I have always thought of myself as a good mother. It has been easier for me than for other people, because I have studied Special Education and I have had the knowledge to raise happy and successful kids.
Yet, during my Better Parenting Skills workshops, I surprise people when I tell them that a big part of my parenting confidence comes not from my studies or my professional experience, but from my personal loss (if you are here for first time, please read 35-hour Baby).
You see, when people talk about having it tough, I can relate to it and say, “When you are hit hard, you discover how much stronger you are than what you thought before”. When people talk about failure after failure, I can relate to it too. I have failed twice. Big time! I think the best thing I can give them is better perspective, because I have been through it and come out with a smile. If I can do a good job giving you this message about perspective, I will be happy.
In my failed attempt to give up and compromise on having one child, I tried hard to find out what the universe was trying to tell me. Since I knew there were no guarantees what I came up with was the right thing, I knew it was only a way of handling my grief. I looked for courage to try one more time. I looked for some logic and some sense. What I learned, the hard way, was that death and loss make no sense and it is better to let go of the desire to find it.
Just another family photo
It was my aunt’s family photo that saved me from this self-torture.
On my refrigerator, for over two years, I’d had photos of family members and friends. My aunt Rachel was in one of those photos. She was there with her husband and her two kids.
My aunt had gone through the long misery of 4 miscarriages and endless treatments. At some stage, she nearly succumbed to cancer, but survived. She was 42 when she had her first child.
In one of the “how to grieve” brochures I had, it was written that for some people, even a miscarriage is a huge loss. At first, I refused to see it as the same. “How can you compare? I held my son in my hands, I hugged him and I kissed him…” but then I realized it was impossible to compare pain.
Auntie Rachel was smiling in her photo, hugging her two kids with pride. “Will I ever smile like her?” I asked myself and my pain answered, “Never”.
Whenever I passed by the fridge, I wondered what had been on her mind every time she’d had a miscarriage. Her two kids smiled back at me from the photo. They were gorgeous boys.
I tried to transport myself a year or two years into the future and imagining the kid I did not know I would have, the one that would bring back my smile, but the image of my son, my 35-hour son, would not leave my mind.
One day, I looked at my aunt’s photo and asked her, “Rachel, if you knew you would have to go through all this pain in order to have your kids, would you be willing to go through it again?”
Her photo was silent, but her smile answered, “Of course I would!” She was beaming in the photo, as if telling me, “I would be happy to go through it again. Look at my boys! They were worth every bit of it. Every second of pain was worth it”.
As I stared at her photo, I found the courage I needed to move forward, to try one more time… and another time… and another time… I was full of confidence. I knew that one day I would hug a healthy, living baby in the delivery room and bring him home. I would kiss him all over and thank him for bringing back my smile. I would answer just like my aunt, “Every cell in his body was worth the pain”.
Every time I needed a reminder, I looked at the photo again and I knew that in a year or two, when someone asked me, “If you knew you would lose two kids before having this one, would you go through it again?” I would say, “Yes!”
About a year and half later and after looking at my aunt’s family photo hundreds of times, I gave this answer it for real.
On October 12, 1995, after severe bleeding and attempts to delay the delivery, which started at the 35 weeks of pregnancy, I gave birth to the kid who brought back the smile into my life – Tsoof Lee Baras. He was a very special child, arriving after 4 long years, of which I had been pregnant for two and half years. This was one week before my birthday and I could not imagine a better present.
“Tsoof” means “Nectar” or “Sweet essence” in Hebrew. We added the middle name “Lee”, which literally means “For me”, to distinguish him from the Tsoof who was taken away from us, so Tsoof’s full name is “My sweet essence”. Fitting, don’t you think? Just look at him.
As I hugged him for the first time on the operating table, I knew what the universe was trying to tell me and why I had to wait so long for him.
Come back on Monday and I will tell you how I have turned my grief into happiness every day of my life since.
May you find your smiles,