09 Oct 2015

Postpartum Stories

In 2011 I became a mother with the birth of my first child, ya’ir (translation: he who brings light, or he who enlightens). I had prepared for childbirth by deepening my yoga practice, and reading more about pregnancy, birth, nursing. I had forever been deeply interested in pregnancy and birth, and much of my study served as a refresher. While I was fortunate to have been able to experience birth the way I envisioned, the postpartum period was, sometimes, significantly other than what I had expected – while I was completely in love with this little miracle, had much technical support from both my mother and husband, and physically felt extremely well and strong, it was hard: ya’ir had difficulty latching for several weeks, for six months slept no longer than an hour combined during the day, and was later diagnosed with a life-threatening dairy allergy. Joy was certainly there, but so was hopelessness, exhaustion, and feeling completely alone – I was sure I was the only woman in the universe who had a baby that, well, didn’t “sleep like a baby”, deplored carseats, and was happiest on my chest 24/7. With lots of deep work, returning to yoga, my sitting (meditation) practice, homeopathy (thank you Netta), returning to work part time after a nearly year-long maternity leave (thank you Tomer, again) and an extraordinary husband (thanks babe, love you), I slowly rediscovered my breath, found the space where I had lost my own self, and renegotiated this new identity of me/mother.

The birth of my daughter, Reut (translation: deep friendship, bond), twenty three month later, and the immediate postpartum, were quite blissful. I was completely smitten. And then my world turned dark within minutes; when Reut was just five days old I received a call from the national department of health that Reut had tested outside of the normal range for endocrinology within the newborn screen, routine bloodwork given to all newborns just prior being discharged from the hospital. While the poor doctor did her best to tell me that it was just a screening and conclusions couldn’t be drawn just yet, we were told to meet doctors at the hospital immediately for further testing. I remember asking if it could wait for tomorrow morning – I had plans, was about to step out of the house for errands – her answer, umm no, it was imperative to be seen asap. My husband was far from home and would need several hours to get back, and my mother would meet me there. Then the storm – bloodwork, injection of iodine containing contrast medium in preparation for radiology to see if the thyroid could be located, watching her little sleeping body engulfed by the gaping mouth of the MRI; back to the ER to meet with the endo specialist. And then the diagnosis in a small medical room as I cradled Reut close to my body: congenital hypothyroidism. The doctor explained etiology, pathology, treatment, monitoring. All she had to do was take a small pill once daily that mimics thyroxine – easy peasy, and she’d need bloodwork to check her levels every so often – the only real inconvenience. Then my question, for how long will she have to take this medication? I don’t remember exactly how she put it so gently, diplomatically, but it didn’t matter – all I heard was the truth – forever. Every day. Cue the floodgates, intense tears. I was a mess. I mourned. Hard. For around 36 hours. My pain was layered – we all envision healthy babies, any exception is a shock – and, I didn’t know a thing about the disorder except for the bullet points I received from the specialist; I didn’t understand what this meant for Reut, her development, the way her life would look, our family – could she lead a “normal” life? I did my research, allowed myself to weep profoundly, and somewhere around 36-48 hours later, the spell had been lifted; Reut still had congenital hypothyroidism, but grief and fear had transformed into gratitude – it is just this, only this, thank G-d, we are lucky – and medical understanding – an exceptionally common disease, its treatment is so successful that research has basically stopped, it’s basically a medical non-issue. I had internalized that leaving a hospital, birthing center, etc. with healthy baby was entirely a blessing, not to be taken for granted.


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