Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don't Ask Don't Tell

I have a policy and I will explain it here, although it won't help me when it comes to all the people who don't read my blog, at which point I will have to explain this policy all over again. I am sure some people reading this, at the end, will still feel like, Why is this concept such a big deal. And by having this policy, doesn't it generate more unwanted conversation then you might have if you didn't have this "stupid" policy in the first place.

First of all, what is not a big deal to you, may still be a big deal to someone else and secondly, my policy may just make someone consider some new ideas and sensitivities, he/she has never considered before.

So now that I have left you confused, because I have yet to mention what it is I am referring to, you will have to wait a moment longer. I first need to explain, that I am not one for being chatty about pregnancy, and considered not mentioning that I was pregnant at all on this blog. However, I also feel it is a blessing and it certainly has a profound effect on what is taking place in my day to day life and my family's life. So I knew that it would come up from time to time in my blog, as it relates to whatever it is I am blogging about at the moment. And it would also be weird to only share the news of a birth (G-d willing) after blogging for months and failing to mention any aspect of a pregnancy.

So what is the policy? I have a don't ask, don't tell policy when it comes to pregnancy. I don't ask people if they are pregnant when I suspect they are. The truth will come out in 9 months give or take. I don't initiate conversation about someone else's pregnancy, however, if they approach the subject, I will gladly converse about this wonderful blessing. I certainly don't ask someone what their due date is, and this is the information that I do not share as well.

When someone asks me straight out if I am pregnant,( be damn sure that I am before you ask) I am so tempted to say, no it must be the keg of beer I had last night, or I was just diagnosed with "Hypergut Syndrome" because I gained 10 pounds overnight and all in my mid-section. But, that would be as rude as the question. There is always someone we know who gets to that point in pregnancy where we wonder from afar, could they be... or did they gain some weight, but at some point, it becomes clearly obvious and there is no need to ask. That is when I see some polite people constantly glancing downward while we are in middle of having some mundane conversation about chocolate chip cookies, crispy vs. chewy. And to relieve them of their curiosity, I will at that point throw the conversation by saying something like, "I can bake chocolate chip cookies all day, but my aversion to raw chicken and meat is back". That would be the opening they are looking for to say, "Oh, I thought so, congratulations, blah, blah, blah. But the other people who don't wait for the opening and come and put their hand on my belly, uninvited and say, "Good for you",( what does that mean anyway), this is a no - no.

Why do I have this "dumb" policy? Yes, even I think it is a dumb policy, but for me personally, it is a requisite for being a sensitive, compassionate, considerate person.

First, there are the quasi-reasons for this policy, which really take care of my intolerance of the annoying conversation that follows the first and ultimate question of, "when are you due"? If I answer that question, it is usually followed by comments such as
Oh you carry so big, are you sure it's not twins

Oh you carry so small, are you eating ok, have you had profuse vomiting

Oh you are due the same time my dog Fifi will be having her litter...

And then of course, when your due date rolls around, all those who were privy to the information are on your tail. The phone calls begin -
Just checking if you were still around

Can't believe this thing hasn't fallen out of you

My mom would eat pastrami sandwiches and do squats to get the labor going, you should try that...

I am not embarrassed by pregnancy, don't laugh, a friend of mine is too mortified to go out in public when she is pregnant. Gone are the days of the sack dresses, women are showing off their bellies (ok, sometimes a bit too much). We are all adults, we all know what it took to get this way. I have no problem sharing pertinent information if it can be helpful to you. I will share info about my Doctor if you are looking for one. I will have conversation with you about things you can do to curb the morning sickness, or share with you some great exercises to control back pain. But, I will not have too much general chatty conversation about pregnancy, especially if there are many other women within earshot, and here is why.

I know too much. When it comes to everything that can prevent pregnancy from happening in the first place, all that can go wrong in a pregnancy and what women go through when they deliver a child who will either have challenges in life, or G-d forbid, not make it altogether, I am chock full of too much information. This is in part because I am a nurse, and even more so, because I am a nurse who worked in the areas of mother/baby, labor and delivery and Neonatal Intensive Care Units. But, furthermore, this is due to my personal knowledge (read into that what you may, I will not go further at this point) as well as what women close to me have experienced and my general hypervigillance and sensitivity to people who suffer many different plights in life. And I am sensitive to the fact, that some of these women are standing five feet from me when I am having my happy conversation, whether I know they are THAT woman or not.

You think everyone is sensitive? Wrong, thank G-d we have reason to be desensitised. Many women have no idea how fortunate they are to get pregnant exactly when they want to. The timing has to be just right. The environment has to be just right. Do you know how far sperm need to swim? Even if an egg is fertilized, it has to split properly, it has to implant, it has to have the correct amount of chromosomes and healthy genetics. Many of you reading this will say, "I am knowledgeable in the basics of biology", and you may be. But trust me, many women have NO idea, everything that exists that could possibly prevent pregnancy, and challenge the maintaining of a pregnancy. And of course, there are many undesirable outcomes to a pregnancy. I don't take for granted for one second the blessings I have been given, my children. But there are women who forget, and they may belong to social circles, that, thank G-d, don't give them a reason to think differently. If you believe in a Creator, then you know just how "creative" He can be when it comes to the challenges women experience when attempting to grow a family.

I once went down to a c-section birth for a mom who knew she was delivering a baby who was not developing properly. I don't even remember the name of the syndrome or disease this new born had, because it was so rare. Nurses and doctors from other units in the hospital came to see the baby, because they would probably never see this again. It was "Hydro" something, the baby was filled with fluid. There is no other way to say this, but the baby looked like a water balloon. The skin was so stretched with fluid, it was transparent and the abundance of fluid was causing the skin to separate at the joints of the baby. This child did not look human, and yet he/she was. And this baby was someone's child. They could not resuscitate the baby due to the enormous amount of swelling and the mother asked to see her child. I watched her hold the wrapped baby in her arms, while she was still on the table having her c-section stitched, and she wept. I will never ever forget this site. That was not a rare condition to ogle over, it was her child, her flesh and blood, and it was gone to her.

My sister - in - law (husband's brother's wife) was happily pregnant with her second child. She lives in Israel and belongs to a social circle of women who do not get early ultrasounds because they rather not know of any problems, since they would never abort anyway. She had an ultrasound in her 7th month and discovered then, that her baby had anencephaly, the most severe of the neural tube defects. It means there is no real brain developing and this baby has 0 % chance of survival. The baby may have a few hours to a couple of days, and that is all. They sought multiple opinions from Doctors and then referred to many Rabbis for help with decisions. All the Rabbis were in agreement, that due to the incessant testing and accepted diagnoses of anencephaly, she was permitted to have an abortion, even that late in the pregnancy. She did not. She chose, knowing her baby would never survive, to continue with her pregnancy. I can not imagine the pain she was experiencing, quietly, while unsuspecting friends and relatives would make the usual comments. Oh, we are so happy for you, the day is approaching, we can't wait, do you know what you are having... All the while, she knew the true fate, and kept a smile on her face. The baby did not live more than two days, and they decided to anonymously donate the baby's organs.

I was once at my OB office when I was pregnant with Ate. The office is on the smaller side and the phone bank is right outside the examining rooms. I was in a room waiting for the Doctor, when I happened to overhear a conversation she was having on the phone. I was not trying to listen, but in this office, it can not be helped. I overheard her refer to a friend of mine who was also pregnant and scheduling a c-section for this friend. She then must have answered a question that came from the other end about why the c-section was being scheduled. "Baby has a heart defect," was her answer.

I could not believe it. This was a good friend of mine. And all this time she was going through this ordeal silently. I did not know if I should let her know that I knew or stay silent. I stayed silent, if she wanted me to know, she would have told me. Years and many surgeries later, her son is doing well, thank G-d. I did tell her after the fact, that I had known and I did not know what to do. She assured me, that I would not have been able to do anything for her anyway. It was a "wait and see" game for them, and they were only "preparing" for possibilities.

I could go on with many stories, unfortunately, but the point has been made. While I seriously do appreciate someone asking me how I am feeling, and the general, "congratulations", "B'shaa Tova", and "feel good", I personally can not bring myself to become so engrossed in the topic of pregnancy, that I let my guard down and forget those who might be silently suffering. I can not get so chatty about this wonderful blessing that I forget the woman who is carrying a sick child, or the woman who just suffered a miscarriage, or the one who just gave birth and came home empty handed, or the woman who is desperately trying to get pregnant in the first place. I am reminded of how blessed I am, everytime someone asks when I am due, and I consciously reply, "I just don't share that information". If nothing else, it is just a reminder to myself to never forget that someone next to me, or someone across the Ocean is or has not yet been blessed the same way. And I don't want to ever lose my compassion for them.

3 have shown Orah a little love:

Brie said...

Maybe it's my post partum hormones or maybe it's the fact that its 3 am and I am sitting here nursing. This post was so touching and well done. Thank you for reminding me of the all the brachot I have. Beautiful and inspiring. Thank you.

Shira said...

This post was awesome. As a nurse in high risk OB, and as a pregnant woman too, I can really relate. All of it is so true.

Orah said...

Thank you Brie and Shira for taking the time to comment. Shira, B'shaa Tova to you and it should all be easy and healthy and with Mazal.