Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recipe: Everything in the Fridge Salad with Grilled Chicken

This salad was created last summer and the ingredients varied based on what was in the fridge at the time. All ingredients below are suggestions, though we found that the more you added the yummier and more exciting the salad became, use any or all that you wish. You can use your favorite dressing. I recommend using a vinaigrette of some kind as it does not overpower the flavors of the vegetables. I recommend the Dijon Mustard Greek Vinaigrette that I posted previously. Enjoy!!


Lettuce: 1 small head (Spring Lettuce)
Cherry Tomatoes- 1/2 cup
Jerusalem Artichokes- 1 cup chopped and sautéed until slightly crispy (for those of you who don't know Jerusalem Artichokes are a GREAT source of iron, and have a smooth slightly nutty flavor. They can be cooked with or without the skin)
Batata or Sweet Potato- 1 potato thinly sliced and sautéed until slightly crispy
Fresh corn- 2 ears, remove kernels
Carrots- 1-2 shaved
Pine nuts- 1/2 cup toasted
Cashews- 1/2 cup toasted
Sunflower seeds- 1/2 cup toasted
Avocado- 1-2 whole avocados, cubed
Cucumbers- 1-2 medium cucumbers, sliced thin with skin
Grilled Cauliflower- 1/2 cup (can also be used raw if desired)
Grilled Broccoli-1/2 cup (can also be used raw if desired)
Spring Onions- 3-4 chopped finely with tops
Red Onion- 1-2 julienned
Fresh Green Beans- 10-12 snapped into bite sized pieces
Fresh Snow Peas- 1 cup
Hearts of Palm- 3-4 stalks drained and sliced
Artichoke hearts- approx half a can quartered
Bell Peppers- Approx 1/2 cup chopped
Zucchini- 1-2 small zucchini sliced thin with skin
Yellow Squash- 1-2 small Squash sliced thin with skin
Chicken Breast- 1-3 whole breasts
Small amount of Olive oil to Sauté
Salt and Pepper- to taste
Vinaigrette to marinate Chicken and veggies

Ingredients for Greek Vinaigrette:

Olive Oil- 3/4 cup (It is very important to use a good olive oil for optimum taste)
Red Wine Vinegar- 1/2 cup
Lemon Juice- 1 good squeeze
1-2 garlic cloves
Dried Oregano or Italian seasoning- approx 1-1 1/2 tsp
Dijon Mustard- 1 small teaspoon (I use the mustard with the seeds, not the creamy one)
Salt- to taste
Fresh Ground Pepper- to taste

Also Need-

Sauté pan
George Foreman grill for Veggies/ Meat if desired
Large salad Bowl
Salad Tongs

To Prepare Vinaigrette:

Smash Garlic cloves with the side of a large knife to release the flavor. Combine this and the other ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together, adjusting seasoning for taste. It is important to let the dressing sit for at least a half an hour so that the flavors have time to fully disperse throughout the dressing. The longer it sits, the more flavorful it becomes. Dressing lasts several weeks in the fridge and also makes a great healthy marinade for Chicken and fish. Remove whole garlic cloves prior to serving.

To Prepare Salad:

This salad unfortunately has quite a bit of prep before it can be assembled. Some of the vegetables for the salad need to be cooked and cooled before hand. I suggest cooking them before you start chopping the vegetables that are served cold so that the others have time to chill before serving.

To grill the cauliflower and broccoli, first break it down to bite sized florets. I like to drizzle them with a small amount of vinaigrette for flavor though olive oil alone is great too. Toss into a sauté pan over medium heat until veggies are slightly soft but still have a nice crunch. The cauliflower will have a slight brown to it. Remove from heat and place on a paper towel to cool. The paper towel will soak up any excess oil. You can also use an electric grill like a George Foreman to cook the florets. This gives them those pretty grill marks and makes it look oh so fancy!

Next sauté the Jerusalem Artichoke slices in a small amount of olive oil until they are soft in the center, crispy on the edges and semi translucent. They should taste slightly nutty. Do the same with the sliced sweet potatoes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

For the chicken first cut into inch or inch and a half wide strips. Marinate your chicken breast strips in a small amount of Vinaigrette dressing and then either use the George Foreman to cook them, or place on tin foil on a baking sheet in the oven at around 375* F to cook. Chicken is done when it is slightly browned on the outside and no longer pink inside. Chicken can be served hot or cold, in strips on top of the salad or cut into bite sized chunks inside the salad. I prefer bite sized chunks as it is much harder for my husband to hog all the chicken that way:P.

Lastly toast the nuts and seeds that you are going to use in the sauté pan with a tiny amount of olive oil and salt. They are done when they start to turn a bit brown. Set aside on paper towels to cool.

Once you have finished all of the ingredients that need to be cooked, Wash and dry your lettuce and place in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Arrange the vegetables you have decided to use on top of the bed of lettuce. Add the cooled cooked ingredients. Top with Warm or Chilled Chicken breast. Dress the salad right before serving. Toss the salad until the ingredients are evenly coated with Dressing. Season to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe: Greek Salad in Sourdough Bread Bowl

I have loved Greek salad since I was a very small child, the tangy dressing, the salty tart olives, the smoothness of the feta, AMAZING! I would order it above anything else on the menu when out at a restaurant. Many waitresses were surprised to have a 7 year old ordering a salad but I didn't care. To this day it is one of my favorite meals. My favorite way to serve it is in a loaf of crusty sourdough bread so that the dressing soaks into the bread and you literally get to eat it bowl its served in... Yum!

Ingredients for Salad:

Lettuce: 1-2 Small heads (again I like to use to spring lettuce)
Whole Olives : approx 1 cup
Red Onion : 1-2 onions, julienned
Feta Cheese: 1/2-1 cup cut into cubes or crumbled
Cherry tomatoes: approx 1 1/2-2 cups halved
Cucumber- 2 medium cucumbers sliced thin with skin (I prefer the seedless English cucumbers)
Several Single serving loaves Sourdough Bread

Ingredients for Greek Vinaigrette:

Olive Oil- 3/4 cup (It is very important to use a good olive oil for optimum taste)
Red Wine Vinegar- 1/2 cup
Lemon Juice- 1 good squeeze
1-2 garlic cloves
Dried Oregano or Italian seasoning- approx 1-1 1/2 tsp
Dijon Mustard- 1 small teaspoon (I use the mustard with the seeds, not the creamy one)
Salt- to taste
Fresh Ground Pepper- to taste

Also Need-

Small bowl for Dressing
Large salad bowl for mixing and serving if you are not serving in the bread
Salad tongs

To Prepare Vinaigrette:

Smash Garlic cloves with the side of a large knife to release the flavor. Combine this and the other ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together, adjusting seasoning for taste. It is important to let the dressing sit for at least a half an hour so that the flavors have time to fully disperse throughout the dressing. The longer it sits, the more flavorful it becomes. Dressing lasts several weeks in the fridge and also makes a great healthy marinade for Chicken and fish. Remove whole garlic cloves prior to serving.

To Prepare Salad:

Wash and dry lettuce and place in the large serving bowl. Top with the Olives, Red Onion, Cucumber, Cherry Tomato and Feta Cheese. Add dressing right before its time to serve. If you are serving in the individual loaves of bread, cut off the tops of the bread and remove the center of the loaves. Toss the salad inside the serving bowl until the ingredients are mixed and evenly coated with dressing. Stuff the bread bowls with salad until full. Place the top of the loaves at an angle on top of the salad and serve... Enjoy!!

Recipe: Fresh Summer Salad with Pitted Fruits and Cherry Balsamic Dressing

This is hands down my husband's favorite salad. It combines lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds with a tangy, slightly sweet smokey dressing for a healthy summery dish that can stand on its own as a meal or act as an amazing side for a Summer Barbecue. My husband lliterally will lick the bowl clean!! The salad dressing is also amazing as a sauce on Chicken or other meats as well as a great substitute for mayo on sandwiches.

Ingredients for Salad: (Feel free to use more or less of what you wish or add your own twist)

Lettuce (I like to use the Spring lettuce as I think it has the best flavor)- 1-2 small heads
Spinach- a few good handfuls
Red onion- 1-2 small onions julienned
Cherries- Pitted and halved approx 1/2-1 cup
Nectarines- Pitted and cut into bite sized bits approx 1/2-1 cup
Plums- Pitted and cut into bite sized bits approx 1/2-1 cup
Pears- 1-2 pears in bite sized bits approx 1/2-1 cup
Mandarin oranges- 1 small can, drained
Mango-1 whole Mango, NOT OVER RIPE (if it is to ripe it turns to mush, get one that is still firmish), cubed
Pine nuts- a good handful toasted
Cashews- a good handful chopped and toasted
Sunflower seeds- a good handful toasted
Pecans- a good handful chopped and toasted
Blue Cheese- approx 1/2-1 cup crumbled

Ingredients for Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

Balsamic Vinegar- 1 Cup
Sugar- 1/2 cup
1-3 cloves garlic- finely chopped
Cherry preserves- 1 cup (Use the preserves with the fruit bits rather than jelly)
Red Wine Vinegar- 1/2 cup
Olive oil- 2 cups
Salt- to taste
Fresh ground Pepper- to taste

Also need:

1 medium Sauce Pan
1 small skillet
Whisk or blender
1 large salad bowl
Salad tongs

To Prepare Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

First add the Balsamic vinegar, sugar and garlic into the sauce pan. Simmer the ingredients together until the mixture has reduced by half. Add the cherry preserves and bring back to a simmer for around 1-2 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool completely. When the mixture has cooled, quickly whisk in the Red Wine Vinegar first and then the Olive Oil until smooth. If you prefer a creamier dressing free of chunks, pour the cooled mixture into a blender and then add the Red Wine Vinegar. Blend for a few seconds and add the Olive oil, blending until smooth. Add Salt and Pepper to taste. This dressing lasts several weeks in the fridge and is great not only as a salad dressing but also a sandwich spread and a glaze for grilled meat. Keep cool or it will separate. Makes 4-5 cups dressing.

To Prepare Salad:

Start off by toasting the seeds and nuts that you have chosen to add to your salad. Feel free to use one or all of the suggested nuts. To toast them, put a teaspoon or so of olive oil in the skillet with a few shakes of salt and add the nuts and seeds. Toast over a medium flame stirring regularly until the nuts have a slight brownish color. Remove from heat and transfer onto a plate covered in paper towels to cool. The paper towel will soak up any excess oil left on the nuts.

Next wash and dry the lettuce and spinach that you plan to use. Arrange the greens together in the bottom of the salad bowl. On top of the lettuce, arrange the fruit that you have chosen to use. Sprinkle on the red onions, cooled nuts, and blue cheese. Add dressing right before serving. Gently toss salad to combine ingredients and enjoy!!! Makes 1 large salad that serves 3-6 people depending on whether it is served as a meal or a side and how much of each ingredient you choose to use.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cunt (Not THAT Cunt, Get your minds out of the gutter!!!)

Probably my favorite tradition amongst my husband's family are the family card games. These take place on Wednesday nights, Friday nights and some Saturday afternoons and are a very serious business. They play a Russian version of Gin Rummy where you pay for cards and the person with the lowest total points at the end of 6 hands wins the pot. Points are awarded by the value of the cards left in your hand when someone goes out. Points are deducted from your total if you are the first to go out. Beer and vodka flow freely, as do insults, threats of bodily harm and death (not actual death, just threats of death). The walls practically shake when someone gets Cunt (Gin) and the other players get stuck with a particularly large hand. Angry Russian can be heard for miles usually followed with uproarious laughter.

The first time I met (or perhaps, as you will see in a moment, I should say SAW) my In-laws, my husband and I were barely dating. We were going somewhere or another one night and he had to drop by his house to pick up something. I had been to his house before once or twice when his family wasn't home and so I went with him this time expecting an empty house again. Unbeknownst to me it was a family card night. As we were walking up the three flights of stairs to his apartment you could hear what sounded like a fairly boisterous party coming from somewhere in the building. It was somewhat late at night and I assumed it was some teenagers somewhere having a few drinks with their friends. My husband (then date) opened the door to the apartment just as a game finished in uproar. I peered through the door and could just see into the living room where all hell was breaking loose. Cards were flying, fists were shaking, it was mayhem... Next thing my husband knows I am high tailing it down the stairs like the devil himself was after me. I was not sure what sort of craziness I had stepped up into, but I sure as hell wasn't about to find out!! It took months before he could convince me to go back again and meet the family for real.

In all seriousness though, family card night is now one of my favorite things. I beg my husband to go over to his parents so that we can play. It took me months of sitting and watching them play to pick up the game. Finally it was decided that I had sufficiently learned the game and I was allowed a spot at the table. At this point I had married my husband and was pregnant with our baby. I also seemed to have a good run of beginners luck. After winning several games and taking most of the final pots, all niceties were dropped and I too became the subject of their rage. My Mother in law told me more than once that if I were not pregnant she would kill me. Though she said it with a smile, I am still to this day not sure if she was kidding...

It is a bit of a family joke now that the baby is born that I go over there, prop the baby up on a pillow, latch him to my breast so that he can nurse, and pick up my cards. More than once he is lulled to sleep with specific instructions from his Aunt that "Mommy, Auntie, Babka (my MIL's twin sister) and Babushka (MIL) want to play cards.. You be good boy and sleep." This results in one of two possible outcomes. Baby is either a good boy and sleeps, or decides it is much more amusing to stay up and play. The following could be a scene straight out of a movie. The baby is passed from one person to another, each one vying for there turn, somehow convinced that THEY will be able to get the baby to sleep. He takes greatjoy in all of the attention with no desire what so ever to close his eyes. Russian lullabies are sung by three different voices, I look on in amusement as clothes are adjusted, socks pulled up, bibs put on and taken off (depending on who is holding him), and blankets pilled on 15 deep (there is a great fear of my baby freezing to death in the middle of the Israeli summer). Finally when the game gets to intense, the baby is placed in the stroller and they take turns rocking the stroller back and forth with their feet, the game never slowing.

Every now and then my FIL will make the brave attempt to take a turn with his grandson. He will come in and gently pick up the baby, cradling him in his arms and singing to him "Heeeeyyy Judeeeee, da da da daaaa" and "Caaal-eee-fooorn-yaaaa" (his version of Hotel California). It melts my heart every time. It also cues my MIL and her Sister to pounce on him like mother hens clucking and pecking and fussing over everything from the way he is holding the baby to the fact that the blanket has slipped a millimeter to reveal the tiniest strip of skin. That is of course until I get Cunt...Then baby is forgotten and the death threats begin....

Bicycle, Bicycle!!

My Father-In-Law is truely one of the most wonderful people I know. He is this lovely little Russian man who works on cars for a living and always seems to have Engine grease under his nails. He drinks beer and vodka liberally and dotes on his little Yorkie Charlie like it was his own child. He is not my husbands biological father, but he stepped up to the plate and loves my husband like his own. I love him even more for that.

Though there is a clear language barrier between my In-laws and myself, my FIL has always made great efforts to make me feel included. He taught me to play the family's version of Gin Rummy(See Cunt for a full description of the insanity) and took my under his wing as his apprentice. The more the beer would flow, the crazier his antics got. He is obviously still madly in love with my Mother-In-Law and after beating her in a particularly intense hand, he would jump up and bury his head in her bosom, his arms wrapped around her waist as she beat him about the head and cursed him in Russian, much to the delight of the rest of the family. After weeks of watching everyone play, my FIL started to let me help with his hand. He would use the down time to show off his English skills, bringing uproarious laughter from the rest of the family.

Those few words consisted mainly of "You speak English??" "Do you want (point)??" various curses and "Bicycle, Bicycle". Many a laugh was produced during a particularly serious game when he would sit there, intensely studying his cards and then all of a sudden mutter "Bicycle!! Bicycle!"

When I became pregnant, there was a huge fuss about the fact that my Mother was coming from the States to help with the baby. Our families had not met yet and everyone was thrilled to finally meet her. One night my SIL asked my FIL what he would say to my Mother at the airport when they met for the first times. After thinking over his cards for a few moments he looked up and exclaimed "You speak English??? You have Bicycle?? F*ck You!!!"

Mama Knows Borscht

Let me start by saying that I love my In-Laws, I really do. They are some of the warmest most loving and wonderful people I have every met in my life and they accepted me into their family before I was even "officially dating" their son. That said, they are also completely NUTS, and I say that in the most loving way possible...

I grew up with the usual superstitions, I'm sure they are familiar to you as well... Step on a crack, break your mothers back. Don't walk under a ladder. Never let a black cat cross your path. Break a mirror, 7 years bad luck. That sort of thing. Crazy, okay maybe a little.. But NORMAL crazy. My In-Laws have superstitions that are a whole other LEVEL of crazy.

I need to back up here a bit and explain. My husband's family is Russian. Of course even as I am typing this I hear his voice in the back of my head "LITHUANIAN!!!". Let me correct myself. My husband was born in Lithuania, which was part of the former Soviet Union. His entire family speaks Russian, and brought that, along with their crazy traditions and superstitions with them when they immigrated to Israel 20-something years ago and they still speak predominantly Russian in the home today.

A little background on the family, my husband is an only child, however his Mother has a twin sister who also has only one child and she and my husband were practically raised together. He refers to her as his sister and the three women together are an absolute force to be reckoned with. Superstitions run rampant in both the Jewish and the Russian culture, combine them together and it can be maddening.

When my husband and I had a string of bad luck early in our marriage, the family became convinced that an old flame of his's mother had put a curse on us and came over to our new apartment armed with candles and mezuzahs and other various chochkies to ward off the evil eye.

When I became pregnant with our first child, everyone was over the moon. Various baby items were promised early on from friends and family members that practically came out of the woodwork. It was amazing, we would hardly have to buy anything. The more pregnant I became, the more I wondered where these baby items were. 6 months passed, 7 months, and the nursery was still an empty room. I began to fret that the promise of baby things was merely talk, that it was not actually coming. We had not budgeted for these baby items and money was tight. I dreaded finding out at the last minute that we would have to make several large purchases with money that we frankly didn't have.

I began to bug my husband to speak to his family about when we would be getting the furniture. He agreed and asked. Turns out all of the baby items had been secured, but here is the catch. They were all safely packed away at my MIL and SIL's respective houses, not to be delivered until after the baby arrived. Aparently setting up a baby room ahead of the baby, or buying any baby related item was strictly forbidden as it invited... DUM DUM DUM... THE EVIL EYYEEE!!!

Now I am from the US where baby nurseries are furnished and decorated almost before the pee on the pregnancy test has a chance to dry. I could understand a bit of the superstition, not wanting to decorate for the baby and then G-d forbid something happening to it, but here I was, WEEKS away from giving birth and my nursery ECHOED!!! I demanded my husband do something. He tried. They refused. Its bad luck!! The Evil Eye!! Tfu Tfu Tfu (Insert spitting here, I WILL be blogging about this one in the near future... TRUST ME) This went on until literally days before my due date. I was nesting (well nesting minus the desire to clean, so I guess not really nesting, but I wanted my furniture damnit!!) and I was a complete wreck. We had no crib, no dresser, no car seat, no stroller. My mother was bringing all of my baby clothes and cloth diapers and whatnots from the US when she came so literally the only baby related items that we had in the house were a bottle of baby shampoo and some baby wipes. I was frantic. My In-laws promised that the SECOND that the baby was born that they would bring everything over to the house. Fantastic!!! The last thing I wanted when I brought my baby home was a house full of noisy people with power drills... I lost it. My husband finally realized I was going to cross my legs until I had some damned baby furniture and had a long conversation with his family. They finally relented. WIN!!

Plans were made for the delivery of the crib (which he has yet to sleep in haha) and the dresser. I felt immensely better. My nursery would no longer echo, it would finally look like a baby was going to live here. I was very pleased. Everything was delivered and taken into the nursery in pieces. I thought this rather strange but figured it had something to do with the space in the moving truck. No worries, we still had a few days until the baby would arrive. A day or so later we went to tackle the task of putting everything together. We lay out all of the pieces and my heart dropped as we noticed that a key component was missing... They had carefully and meticulously removed and pocketed the screws... Every.. SINGLE... ONE.......

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Part 3: Pregnancy, The Trauma of Birth, Recovery, PPD, and How Breastfeeding Gave Me Back My Baby


My next memory is that of pain. Extreme, mind numbing, soul consuming pain. I opened my eyes to see someone pounding on my stomach with great vigor. I grabbed and fumbled at her hands, pushing and pulling trying to get her to release me and stop the torture. She slapped my hands away and explained that she had to do this, that it was protocol. She finished the torture routine and left me in the bed to sob. The pain was like nothing I have ever experienced. I asked for pain releif, for anything. She finally agreed and brought me something in a syringe. I asked what she was and she told me Acamol, which is basically the Israeli equivalent of Tylenol. I asked if there was anything stronger that she could give me and she said no. I asked to see my baby and she told me that I could not see him for 8 hours. That I would have to be in the recovery room for 6 hours after the surgery and then the baby would have to be in the nursery for 8. "Monitoring" they called it. After that he could be brought to my room. I cried. I knew how important it was to establish a bond between the mother and the baby immediately after birth. How important it was for the baby to be allowed to nurse as soon as possible to establish a good latch that would be invaluable in the breastfeeding relationship. I explained this. She cited protocol. I felt so helpless.

I closed my eyes and tried to block out the pain. I opened them again to see my husband bouncing through the door with the biggest smile on his face. He was such a proud Papa. He had been to see the baby and brought me a video. In it the baby was crying, they had gone against our wishes and given him a shot of Vitamin K and done a Glucose stick citing the fact that it was impossible that he be 4.6 kilos and not have Gestational Diabetes. They were wrong, his sugar was perfect, they stuck him for nothing. I watched those few moments that should have been so precious in agony, my heart broke. My baby had been ripped from me and now was lying clothed in only a diaper in a plastic bin on the other side of the hospital. He was cold, he was hungry, they were poking him, he was alone. My heart broke.

My husband finally managed to get the nurse to give me a shot of morphine for the pain and it was magical. I slipped out of reality and into a numb haze. The pain of the surgery and the emotional turmoil again slipped away. I woke up in my hospital room. I begged for my baby. They would not bring him. More somach pounding, no more morphine.

It was almost 9 hours from his birth before he was brought to me. I immediately picked him up and tried to feed him. They had bathed him while he was away, washing off all of the amniotic fluid that he would use to help him identify my smell, help him find the breast. He struggled to find the nipple, to establish a latch. It goes without explanation that his latch was terrible. We tried over and over. He was frantic, I was crying.

Nursing was miserable. I could not find a position that was anything short of agony. I asked for pain relievers but was only given more Acamol. I was refused anything stronger. It did not help and finally I gave up and stopped taking anything at all. I was less than a day out of surgery. The baby stayed at the breast nearly all night. I was not allowed to keep him in the bed with me (more protocol) and had to rely on my mother to pick him up from the bassinet and bring him to me when he cried. I would have to get out of bed and into a chair which not only was horribly painful, but took several long minutes. By the time she woke up and got him to me, he would be hysterical. More bad latch, more pain. I was at the end of my rope. How could everything have gone so wrong?? My body had betrayed me. I was terrible at being pregnant, I had clearly failed at giving birth, my baby had been ripped from me and now I couldn't feed him without pain. To make matters worse I was struggling to bond with him. I did not feel like this was my baby. I felt no connection to him, it was more like they had taken my baby from me and plopped some stranger into my arms. I felt like I had failed as a mother.

We tried again and again the next day. From around noon onward he wanted to do nothing but nurse. He was at the breast nearly then entire day with only a half hour break every 2 hours or so. I was out of my mid with sleep deprivation and pain. By midnight he wanted nothing but to nurse. He nursed solid from midnight until the next morning at 6 am when the nurse came in for rounds. I had given up on the chair at about 1 AM and brought him to the bed with me so that I could at least close my eyes as he ate. I spent the night swapping him from one breast to the other, trying to keep his screams to a minimum so as not to wake the woman who shared the room with me and who had already screamed at me for not sending my baby to the nursery. The nurse threw an absolute screaming fit when she saw him in the bed with me, snatching him away and taking him to the nursery. I was told I could not have him again until 9:30. We spent much of the second day doing the same thing, more chair, more pain, more bad latch. There was a lactation consultant available that afternoon and I was so excited for someone to explain to me what I was doing wrong. Hubby went home to check on the cats (who had been at this point several days without food) and would return later that evening. Afternoon rolled around and it turns out the lactation consultant spoke no English. She roughly mashed my breast into the baby's face until he latched on told me "like that" and left the room.

At this point the entire surface of my nipples had blood blistered over and every suck was like fire ripping through me. That night when they weighed him they said that he had lost 10% of his body weight. They said a baby his size could never survive on breastmilk alone and that they would have to give him formula. I knew that it was perfectly normal for a baby to lose weight after birth and that he was only getting colostrum at this point as my milk was just barely starting to come in. I had seen faint traces of it at the edge of his mouth that evening. I knew that it was only a matter of time before my breasts would be full of milk and his weight would bounce back. The next morning he had not gained any weight and they informed me that they would be giving me formula to feed him. If I did not feed him the formula, they would administer it. I flat out refused. When the baby was brought to my room there was a bottle of formula on his bassinet. They again told me that I had to give him the formula or they would. My mother, having breastfed three babies herself, wavered and suggested that maybe one bottle of formula wouldn't hurt. Furious at her seeming betrayal, I read her the ingredients on the side, not one of them being a natural product, the closes thing to pronounceable was the dehydrated homogenized milk powder (yum!!). Most everything else was some sort of unpronouncable chemical that you would expect to find on the side of a can of paint, not in something you would eat. She no longer though it a harmless idea.

They had removed the bandages that morning and I saw the incision for the first time. They had cut me from the inside of one hipbone to the other. I looked like the Bride of Frankenstein. I tried to swallow the feelings of disgust brought on by my own vanity as I starred in horror at the strech marks, the sagging deflated tummy, the red, angry slash across my stomach held together by 13 metal staples. Lucky 13... I could hear the echos of everyone saying "oh its so worth it!! Blah de friggin blah" It didn't feel worth it. I had endured months of pain and worry topped off by nearly a week of the worst moments of my life and now here I was with a tiny baby who seemingly hated me and that I could not seem to figure out how to feed. I felt broken, like my body had betrayed me. Women's bodies are made with one thing in mind, to carry, birth and nourish babies. I had failed at all three.

I spoke with my husband and we decided it was best to sign out of the hospital AMA. Despite more threats from the doctors about the baby dying of dehydration and me hemhoraging and bleeding to death, I knew I was not going to let them put chemicals into my baby. I knew that my milk would come in and that he would eventually gain back the weight that he had lost. I knew this was the right thing. We brought the baby home.

The next week was a blur. My mom extended her trip a third time and was an amazing help. I basically lay in bed and fed the baby whenever he cried. Alot of times I cried with him. We had still not figured out how to get him to latch properly and my nipples were mangled, the blood blisters had scabbed over and every nursing session was ripping them open again. I was in agony. By the end of the week I finally broke down and used my pump to express some milk and fed it to him. I was terrified that this would only make things worse but it was a last resort. I could not go on. I did this for another day and by the end of the next day my nipples had healed enough to nurse again. Miraculously his latch had improved and nursing was for the first time virtually painless.

I would like to say that everything went smoothly from here on out but that would be a lie. I was putting on a happy face for everyone around me but inside I still felt destroyed. My body had betrayed me. I still felt no bond with my baby. I went through the motions of motherhood, still reeling emotionally from the traumatic events of the week before. My mother eventually went home and I was alone to deal with everything. It was still to painful from the surgery to nurse the baby in any other position than sitting up amongst as many pillows as I could manage. This meant every time he needed to nurse I would have to sit up and arrange everything before feeding him. It was not the easy, effortless event that it should have been. We were both exhausted.

I felt an incredible need to have the baby in my sight at all times. Having had him yanked from my body and held hostage for those first few hours of his life I was terrified of not having him next to me. Unfortunately this meant I got no break. My husband after several days of watching me move like a zombie through out the house, decided to take the baby to his parents for several hours to give me a "break" from the baby. He did not realize that his good intentions were my worst nightmare. This was not the break I needed. I needed someone to come and do the dishes and the laundry and the shopping so I did not have to. I did not need them to take my baby so that I could do the dishes and the laundry. I was distraught. I begged him not to take the baby but he did not listen. I cried so hard in the minutes after he left that I made myself sick. I lay in my bed until I cried myself to sleep, horrible visions of everything that could go wrong if I was not there whirled in the edges of my subconscious. I had failed my baby again. I had let him be taken from me.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when things started to clear for me, only that at some point it did. It took about a month before the pain from the C-section wore down enough so that I could nurse comfortably on my side. Once this happened, I was able to lie down with my baby and feed him. I started being able to sleep at night, my body wrapped protectively around his tiny form. His face pressed against me, helping himself as needed. He no longer cried at night, frantic for food that was taking to long. He barely awoke from sleep to root his face around until he found the breast. My movements became instinctive as well, my body protected him, unmoving throughout the night. I would crack an eye open to check on him, a blanket tuck here, a goodnight kiss there. I finally slept. We spent hours in bed, nursing together, sleeping together. The coldness I felt towards him began to melt. I started to watch him as he nursed. The little movements of his mouth as he pulled the milk, the tiny smiles of satisfaction, the way his eyes studied my face. He was so emotive, I was mesmerized.

I began to take pleasure in his satisfaction. His hungry little grunts and happy squeaks as he ate made me smile. He would pop off in the middle of a feed to grin at me, milk dripping down the sides of his face and off his chin. Sometimes he would suck with such force and then pop off that my milk would spray him in the face. He would get a huge open mouthed grin and shake his head from side to side trying to catch all the milk. I found myself laughing constantly at all the things he would do.

He gained weight beautifully, at the top of the charts for his age. Little fat rolls began forming on his arms and legs and I knew my milk was nourishing him well. He grew out of his 0-3 months clothes at 2 weeks of age, filling out the 3-6 month clothes easily. He hit other milestones quickly, holding his head up on his own from birth, pushing up on his arms within the first few days, rolling over at two weeks. I was astonished at how strong he was. I marveled at his little movements, the expressions when he slept. He was perfection.

He viewed my breasts with the purest form of adoration I have ever seen. He would awaken from a nap and cry out for food. At the first mention of boobie he would immediately stop crying and break into a huge grin, I felt satisfaction in the ability to comfort his needs.

He wanted nothing more than to nurse for hours and I was satisfied to lie in bed beside him while he did so. He would wrap his chubby arms around my breast,hugging me with both arms as he ate. I laughed at the frantic gulps and lips smacks when he first began to nurse and smile as they faded, his tiny jaw maxing gentle pulls as he drifted off to sleep. He would sleep with me as a pillow, cheek pressed against me, his lips just barely touching my skin. If I dared move, he would open one eye and look at me as if to say, "where do you think YOUR going??" and pounce on my nipple until he was satisfied that I was not leaving him.

I have no doubt in my mind that breastfeeding saved us. I no longer felt like I was going through the motions, like this was a tiny stranger in my arms. The hours that we spent together, the feelings of pride when I saw him thrive from milk that my body produced, the love that he showered on me, those tiny smiles of satisfaction as he drifted off to sleep, his head on my breast. I began to feel less broken. My body may not have been good at being pregnant, or giving birth, but by G-d, I was good at feeding this baby! My baby...

I still cry when I think about his birth. I do not feel as though I gave birth, and it feels like a loss. I am not sure when I will let go of that, when I will stop mourning, but I hope that one day I will. I cannot imagine where we would be now had I never breastfed, or given up in those first excruciating days. We all know the health benefits to breastfeeding, the antibodies, the perfect match of milk to babies needs, the lower risk of obesity later in life, the decreased cancer risk, the list goes on. What you rarely here about are the emotional benefits. I cannot possibly describe the emotional ties that it creates, the act of feeding a human being from your own body. I feel my heart swell at the formation of every tiny fat roll. I am succeeding, my child is thriving.

As a lie in bed I notice I still sleep in the same position that I did in the final days of my pregnancy. My body curls around his tiny form in the same way I curled around him when he was in my belly. Protecting him from the world around us, from anything that might hurt him, that might disturb him from his peaceful dreams. He sleeps cuddled next to me, his tiny feet resting on the tops of my thighs, his hands stroking my skin, his mouth pressed against my breast. Tiny kisses throughout the night. We sleep together, mother and child, connected again. Nourishing his body, nourishing my soul.

Part 2: Pregnancy, The Trauma of Birth, Recovery, PPD, and How Breastfeeding Gave Me Back My Baby


On the day the baby was due, we held a BBQ for my in-laws, my Mom and a few friends. I didn't tell anyone, but I had been feeling contractions since the morning. I was sure the baby was going to come that day. After everyone had left and we had cleaned up I gave my Mom and Hubby a heads up and we headed down to the little park under the house to walk. By around 11 that night, my contractions were every 3 minutes lasting around 2 minutes each. I was thrilled. I was feeling very little of the contactions thanks to the Hypnobirthing and was laughing and joking and so excited for this baby. We went back to the house and informed hubby that tonight was the night and to get ready. He panicked, the realization that this was actually going to happen hitting him all at once. I suggested we all go lie down for an hour or two and try to get some rest as this was bound to be a long night and the midwife was only 10 minutes away so we had plenty of time before we needed her. We fell asleep excited about what was to come...

9 AM... I woke up, confused. I lay there for a few minutes and waited for the familiar tightening of a contraction that I had felt so many times over the last 5 months that it had become a part of my daily routine. Nothing. I spoke spoke to my midwife and she said it was normal to have a false labor and that it was probably a sign that the baby would come in the next few days. We set about on labor mode. I tried everything. We walked, we did stairs, I ate spicy food, spent hours massaging reflexology points in my hands and feet, had loads of sex (though to be honest, it was more like an episode of the Three Stooges and I approached it with the same sort of excitement that a 9 year old approaches math homework on a Saturday). Nothing worked. I stopped talking to the baby and started giving what one might call "persuasive encouragement". Example of persuasive encouragement: "GETTTT OOOOUUUUTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" In my opinion, his lease was up and he was default on the rent payments. I had made it to full term, I had fulfilled my duty, I was done.

Fast forward another 12 days. My midwife now informs me that I am on a deadline. Unbeknownst to me until that moment, midwives in Israel cannot deliver after 42 weeks gestation. I had two days to give birth before she could no longer oversee my homebirth. I asked why she had not told me this earlier and she admitted that she never thought I would make it to full term, let alone go over due. Admittedly I was a bit upset. I so desperately did not want a hospital birth. I NEEDED to have my baby on my own terms. She suggested trying Castor oil to induce labor. Now for those of you who do not know alot about Castor oil, let me just say without going into great detail that it WILL ruin your day. (It is now two months later and I still have the taste of 80's era old Mary Kay lipstick on the edges of my memories). I was not thrilled at the idea, but was up against a wall and this was pretty much a sure fire way to go into labor.

I tried it.

It ruined my day.

I did not go into labor.

42 weeks. My midwife bailed. I cried. Alot. My dreams of a natural home birth were slipping away and I could do nothing to stop it. To this day I have little doubt that the reason I did not go into labor was the fact that I was under a deadline. Stress causes the body to hold tension. Muscles that are tense cannot relax. A body that cannot relax cannot go into labor.

I let a few hours pass before I started making phone calls with an almost military persistence. I found a midwife in the North of Israel who was willing to oversee my birth. She was not bound by Israeli laws as she was an American midwife and though she could not "Officially" oversee the birth, she would come as a "knowledgeable friend who just happened to be there at the right time". She could not guarantee that she would make it to the birth as she was quite far away and had several other clients due to give birth but she promised to be available on the phone should we have to deliver the baby on our own. I was THRILLED. I was back on track and so ready for this baby. She was amazing. I was sure that it was fate that had brought her to me and she was so supportive I was sure that everything was going to be perfect.

I was wrong.

We had been going to the hospital for monitors since I hit 42 weeks on the recommendation of my original midwife. 42 and 1 day, baby's fine. The doctor in the hospital wanted to induce. We refused and signed out AMA. 42 weeks and 2 days, baby's fine. Doctor really pushed us to induce, pulled us into the hospital equivalent of The Principal's Office and gave us lectures on all the terrible things that can go wrong blah blah blah. We refused and sign out AMA. 42 weeks and 3 days, the monitor was okay, one small dip but otherwise fine. More Principal's office. More threats. More fear mongering. I was beginning to wear down. Doctor demanded induction. We refused. He asked us to come in the next morning for a more in depth monitor. We agreed and signed out AMA.

42 weeks 4 days. I woke up feeling shit. I was hot, I was fat, I was so over being pregnant. I was no longer sleeping. I was beginning to worry. I was running late. I didn't eat. Big mistake. We did the monitor and there were worried mummers from the nurses. They treated me like a pariah. I'm not sure they had even seen someone go past 42 weeks before, let alone 4 days past. The first 20 minutes of the monitor showed low activity. They made me eat and did another half an hour or so. More Principal's office.

This time the doctor was just downright mean. He literally looked me in the eye and told me I was going to kill my baby. I was sitting on the exam table in tears and he asked me why I was crying. I told him I was not a big fan of Doctors and hospitals. He said "well we don't like you much either". I looked at my husband and told him we were going home. I did not know what I was going to do but I knew one thing. That man wasn't getting NEAR me OR my baby again.

We signed out AMA again. I spent a good hour plus on the phone to the new midwife, to my hypnobirthing instructor, to various other hospitals who had natural birthing suites. I was determined that if I had to have this baby in a hospital that I would hold on to as much of my natural birth as possible. Hubby finally got ahold of a hospital in Netanya that agreed to give us as close to a natural birth as possible. We called Hubby's parents to give us a ride there as it was about an hours drive away.

Now in the interest of family harmony I will try and give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they misunderstood, maybe their phones translated what we were saying into Chinese, who knows, but when we called everyone said they couldn't take us. "Now isn't a good time." Now isn't a good time?!?!?!?!? It's not a bloody good time for me either!!! Another hour. I'm panicking, we've put in calls to every friend with a car that we know. I started to worry that maybe the doctor was right, maybe my baby was dying. Finally Hubby's family's phone stopped speaking Chinese and they realized that we needed a ride THEN, and that we weren't joking around.

At this point I was worried about driving all the way to Netanya, we had already lost a good three hours. More phone calls. We finally got ahold of someone at Tel Ha Shomer hospital in Tel Aviv. It was only a 20 minute drive. They promised us a birthing suite in a natural birthing center. They wouldn't push Pitocin. They had other more natural methods of induction. I could still have a water birth. They wouldn't cut the cord. They wouldn't vaccinate. They wouldn't take the baby away. I was satisfied. We were off. I was resigned to the fact that this baby would be born in a hospital, I was disappointed but I was still getting most of the experience I wanted. I had no idea how wrong I would be.

***Let me pause and say here that though it probably sounds terrible to those who cannot possibly understand, the birth of my child was one of the most emotionally painful, horrifying, traumatic events of my life. I am not sure I will ever get over it. My Hypnobirthing instructor told me that writing the experience down would be a way of purging the trauma from my body. This is the first time I have been able to fully relive things, it is not easy.***

We arrived at the hospital around 1:30 in the afternoon. I was already worn out from the events of the day and looking forward to a bed and a nap. Little did I know sleep was very VERY far away. We went to admissions and explained the situation with the monitor and that we were there to check into the Natural birthing suite. It was then that we were told that they did not accept anyone over 42 weeks. Not only that but we had to reserve it in advance, as if I KNEW what day I was going into labor. This was only the beginning. We spent the next several hours speaking to doctor after doctor trying to be sure that we would still be allowed to have the birth we wanted. They estimated the size of the baby be anywhere from 3.6 kilos to 4.2 kilos and told me in short that there was no possible way for me to have this baby vaginally. They told stories of shoulder dysplasia with permanent crippling and babies dying because they were to big to fit. It was horrible but I knew the statistics proved them wrong and we stood our ground. After months of research, we had decided not to cut the baby's umbilical cord until it had stopped pulsing to be sure that it was able to retain all of the beneficial blood from the placenta. The doctors at the hospital tried to convince us that this would cause the baby to have "to much blood" and cause seizures, brain damage and death. We knew the statistics proved them wrong and stood our ground. After much arguing and a lecture from the on call Pediatrician they further agreed to not vaccinate at birth, to not give Pitocin etc. I would not be allowed to give birth in water but the birthing rooms had tubs and showers in them. I decided I would conveniently not have time to get out of the tub before the baby came. I finally agreed to check in. It was almost 8 PM. We had been at this since 9 AM. I had been up since 5 AM.

I get into the labor room and settle in. It does not have a tub or a shower in it. Only the birthing rooms have those. I would not be allowed in a birthing room until I was at 4 cm. I was at 1... Barely...

We met the doctor on call and She went through a whole shpeil blah blah blah yada yada "and we're going to start the Pitocin" (insert record screeching noise here).

"WHAAATTT?!?!?!" The Doctors had promised no Pitocin. Natural inductions etc would be tried first. I was bloody 42 weeks and 4 days!! Surely I would only need a little nudge and I would go into labor!! More arguing, more round and round. I was getting more than frustrated at all the broken promises. Hubby finally persuaded the doctor to try a Balloon induction which is basically when they insert a balloon into the cervix and slowly inflate it with saline to help dilate the cervix. Fine. Do it.

Several hours pass. Its almost midnight. I have yet to sleep as they have been coming and going, poking me with needles and taking blood pressure every 10 minutes it seems. They also have me hooked to a monitor and wont take me off. I'm uncomfortable. I'm tired. I'm mourning the loss of my home birth. I'm trying to stay optimistic. The doctor comes back with the balloon for the induction. Seconds before they begin I spot on the package that it's Latex. I'm allergic to latex. It says this all over my paperwork and is written In BIG letters on the GIANT RED Bracelet on my arm. They still seem surprised. They disappear again to find a Latex free balloon.

1 AM..

1:30 AM...

2 AM... The doctors return with a latex free balloon and begin the procedure. In order to insert the balloon they need me to elevate my hips. Now one would think they had some sort of balloon insertion pillow or thingy to assist this. No. They have a bad-pan wrapped in a towel and turned upside down. Keep in mind I am a million months pregnant at this point, and absolutely HUGE. They tell me to just slide it under my hips. JUST... I love that word JUST. When someone uses just in a sentence, it usually means they want you to do something that they have either never had to do, never want to do, or simply do not understand the complexity of. Just.. But I digress...

Okay, let say JUST sliding the inverted towel covered bedpan under me was easier said than done and required quite a bit of acrobatics. Somewhere around two seconds after it was in place I felt a large pop and then excruciating pain radiating through my lower back and into my hip. I have had a bad back due to multiple horseback riding accidents for most of my life. The pressure of the bedpan and the sadistic yoga position that they had placed me in had caused a disc in my lower back to slip out of place, pinching a nerve in my hip and causing my hipbone to slip a bit out of socket. I screamed at them to let me off the bed pan so that I could at least pop my hip back into place. They told me that it would just be a second before it was over. Five minutes passed... I was dying. Not only does it hurt, it was extremely invasive and once they finally finished and taped it to my leg I came to the horrifying realization that the pulsating drip of the saline filling the balloon made it feel as if I had a writhing creature inside of me. I struggled to cope, to take myself anywhere but where I was. My husband held my hand and tried to keep me calm.

A few hours passed and the balloon slipped out. Fantastic!! This must mean I'm fully dilated!! Lets go!! Oh but wait.. They forgot to mention that the non latex balloon does not inflate as much as the latex balloon. Sorry, WHAT??? I was only 2 and a half centimeters. All that and virtually nothing. They wanted to strip my membranes. Fine. Do it.. More invasion, more pain, more tears. Still virtually no dilation. 3 cm...

At this point its around 11 or so the next morning. I was not in labor, HOWEVER the lovely proceedure from the night before had left me with so much residual back pain that I cannot lie down, cannot stand or walk, and the only way I was barely comfortable is when I was sitting upright on the very edge of the bed. Needless to say, no sleep... New doctor comes in and basically tells us that there is nothing left and that we must start Pitocin. For those of you who don't know Pitocin is the synthetic replacement for the natural hormone Oxytocin, also known as the "feel good" hormone. It is the same hormone that is released during sex. It is also released during labor to help start the contractions as well as to trigger the brain to produce natural pain relievers. Pitocin does the same thing as Oxytocin except alot faster and without the natural feelings of euphoria and pain releif. I am terrified of Pitocin.

My mother nearly lost my brother and died herself during childbirth because to much Pitocin was administered to fast and it threw her into such hard labor that it put my brother into distress. She was given an Emergancy C Section and my brother barely made it. (He is fine now with no lingering side affects, but that is another story all together) I explain my fears to the doctor. She agrees to start it on the lowest level and see if contractions start up. If they do she agreed to take me off of the Pitocin and let my body do the rest. I am ready to get this over with. I give up my last hopes at a drug free natural labor in the hopes of a healthy baby. Fine. Do it.

Three or four hours later a new Doctor came back, I assumed to start the Pitocin. Wrong again. He explained that they needed to start Pitocin to get the baby out blah blah same shpeil. We informed him that we had been through this, explained the conversation with the last doctor, agreed to the Pitocin. Lets friggin GO already. More time passed. The first Pitocin Doc came back in and wanted to know why I was not on the Pitocin, that I really should have been on it by then. WELL THATS WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW!!!

Finally they started the Pitocin around 7 PM. Almost immediately I was having hard contractions. I tried to do my hypnobirthing to relax. It helped some. After half an hour the nurse came in and turned up the machine. We explained what the doctor said and she says it is "protocol" and refused to turn it down. We demand a Doctor. Time passed. My contractions were now coming back to back. I had the urge to push. There was no doubt in my mind that I was in labor and ready to give birth. They checked me for dilation and I was still only 3 cm. I explained to the nurse that I need to be taken off the Pitocin, that it was to strong and that I am needing to push. She tells me I was only 3 cm, I could not possibly be needing to push, because she OBVIOUSLY knew what was going on more clearly than I did. Again we demand a Doctor. Again no one came. Again she turned up the Pitocin. At this point my mother literally grabbed her by the arm, unplugged the drip and screammed NO! But it had already worked its magic. My body was so confused by the influx of artificial hormones that it had slammed me into hard labor without first dilating. There was no pattern to the contractions, it was just one solid contraction with tiny hiccups in between. My body was slamming the baby's head against a closed cervix. They checked me again. 2 and a half cm. My cervix was swelling, I was going backwards.

I begged to be allowed into a birthing room so that I could have a shower and use the water for pain relief. They wouldn't admit me until I was at 4 cm. I was shit outta luck. Finally Hubby demanded I be allowed a shower. The nurse agreed to 5 minutes as she insisted I be hooked up to the monitor full time. She stuck to this. We danced in this sadistic ballet for hours. Amazing five minute glimpses into a pain free world broken up with half an hour tied to a monitor out of my mind with pain. Finally the nurse got sick of me, sick of my husband, sick of my screams of pain (at this point Hypno birthing was out the window, the Pitocin and sleep deprivation had made it impossible for me to relax enough to breathe through the pain) and pronounced me at 4 cm. It was around 11 PM.

More time passed... Finally I got to the birthing room and into the shower. I sat in a chair with hot water on my belly and blissed out for a good half an hour, half sleeping against the wall. I then slowly realized that I was past the point that the water was helping. They wanted to do a monitor, they wanted to do a check, they wanted to take blood. I could not stand. I was exhausted out of my mind and could no longer think straight. I was crying. Everything was spiraling so far out of control and I had a creeping feeling that things were going very wrong. The pain intensified as I got out of the shower. The monitor showed a solid contraction, there were no peaks and valleys like there should be. The Pitocin had completely confused my body. I could not breathe. I could not get a break in the pain.

The nurse on call sat me down and looked me in the eye. She told me I needed an epidural but I refused. I explained through the painful moans that I did not want drugs. I wanted to be able to move for labor to try different positions, to be able to catch my own baby, to have it be alert and awake and not clouded with drugs when it was born. She told me she understood. She knew how much I had wanted things to be different, how badly I had wanted to do this on my own, naturally. She told me that I was exhausted, that I needed to sleep, that I could not possibly continue like this. She said I had given it the best effort she had seen but that I could not possibly continue much longer. I was making myself sick. The pain of the contractions combined with the pain of my back and my hip was to much or my body. I was wearing out myself and wearing out the baby. I needed to rest. I saw the last threads of my natural birth slipping through my fingers. I agreed to the epidural.

Once I had resigned myself to getting the drugs I did not want to wait. I was terrified of the side effects that I had read about. The numbness, the partial paralization, the long term chronic pain. I just wanted it over with. I just wanted a break. I spent the next half hour clenching my husbands hands on the edge of a chair watching the monitor hoping for a tiny dip in the contractions so I could wrap my head around things. I was falling asleep for a second at a time, my head dipping in exhaustion. I could only stare into my husbands eyes and beg for a break in the pain, my eyes no longer would even produce tears.

The Anesthesiologist finally came and shooed my mother and husband out of the room. I was terrified. The nurse helped me into a sitting position so that he could start the spinal. He spoke very little English and it was marred by a heavy Russian accent. He told me how important it was that I not move or even breathe while he was doing the spinal. I asked him to wait for a break in the contraction but he would not. He kept yelling at me because I was not bent over far enough so that my spine would stick out through the skin. He forgot to take into the fact that I had a monstrous belly that I was carrying very high. I PHYSICALLY COULDN'T bend ANY FURTHER than what I was bent. The nurse ended up having to push my shoulders down and physically force me into the correct position. All the while the contractions were washing over me still clustered tightly together. Finally the artificial feeling of synthetic numbness washed over me. It was uneven. While my right side was pleasantly numb, my left side was dead to the world. I could not move. I had to be lifted and scooted and shoved into a lying down position. They started the Pitocin again in the hopes that it would establish a rhythm in the contractions so that I would start to dilate again.

With the physical pain muted and nothing left but the emotional pain and feeling of failure I slept. We all slept. By the next morning I was dilated to 6, quickly progressing to 7 and then to 9 by around noon. I was excited. After three days of labor I was so ready for this baby to be born I cannot put it into words. My water broke around 11 and there was muconium present so in the back of my mind I was worried but birth was immanent. They checked me again around one, still at 9 cm but they were not worried. They tweaked the Pitocin. I tried to rest. By 2 I was again feeling the urge to push. The sweet American midwife who was on call the first day I checked in was back on duty and started to set up the room for delivery. I woke up Hubby and told him it was almost time. The air in the room had changed to a feeling of relief, the tension was gone. We celebrated. Suddenly things started going very wrong.

I had been complaining about pain at the site of my IV for two days. They kept brushing me away and telling me I was being melodramatic. I started feeling very ill, dizzy, disconnected. I felt faint. Turns out I had contracted a bad infection at the IV sight. It started to swell and get very red and hot. I spiked a high fever. The baby went into distress. Doctors swarmed. They explained to me that the baby had turned somehow due to the strength and irregularity of the contractions brought on by the Pitocin before the Epidural. He was now what they call "Sunny side up" which means he was approaching the birth canal with his face to my belly button and not to my back the way he should be. This was causing his head to get stuck in my pelvis. My labor had stalled. They had to get the baby out. They told me that they were going to have to do a Cesarean Section on me. This was my worst nightmare.

What had happened to my mother was now happening to me. They told me my husband would not be allowed to come with me. I was hysterical. I begged for them to let him come. I was to terrified of being cut open. I did not speak the language enough to understand what was going on and I needed him there to comfort me and keep me calm. They finally told me I had two choices. The first was to go into surgery immediately and that my husband would be able to come with me as long as the anesthesia took properly and they did not have to put me under full anesthesia. The second was to wait and hour in the hopes that my body would dilate the last cm, that my fever would not go any higher, and that I could push the baby out on my own. They said that if I did not dilate or my fever went up that it would be a case where we would be running down the hall in the attempt to save the baby's life.

I had to come to grips with the fact that everything I had wanted for my birth was now out the window. I was being given antibiotics for the infection and the baby and I would have to be given antibiotics for days after birth. I was pumped full of artificial hormones, painkillers, who knows what else. My body was not mine anymore. I was at the complete disposal of the Medical System. I gave up. I agreed to go into surgery immediately so at least my husband could still be there for the birth of his first child. He wanted so badly to be the one to catch the baby, to announce the sex, to be the only arms to hold his child in the first few seconds of its life. I was mourning the loss of that for both of us.

I was wheeled into surgery and moved onto a table in a large cold sterile room. The surgeons were getting everything ready, laughing and joking. I knew enough Hebrew to understand that they were talking about a barbecue that they were going to after work and all the steaks they would be eating. I hadn't eaten in three days. I asked them to stop. They busied themselves with drapings and scrubbing and sterilizing every part of me. I looked up and realized I could see the reflection of my body in the mirrored edges of the lights above me. I panicked and begged them to cover the lights so that I could not see as they cut into me. They extended a drape so that I could no longer see. A few minutes passed and the Anesthesiologist asked me if I could feel anything. I could not and I told her as much. This was a good sign as it meant that I would not have to go under general anesthesia and my husband could come in. I asked when he was coming. "He isn't" She told me. "It's to late. We've already started."

I was devastated. Tears ran down my face and I stifled sobs as I came to the realization that the first faces that my baby saw would be a strangers. The first voices not the ones he had heard talking and singing to him for the last 9 months, but unfamiliar voices, devoid of emotion. The first hands that he felt would not be those of his parents, but that of a surgeon that did not see him as something special, merely a duty that had to be completed before a barbecue. I lay there as I felt them searching inside me, pulling, tugging. A pause. The baby was to big to come out the original incision. They had to cut me a second time. More fumbling, more tugging. I could feel their hands inside me as they ripped my baby from me. I heard him cry as he left the warm world he had known for his entire life and was pulled into the shocking cold of the operating room. They held him up for me to see, only they did not hold him up enough to allow for the extra draping. I could not see him. He was whisked away. I begged for them to let me see my child. I could hear him crying on the other side of the room. I wanted to comfort him, to hold him. I heard as his cries got further away as they took him from the room. Still begging I saw the anesthesiologist insert something into my IV. Though I had specifically said that I was not to be given any sort of drugs, she went against my wishes and I slipped into a fog...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Part 1: Pregnancy, The Trauma of Birth, Recovery, PPD, and How Breastfeeding Gave Me Back My Baby

Writers note: I did not realize when I started this entry how long it would become, how heavy with emotion. I have decided to break it down into three parts for easier reading. This experience was hard for me to live, and perhaps harder for me to admit to and put into words. I hope that in reading it that you will be understanding of my journey, and that perhaps along the line it will help another mother who is going through the same thing make it through one more difficult day..


I always thought I would be one of those women who got pregnant and loved every minute. I would sign up for prenatal yoga class, eat super healthy foods, take long walks in cute maternity clothes literally glowing. I would spendmy days taking artistic nude photos of my beautiful pregnant belly and documenting every changing detail in pregnancy journals and baby books. I was not. I was about as good at being pregnant as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest. To be brutally honest I hated it.

I knew two days after we conceived that I was pregnant, it hit me like a brick wall. I woke up that morning, stood up and gagged. I looked at hubby and said "I think I'm pregnant" he assured me that it was not possible and I was just was being histrionic. I knew inside that I felt different. I guess he still hadn't accepted the fact that I'm always right... Two weeks later we had the proof.

I spent the first three months of my pregnancy sicker than I have ever been in my life. Morning sickness my ass!! I was sick morning noon and night, even throwing up in my sleep a few times, much to the horror of Hubby and the cat who became innocent casualties of the midnight assaults. I lost about 20 pounds in 3 months. Sounds great I know (what I would give to lose 20 pounds of baby weight right now I cant even tell you!) but when you lose it that fast on a bulimic diet its not cute, miles from sexy. I looked ill. My skin was hanging off of me and my eyes had huge bags under them. Things got so bad that I was not able to get out of bed and walk the few feet to the bathroom by myself. My husband had to carry me. If I wanted a shower he would bring a beach chair into the bathroom and hose me off. I did not feel beautiful, I was lightyears from sexy. I felt like a horse. Poor Hubby would patiently, and somewhat fearfully, soap and hose me as I sobbed hysterically in my beach chair. To make matters worse we were delaying telling anyone until we could get confirmation that it was a healthy pregnancy so I was stuck making excuses as to why I looked like I was a week from death.. Glowing.. Riiiight..

Around 3 and a half months the morning (round-the-clock) sickness stopped. It was that fast. I thought "Great, here we go!! NOW I can do the cute preggo lady thing!" I still had no belly due to the lack of caloric intake for the last few months but a week or so of non stop eating (hey, you don't eat for three months and then tell me what YOU do when food tastes good again!) and I started getting a tiny bit of a tummy. I was so ready to start showing off my belly and beaching it up in my preggo bikini. Though I was still weak, I started taking little walks around the city, spending a few hours a day on the beach to combat the wicked hot flashed that plagued me. I was determined to live out my pregnancy fantasy despite the rough start. Two weeks later I started having pains. Not little twinges mind you, they were kick me in the crotch, doubled over, stop me in my tracks pain. I went to the doctor and she told me it was normal, I was pregnant,pregnancy's not easy, don't be such a wimp. I'm paraphrasing of course as the conversation was in Russian through my husband, but the look on her face said enough. A few days later I couldn't take it anymore and we went to a different doctor as mine was not available that day. She said she could not determine what the pain was and sent me to the Hospital. It was there that they determined that I was having contractions.

I was in a panic. I was only 16 weeks along and knew enough to know there was no way this baby could survive outside the womb. The nurses explained to me in short that if this was the start of labor, there was nothing they could do and that I should go home and get into bed. After three months of being in bed due to pregnancy induced bulimia, bed rest was the last thing I wanted to hear, but I was terrified of losing this baby so off to bed I went. It was modified bed rest, I was allowed low activity, but the second the pains started up I had to go lie down again, which pretty much happened whenever I got up, so eventually I just accepted my fate.

I spent hours researching pregnancy and birthing techniques and was thrilled to find a midwife in Israel that specialized in home births. I have a deep seeded fear of hospitals and desperately wanted to have a quiet natural birth the way nature intended. She informed me that as long as I made it to 36 weeks, she would deliver me. I had my goal. I took a hypnobirthing class to prepare myself for natural labor and was fascinated as I learned to relax myself and allow my body to do what was natural. The pain of my contractions was minute as I taught myself to relax and breathe and thing of them as stretching surges not as hard painful contractions. I practiced daily, readying my body for the ultimate test of womanhood. Though I was still not really enjoying being pregnant, I approached it with a sort of scientific fascination. The kicks, the hiccups, the growing belly, I kept track of all the milestones and ticked away the days until it was "safe" to go into labor. I genuinely was looking forward to the experience. I knew it would be one of the most empowering times in my life.

The midwife told me that the baby was measuring big but I was not worried. I had faith that my body knew what it was doing and was genuinely excited for what was to come. Boy was I in for a surprise. The end of my pregnancy was fairly uneventful. I hit 36 weeks, 37, 38. At this point my mother had booked her ticket from the States to attend the birth and I started talking to the baby, telling him (we didn't know the sex but I was sure it was a boy from almost day one) to just stay inside for a liiitle bit longer. Week 39, 40, Mom was here. I was now on a mission. For those of you who don't know, April in Israel is summer, and it is HOT. I was a whale, I know most pregnant women say that, but I really was. I hadn't seen my feet in months unless they were propped up on something, and when I did catch a glimpse, it wasn't pretty. They had swollen to unrecognizable blobs with little sausages on the end of them. Walking was a nightmare but I had nearly hit my due date and it was time for this critter to be born...

Recipe: Tomato Basil Soup

This is one of my old standby recipes for when I don't have alot of time and we are low on cash. It makes for an amazing one dish wonder dinner and with a nice Feta as garnish, a good crusty loaf of bread, and a nice salad (see Greek salad, later post) you have a fast, healthy home cooked meal. I cook by feel so all of the ammounts are approximate, feel free to add/ reduce quantities for taste.


Ripe tomatoes- 1 kilo appx (I like Roma because they have the least amount of water)
Fresh Garlic- 4-5 cloves
Fresh or Roasted Bell peppers (see How to roast a pepper below)- a whole pepper, more or less depending on your taste
Fresh basil or Italian seasoning - one handful fresh, 2 good teaspoons dried
Salt- to taste
Sugar or Honey- to taste (will need a few spoonfuls to cut the tartness of the tomato)
Tomato Concentrate- Small can
V8 or other tomato juice- 1 bottle (I like V8 because it has other veggies too)
Heavy Cream- I use about 2 cups because my husband likes a really creamy soup. You can use a lower fat cream and use less for a "healthier" soup if you want. DO NOT use milk as it WILL curdle the soup
Dollop of Butter (optional, I used it when I have it in the fridge, it doesnt make a HUGE difference one way or another)

Garnish with:

Fresh black pepper
Chopped basil
Crumbled Feta

Also need:

One very large soup pan

To Prepare:

Preparation is fairly easy with total prep approximately 15-20 minutes max and a cook time of around an hour to an hour and a half depending on how high you boil the soup/ how far down you choose to reduce it.

Step one:
Take the first four ingredients (Tomatoes, Garlic, Peppers, and Basil)
and add them into a blender. I usually loosely chop the tomatoes into nickel sized chunks so they blend faster. Blend starting on the lowest speed for a few minutes. The longer you blend the smoother soup you will have. If you like a slightly chunkier soup, use the pulse feature instead for a shorter time. You will need a full blender of puree mixture (I sometimes have even a blender and a half or so and that is fine too).

Step two:
Pour the tomato puree from the blender into the soup pan and add the tomato concentrate and the tomato juice to the pan. Bring to a boil and keep at a rolling boil stirring regularly until the soup has reduced to almost a spaghetti sauce consistency for a thick soup, for a thinner soup do not reduce it as far. At this point add the salt and sugar (honey) to taste. Once it has been seasoned to your liking, turn the burner to the lowest setting and add the butter and heavy cream, stirring quickly so that the cream and soup do not separate. Taste and add sugar/salt if needed. Let soup simmer for a few more minutes to thicken before serving.

This soup tastes great and reheats very well.

How to Roast a Bell Pepper:

These days you can buy Roasted Bell Peppers in almost any supermarket, but I find that they are quite pricey and it is cheaper and tastier to just do them at home.

To roast a pepper all you need is a burner, gas is best but electric works as well, and a pair of metal cooking tongs. Wash and dry the pepper and place it directly on the burner. Leave the pepper on the burner until the outside has blistered and turned black over the entire pepper turning as needed. Once the skin of the pepper has burned, remove it from the burner and place on a plate to cool. Once it has cooled, run it under cool water and rub it gently so that the burned skin washes off. You will be left with a skinless roasted pepper. At this point, take a knife (or your fingers) and remove the stem and insides of the pepper and discard. Easy!!

Sheer Volume

Until I was a mother I could never imagine the sheer volume of bodily fluids that could be emitted from such a tiny seemingly angelic creature. Granted I had done my fair share of babysitting, but until you LIVE it, it never really adds up quite the same... It is now 1:40 in the afternoon and so far today I have been puked on three times, peed on once, and almost pooped on (got the diaper closed juuust in time.. WIN!!). I cant tell you how many double diaper changes I've had to do just because he decided to wait for a fresh diaper to finish what he has started the diaper before. And we do cloth so its not exactly a picnic with the folding and snapping and pinning and velcroing him all day.. I feel like I'm my Grandmother wrapping a Christmas present, six layers of tape, twelve rubber bands, three paper clips, a plastic baggie, some bubble wrap... But thats another story altogether.

I sometimes wonder if he plans it... The number of times he has puked/peed/pooped on me when I was late for something/just out of the shower/wearing the first clean item of clothing that I had put on in days: one billion and seventy three. Number of times he has done one of the aforementioned travesties when I could have cared less: zero... Okay maybe thats not completely accurate, the numbers are slightly skewed but for the sake of smooth witty musings we will leave it at that.

At least he doesn't save this wonderful behavior just for me, he peed on the Rabbi who did his Brit Milah.. Twice. He has bombarded his father with golden showers more times than we can count, with girlish squeals of horror from Hubby and equal squeals of delight from baby. The only person he hasn't peed on yet is his Babushka (my Mother in Law)who he clearly thinks is the greatest thing since boobie, though he did my Sister in Law yesterday, so maybe its a matter of time...

The other morning I awoke to a scream of panic and as I'm running to the nursery where I am expecting to find my darling baby in pieces I hear "I can't haaandle thiiissssss, I don't know what to do!!!". I reach the door of the nursery to see Hubby standing there with both hands full of poopy baby wipes, a look of horror on his face, and baby lying on the changing table kicking his legs with a huge grin and covered from the neck down in poop. Turns out as Hubby was changing the first poopy diaper of the morning (a courtesy he extends me so that I can get 10 minutes of sleep with my boobs to myself) baby had decided that he wasn't done yet and had proceeded to have a giiiiant poop all over the changing table, hubby and himself, taking great delight in his accomplishment and wriggling as much as possible to spread the love to the far end of the earth. Three or so clean diapers and a few more baby wipes later we had the disaster zone cleaned up and a fresh diaper on baby. He filled it five minutes later..