bet my life that I was not the only one who hadn't said anything.  I knew that I had acted selfishly and I was so so sorry that his adored sister had died too young.  It is somewhat ironic that I now understand the isolation of having lost someone too young (and therefore, too scary) to mention.  I have always wished that I had behaved differently.  The shame is just so much more illuminated now.

After losing Max, I drifted from many, many friends.  They didn't know how to sit with me, they wouldn't comfort me, they didn't say anything, they stopped talking to me, they told me in many various ways to "get over it", or they wondered why I hadn't reached out to them (and were insulted?) and so they just let the drifting happen - instead of reaching out to me in my time of need.  Three plus years later - this fact of drifting from so many does not make me sad or hurt much at all.  In a weird way, I even get it and feel like we are all probably better off.  I was and am scary and people don't know what to say.  That is true. But, that doesn't mean that I have to put myself out for those people who I scare.  It also doesn't mean that it is too late for someone to say, "I am sorry I wasn't there for you....."  Today, I choose to surround myself with the people who were and are there for me.  They are the people with whom I am most comfortable ...and frankly, I am tired of worrying about whether everyone else is comfortable with the awful fact that my beautiful son died.  I would rather concentrate on how my relationships make me feel. I want to try and be in mutually supportive and loving relationships moving forward and so I don't waste my time with the other kinds.  And, if I really think back on most of those old relationships, they were challenging before Max died, the fractures were just highlighted by his death.  In the meantime, there are some amongst the group that drifted away that have faced their own personal crises in these past years and have either reached out to me personally or more generally to our shared community for support....and in some ways, I feel a little bitter, like the woman in my grief group.  Only none of these individuals has lost a child.  They have faced other disappointments and perhaps griefs of their own - nothing catastrophic but griefs none the less. And, I really don't know how to respond - Is it my obligation to reach out to or answer the call from everyone in pain, regardless of how they treated me in my most desperate and vulnerable moments?  Really, am I responsible for being the leaning post to those who have hurt me?  Since I've been through hell, should I be the bigger person and reach out to all who are struggling because I know what it means to struggle?  I just don't think I am there yet and it causes me some guilt and angst.

A woman in another grief group recently asked the question, "With the holidays approaching, should I let my family and friends know that I want them to mention my son? To visit his grave? To tell me that they are thinking of him in their cards? Or, should I just let them slowly drift away?"  I think that is what it all boils down to when it comes to relationships.  The truth is, we know that those who ignore the elephant in the room, which is our personal struggle, can never be someone we will feel close to.  From my experience, the ones who would respond to our cry for help are usually the ones who would think to do this on their own, without our having to tell them to do it for us.  I've been told (many many times in various ways), that it was my fault that so many drifted, said nothing, did nothing, told me to move on - because I was too scary.  I'm ok with that.  I will take full responsibility.  But, I wonder - should we blame ourselves or everyone else when we don't say out-loud exactly what we need (which I actually thought, perhaps erroneously, is what I had done - by writing this blog)?  I really think that there is nobody to blame.  In times of crisis, your true friends will step forward on their own - without your having to tell them to do so - despite how scary you are, or uncomfortable your story makes them.  They will step forward because they love you and want you to feel loved and supported.  They will step forward because they WANT to, because to not step forward would hurt them as much as it hurts you.  It won't be a question for those friends.  You won't have to ask them.  They will just be there.  They won't take it personally that you haven't called them or returned their calls.  They will just keep trying because they know you cannot be held responsible at a time when you can barely get through the slow moving unbearable moments of this new life of yours.  At first it will hurt that not everyone you thought you were close to is making an effort.  You will feel betrayed or abandoned or crazy even, that you thought you were close to people who you most obviously were not.  In time, however, you will know where your truest relationships lie - and that will actually feel good.  I've never known depths of friendship and love like I know today.  A small shred of the truth and security that inevitably comes out of the most devastating and horrifying of life's possible experiences.

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