I’ve never had a good memory, but once in a while I hear a song, or a smell crosses my path and it triggers vivid memories. Hearing ‘California love’ can actually put me in the passenger seat next to my big sister Chana, driving with the windows down and the music blaring. The smell of roses instantly reminds me of my grandmother Dorothy, it was her signature in my mind. When the wind is so strong that it whistles, it takes me back in time to when I’d lay in bed as a child letting the Santa Ana winds lull me to sleep with the view of my little sister Nechama by my side. That said, there are some memories that I’d rather forget, some that I could never imagine happening to me in my privileged life. But they did. If it wasn’t for the amazing community of Pardes Hanna, and my loving family… I don’t know if I would have survived.
I’ve avoided writing this part because truthfully it’s very hard for me to rehash. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I recognize the many lessons learned; positive things that have come from my experiences in the last year. Even so, I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy. I guess what I’m saying is – if I can help even one woman, so she knows that she is not alone, that she can recover, and that she will find herself again, well then; my purpose will be fulfilled in this regard.
So I continue.
‘P’ is for PPD
I sat on the curb out of breath and dizzy. My kids sat next to me calmly holding Ally and Mateo. Thoughts raced through my brain…”the babies are due to eat…I can’t go to the hospital, who’s gonna stay with the kids??..Ally doesn’t take a bottle, she’ll starve…what if I pass out in front of them?…omg…where is the ambulance??”. A motorcycle approached our building and pulled over, the kind man removed his helmet and explained he was a volunteer paramedic and that he heard the call. He wanted to take my vitals while we waited for the ambulance, and I welcomed the help. I felt so weak, but the hardest part was wondering what my kids would do alone while I was rushed to the hospital. As if God heard my fear, my dear friend Devra happened to be driving by as the ambulance pulled up. ‘Ruth, what’s going on??!’. Before I could actually explain what was going on she parked her car, jumped out and demanded I go to the hospital and not to worry. ‘I got this, they’ll be fine, don’t worry babe’. She scurried my babies into the building and I knew they’d be okay. I knew she’d step in and comfort them.
I knew I was sick, I knew I needed help but I had no clue how hard this wave was about to hit me. I was back at the same hospital where the twins were born. The nurses and doctors buzzed around me, taking blood, EKG, urine samples – the works. Every time someone would come, they would repeat the same questions. ‘How old are you? What are your symptoms? When did they start? Do you have children? How many? Major surgeries in the past?’. All very standard questions, and with every answer I gave I received very standard responses. That is until I told them I have six children, of which the last are twins and they are about four months old. ‘Hahaha! No wonder she is in the hospital!! She needs a break! Hahaha! She came to get a vacation!’. Aaaaahhhhhh, no. Not my style vacation but it seemed to be the running joke so I just smiled and shrugged.
After endless tests, and my family and community pitching in to care for my kids the doctors notified me that it was an unexplained virus. It would seem that between the sleep deprivation, nursing the twins, and caring for the kids and home, this wicked samurai of a virus knocked me out. I’d finally pushed myself enough that my body was like ‘you need a time out’ and the hospital was my naughty chair. The three days I spent in the hospital I had fever, chills, loss of appetite, weakness, extreme dizziness and more. By the third day I realized that the hospital could do nothing for me. I was better off at home, with my husband, mother and children by my side. So I signed out against docs orders and went home.
I walked into my house feeling completely defeated but my loving family embraced me and I knew it was the right decision. The first thing my mom said was ‘Ruti, get in the shower – get all your clothes from the hospital and throw then in the hamper’. So I listened – my mother had taken over my role and was managing everything. Thank God. The only thing I could do was follow her instructions. I was five again and I had to listen to my ‘Mommy’. And that was exactly what I needed. As I walked in the shower I caught a glimpse of myself… I had lost such an absurd amount of weight, it made me wonder when the last time I had eaten properly. I stood in the shower and washed off the hospital cooties. I felt so sad that the strong, young body I trusted had failed me. I wondered how long it would take for me to regain my strength. On the ninth day of the virus I finally woke up feeling a little bit better and my fever was tapering off. By day ten I was finally fever free. Ian had taken off so many days of work while I was in the hospital that it was time for him to get back. Considering he was the sole provider at the time it was super important that he get back to not put his job in jeopardy. So after a restful, fever free weekend he headed back to work early Sunday morning. I was very scared to be alone but I sent him off with a hug and swore I’d take it easy. The morning was hectic as usual, we got the kids off to school and then there was silence. I tried to distract myself by putting on a show but I couldn’t concentrate. I tried tidying a bit but I was still too weak. No matter what I did I felt a sense of doom that was so intense that I found myself with both babies sitting on the couch, terrified. I could barely move, in fact I was almost frozen. I stayed there robotically taking care of them as if the couch was a safe zone after a tornado. At 1:40 pm the girls came home from school and I prayed that them being home would put me at ease as it has in the past. But this time, when they spoke to me, I actually couldn’t understand what they were saying. They may as well have been speaking Klingon. I couldn’t gather my thoughts enough to feed them lunch, something I’ve done everyday for 12 years. I was paralyzed with fear. I called Ian at some point during the afternoon and told him he had to come home. That I wasn’t able to care for the kids, that I felt confused and scared. He told me that he was on his way and I waited for him to rescue me.
When Ian arrived home, he sat beside me on the couch while the usual chaos happened around us, I put my head on his shoulder and cried. I needed help. I went outside with him and told him to call my father who happens to be a psychiatrist, ‘Dad, I need help, I don’t feel well… I can’t think clearly, somethings wrong.. Im panicking’. He told me to take a half a Valium and get some rest. We’d be seeing him in a couple of days for Rosh Hashanah. The Valium calmed me enough to fall asleep.
The next morning when I walked into the bathroom and stared in the mirror, there was this woman staring back at me. She looked tired, realllllyy tired. Her expression was so sad and empty. She must have been suffering… I can’t imagine why she looked so broken. Something terrible must have happened. I knew deep down that the woman was me but I wasn’t sure how I became her. I was okay and whole, this person couldn’t actually be me, could it? I washed my face and hands instinctively and crawled back into bed. My skin crawled. All I could do was curl up in a ball. ‘Close your ears, close your mind, sleep, just sleep, it’s not real, just sleep’. I drifted back to sleep.
To be continued –
‘Q’ is for Quiet…