Wednesday, November 4, 2020

I'm back, and I'm a grandma

One thing this world can count on is that changes will happen. Nothing stays the same for too long!

The biggest change I have just experienced is that Dov and Achinoam ("DnA") had a baby, and made us grandparents! Not only that, but I was present at the birth. What an experience.

Dov called me Saturday night directly after Shabbat to tell me they were already in the hospital with good strong contractions. So I hung up the phone, got a bag together, took my doula "bag of tricks", and started heading up to T'veria (Tiberius) to meet them at the hospital. It's a three hour trip for me, so I knew I wouldn't get there before 9pm or so. I got there at 9:15pm.

The contractions had been coming since the night before, so when I got there, 24 hours after she had already been having contractions, she was very tired and getting discouraged. But she was strong and the baby (from the monitor) was doing well, thank Gd. Achinoam's mother was there, too, and because of Corona the midwives wanted one of us out of the room, only two people accompanying the laboring woman. Since one of them was obviously Dov, the mothers had to sort of take turns being in the room. They didn't want us to switch off; they wanted it so that they are exposed to as few people as possible. I knew that Achinoam wanted her mother there really more than me, so I kept back a lot. I waited in the hallway, or in my car, a lot. I wanted to give her the space and privacy she wanted. I was in there for a few hours here and there, I did some massaging, and reflexology, but much of the time I was supporting by just being there, even from behind a wall. It was a learning experience for me.

The baby is a beautiful girl. She seems to have Achinoam's black curly hair and Dov's big puppy dog eyes. I'm completely in love. I can't wait to see them again! I think we are going up on Thursday when they name her.

I think I haven't updated about my newest undertaking, which I've been doing for about a month now... I joined a college called "michlelet laledet"; birthing college. I decided that I wanted to renew my doula license, to get certified for childbirth education, and learn more about supporting breastfeeding moms. I signed up for a course. It was a big step for me, to finally make a decision that will move me forward, but I realized that I can't do anything with my birthing knowledge and career until I recertify, and get certification for teaching pre-natal classes. You see, I gave my pre-natal classes many, many times in the past. But 13 years ago when I was actively working (before NF got me, and even afterward for a while), the national health insurance wasn't giving any cash back for private birth prep classes or doula care. Now they are. Things have changed, couples can get a refund for private birthing care now. So, I really need certification if I am going to be able to provide couples with the care they need and have them be able to get their money back from the national health insurance. So, actually Robert found this college on-line, and even called up the founder of the program to see if it's right for me. It was, and is. I've had three classes already. It's on Mondays, and will go on for about a year. At the end I'll get all my certifications I am looking for. Then I can get back into business! One step at a time, gradually, I am coming back. 

That reconstruction surgery I had last summer at New York University in Manhattan was a miracle for me. I am not in any abdominal pain except twinges every now and then. And my scars, well they aren't skin grafts anymore! They are large, but just scars. And out of all of the scarring, only one inch of it (one inch!!) keeps getting rashes and itchy. It's the same place that there used to be rashes on the skin grafts. Interesting, there must be something active under it that is making it get a rash on it a lot. I just treat it topically and go on my way. Compared to what it used to be, this is small potatoes!

And my hip is getting much better. It still hurts with certain movements or overuse, but it is getting better. When I go out for a long walk it is actually the *other* hip that winds up hurting me, not the one I had replaced five months ago. I am not going there. I know that one has to be replaced also, I just can't handle another setback and all that pain again. I will put it off for as long as I can.

I am still doing the silversmith training, and very much enjoying it. I made a silver engagement ring with a cubic zarconia over the last few weeks, and now I am working on making a case for a mezuzah (the tiny scroll that Jews put up in their doorways) out of brass and silver. It is a very nice work environment, it's theraputic for me. It is very much like ongoing occupational therapy, just very focused on one skill- silver (and gold and all other metals) smith-ing. Here are pictures of the ring I just made:

And here are pictures of the new baby! Be still, my heart. She is gorgeous, the photos don't do her justice. These were taken about fifteen minutes after birth. She was born 3.3 kilo (about 7 pounds).

Princess just chilling on daddy's chest
When the midwife handed Dov his baby,
he opened his shirt
so she could rest her face on his bare chest
 and feel comforted.


I don't know when I'll write again, it is very sporadic at this point as you've noticed. My needs are very different now, and keeping the blog is becoming less and less necessary for me. Thank Gd my medical dramas and traumas have *vastly* decreased, and as you can read here I am getting some new goals and directions in my post-NF life. It took 13 years of not working, and lots of blood, sweat, and tears, lots of surgeries and pain (so. much. pain.) to get through the aftermath of NF, but I think I can finally say I have turned a big corner in my recovery. Sarah is coming back. Different than before, and not playing horn (at least not now), but delving into the birthing work. This, I can do.

I will bid you farewell for now. No promises on when the next blog will come out. I'm playing it all by ear. 😉

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The stairs and the anguish

 We just had a really hard conversation. We've had this particular conversation before, but not in a while. It's about our house, and it's about my health. Our house is, in my opinion, beautiful. It's large- 10 and a half rooms. It's on four levels, lots of stairs. In the passed 13 years, after numerous surgeries, I have gone on the stairs on my tush (after four hip surgeries), with crutches, a folded-up walker, a cane, and sometimes, in tears. Our bedroom is at the very top of the house- we finished off the attic when we bought the house, and it is a beautiful parent's suite complete with skylights, a large walk-in closet and luxurious bathroom. I really do love this house, but the stairs... my hip is still hurting me and at some point I'll need the second hip done (not any time soon!!), and I'm having some serious problems with my knee mainly on stairs or when I am working out. For years, since I had the ongoing abdominal pain, I have been saying to Robert that we need a one-level house. He is not on the same page as me, but he's also not in pain. He believes in fixing my body so it won't hurt instead of moving house. I half-agree with fixing my body, but I don't believe that I will be out of pain. True, the abdominal surgery I had last summer in New York worked to alleviate that intense pain, and I am grateful for that. In the middle of it I thought it'd be forever.

One main thing is that I am four months after hip replacement surgery, my hip still hurts, and my knee hurts....I've been through SO MUCH health-wise, I can't deal with the idea of another surgery. Robert thinks that if the orthopedist says I need knee surgery (I'll see the orthopedist in a few weeks with my MRI) then I'll just do that and all will be fine, I'll be out of pain. I know this is not necessarily so, especially with knees. I'll reiterate- I can't deal with another surgery. I just can't. I don't know if I'll go do a knee surgery if the orthopedist says he can do some procedure and the pain will go away. Nobody can promise the pain will go away. It's not for certain I'd go do another surgery. I'm really traumatized by having been through so much, I just can't do it anymore. I've had like 13 surgeries or something- I lost count (only three were life saving surgeries, and one had an induced coma afterward). Some time I'll list them in a blog in chronological order. The point is that this hip replacement surgery was kind of the straw that broke this camel's back. No. More. Surgery. (unless it's life threatening G-d forbid). I am doing all sorts of things to prevent having to do more surgery, but it's not helping my knee problem (which I'm not even sure what the problem is yet). I go to the gym three times a week (once I work out with a personal trainer, once by myself, and once in the pool), each time I do 10 kilometres on the stationary bike with resistance. I also take vitamins and a healthy joint supplement, and I eat healthily. I'm doing what I can.

We started talking about moving cities, if we're already going to look for another house. We love it here in Be'er Sheva, and we love our house, so it's a hard conversation to have. My oldest son and his wife are living up north, about a three hour drive from here, we could move closer to them, but who knows if they will stay there or not. Anyway, I'll see the orthopedist in a few weeks and take it from there. We could maybe install an elevator in our house, or a stair-chair thing. I don't really want to do that, but it's an option.

Meanwhile I am going three to four mornings a week to silversmith training, and I just finished my first thing that will be sold in the center where I work- a silver ring decorated with silver twisted rope (which I also made). I am proud of all the things I make, it is so much work, you'd be surprised. I like it though- especially soldering. Hand me a blow torch any day!

That's it for now. Well, there's more, but I'm not at liberty to discuss it-- issues with one of my kids. I'm very worried about this child. Hashem give us clarity and strength! 

Azriel is starting to dorm next week (9th grade), that will be interesting. Never a dull moment around here. Well, increasingly there are dull moments, but that's OK too. He'll be home Wed nights, and learn on Zoom Thursdays. No school Fridays for him anymore. (But the first day of our work/school week here in Israel is Sunday).

Signing off for now. I can't believe Rosh Hashana is around the corner. I'm not ready. But I'll get ready!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Time to just be

I have been trying to start this blog post for some time now. I've been looking for a way to say something really hard for me.

First of all I'll start off by saying that the hip replacement surgery/recovery is going pretty well. I still have pain, but it is less and less every week. I stopped physical therapy, it was not right for me- it hurt me too much and the physical therapist wasn't listening to me. My doctor said I didn't need it anyway, it was my idea to do some physical therapy. If I can be consistent in going to the gym that will be enough. Thing is, I haven't been consistent about going to the gym. Truth is I've been practically inactive. I'm fed up with my leg hurting, although I know I need to work on it, but it keeps me feeling like I just don't want to bother anymore with getting in shape and staying healthy. I don't know if it's because of Corona that I am feeling so non-mobile, tired all the time and slightly depressed. I should get my blood tested, often after surgeries I'm anemic, that could be influencing me.

I am back to my Jewelry making course/job. It's a course and a job. My training is almost finished then I start to work on things that the center will sell. I recently finished a set of a pendant and earrings; it was very challenging! I made it from scratch, with sterling silver this time. Here's a picture:

All kinds of soldering and filing and soldering again. And all the solders have to be a different melting point because there is a risk of loosening other earlier solders while doing more than one solder. This was a hard project, but I did it! I had a couple of mistakes along the way, but my teacher helped fix them. I'm kinda proud of my creation. :)

I don't know how long I'll be in this job, I see it as temporary, but it could be longer term. It's up to me. At this point it's only three days a week, mornings until 12:30. That's OK though, I don't want to work full-time. This body has been through so much, I need to rest more than other people, I think. It leaves plenty of time for me to go to the gym, though, I just have to *get* there.

The hard thing I've been avoiding writing about is this....

I've decided to quit playing horn.

It's been one of the hardest decisions of my life; I always go back to horn playing no matter how long the break. I did quit once before for two years after I finished undergraduate school. I needed a break from the pressure of being a scholarship student and needing to play for a jury once every three months to keep my scholarship. Lots of pressure there. I started again though after two years, and was quite successful. Then I went to New England Conservatory for graduate school. From there with my fresh master's degree in hand, I made aliyah to Israel and got an orchestra job here within the first two weeks of being in the country. I only left the orchestra to concentrate more on my doula practice, which was booming at the time. Two weeks after I tendered my resignation, I got sick with NF after a hernia surgery. I had to stop all work eventually, and totally stopped playing horn *and* my doula work because of my health problems. I started and stopped a few times within these 13 years that I've been dealing with health problems. I joined a volunteer orchestra, and that was good for me for a while. But honestly it's not enough to keep me going. 

Last summer I had my big abdominal surgery and things have never been 100% right since. I mean, in the big picture there has been tremendous improvement in quality of life; my abdominal pain I had day-in-day-out is gone, but I still have some abdominal pain when I play, and that's not going away, I've felt it for a year now. I have resigned myself to that fact that it's not going away.

I was playing consistently through the Corona lock-down and everything, and then I stopped playing the day before my hip replacement surgery two and a half months ago. I have been just avoiding starting up again. I've been doing a lot of soul-searching about this, and I realized that for a long time now I haven't enjoyed practicing at all. It is a burden to me, and I watch the clock when I do practice. I've decided not to start up again. It is just so hard for me with no real goals to play for. It feels like a marriage that is breaking up, not because the two parties don't like each other, but there is no love. It's friendship on the good days, but loveless. I have decided not to do the things that don't give me joy. Thing is it leaves a big hole for something else to come up. I did the two week bituach le'umi (national health insurance) professional evaluation, and on Sunday I have a meeting to see what their suggestions are for what direction a possible new career can take. I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I have a lot of free time on my hands, and I rest a lot. Life is certainly different than how it used to be. Before I got sick, I would have never guessed that I'd be 52 with no career and not much work. It's very strange, and can be disorienting.

But stopping playing horn is the big news. I'm sad about it, and relieved at the same time. Sad just like someone going through an amicable divorce. Me and my horn have been together since I was 10. It got me places, got me many things. I was respected at the job, and I felt self respect also. In a way I wish I never left the orchestra. But getting sick I might not have been able to play anyway. In fact I know I wouldn't have been able to. Many years I dealt with health issues and one surgery after another after I had NF. 

So here I am, open to possibilities, but at the moment satisfied to have a lot of time to rest and just Be. Sometimes I feel a little unhinged by it all, though.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The six week mark

Six weeks is a marking point for post surgery. It's supposed to be markedly improved at this point. I think I've made good progress, actually. I am driving again finally, and it doesn't hurt to drive. I drove the kids and I to the beach last Friday, it was awesome! I went into the Mediterranean and jumped the waves with my kids. The ocean really threw us around a lot, it was hard on my hip, but I did it. I didn't go in a second time, though, after that.

The huge bummer is this: an unexpected complication.... my rebound headaches are back. That's when I take OTC medications too often (more than twice a week, not two days in a row), and it creates headaches after dependency is established. I've been on over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicines every day for the passed 6 weeks- today was the first day I didn't take pain medicine (for my hip). I didn't take it- not because the pain is so much better- but because I spoke with my neurologist yesterday and I told him the frequency of my headaches and that I've been taking lots of OTC meds, and he told me it's rebound headaches. I hadn't realized that before we spoke. I just didn't connect the hip pain medicine with headache medicine. So I have to withdraw now, get off all pain meds. Joy. I had a nasty headache yesterday, and have one today as well, a little less severe, but it tends to get worse with the time of the day. It starts in the afternoon and gets stronger into the night. And I can't take ANYTHING for it. It really stinks. Last time I went through a withdrawal for my OTC medicines I had to be hospitalized the migraines were so bad. Last night I found myself wishing I could get an IV "cocktail" for the headache, but no way am I going to the hospital unless I am absolutely suffering awfully. I waited it out, somehow got to sleep, and woke up without it. But over the course of the day the headache has been creeping up on me. I would normally take Tylenol + Excedrin for this level of headache, but I can't now, it'll just make things drag on and be worse tomorrow (and won't help much if at all. The pain meds I was taking for the hip pain stopped being effective also). My body just rejects, or renders ineffective many medications. I have so many allergies (like anaphylactic shock allergies) and now I am reminded of the rebound headache problem. If I hadn't spoken to my neurologist yesterday (on the phone) I wouldn't have realized that I was setting myself up for this issue. Damn. It's going to be up to a week of this withdrawal from pain meds. I've done it a few times before, indeed I've done much harder withdrawals too (Methadone, Fentanyl after five years on it...), but it really stinks. I have a headache right now from it, and will have one tomorrow, too.

I had called my neurologist because I need my Cannabis licence renewed, and he is the one in charge of that. He needed a recent appointment to show that he is still my doctor, etc. So we did it by phone. He asked me how many headaches I have a month, how much OTC medications am I taking, and that's how this all came to light. Also, one of the pain medicines I was taking for my hip pain has caffeine in it, and that is also very bad for my brain dependency/headache issues. I'm bummed out about this development. I know it will pass though. It's just hard waiting for it to pass.

In other news, I am still emotionally struggling with the age-old question "who am I"? I never had this question before I had NF. I was too busy for that question. Now, I'm not at all busy, although I do plan to go back to the jewelry making job soon, possibly next week. I spoke to the manager today about it. And I haven't played horn yet for six weeks since my surgery. I haven't been up to it yet. I honestly don't even know how I feel about it, I am not chomping at the bit to go play again, I don't have much motivation to do that...or anything really these days. I think surgeries take a lot out of me, because I've been through so damn much these past 13 years. It takes so much time to get myself back. So much, and I'm weary from it all.
You know what? My head hurts too much to keep writing and looking at the screen. I'll end this here. I think I can see why I'm not working these days....

Monday, June 1, 2020

Post-op one month

Hip replacement recovery is going pretty well. I am still having pain, and taking medicines against the pain, but it is improving. I can do stairs much easier now, too, and I just started to walk around without the cane. What is the reward for improvement? Harder physical therapy.... my physical therapist worked me much harder and longer today, and I'm so sore.

I am back to making dinners though when I can. I can stand and cook for a half hour or so, and having cooked meals around is very important with three kids home. They are constantly hungry.

I am getting better, and it's time to revisit what am I going to do for the rest of my life. I wish I still had my careers, but the truth is I just don't. I can't live for who I used to be, I have to focus my eyes forward and go from here. Truthfully I feel like I've just lost all my ambition, all my strive. Nothing interests me anymore, and I feel awful about that. I have spent too many years out of the work force, and I lost my ambition. I have had so many health challenges that it just kept me out of the game.

I plan to go back to finish the two-week evaluation at the national health service (Bituach Leumi), then go back to the Jewelry making job. But that's not for the rest of my life. It can be for a number of years if I want it to be, though. I will get back to practicing horn, but somehow between these last 13 years of not playing professionally I lost my drive. I need a goal to play for something specific. I will re-join the Gedera community orchestra that I was playing in before Corona hit, but that's a few hours once a week, and not on a high level. It is fun, though. I like the people.
I cannot work full time at this point in my life. My body has just been through too much to make that happen. Robert keeps encouraging me to go back to my birthing classes, but like I said, I lost my ambition.

I do plan on doing birthing classes for one very special couple, though, in the coming months... Dov and Achinoam are expecting. :) I'm going to be a grandma, please G-d! That is exciting.

Life is so complicated. On the one hand I still have three kids at home, but they are of the age that I don't have to take care of them all the time. On the other hand, I have lost my careers to health crises, and I can't ever get them back. There are twists and turns to life that can be very upsetting and depressing, but there is also so much goodness. I can't live for who I used to be. I can't work full time anymore, and I have no ambition to get things going for myself. That's where I'm at, and owning it will hopefully help me to move on. Healing more from this hip replacement will also help me move on. Everything at the right time. I look forward to getting back to the schedule of the Jewelry making job in the morning, the gym and practicing in afternoons, making dinners every day and feeling like my life is worthwhile every day. Right now it's challenging to remember that my life is worthwhile. It's challenging.