I have been up so many hours now I am not sure how I'm still awake as I haven't slept in over forty hours, a combination of feeling like I myself gave birth and of Shavuos night, but I wanted to share this before it leaves me.
A very long day I had yesterday that started very very early in the morning.
One thing to the next I went where Hashem took me.
After a class and picking up my son's laundry from his yeshiva gate I made my way to the hospital. It was already very very late.
All night long I was with "Sarah" at the hospital, with her in her labor. There was a moment when it wasn't night, but it still wasn't day. It was so late and so early.
We shared some moments and "Sarah" told me a bit of her and her husband, let's call him "Avraham's" meeting, their journey. They had already been married for quite a few years and had been told that their chances of having children were slim and having a child naturally was impossible.
I'm telling you this story. It's still fresh, it happened this morning. I was there.
Well "Avraham" and "Sarah" after deciding that they couldn't take anymore failed treatments, quit. The next month baruch Hashem, thank G-d, Sarah conceived. Yes, naturally.
I was there, all night and all morning....
And somewhere in the labor I remembered that this week is parshat Vayera. The parsha when the angels came to tell Avraham that he and his barren wife Sarah, old people well beyond their fertile years, would have a son.
There was laughter.
Laughter in faith and laughter in, how could the impossible be possible? Or maybe it's possible, but who am I to think that I'm worthy to have the impossible happen to me?
You see when the angels came to Avraham and Sarah, they were indeed great and had passed many tests, but they still were just a couple, an old man and an old woman sitting in a tent.
EXTRAORDINARY, but also ORDINARY people who had tests, trials, ups and downs, worked very hard and really, they didn't have it easy. To them Hashem said the impossible according to nature will be miraculously naturally possible and from these two people a nation came forth and their descendants continue to grow miraculously and naturally.
The week of Vayera couldn't have been a more perfect time for their precious baby girl to be born. It was not at the crack of dawn and not at dusk but in the middle of the day at an ordinary hour on an ordinary, non holiday, nothing special weekday.
A miracle, baruch Hashem.
The midwives today had no idea why the sobbing and tears from Avraham and Sarah (and myself as well!) as the baby was born because they didn't know their story, didn't know all that they had gone through and all that they had done. They didn't know that this baby was more than your usual miracle.
An important thought to hold onto and then I'm going off to sleep is that....
Avraham and Sarah were (and are) real people.
Miracles do happen to extraordinary ordinary people.
The impossible when placed in Hashem's Hands is still possible.
May we always share in such beautiful moments; be meritorious to see them happening.
I try to teach my children not to judge by the "uniform" of what people wear. Not to get caught up with it. It's not the clothes which make a person, it's the person and their deeds which define who a person really is.
Because you see clothes you take on and you take off.
If I wear a chassidish garb today it doesn't make me a chassid and if I wear a Mexican pancho it doesn't make me Mexican.
But, and this is a big but, they do influence. They influence how people perceive me and even how I perceive myself.
Clothing is to the body what all our outside influences are to our soul.
Everything outside of me doesn't define who I am nor should it control my state of being. Happiness is a state of being and so is being sad. I can put it on or take it off. Just like a shirt or a skirt. BUT, and here we have a big but, it influences.
So what does this mean?
It means that just as when I dress it influences how people perceive me and how I perceive myself, so too when I surround myself with positivity or negativity it influences how I feel.
Can I build myself up so strong that nothing should matter, that nothing defines me more than I am? Wouldn't that be wonderful? Yes, but I think only at times and in theory.
So practically I do what I can to surround myself in positivity. To surround myself in beauty and kedusha (holiness). It's not what makes me, but it influences me.
And when I can't? When there is a test and it pulls me down? When there is too much going on around me that I can't change or control? I go back to remembering that this doesn't define me. It can change like a shirt or a skirt.
I love this story. It happened this week.
There was a woman who hoped to have a natural birth after an emergency cesarean. On Sunday she was past her due date. The estimated birth weight of her baby was 4.3kg (~9.5 lbs). They did an ultrasound and much to their dismay found the baby to be sideways instead of head down. Needless to say, the chances of a natural birth were below slim.
I told her that we are just going to pray for a healthy baby, a healthy mommy and to accept whatever situation Hashem puts us in. I also told her to do a shoulder stand, check her sefarim, and to do one more ultrasound the next morning.
The next morning came. The baby’s head was down. They were going to start induction, but her labor started naturally before they had a room to start. Her contractions were frequent and strong. She was in this natural process, so grateful, so happy, so strong.
The birth continued into the evening, but the baby’s heart beat kept going down and down.
There got to a point where the labor stopped progressing. The heart beat kept decelerating and there wasn’t anything “medical” that could be done except for a c-section.
There was a debate between the woman and the doctors. I stepped outside to get her husband.
“What???” He cried. “How can this be?” He ran into the room to clarify what was going on.
They asked for one more check. The doctor agreed just to show them that things just can’t happen naturally. He was wrong.
Within ten minutes she gave birth naturally to a 4kg (9lb) baby. I can’t tell you how surprised the doctor was, but also he too was thrilled and happy.
It was a BIG miracle no doubt. It was a naturally miraculous event called the birthing of a baby.
A miracles within nature….
Anxiety. According to the dictionary anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
What can we do when we feel anxious?
The Three "A"s plus...Awareness, Acknowledgement, Acceptance plus Action
We will go through each one...
Awareness. Tune into yourself. What are you anxious about? Can you define it? Where do you feel it in your body? Just have an awareness of it without judging it.
Now let this awareness flow and open your eyes to an awareness of Hashem. How? Take a step back and ask Him to help you tune into His presence from the smallest things to the biggest things in life. Just having awareness of Hashem's presence, that's He's taking care of you is calming.
I went to the supermarket and there were five scales to self-weigh your fruits and vegetables. I grabbed my onions to weigh at the exact same time that I approached a certain scale that, without my knowing it, the person before me had weighed onions as well. Meaning I didn't have to do a search on the computer for "onions".
"What are the chances of that? What a chesed!" I thought to myself.
I felt totally aware of Hashem's kindness in yes, an everyday matter. And this awareness brought me to simple joy. It's a feeling of "I'm being taken care of."
Bring more Awareness into your life. Awareness of yourself-your feelings, emotions, your body. Awareness of your surroundings. Awareness of Hashem.
Creating awareness opens up the space to allow us to acknowledge and appreciate. When we recognize all the good bestowed upon us this leads to gratitude.
It's who we are. יהודים. (Yehudim-Jews). From the word להודות (l'hodot)-gratitude, to thank. We are a people of gratitude and this gratitude is what connects us to Hashem, but first we need to acknowledge what we are grateful for so that we can appreciate it!
Last night at the birth that I attended the statistics were not in the woman's favor for a natural birth. Her first had been a emergency cesarean. Now this baby, the day before, was already estimated at over 9.5 lbs, his head was titled to the side instead of down.
We tuned into an awareness that anything can happen because Hashem is the one running the show. And there was still a chance, no matter how small that she could have a natural delivery.
First we saw Hashem's Hand that while she was waiting for doctor's decisions the head turned down. Then a few hours later contractions started on their own. Each step of the way this woman smiled and said, "I am in 7th heaven! I'm feeling a natural contraction, I'm in the birthing room." She said this while in pain and hooked up to many tubes and monitors. She kept seeing all the good and acknowledged each step of the process for what it was, a miracle. She kept thanking Hashem and those of us who were with her.
And then everything was once again looking dire. The baby's heartbeat kept going down, meconium in her waters. her birth which was progrossing stopped. The doctor's told her that there was no choice and were about to wheel her into the operating room. She kept her composure when I think another would break down.
She acknowledged the doctor's efforts and asked for a few more minutes.
They were empathetic but insistent. There was a bit of back and forth and then a miracle happened and the baby was ready to come out. A 9lb plus baby delivered within a few miraculous minutes. Everyone cried.
Yes, a miracle. Big things and little things that occur with each breath.
Acknowledge one area of your life, one thing where you feel gratitude, where you feel grateful. Acknowledge the people in your life. Create closeness by showing gratitude.
Instead of pointing out what’s not working, what went wrong or what is lacking, redirect the negativity by noticing what worked, what did go right and what there is.
When I become aware of the constant kindness and miracles in my life both with regards to Hashem and to those around me, the energy involved from feeling anxious changes directions into a positive energy of gratitude and appreciation. It gives me hope. I have what to hold onto. It creates connection.
Acknowledge one area of your life, one thing where you feel gratitude, where you feel grateful. It steers the energy involved from feeling anxious to a positive energy of gratitude.
Acceptance. Such a hard one! To accept that I have no control. To make Hashem's will our will. This one is too hard. It is. So we take a step back and ask Hashem to help us.
Hashem, help me that I should be able to make YOUR will my will.
Help me to just let go.
To go with what there is, who that person is, what the situation is. To accept and move on.
With acceptance comes relief. It's a total letting go of control. It's accepting that there are things beyond my responsibilities or capabilities of doing anything about and those things I just need to let go and leave alone.
Anything else that is within my responsibility and domain to do something about I have to put in the effort. I take ACTION reminding myself that action is effort. Our effort in itself equates success. The outcomes, in Hashem's hands.
It is so humbling- the process of trying to bring a life into this world. With all the advancements in medicine and with all the latest technology we still return to the same conclusion which is we know so little and lack control.
I will never know why one treatment works for one couple and why one doesn’t. When it comes to conception, a healthy pregnancy, and birth there are simply no formulas, no givens. And so when a woman comes to me and asks me for guidance, direction- we try to educate and give over information. We offer advice and yes, we do look for answers, but in the end, I always tell women on their journey from conception to birth that really, really we have no control. What will work for one, won’t for another and ultimately, I don’t know why except for the simple answer that especially in this matter, we lack control.
So how should a couple approach fertility? When to go to a doctor and seek medical advice and when to run from it! What modalities work and which ones should they stay far away from?
When a couple is facing the challenge of infertility, miscarriage, a high-risk pregnancy, the answers on google are way too contradictory and confusing. What should one do?
My first suggestion, the hardest, but still doable.
Relinquish control and take a step back in the quest to find all the answers. There are just some things that will never be revealed and some questions that don’t have answers. There is no magic diet or method, no magic procedure. It’s a bit of trial and error, there is no “right or wrong” and ultimately one must trust their instincts. If something is just taking too much out of you, ruining your relationship, your health, your financial situation, then you are probably not going in the right direction. How can the body be fertile when consuming so much energy fighting stress?
Take a step back and see how to make things work more smoothly or leave them alone.
And most importantly, when a woman comes to me for a consultation or visit at my clinic, I tell her that our goal is for her to feel healthy and strong. She, herself, counts and is a person. She has to feel good about herself and take care of herself, because if not, how is it worth it?
We look at her as a whole person, not just a baby-making factory. If she and her partner are eating balanced, taking care of themselves emotionally, physically, mentally, then at least they know that what they are doing is something positive and in the right direction. Again, no one can make anyone promises as to what efforts will produce the desired results and which ones won't. Do trust your intuition and know that you deserve to take care of yourself, for yourself, not just for the fertility journey.
What is sleep? What's the purpose of it?
I look at the word sleep (in Hebrew ) sheina שינה and I see that it's very similar to the word for change (in Hebrew) shinui שינוי.
When we sleep we give our bodies and our minds the opportunity to "stock-up", to become rejuvenated and re-energized for a new day. Our neshama (soul) actually goes back to HaKadosh Baruchu, it gets an infusion before coming back to us upon awakening.
Sleep allows the path to change.
When I have a hard day I go to sleep, and I tell myself that this sleep will bring me to a new day, a new beginning. Yes, sleep is a tool that can actually bring me to change.
What if I don't get any sleep?
It's a problem. I don't give myself a fundamental ingredient in the process of growth. Really, sleep has to be on the list of top priority.
What if all I want to do is sleep? I'm feeling low, unmotivated, down? I don't want to face a certain reality.
It too is problem, I hold myself back from going forward. The purpose of sleep is so that we can wake up with strength to serve Hashem and trust that He can give me what I need to fulfill my potential for today.
In both these circumstances I don't give myself what I need to make change happen or to get it started.
Before I sleep at night I pray that whatever sleep I get-and we all know that at different stages of life the amount is and isn't in our control-should be exactly what my mind and body needs to restock for the next day. I pray that the sleep should be a catalyst for change, the pathway to a new beginning, a new day.
So what is sleep?
It's a fundamental tool. It's vital for my mental, emotional, physical and yes, spiritual well-being.
Sleep allows the pathway to change.
Hashem came to us in the Sinai Desert (Midbar Sinai) in this week's parsha, Bamidbar, and told Moshe to "count us"- We were counted individually and counted according to our families.
In the desert there is nothing. No city. No big markets or stores. No buildings. It's desolate, apparently bare.
And in that is where Hashem counted us.
It was before entering into the Land of Israel, before Zebulun became a great tribe of merchants or before Asher produced rich oil. This was before Gad, Dan-were mighty warriors. Before we conquered the land. No one was yet a scholar or a great agricultural producer. And there in the desert, without working or settling, there Hashem counted us.
There He told us, "You are dear to me, I love you. YOU count, just for being you. Just for the fact that are part of this nation, part of a family. Just for you, not what you do.