I was checking out at target with a handful of baby girl stuff. This seems to be becoming a regular occurrence … After 16 years of shopping for baby boy clothes, I am in heaven; finally back in the girls department! Ruffles, bows, pink and more pink – they all call my name. So somehow, even though I really came in for a return…there I was with a handful of adorable pink items, waiting to pay.
The cashier at the register noticed my purchases and started chatting.
“You had a baby girl?” She asked.
“Yup,” I say nonchalantly. “She’s 9 weeks today.”
“Wow!” She exclaims. ”You look great!”
Actually, I thinktomyself, lady, you have no idea just how great I look! I was in the trauma ICU for 10 days followed by a week of acute rehab. I had massive hemorrhaging, my body went into DIC which caused me to experience multiple organ failure. And due to more complications, I’ve been lugging around a wound vac for weeks and I just got rid of it yesterday. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I’m casually shopping at Target 9 weeks later, feeling great!
But I don’t tell her that.
I wasn’t about to share this all with my new friend-for-a-moment.
Instead I smile and say thank you.
“Enjoy your little one!” she says as I take my bag to go.
And I’m thinking.
Here I am, shopping like anyone else – and everyone around me is completely oblivious to the fact that I’m a walking miracle. There’s nothing about me that stands out as you walk by. I look as typical as anyone else. What about the people that I see passing me – what secrets lay under their casual and regular appearance?
Mommy wakes up early on Monday. She opens her eyes, says Modeh Ani and asks, “Is it bedtime yet?”
“Not yet!” giggle her kids as they dance and jump and climb into her bed. “First we need to have breakfast in Mommy Camp!”
So mommy washes negel vasser and staggers out of bed, ready to start her day.
She serves cereal and milk and scrambled eggs and flat eggs and soymilk and almondmilk and almost everyone has breakfast.
“Is it bedtime yet?” asked mommy.
“No mommy!” reply the laughing kids. “First we have to daven!”
And so everyone runs off to get a Siddur and then they sit together on the couch and in perfect harmony, all start davening together.
Everyone runs off to get a Siddur and heads back to the couch.
“That’s my spot!”
“I was here first!”
“You always sit there and I never get a turn!”
“Mommy, he’s davening too loud and it’s mixing me up!”
“Mommy he’s purposely singing off tune!”
All mommy is trying to do is clean up breakfast but it will have to wait.
Mommy heads to the couch and assigns everyone a spot where to daven, in closets and corners so they can daven in peace.
“Is it bedtime yet?” asks mommy.
“No, Mommy!” the kids all laugh together. “We didn’t even do anything fun yet, it’s only 9:15!”
“Oh right! Of course!” says mommy, although she’s wondering why it feels like it’s 9 pm.
Mommy heads to the supply closet to see what activity it will be.
Ugh the play dough is hard. Someone didn’t close it. Scratch that idea. Chalk. That’s a great idea, sidewalk chalk.
Mommy hands the gleeful children a bag full of sidewalk chalk and tells the kids to decorate the backyard with a surprise picture for her.
Then mommy sneaks inside to get her long awaited 3 minute shower.
Mommy hurries back out in time to see the chalk morphing into face paint.
“Is it bedtime yet?” sighs mommy.
“Oh no, Mommy!” giggle all the kids. “We’re hungry!”
Mommy looks at the clock on the wall that seems to be broken because it’s definitely moving too slow today. Only 47 minutes have passed since breakfast!
“Let’s have a snack!” says mommy cheerfully.
So mommy goes inside and brings out raisins, fruits and crackers.
“That’s not a snack!” the kids say in horror. “We want chips!”
Mommy is outvoted and chips it is.
“It’s time to go to the park!” says mommy cheerfully.
“Get your water bottle, shoes and stop by the bathroom before heading to the van!”
Everyone is off and running and only 26 minutes later, after mommy had to go back inside 4 times to retrieve forgotten shoes and water bottles, they are off to the park.
“Not this park!”
“We went here last week!”
“This is the dumbest park!”
With a bit of negotiating and cajoling, everyone gets out of the car and heads to the equipment.
Mommy breathes a sigh of relief and takes out her phone to catch up and see what friends, family and complete strangers are doing.
Time passes too quickly and too slowly and everyone is hungry and it’s time for lunch.
“Is it bedtime yet?” asks Mommy.
“No, Mommy!” the kids shout together. “We are starving! What’s for lunch?!”
So Mommy serves bagels and cream cheese and pizza bagels and bagels and peanut butter and scrambled eggs and flat eggs and hard boiled eggs and yogurt,even though Mommy had originally said she was only serving pizza bagels.
“Is it bedtime yet?” wonders mommy out loud, as she clears the tables, the chairs, the floor and wonders how a spoonful of peanut butter landed on the refrigerator door. Mommy glances at the clock and knows the answer.
Everyone goes outside to play in the sprinkler but then they change their mind and come back in because there was a bee. Mommy gets out towels for everyone and then everyone decides to go back outside again and get wet and then they change their mind and then they get wet again. And they they need more towels because their other towels are wet.
“Is it bedtime yet?” asks mommy, as she glances out the window to make sure no one is crying
“Not yet,” says Tatty, as he walks in the door.
“What’s for supper?!” reply some voices as everyone appears in the kitchen and each one is once again starving.
So Mommy serves supper; some like the meatballs with the spaghetti, some want only spaghetti, some want only meatballs and some want both but they cannot touch each other. And one kid only wants challah.
Mommy cleans the table from supper and enjoys a moment of silence at the kitchen table as she sips her next coffee.
“Is it bedtime yet?” asks Tatty.
Mommy looks at the clock. “Yes Tatty! Now it is bedtime!”
“I love bedtime,” says Tatty.
“So do I,” says Mommy.
“That’s ok, you can do it,” they both say together.
It takes teamwork and patience, but after 65 minutes, 4 stories and 3 songs everyone has brushed their teeth, gotten their negel vasser, accidentally spilled their negel vasser and refilled it and they are finally tucked into bed.
“I need just one more teeny drink.”
“I didn’t eat anything today!”
Mommy and Tatty take a deep breath and usher everyone back to bed.
“Good night everyone,” says Mommy.
“Good night everyone,” says Tatty.
“Good night!,” they all say together. “We can’t wait to see what we will do tomorrow at Mommy Camp!
Today is a big day for me. I pulled out my Little Yellow Notepad to make a list.
My little yellow notepad that is my right hand man, my guide to my day, my trusty counterpart – has never been neglected for this long.
Filled with joy, for the first time in over a month, I made a list.
I didn’t plan to neglect my notepad for so long; I was just going to the hospital on Chol Hamoed Pesach to give birth and planned to be home a day or so later and get back to list writing soon after.
Well, let’s just say that things didn’t go as planned.
It’s just five weeks ago that I opened my eyes and was coherent for the first time in 5 days. Trying to make sense out of where I was. A hospital room?! Tubes, wires and machines all around me, screens and blinking lights, purple and blue streaks and marks decorating my arms and legs .
They’re asking me questions. I can’t figure out what’s going on.
They show me a picture of a baby girl.
“Do you know who this is?” They ask me.
“No,” I reply.
“It’s Mushka, your new baby.”
“No it’s not,” I answer in confusion. “I didn’t have a baby, I wasn’t event pregnant.” In my foggy mind, I can’t figure out why they think I had a baby.
“Where am I anyway,” I ask, starting to whimper. “I’m just so confused, please tell me what happened.”
Calmly they show me a picture of the Rebbe, taped to my bed rail.
“Do you know who this is?”
I do a double take.
“The Rebbe,” I whisper through tears.
Yes it is, they say.
I’m surrounded by nurses. In a hospital room. My mind snaps to focus. There’s no way they could have that picture here unless I brought it.
This is real. But my mind is foggy.
My husband walks into the room.
I smile and say hi. He nearly faints from shock. I can’t figure out why he’s so surprised.
Slowly and gently my husband tries to fill me in on what’s been going on.
“You missed 5 days,” my husband tells me.
“Yes,” he tells me. “Pesach is over. You’ve been out of it for five days.”
I look at him confused. “When did Pesach start?”
My mind is blank. My memory is a fog.
And why am I in the hospital anyway?
He tells me of the five days of complete fear and terror that he went through. The multiple operations and transfusions, tests and scans that I had been through. The life saving doctors who Hashem gave the power to to perform miracles.
I’m not comprehending. Because I’m not the type of person to have such a story!
“The whole world is davening for you,” he tells me softly.
“What? For me??”
I’m still on a big list of medications, my mind isn’t totally clear and comprehending.
And this is too big to understand.
The whole world is saying tehillim for little me?
I can’t grasp it. Slowly he’s telling me the acts of kindness people have done for our family. The gifts pouring in for our kids, the dinners being delivered, our community rallying in support; praying, offering to do carpool, taking the kids to the park, coming over just to play board games with the kids.
My husband leaves to go pickup my newborn and bring her to me. My precious baby girl that I’m not remembering giving birth to.
I am too weak to hold her. I don’t remember giving birth, but my mind is clear enough to know she is mine. I don’t remember coming to the hospital. I can’t sit up, I can’t even turn my body. I don’t recognize my fingers, they have no grasp and they are three times the size.
They offer me some grapes; I am thrilled to have some food. I reach to take one, and discover it’s a far harder task than I ever thought. After many futile attempts, I agree to accept help and have a grape put into my mouth for me. Oh the cold and sweet juicy taste!! After being intubated and extubated multiple times over the five days, even though I had no memory of it – apparently my body did, and it craved the cold, the juice, the sweetness. The most delicious grapes I ever tasted.
And all I want is an ice cold drink.
And I can’t stop drinking; apple juice with loads of ice feels like a heavenly beverage-about 10 cartons in a row.
The day passes in a blur, I’m trying to piece together my story.
And it’s too big for me to grasp.
The next day the memory just pops into my head; coming to the hospital, giving birth! I am overjoyed, I remember it!!
But Pesach…the memories are coming back slowly. I vaguely remember the first Seder, a bit of the second. Slowly I go through my pictures on my phone – which feels like the weight of a brick- of two week before, before I went to the hospital to give birth- and my memories slowly come alive; pesach prepping, Seder set up, Chol Hamoed trip. I’m remembering.
My big goal of the day is to get out of bed.
That’s a project that involves a PT and some help from my angels called the nurses and a walker. They cheer me on. One step, I’m a hero! I’m a star here in the Trauma ICU!
Do I laugh or cry?! I am so grateful.
They start talking about me going to rehab. “But I’m not the type of person who goes to rehab!” I want to shout. “That’s for other people and older people, definitely not me! I’m not the type of person who needs a walker to walk 3 steps and gets a standing ovation!”
I’m the type of person who marathons through making my kids snacks and lunches and getting everyone ready for school, drives a 15 passenger, orders Instacart and stops for Target pickup and then Walmart pickup and then some Amazon orders all before 10am, moving onto lists and event planning.
As one nurse put it – no one wakes up in the morning and decides; today is a good day to go to rehab! Life takes us to unexpected places. And it’s up to us how we go about it.
My kids come to visit in the afternoon; it’s a wonderful moment that I hold onto and cherish every part of it.
Just five days later, I’m discharged and on the way to rehab, a place that was never on my bucket list.
I always thought I knew about juggling; I was tuned into my glass and rubber balls and constantly re-evaluating my priorities and making sure my family comes first and not to get caught up in the small stuff.
And there, in my week in rehab, I am juggling just one glass ball. Myself. And even that is a lot.
I can feel the embrace of all those words of Tehillim being said for me; it’s holding me together.
I spend a lot of time with my husband; there’s so much we need to talk about, so much I need to know. And my precious baby girl.
Baby. Girl. Pink!!
One week shy of my older daughter’s 16th birthday, she finally has a sister!! My 9 boys are great, I love them dearly! And now a baby girl.
The days in rehab are exhausting from OT and PT, which includes things that I could’ve done in five seconds just a few weeks before.
And I focus on my one juggling ball- made out of the most exquisite and delicate glass; not the Dollar Tree cheap and thick type.
I’m going to let my body guide me; there’s so much healing it needs to do, it’s been through a war.
I only have one glass ball. Myself.
My husband brings me a big bag of cards. Cards from so many people, some who I know well, some from people I’ve met once or twice and even some from people who I’ve never met before. Each filled with them telling me how much they are praying. My phone is full of hundreds of messages, texts and emails of support; short messages letting me know of prayers and thoughts and love sent my way. Each card and each message touches me so deeply; the love, the care and the prayers surround me. I know I will get through this.
Just one week after rehab, 18 days after innocently leaving to the hospital to give birth, I am finally home. I have so much to process, and that will take time. I’m not stuck in Pesach anymore. I’m walking, I’m feeling like myself, and I’m letting my body heal.
My bed feels like I’m sleeping on a cloud, my couches feel like a piece of heaven. I want to just hug the walls, the ceilings, the floors. I never want to forget these moments; where mess and toys don’t matter and just relishing in being home.
I sit on the couch and my kids come and go, busy with their stuff and stopping to show me things, sitting near me a few minutes and running off to something else. Fighting, playing, arguing, laughing – all the regular things.
And my role as a mother? It’s not the cooking or cleaning or laundry or constant moving around and doing doing doing.
It’s being. I’m just sitting. And I’m giving my kids what no one else can fill in for; I’m being.
It’s the most I can do and it’s what they need most. Always. And so easy to forget because we are so busy doing.
Each day I feel better and better Boruch Hashem; while I’m impatient to be back to my normal strength and be completely healed, back to my marathon days and regular complaints of running late and sticky messes-I know I need to be patient. I’ll get there, but it takes time. Hashem held me tight and brought me here, and will continue holding me the whole way through.
And as I take out my treasured yellow notepad and make a list of appointments I need to make, things I need to order for my kids, food we need for the house and open up InstaCart, I am flooded with gratefulness.
My phone is light again, I can think comprehensively, I can walk, move and get out of bed with ease – I am overwhemed with gratefulness.
And to write again!
So what does one do when one witnesses miracles? What does one do when they become a miracle? I don’t have the answers.
But I know that it’s not my miracle alone. It’s the tehillim and prayers from across the world and back that made my miracle happen. To all of you who prayed for me and brought me to where I am, I humbly say thank you. I hold you all close. You are carrying this with me.
I grab my Siddur and move as quietly as possible to a standing position, ready to take on Shemoneh Esrei; I’ve got this.
Of the many adjustments to motherhood over the years, shortening my davening, interrupting it and sometimes missing it altogether has been something that took time to get used to and at times still makes me feel uncomfortable.
Although I know that as a mother, I can interrupt my davening if necessary, I still try to avoid it when realistically possible. Shemoneh Esrei is the trickiest – and this was my lucky moment.
Standing facing mizrach, taking three steps backward and forward, I started my rather quick prayer.
And that’s when I heard it. Two little voices. They were playing nicely. Oh so sweetly.