Author Archives: bashert04
I am just sitting here thinking about how quickly the Jewish high holidays are approaching. I never seem ready for them. See, they may be the same date every year on the Jewish calendar but because they are different on our daily calendar, we often seem shocked by their arrival. Often you’ll hear Jews say something like “Can you believe the holidays are so early this year?” or “Can you believe the holidays are so late this year?” It’s funny because you’ll never hear us say, “Well, hot diggedy dog, can you believe the holidays are right on time this year?”
Now listen, many know of course that Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year..go Jews! And we also know Yom Kippur is the day of atonement..oy Jews! Rosh Hashanah is more celebratory and is a time to really begin our self reflection and evaluation. You know…to think about how we have treated not only ourselves that prior year but how we treated others. It’s also a time where G-d is said to be deciding who will live and who will die, who will be sick, who will be well that coming year and I suppose anything else that was going to happen. Well, I can tell you now people. This past year G-d had it in for me. I cannot believe that when G-d closed that book of life last year at this time, it was written for me to loose my uterus but to gain 20 pounds! And to think I agonized over every damn fattening thing I put into my mouth! Why didn’t I just enjoy it if that was what G-d wanted? OY VEY! Well, this year I am making damn sure I ask that some of my weight be removed and passed along to someone else. You know, pass it to someone like one of those fashion models. It would be charitable and such a good deed…yes, a mitzvah to take my extra fat and to give it to someone who could use a little “thickening” up as I like to say.
Now talking about that closing of the book of life thing. Isn’t that a bit harsh? Does anyone else kind of feel that way? So, we made a few mistakes during the year. Who doesn’t? But, I realize not everyone can live. I get that, but I must admit, like hell do I want to be the one left off the list. Meanwhile, for those who don’t make it on the list. Does anyone else feel it would be common courtesy to be told whether they made it or not? How terrible it would be for someone to always be looking over their shoulder wondering if tomorrow will be the day. How cruel it would be to have that person even think they made it and one day before the book of life is to be re-opened that person dies. Come on! Really? And after having spent an entire 7 days (from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur) making amends and apologizing to those we’ve hurt and it was all for nothing? At least tell us if we made the cut. Don’t y’all think? Speaking for myself I spend countless hours talking to myself and to others who have passed… oh and yes, sure, I speak to G-d if that’s what you like to call it. Anyway, during that time I’m always stressing what a valuable addition I am to have hanging around for another year. You know. I believe you can never stress that too much. Hey, it has worked for me so far so why quit now?
Listen, I understand many religions have a New Year holiday and a holiday to atone. But, I think the Jews have a special niche. Yes, a special niche. Oh, who am I kidding? We Jews can’t just celebrate and leave it at that. We have to celebrate but then remember something tragic that happened to us. Damnit, no wonder our people are “bipolar”. We’re happy but sad at the same time. OY VEY! For example take our weddings. During the ceremony we celebrate the union between two people but at the very end we break a glass. Why? Well, it’s to remember the hardships of our people and the trials and tribulations we endured throughout time. Really? It isn’t enough that our people experienced what they did but we have to constantly remember it? OY VEY! Gee wiz at what point in our history did it become wrong to simply celebrate? All of our holidays are filled with “we’re happy but only after all of this horrible stuff happened to us first” scenerio’s. No wonder our Jewish mothers are a bissel meshuganah! Listen, I know…it has been said that to remember is so that history doesn’t repeat itself. OK, folks- The Jews have over 5700 years of history where bad things have happened to them over and over again. Um, I’m not so sure remembering each event has helped one bit. If truth be told I’m guessing it was more about superstition. I can see it now: In order to keep the Kena hora (evil eye) away we always have to remember something bad (as well as spit three time) when ever we celebrate. But, there again after 5700 years of repeated history, you would have thought someone would have said that didn’t work either. It just makes me laugh. We’re happy…we’re happy…..WAIT! Time out on the happy….let’s not EVER forget how our people had to walk to school up hill… both ways… in the snow… and by the way there was a monsoon coming with a side of locusts.
Lets face it folks we Jews are somewhat dramatic. We seem to thrive on it. Look at our story of Chanukah. You don’t think it seems a bit over the top? Come on! The Jews were a tiny army up against the huge, large Syrian army. But of course that wasn’t all. The Jews didn’t even have the weapons that the Syrians had nor did the Jews have the money to buy the proper weapons. It is hard for me to believe that the Maccabees won by their strength (and oh yeah, because we had G-d on our side). Really? What made us so special? Chosen people, you say? Come on! Why would G-d choose a people? After all wasn’t G-d supposed to be fair and loving to all? I think if the story had any validity it was that the Maccabees had a better military strategy. Even my 10 year old son understands that truth to winning a battle. I’m guessing that was how the Jews won with of course a side of luck. After all, we are all brilliant, right? Meanwhile, let’s look at this more closely. Knowing how my people can tell a story, this is how I see the Chanukah story happening. What if Judah Maccabee was an old man and was sitting with all of his 50 grand children. Well, you know. They had lots of kids back then. Anyway, his grandkids were begging him to tell them a story from his childhood. Judah wrapped up in their excitement to hear a really good story, he by no means wanted to disappoint them. He takes a moment to think to himself and then realizes telling them about how he and his family fought off the Syrians barehanded without having had food or water for an entire month… Don’t worry, Judah decides to reel it in just a little bit but hell, he has to add some cool parts to keep his grandkids thinking Judah was really far out.
And so as Judah began telling his story, his grandkid’s were on the edge of their seats excited to hear every detail of Judah’s story. He tells the kids he remembers being a little older than them when he would watch the Syrian army train for battle. He tells them he remembers there being thousands of Syrian men who were as tall as the sky. In fact they were so tall he wasn’t even able to see the Judean mountains because of it. OK, so Judah sort of left out a little, minor detail. Did the kids really need to know that he was only 5 years old and was very short for his age? Why of course not! All that mattered was that Judah kept his grandchildren interested in his story. And so Judah continued by telling the kids he and his family along with a very small army of Jews singlehandedly fought off that very same large Syrian army from when he was a kid. He explained how they got their Temple back. Of course I’m certain the kids cheered at that part. He told his grandkids how his family was disgusted by all of the destruction the Syrian’s had done to their place of worship and how they needed to light the menorah first before even beginning to clean. He explained to them that when they saw the Menorah, they were shocked to see it was lying on the ground with large amounts of oil (which kept it lit) spilled out. He told them how the Jews panicked for fear there wouldn’t be enough oil to keep the Menorah lit day and night as tradition dictated. Now folks, the panic in having enough oil for the Menorah I’m guessing was the same kind of panic we Jews have when we worry about whether we have enough food for our guests at a dinner party. The thinking is there must be an over abundance and when an itty bit of it is burned, dropped or missing in action, there is suddenly a fear there isn’t enough. So, I’m certain there was enough oil but once those Jews started panicking there was no reeling them in to think more rationally. The Jews could only think about the amount that had spilled and not about the actual amount they still had. In their mind they had to replace the amount that had spilled…after all that was the extra they needed just in case. Listen, I could even see the scene now. Come on. I’m sure you can imagine with me on this. At least 20 of them were standing around the Menorah arguing about not having enough oil. All 20 of them had different ideas on how to handle the problem. While the argument ensued, a by standard (who we will refer to as the Shabbas goy) walked in and analyzed the problem. OK, so as long as the Jews felt there was no back up oil, they were going to panic and make everyone’s life miserable. Sound the least bit familiar? And so the by standard figured he could head out to the nearest town and return with more oil before the group of Jews could decide what to do. When he returned 7 days later the Temple was just about clean but of course they were still arguing over whether the oil would last. Now, lets be honest, here. How many kids do we know would have been interested in that Chanukah story? Not many. We all know kids like action and the element of surprise. Judah knew that and that was what he gave them. Come on. It wasn’t as if Judah was lying. He just gave the story a little Jewish seasoning that’s all. AND SO Judah told his grandchildren there was only a very very tiny amount of oil to keep the Menorah lit for only maybe (barely) one day. That worried the Jews because it was going to take someone about 8 days to go to a nearby town to get more. However to everyone’s surprise when that person returned from the nearby town with the oil AN ENTIRE 8 days later, the Menorah was still lit. Lo and behold it was a MIRACLE! Now you could only imagine how wide eyed Judah’s grands were at this point and how they must have been cheering. Judah seeing their adorable faces so interested in his story, I’m sure it was exhilarating. Listen, wasn’t it Judah himself who coined the phrase, “Embellishments just happen?” Meanwhile, does it really matter? Eh! Who cares? The important part was his grandkids would retell that story over and over again keeping Judah’s story alive. So what there were a few over the top parts to it? And if truth be told…aren’t we all kind of, sort of related? So, Judah was kind of, sort each of our own great, great, great (plus), grandfather. And what talent our relative had to keep not only his grandkids entertained but also his grandkids for generations to come.
Can you imagine what Judah could have done with that story if he had WordPress? Judah would have had his very own blog. How cool would that have been? And what if he had had Facebook? Can you imagine what he would have posted after telling his grandkids the Chanukah story? “Told my famous Chanukah story to my 50 grand’s today. Little Schmuel was so cute when he hid behind his brothers as I described in detail how barbaric the Syrians were to the Jews.”
What if Facebook had been around during biblical times? Could you just imagine their posts? OY VEY! What in the world would have Noah posted? How about Abraham or Naomi? Certainly some good material for a stand up comedian!
Oh my gosh, I can see it now!
Noah: A picture of two unicorns and him posting, “Missing! They were last seen hitched to my boat house. Please contact me if found.”
Abraham: “Spoke to G-d today. He told me I had to sacrifice my son, Isaac. OY! My wife is going to be really pissed after waiting so long to try to have a child! By the way open invitation to come to our tent for Shabbat dinner this Friday. No RSVP necessary.”
Naomi: “Oh, Ruth! Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
Moses: “OH G-D is SO annoying today…never leaves me alone! You won’t believe what I have to do today! I have to walk all the way up Mt. Sinai! Do you know how hard that is for a man of my age? What is G-d thinking? I am really getting tired of being his messenger. At any rate if anyone is free and in the area early tomorrow morning feel free to meet me at the bottom of the mountain for a cup of tea.”
OMG! How about if King David had Facebook? Something tells me that man would have gotten into a ton of trouble saying way too much on his FB page. Can you imagine? King David: “Oh, today I fought off the Moabites, the Edomites, the Ammonites and the Arameans…no big deal. All in a day’s work. Oh, I saw a beautiful woman bathing on her roof top. Soon she will be mine.”
As I was thinking about those biblical characters and what they’d do if they had facebook, I began thinking about us today and how facebook has singlehandedly changed our society. Lets face it with the use of Facebook we can now keep in contact with literally hundreds of people all at once. We can easily wish 50 friends and family with a hit of the button a happy new year as well as keep them abreast on what’s happening in our daily lives. It’s really remarkable how we can reach out with ease to those we know. It’s incredible to see updated photos of friend’s children and of their wonderful vacation excursions. Let’s be honest before Facebook there was no way to have written to one hundred people daily to keep them updated on our lives. Some feel that is a negative thing but I don’t see it that way. I love hearing about my friend’s and family’s children and about what is happening in their lives. And especially when an illness or tragedy happens where I can help provide extra support. I find Facebook a useful tool. Facebook has truly become an amazing way for us to laugh, cry and be a part of so many friends and family’s lives.
Now having said all of that I did question (for a moment) how FB has changed our approach to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For one as a child my parents would have sent out a card to each of their friends and family members wishing them well. Each card would have also included a hand written personal note talking about our family. Today, it is more common than not to simply post a generic “Happy New Year” to all. For those of us who were accustomed to the “old” ways, we can find it impersonal and somehow just not right. But, does that mean it’s wrong if someone does post a generic greeting? Does it make it any less personal? Well as a child, those cards my mom wrote to friend’s and family were the only time they received updates about us. And I must tell you more often than not my mom would write the same exact letter in each card. So honestly, how is Facebook any different? It’s just that on FB we are “upfront” about sending everyone the same card with the same message.
On the conservation side of things here there are some who feel we have too much paper waste by sending out a Happy New Year to all on FB, we are conserving – helping the earth. Don’t buy it? OK, I know. I must admit there is nothing like receiving something in the mail. Among all of the junk mail and bills I receive, I am like a little kid when I receive a hand written letter to me. I admit it. It’s nice.
However, the reality is times are a changing. By posting a New Year’s wish to all (on FB), it has allowed me to reach out to each and every friend and family member without the mistake of leaving anyone out. And plus there would be no way I could afford to send out that many cards. For me even when I post a message to all on my Facebook page it is a personal sincere message. My wishes are not any less meaningful. Listen, I get it. Many of us are from a different world. A world that was filled with strict rules and Etiquettes. But let’s face it. FB and other modern technologies are changing those rules. They aren’t as important anymore. Whether we like it or not, agree or disagree, we have no control over how the world around us is changing. Meanwhile, can you really imagine Moses posting on Facebook? Would he have resisted using it? According to the stories we’ve all been told Moses wasn’t one to quickly buy into what was popular. Regardless, it is certainly humorous and fun thinking about it.
You know when I was in Hebrew school back in the 1970‘s our teachers stressed the importance of making amends for our wrongdoings and taking this time to soul search for how we could make ourselves better. And in order to do so, it was stressed how we must contact those we’ve hurt in person and apologize. I remember a student asking if writing a letter was permissible. The teacher took a moment and then he told us, “Making amends is what is important. Sometimes we are able to speak to the person face to face and other times we aren’t. What matters is that we make the effort and reach out to the person we’ve hurt. There are times doing it face to face is not an option so that certainly doesn’t mean we are off the hook. We just have to look to other ways that are available to us.” Of course only as an adult could I understand what he was saying. Life is complicated. It’s never black and white. And so for me, yes, I could apologize to someone in person but I could never ever fully express myself as I could in a letter. So, that has been the method I use and has been even before Facebook. With someone with ADHD and learning disabilities, writing has been my saving grace. I look at it like someone who stutters but when they sing they don’t. When I speak to someone I can be off and running talking about this and that, but writing allows me that focus and the ability to say more succinctly and often more intelligible what I want to say.
AND SO, here we are about to head into our Jewish New Year and our week of self reflection. And here I am using Facebook to share these thoughts with over 500 of my friends and family (well, of those who choose to read it). I must admit my mother would be appalled because to her this just isn’t the proper way. But there again my mom’s world no longer exists and this is a new way of how we all express ourselves. Listen, you’ve got to admit it does force us to make sure we keep our stories in check because we know our friends and family will not hesitate one bit on letting us if we haven’t. I’m certain even if Judah Maccabee had written on Facebook, we all would have done the same to him as well.
FINALLY, I want to wish each and every one of my friends and family members a heartfelt, sweet and healthy new year. For those who have had a trying year, I wish you only good things to you for this next one. Please, know I have enjoyed all of your photo’s, your funny jokes, your political “arguments” (whether I agree with them or not) and everything in between that was posted on Facebook this year. Yes, you have made me laugh, cry and more than anything else appreciate the opportunity to be able to keep in touch with you.
Here’s to Facebook for allowing me to find “lost” friends and family and allowing me the opportunity to be apart of so many of their lives. I look forward to another (FB) year hearing about all of your wonderful families and the amazing celebrations you are having with them!
Just a year before my mother died, she game me some advice that I couldn’t understand. Of course today it makes perfect sense. At the time though I was 14 years old and very clueless by what she was telling me. Here was the thing…she knew her days were numbered and she wanted to tell me something she felt was important. My mom told me I was a person who had always and would always beat by a different drum. She said that I’d take a different path in life than most others and she wanted me to know it was OK. I remember thinking, “OK, what the hell is she talking about?” Honestly, she made me mad because she wasn’t being specific. “Dammit, stop talking so generally and just tell me what you mean!” G-d I was an awful 14 year old. But realistically even if she had told me what she meant I have no doubt I wouldn’t have understood and maybe have even been offended. I have no doubt she understood my ignorance but told me anyway with the hopes I’d remember (just when I needed to).
On that day she was talking to me my mom was barely able to walk let alone stand. Even so she made a point to walk to the kitchen where I was. While she was standing in front of me the grimace on her face said it all. She was in excruciating pain. However, my mom had a message to give and dammit she was going to give it. That was Momma. She continued to tell me that no matter how untraditional of a life I was to choose I was to always be proud of it and follow my heart. I remember thinking, “OK, and so what?” Listen, my mom banked heavily that I’d never forget what she told me and for some reason I didn’t. I suppose I knew it was important to her. Maybe it was because I knew she was dying? Maybe. Meanwhile, even as a snot nosed 14 year old, I stored what she said somewhere in that brain of mine. All I can say is I hope I have made her proud by doing exactly as she encouraged me to do.
Listen, all I could hear was my mom’s advice as I was going through each stage of my life. Her words allowed me to stand up to adversity, to maintain the confidence (that I had value in this world) and to have the ability to wipe myself off to continue moving forward. Her words empowered me to love another woman even though it wasn’t popular and may make others dislike me. My mom didn’t need a crystal ball to know I would have some up hill climbs in my life as a result of who I was. As much as I wished she could have been with me physically, I have no doubt she will always be holding my hand in a more spiritual way (as she had done to help me through so much in my life). More than anything though, I am most grateful for one thing and one thing only. That was that my mom gave me the strength, passion and drive to make my dream of having a child a reality. I am certain she was the one giving me all of those little kicks in the ass to keep me going so the brightest light of my life could emerge; our son, Judah.
Moving on to the real world after Judah was born I was amazed by the amount of support Carol and I had. I’m sure at first many friends and family were concerned for Judah. After all he was being raised by two moms and because of that they had the preconceived idea that he would be void of any male influence. Folks, how would that have been possible? And why would we have done that to him? Just because we are two women doesn’t mean we don’t like men. We just chose not to marry one. That was all. Meanwhile, Judah had (has) a wonderful array of uncles, male cousins and a grandfather all of which were (are) involved in his life. And then on top of that there are our adopted families who have loved Judah just as much as their own family members. It really does take a village to raise a child…any child no matter who their parents are. We are incredibly grateful (more than words could ever ever express) for the love Judah has gotten from my family, Carol’s family and from friends who in many cases helped raise me. Judah has been one very lucky boy.
OK, so now I would be remised if I did not mention Carol’s family. Listen as proud as I am of the unconditional love and support I have received from my sister, her husband and their two children, they are my family. I know them and I am used to their ways. They are mine. And the truth was Judah was directly related to them. However in mine and Carol’s relationship not being married in the eyes of the law it was uncertain to us how Carol’s family would react to Judah. Now before I can even get to Judah, I must explain the differences between mine and Carol’s family and their reaction when they first met me.
To say our two families were total opposites would have been an understatement. For one Carol’s family are Christian…from the Episcopal side. However, even though they are not church goers they do have a strong Christian belief system as their foundation. Christmas is a time for family to gather. They have traditions which are sensible and understandable. They were Southerners who took turns talking in a conversation. They hardly ever got loud. They were polite and always said “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Their food dishes of choice were black eyed peas and rice, green bean casserole and “Mama’s” macaroni and cheese. Carol and I refer to her family as “white bread” which means they are plain (in a very good way) without any added unnecessary frills. What you see is who they are. If they ask you, “How are you?” That’s exactly what they mean. No more, no less.
Then there is my family. We are Jewish in religion and culture. And as if I need to say more, I will for those of you who don’t know what that entails. We too celebrate our holidays and have our own traditions. However, our holidays usually come with tons of drama. For instance most of our holidays are about how others tried to kill us but through our perseverance we made it…we survived against all odds…we were the army of 10 in a world with armies of thousands who wanted us dead…get my point? In my family if you wanted to participate in a conversation you had to roll up your sleeves and get in there. The louder we spoke the more we were heard. And the thought of allowing someone to finish their thought was absurd. Why? Just get in there and say what you gotta say. Now, even though my mother was VERY Southern (being raised in Birmingham, AL during the 30′s, 40′s and 50′s), because my father was from Brooklyn (and I spent more time with him after losing my mom), I took on more of the NY ways. “Sir” and “Ma’am” were foreign to me. Funny, though, my sister says them. I suppose her being 7 years older and having more one on one time with my mom, she picked up a little more on the Southern ways. At any rate in regards to food our Sundays usually included pastrami and tongue sandwiches on rye or pumpernickel bread. Our dad’s breakfast usually consisted of sardines and bagels topped with a ton of cream cheese.And so we refer to my family as “pumpernickel”. We are spicy and all about frills (necessary or not) and we have a tendency to cause gas if you aren’t used to us.
OK, so basically when I first met Carol’s family, I saw them like soft cotton sheets just fresh out of the dryer and I have no doubt they saw me like burlap that had never been washed. Get my drift here? AND SO I know it wasn’t very easy for them to open their hearts and to accept me. I was the epitome of everything they weren’t and somehow their family member, Carol, had fallen in love with me. OY VEY was right. OK, so they weren’t saying, “OY VEY!” Maybe “HOLY SHIT” was more like it.
I’m not sure where it all turned around for Carol’s family to finally feel comfortable with me but (in time), they took me in as if I was one of theirs….well, one of their “adopted” ones. Maybe because they could see I loved Carol? Maybe. Or was it because I wasn’t going away and they had no choice? More than likely. But whatever the reason they welcomed me. Even so, I was terrified as to how they would accept Judah once he was born. I felt Carol’s parents would be Judah’s grandparents and Carol’s siblings would be Judah’s aunt and uncles. However, Judah was not genetically apart of their family. Hell, Carol and I couldn’t even be married in the eyes of the law. That meant there wasn’t even a way to justify to Carol’s family that Judah was her stepson. Her family being very traditional I was fearful they wouldn’t see Judah as one of theirs. And of course that scared me because I never wanted our son to feel like an outsider in a family he was to grow to love.
I have to tell y’all, my worry was for nothing because once Judah was born and once they got to know our sweet little boy, they couldn’t help but to fall in love with him. We were very lucky because Judah’s kind and easy going spirit was heartwarming which made it easy for others to open their hearts to him. Carol asked her mom if it would be OK for Judah to call her Gram and her dad, Papa (like the other grandchildren). I don’t know if Carol’s mom told her Judah could because she was more worried about upsetting Carol or because she really did see Judah as a grandson but honestly, it didn’t matter. What was more important was that our son was given a huge gift…he was given the love of another family which was so incredibly special to me. After all by the time Judah was four he would share that family’s last name, so genetically or not, he was one of them.
I will never forget when Judah was 3 and we were at a family gathering at Carol’s brother’s home. Carol’s sister, Rachael, was introducing us to someone and she said, “This is my sister, my sister in law and my nephew.” Said was able to introduce us casually and comfortably as if it was no big deal. Another time Carol’s father introduced me to someone as his daughter in law. And on my side of the family my sister and her husband introduced Carol as their sister in law.
Listen, Folks, Carol and I understand we are not going to be accepted by everyone. We didn’t expect to be even when we had been the brunt of that rejection (many times during our lives together). However, it was important that we be accepted by our families. It was important for Judah to have that support. Hell, it was important for us to have that support too. I am incredibly touched and moved to have so many generations of family members who love us for who we are. Lets face it folks, if two families like mine and Carols can do it then anyone’s can. Both of our families as a result have allowed us to give the most incredible and precious gift to Judah. He will be raised knowing he has an extended family who accepts and loves him as the individual he is. In a world where he will be judged time and time again, he will have the comfort of knowing his family will never past judgement simply because of the parents he has. As a result they are helping us empower him in the road of life he chooses to take. And so far, he’s taking a very good one!
After two months of doing the injectables I was to head to the infertility clinic to have one last vaginal sonogram to see how many eggs I had produced. Now, usually when I ovulated I’d get some soreness on my left side. Ironically, that was the side where I usually produced two eggs. And so, as we were headed to the clinic I told Carol that I was definitely feeling more soreness than usual. That made me think I had for sure produced more eggs. BUT, we couldn’t know until we had the sonogram.
When we arrived that day the waiting room was once again filled. I always looked around at everyone’s faces. I could tell who was just starting the process and who had gone through many rounds. It was always evident on the faces. After waiting 30 minutes we were called to the back and into the examining room. The nurse told me to go to the restroom to empty my bladder and then to undress from the waste down, put on the gown and lie on the table. Well at that point I didn’t have to pee, so I undressed, grabbed a gown and hopped on the table. It was another 20 minutes before the doctor came. She seemed very focused that day and not on us. It was clear she was bothered by something. Hey, folks, can be in a good mood all of the time. She didn’t say much to us and started the vaginal sonogram. We were all silent as she started looking at the monitor while moving around the “wand” inside of me. As she was looking she said,”You’re bladder is full. The reason you needed to empty it is so that we can better see things.” I really felt chastised by her. I figured it wouldn’t have been worth trying to explain that I didn’t have to go initially but after waiting for so long (and by the time she had gotten there), I did have to go. I asked her if she wanted me to go. Listen, I didn’t want to hinder her being able to see in any way, shape or form. She told me it was OK and that she needed to go ahead looking.
After what seemed like forever she finally told us what she saw. She must have realized how curt she had been previously because she was back to her usual self at this point. She told us she was disappointed to only see 4 viable follicles. She told us there were about 9 but only 4 were good. She was surprised because normally women produce a lot more while on the injectables. When she was done, she asked me to sit up and she took a seat in front of me. Aware of our money situation she knew we had no other options for the injectables. She began talking to us about IVF which is where they remove the egg/eggs, fertilize it in a petri dish and then implant it into the uterus. As she was explaining it to us I knew we were done. That was a procedure that was easily $10,000 a pop. It was not something we could do. Carol told the doctor there was no way we could do that procedure. The doctor told us she understood but also added,”Please know we never expect a patient to pay it all at once. We understand how expensive it is. We want you to know our office does offer a payment plan.” I don’t know why but every time this doctor would tell us something else about how her facility helped her patient’s, we were shocked. We couldn’t believe it. BUT, even with a payment plan that still was worrisome to us to do. It was very expensive and something we’d still have to pay whether broken down into payments or not. We already felt as if we were throwing our money out the window each time it didn’t work. But, it was on a much smaller scale compared to the IVF procedure.
Meanwhile, even though we knew we weren’t going to do IVF we were curious about the procedure. Carol asked her, “And does that mean having multiple babies?” The doctor explained that the way she did the procedure (implanting so many eggs) she statistically had a high number of women who had triplets. Well, that was all we needed to hear. There was NO WAY we could have afforded that. AND I don’t mean the procedure we were thinking about just the raising of 3 children plus Judah. One more, yes, but not two or three. And there was a huge possibility of even more. I will never forget that day. Carol and I looked at each other and told the doctor that IVF was not an option for us. We asked her if we could go ahead and do our last insemination? She knew we were disappointed with the number of eggs the injectable had me produce. However, she was positive. She told us that at least I had doubled my chances.
We made an appointment to come in the next morning for our final insemination. While returning home that day we realized Judah didn’t have school the next day (when we were to have the insemination), so we’d have to find someone to babysit him. That evening after many phone calls and no one to watch Judah, we concluded we’d just take him with us to the insemination. We had a portable movie player which we figured he could watch during the procedure. It wasn’t ideal but it was what it was.
The next morning we packed some toys and the portable movie player for Judah and went headed to the infertility clinic for our last try. Once there we explained to the woman at the front desk that we had to bring our son. She seemed used to it and said it wasn’t a problem. After waiting for about 45 minutes we were all called back to one of the examination rooms. The nurse told us where we could set Judah up and while Carol got him comfortable, I undressed, put on my gown, lied down on the table and waited. Judah who was usually curious about what I was doing never asked. He was busy watching his movie. Carol explained to him that once the doctor came he’d have to be very quiet and let Mom and Momma do what they needed to do with the doctor. Listen, Judah was always a good kid. He was never disruptive at all. We knew he’d do just fine with us.
When the doctor came into the room she greeted Judah and asked him what he was watching. Judah told her but he clearly was in grossed and not interested in anything else happening in the room. Even so the doctor told me she’d keep me well covered so Judah wouldn’t see. Meanwhile, I never cared. We were always open with Judah and in fact he had even come with me to an OP/GYN appointment. And during that appointment stood by the doctor asking her what she was doing. Was I uncomfortable? No, not at all. Not sure why but I wasn’t.
Anyway, I was nervous when the doctor started the procedure. This was it. One last and final try. Would it be bashert or was only Judah in my cards? The answer would come soon enough. After the doctor was done, she once again did her good luck ritual of rubbing my legs and wishing us the best for “it” to take. Now I must admit it was awkward when the doctor turned off the light before leaving the room. Judah liked it because he could see his movie a lot better. But after the doctor turned on the timer Judah started asking questions. What’s that noise? Why did the doctor turn on a timer? And so we just told him it was to tell us how long I had to lie down. Judah was satisfied with our answer and went back to his movie.
Once the timer went off and I got dressed, the nurse told us to please contact them to let them know where we were in two weeks. She too wishes us well and we were headed out. I have to tell you that I felt an overwhelming sadness that day. It was beautiful outside- great weather. But, I felt sad. On our way home Carol said, “Let’s explore.” And so she took one of the exits off the highway. While driving we noticed a sign that there was going to be a parade in one of the little towns. Carol asked if I was up to it but before I could answer Judah was clearly excited to go. There was no way I could say no. Plus, it was a good way to get our mind off of things. When we pulled into the town we could see people starting to position themselves on the parade route. Carol didn’t want me moving around too much. She would laugh that she didn’t want any of the sperm falling out. We found a great parking spot right next to where we could sit to watch the parade. Carol remembered that we had folding chairs in the trunk so she took them out for us to sit. Judah was thrilled. It was awesome watching him and how excited he was. I so appreciated Carol doing that for us that day. Going straight home would have been so depressing. We needed that time together as a family.
Of course waiting for the two weeks to end was incredibly hard. I had never felt the pressure as I did this last time. I also was much more emotional about it. I suppose, folks, I knew the answer but I never wanted to admit it. Sadly, just before the two weeks was up (for me to take the pregnancy test) my period started. While sitting on the toilet that day, I cried and cried and cried. It was one of the saddest days of my life. It was not meant to be. Me having another child was no going to happen and that realization had hit me very hard. I have to tell y’all. I had thought for a brief moment that I would convince Carol to do one round of IVF but I knew in my heart that wasn’t fair to Judah. I needed to stop shoving that square peg into that round hole. I knew trying to get pregnant just didn’t involve me. I had to not only consider Judah but I had to think about the person I loved the most, Carol. More than anything, it wasn’t fair to her.
Not having another child was incredibly emotionally painful. Each time a friend would announce they were pregnant, I’d have to take a deep breath (and put on my fake smile) before I could congratulate them. Jealous? HELL YES! And during my OB/GYN visits I would avoid looking or sitting next to anyone who was pregnant. It broke my heart. I suppose I was able to get through some of the pain by thinking that some how, some day it would happen. It was weird. I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen but it helped for me to leave it open. I suppose I could continue to dream, yes? Along with dreaming I also knew things happened for a reason. I wanted to know why me not having another child was to be bashert. Why wasn’t it meant to be? I knew for that answer to come I needed to give it time. Oh how that “patience” kept creeping into my life and oh, how I hated it. Not a great virtue I had but one I kept having to learn.
Right after my last insemination I had to keep busy to keep my mind off of the baby thing. And so I decided to finally start on my mom’s family tree (as I had already done my dad’s). Because my mom had died when I was 15 years old there wasn’t a lot that I knew. And so, I started with my sister who was seven years older. I also spoke to other people who knew my mom with hopes they could give me information. It didn’t take long before I was able to find (and speak to) several of my mom’s cousins. Many of them were already in their 70′s and a couple well in their 80′s. And so I had a series of questions written down to ask as I spoke to each of them. You know: who were my mom’s grandparents? Who were their kids? When were they born? When did they die? What did they die of? My questions were your typical questions. And even though I may have had the birth/ death dates of a relative I always asked the others just to confirm they were correct. It was amazing how my mom’s family were so consistent. I learned that if I got a date from one of them, it was correct. If they didn’t know, they’d tell me without even attempting.
OK, so I’m sure you’re wondering how any of this has to do with why I wasn’t meant to get pregnant. Well, I’m getting there, so hold on a minute.
One afternoon Carol was asking me about how my research was going on my mom’s family tree. I told her I had spoken to at least 5 cousins of my mom’s and had gotten tons of information. She was interested so I started to tell her the information I had gotten. Only as I was telling her about my mom’s aunts did the dawning hit. See, through this research I had discovered that my mom’s 4 aunts (and possibly 5) had all died of breast cancer. They were all between the ages of 38-40 when they were diagnosed with the disease. Carol pointed this out to me and then asked me when it was my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I told her that my mom was 42 but she had had problems two year’s prior which suggested she actually had it earlier (but she refused to go to the doctor). And then Carol asked me how old my sister was when she had her breast cancer. My sister was 37. At that point without Carol saying another word, I knew I needed to go see a doctor. Even though I had been getting mammograms every 6 months I knew that alone was not going to protect me.
On Tuesday, January 15th (ironically the anniversary of my mom’s death 22 years prior), 2008 I (and Carol) met with a breast health specialist. After a lot of talking and research, folks, I decided my best option was to have a double mastectomy. On May 5th, 2008 I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Five years later on March 4, 2013 after finding two possible tumors I would have to have a hysterectomy which put a final end to my dream of having another child. One day I plan to write about these surgeries but not now. I’m just not ready.
I have to tell you. Here was how I saw my entire having a second baby journey. If I had gotten pregnant there was no doubt in my mind I wouldn’t have researched my mom’s family tree for at least another few years (if at all). The baby and Judah would have taken up my time. The thought that I would have been oblivious to my risks (with getting breast cancer and possibly gotten it) was scary. Thinking about the ages of those women in my family, I had a high risk of getting it at anytime since I was already 38. The pain of miscarrying and not being able to get pregnant again and again brought me to a place emotionally where I wanted my mom. I suppose doing her family tree to me was how I could fill that void. And so, I felt not being able to get pregnant was the catalyst I needed to propel me into getting started. AND I felt strongly that my mom was at the helm of it all.
I have always had a strong belief in “Bashert”. Some feel bashert comes from G-d. I don’t at all. TO me it is more like how things are supposed to go and no matter what we do, we can’t change it. You know when you line up dominoes one perfectly behind the other and then you push the first one over? What happens? One falls onto the one behind it forcing it to fall which was course is known as the dominoes effect. Well, each domino can only fall in one direction. I could hope for it to fall in a different direction but the domino in front could only make it happen. And so that is how I see life in many ways. I wanted my life to go in a different direction but that was not how the “dominoes” were meant to fall. Was I happy about it? HELL NO? But I couldn’t force my life in a different direction no matter how hard I tried and I certainly did try hard. ALSO, sometimes we need a little coercing from our loved ones especially those who are no longer with us. They sometimes seem to have the power to give us the little pushes that no one else can give us. And for that I am so incredibly thankful.
Listen, if I had had another child and had not been interested in doing my mom’s family tree, would I have gotten breast cancer? Could it have been caught early? Who the hell knows? BUT because of my belief in Bashert, I do believe I was in some kind of danger. I will never know exactly (the danger) but that doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter because I know in my heart the truth. I strongly believe because of my sister’s bravery and my mom’s guiding love I was given a second chance at life. It was by NO MEANS IN HELL what I wanted but there was NO WAY IN HELL I was ever going to fight against what was meant to be.
With the hopes of having another baby behind me it was time and important that I focused on my family. I had a child that I was incredibly thankful for having. He had and has filled me with great, great joy. It will be that joy that I will share with you in my next and final chapter.
A week later Carol and I were once again driving to the infertility clinic in Columbia, SC. This time though Carol was clearly concerned. As I have said in the past. She hid any of her fears or worries from me. However not on this day. The thing was she knew from what the doctor had said at our last visit (that if we didn’t get pregnant on the Clomid) then we’d take the next step (which were to do the injectables). Well, Carol had already checked with our insurance company and found out the injectables were not covered like the Clomid was. Here was the thing. Our insurance coverage had changed. If this had been when we were getting pregnant with Judah, it would have been covered. So on top of all of the usual infertility worries we were also frustrated that if we had possibly tried this earlier we would have had better coverage (or simply gotten pregnant without all of the problems we were having). But, easy to say..what do they say, “Hind sight is always 20/20?
OK, so Carol knew there was no way we could afford taking the injectable route. It bothered her too. She knew I wanted another baby more than anything, however we had agreed (before even starting with having another kid) we were not going to allow ourselves to get in debt over it. BUT, that didn’t matter to me anymore. When I had agreed to that I had hopes I’d get pregnant on the first try like we did with Judah. I never imagined we’d be in that predicament of trying multiple times. And so when Carol told me we couldn’t afford it, it upset me in the most frustrating way. Dammit! I wanted this. It wasn’t unfair! And plus, still reeling with the Clomid in my system that wasn’t helpful either in regards to my emotional state. I wanted to get pregnant and all I wanted was for it to happen. I suppose I got sucked in and at that point I was willing to do what ever necessary to get pregnant. Listen, it wasn’t Carol’s fault. I agreed with her. BUT, there was just that other maternal side of me that just wasn’t ready to hear the truth and to give up.
When we arrived at the infertility clinic it was close to lunch time, so the waiting room only had two other couples. One was a lesbian couple and the other was a bi-racial couple who had the most adorable child with them. I laughed and whispered to Carol, “Hey, if they have triplets, you think they’d mind at least giving one to us?” Carol knows I have always wanted to adopt a minority baby. Oh who am I kidding? I’ve always wanted a black baby. Even when I was a kid! In fact I used to have this baby doll that had been chewed by the dog (no more arms), I had cut her hair and drawn on her face with permanent marker. My parents were so embarrassed for me to take it anywhere so they took me to buy another doll. It was 1974 and I’ll never forget that trip to the store. My momma took me. Now at that time all dolls were typically white. And even at that age I noticed. Meanwhile, I never really liked any of them. I thought they all looked the same and none of them seemed pretty to me. Well, during this trip to the store I remember walking down the doll isle. My mom was certain I’d never be able to choose as there were SO many choices. However as I walked down that isle I saw no choices. Well, I didn’t want any of them until I walked by this one lonely doll. I was drawn to her. Her name was Zuri and she had the most beautiful black skin. Without even looking at my mom I rant to the doll and yelled, “Momma, I want her!” Now, let me tell you just a little bit about my momma. She was raised in Birmingham, AL in the 40′s and 50′s. She grew up in a wealthy Jewish family where black (or as my Momma referred to them as “Colored”) nannies raised you. And now her little red headed white child has chosen a clearly “colored” baby doll. WOW! I can’t imagine what went through her head. However, I want y’all to know my mom NEVER said one word to me. Instead she said, “If that is the doll you want, then we’ll buy it.” Now folks, my mom did try to show me other dolls. I won’t lie. But, I was a very persistent kid and aside from that Momma could see there was NO changing my mind. I do laugh because my parents where not the most open minded to those of a different color. I LOVE the fact that they wanted a new doll for me and that was what I chose. Awesome, yes? And if you don’t believe me, my sister can attest to it. I loved my Zuri doll! Here has been the best part too. When Judah was around 3 he wanted a doll. And so Carol and I took him to the store to pick one out. I couldn’t believe how many choices there were. I also hated the fact how the isle was sexist towards girls. Come on folks. My son will probably be a dad one day and he has to know how to be one. What not a better way than for him to have a doll and learn? Anyway, Judah went up and down the isle unable to decide. It was clear none of them tickled his fancy. Well, none of them until one seemed to have jumped out at him. Judah pointed and said, “I want the brown one.” Carol knowing about my Zuri doll smiled at me as I did to her. It was neat that our son had followed in my footsteps. And so we got that doll for Judah without any hesitation or reservations. We asked Judah what he wanted to call his new baby (as it was unclear to us if it was a he or she). Judah told us it was a boy and he was calling him “Toby”. Now, I thought that was neat because Carol loved that name and considered it as one of our choices if we had another baby. Pretty damn cool our kid was.
Anyway, back to my story. After the remaining people in the waiting room were called back, it was finally our turn. I was nervous and still upset about not getting pregnant from our first insemination. When the nurse called us back and placed us in an examining room, she clearly was sensitive to our plight. The kindness in her eyes said it all. About 10 minutes later the doctor came into the room. She sat down in front of us and told us she was so sorry that our first insemination didn’t work. However, she was positive. She told us she had a good plan for our next try and we needed to stay positive. Folks, those little moments were so incredibly special and appreciated. I just can’t stress that enough especially for those of you who may have not gone through any infertility. Now, I won’t lie that during those moments I couldn’t hear what the doctor was saying. I just wanted her to make me pregnant so all of the extra stuff what hard to hear. But, now looking back I could see where those kind touches actually did help tremendously.
As the doctor was talking to us she told us her new plan. Well, just as Carol surmised, the doctor suggested that we do the injectables for two cycles (to allow enough time to really produce more eggs). Then, we’d do our last insemination. As the doctor was explaining this to us Carol was shaking her head; no. The doctor stopped to ask her what was wrong. Carol explained to her that we were in a difficult position that wasn’t her problem. Carol explained she understood the doctor was creating the best plan for us which we appreciated but there was the reality involved of having to pay for it.
The doctor listened to Carol and then said,” We are here to help the two of you to get pregnant. And any problems or concerns you have we need to discuss them. We are a team.” OMG folks! Did we just hear her correctly? First, did she say she was there to help US get pregnant? Listen, I know I was on infertility medicine which made me more emotional but damn, all I wanted to do was to cry and give that doctor a BIG FAT hug. And then the next thing was we were astounded to hear her say how she was there to help us. Amazing! Sadly, we weren’t used to that kind of treatment. This doctor and her staff were clearly understanding and sensitive to the stress emotionally AND financially. AND they were there to make both as easy as possible. The reality was the cost but they were going to do whatever possible to help. To me that placed this doctor and her facility on a tremendously tall pedestal. I know I keep repeating myself but truly this was an amazing facility in our eyes. Dr. Gail Whitman-Elia was special.
The doctor asked Carol what her concerns were. Carol told her that unfortunately our insurance wouldn’t pay for the injectables and so there just wasn’t anyway we could afford it. Carol felt bad and starting rambling, “When we went into this whole thing, we had agreed we would not go into debt over it. We promised to not take away from the son/child we had.” I started to cry as Carol was talking. It was hard not to hear the reality of it all. When you want to get pregnant, you want to try whatever you can. It was so easy to go overboard financially. Infertility gets expensive and often one doesn’t realize it because you are going from one goal to another feeling as if you are so close to getting the baby. I suppose it can be compared to gambling. It’s when you look back that you realize how much money has been spent. BUT knowing that could happen Carol and I went into it with our eyes wide open.
It was at that point the the doctor stopped Carol. For one I was getting upset and this facility always seemed in tune to keeping the patient as stress free as possible. I must tell you the doctor never made us feel guilty for not being able to afford doing any procedure she suggested. She understood. In fact she agreed with Carol and complimented us for not taking away from Judah. She even said, “That’s commendable and smart.” However, the doctor felt there may be some options that had not been exhausted. She recommended letting her nurse (who was in the room with us) contact our insurance company to see if she could get them to pay for the injectable. The doctor explained that sometimes explaining to them that it is medically necessary then possibly they would do it. Carol and I were shocked. The doctor told us that it was worth a shot and she even said that if anyone could convince them it was her nurse. So, of course we agreed. It couldn’t hurt that was for sure.
The doctor asked that we stay put in the examining room for a little bit while they called. She told us it could be a good 30 or 40 minutes but to hang tight. Before the doctor left the room she asked us, “If you are able to get the injectable would this be the direction you’d be willing to take? We just want to make sure if we take the time to do this that you would want to take this route.” We didn’t hesitate to tell her that yes we would want to take this route. But Carol (with memories still very embedded in our brains from the last infertility clinic) said, “Yes, but only if the insurance will pay for the injectables.” The doctor repeated what Carol said and she and the nurse left the room.
It was a good 30 minutes before the nurse came back to our room. She didn’t have any news yet but told us they had not forgotten about us. She told us the person they needed to speak with at the insurance company was out to lunch and they were just waiting for her to call back. Folks, I thought I was going to go crazy sitting there. Waiting was not an easy task for me at all! Carol, during this time started preparing me for the worse case scenario (if they could not get the insurance company to pay for the injectable). Carol did not want me to be hopeful and then devastated if it didn’t happen. She knew me well and knew that nothing she said to try to prepare me was going to work (even though it was worth a shot on her part). I would be devastated no matter what.
Another 30 minutes went by and Carol looked at me and said, “I just don’t feel so positive about this.” UGH! I hated her negativity! But, I knew that too was her way of trying to prepare me. After waiting a total of over an hour the doctor and nurse returned. I tried to read their faces to see if they had good or bad news for us but I couldn’t tell. My brain started going crazy with thoughts. OK, if it was good news they would be smiling and the fact they weren’t then it wasn’t going to be good.
The doctor immediately started telling us the update. She told us the insurance company would not cover the injectables. She began explaining why which of course I tuned her out. In my head I began thinking how our dream was over. But before I could get too deep into thought the doctor touched my leg (to get my attention) and told us they had another option for us. Option? What did she mean? The look on Carol’s face was total skepticism. I know she was thinking, “Yea, right.” The doctor explained she needed to leave to do an insemination but that her nurse had some good news. As soon as the doctor left the room the nurse began explaining to us how they had another couple (who had been trying to get pregnant-obviously) who had donated their injectables back to the clinic. That couple understood how expensive it can all get and they wanted to give back to another couple (who maybe couldn’t have afforded it). And so they would like to give those injectable’s to us. Folks, Carol and I were speechless. Did we just hear correctly? They wanted to give it to us? How did we deserve that? REALLY? I thought I was going to fall to the floor I was so overwhelmed and SO HAPPY. This place was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! They really did care about their patients and created an environment where other patients also wanted to help. We had not expected that in a million years. If our insurance wasn’t going to pay for it then that would have meant we’d have to do the next insemination (with out the help of increasing my egg production) and hope for the best. But to have been offered such a gift was beyond words. We were very very touched and appreciative to say the least. I laughed because all Carol could say was, “WOW!” Over and over and over again.
Since we had promised the doctor that if we could get the injectables we’d proceed, the nurse told us she needed to give us a tutorial on how to use the injectable before leaving that day. And the reason was because we would be going home with it and would start the process at our next cycle (I mean my next cycle). Before the nurse was to begin with her instructions Carol and I really needed to know if that couple (who had donated the injectables to us) had gotten pregnant. We needed to know they had gotten their gift. The nurse told us that not only were they pregnant but they were already 15 weeks along and just found out they were having twins. Folks, I thought I would have been jealous hearing that but you know what? I was actually thrilled for them. Nothing more calming and reassuring than to know they were celebrating and not grieving. It made us feel relieved when using the medicine they had donated.
OK, here was the other thing. When the nurse started explaining how to use the injectables, the reality of what they were set in. OMG! I would have to give myself shots?! And they would have to be done in my stomach? OY! I wasn’t so sure about that but I knew I couldn’t back out then. The nurse explained when we were to give the shots. I had to take my temperature and at a certain point the injectable had to be given in my tummy area. It has to be given about a half a finger away from the belly button to be exact. Yeah, that made me cringe too. A SHOT IN MY STOMACH! HOLY SHIT! Yea, that was what I was thinking in my head. The nurse kept reassuring me that it wouldn’t be bad because the needle was very small and thin. She told me one thing that would help would be to ice the area before injecting and then I definitely wouldn’t feel a thing. Well, she was right. I honestly never felt it. BUT, if you thought I gave myself the shot, you are crazy. At first we had a friend who was a nurse do it and then Carol took over. And every time Carol injected me I’d say to myself, “Come on little eggy’s! Work your magic and produce many!”
Listen, even though this infertility clinic was amazing it still was an emotional ride. Each new procedure was difficult to accept. We’d always ask why us and why wasn’t it working? AND all of the waiting was even harder. Knowing this was our last and final insemination there was a multitude of emotions attached to it. For one there was a sense of relief. No more options to think about, no more thinking about the cost and most of all no more waiting. Living our lives with out having to pee on a stick, take my temperature, count down the days was a wonderful and relieving thought. BUT then there was the other side (if it wasn’t going to work). The sadness of never having another child. I have to tell y’all that was an EXTREMELY difficult one for me to think about because I wanted another kid so badly. So as the countdown began to our last and final insemination, it was hard to not have all of these thoughts rushing into my head. However, just as my partner, Carol, had done from the beginning (and through out every aspect of our lives together) she tried to keep me focused with living in the moment. Needless to say that was an uphill battle for her. In my heart I could feel something wasn’t right and somehow we were fighting against our life’s bashert. Only time would reveal the truth.