I was angry at God

Friday, 10 May, 2013 - 10:37 am

I was never 100 percent sure I wanted children. In fact, it wasn’t until trying to get pregnant became difficult that I decided, for certain, that I absolutely – without a doubt – was going to have a baby.

(If you know me, you might be thinking I felt that way because I don’t respond well to being told “no.” J ) You may be right.

 I got pregnant and it was a very difficult eight+months. Constant nausea. Non-stop dizziness. I had trouble sleeping and working. Couldn’t concentrate on anything. I developed an excruciating sciatic pain that kept me in the constant mode of choosing between the two horrendous evils I called “standing” and “sitting.” I was plagued by hypertension that required weekly doctor’s visits and way too many blood tests. At the end, I developed pre-eclamsia and needed to be induced with three weeks left to go. Three days of pitocin strapped to machines in a hospital bed. Nothing. She was comfy exactly where she was. Me, not so much. Finally, I had a C-Section at 12:07 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1998. Funny enough, the first words I heard from a nurse were, “Too late for the tax deduction!” I couldn’t win for losing. But, I had my baby girl.

I had never even planned on taking a maternity leave. I had chosen an infant day care center. But the bad news kept coming. Those first three months confirmed my wildest fears. I didn’t have what it took to handle motherhood. I knew something was wrong.  I couldn’t listen to the doctors. I knew they weren’t hearing what I was saying. Their answers by rote about spitting up and reflux and all the other nonsense tossed out at unsuspecting new moms didn’t fly with me.

 Fast forward through three months of non-stop vomiting, every baby formula on the planet, doctors visits and medicine … and a voice in my head that was growing louder by the day: Something wasn’t just wrong. SOMETHING WAS WRONG. VERY WRONG. It was then she was diagnosed “Failure to Thrive.” She weighed three pounds less at three months than she did at birth. Incidentally, even as I write “Failure to Thrive” I know it means “dying.”

 But I was like a dog with a bone. I wouldn’t give up. That instinct I never knew I had kicked in full force. We went to CHOP. I wouldn’t even except the appointment they gave me two weeks down the road. Once I decided we were going, we were going. After 10 days of testing we found out that she had an incredibly rare allergy. Nothing the most expensive nourishment in the world couldn’t handle. We fought the insurance companies. We prayed. A lot.

 I feel selfish to admit this now, but I mostly prayed for the personal strength to manage this ordeal. It was going to be at least 18 months, maybe more, of tube feeding and machines and nurses and stares from stupid people who were born without brain-to-mouth filters. I was forced to take time off work. Looking back, I know Hashem was with me every step of the way those 18 months because that much time away from work for me?  Well.. you have to really know me to understand.

 I was miserable. My baby was in constant pain. The financial pressure was enormous. I really didn’t think I had the patience to deal with any of it. And that’s when I realized, I didn’t. I didn’t have the patience to deal with this or anything else. Zero patience. I was an “I need it/want it yesterday” kind of woman.

 I spent all those months of pregnancy being mad at the world for being in constant discomfort. I felt my office couldn’t live without me for even three months for a maternity leave, much less more than a year. I was mad at Hashem for all of it.

 And, I’ve lived with that anger for 15 years. Until today.

 Today, I went to Chanie’s second Rosh Chodesh class in the “It’s About Time” series. The class was all about anger, how we deal with triggers and whether we act or react appropriately. We discussed the importance of taking a moment to think instead of reacting to things that might otherwise cause us to explode. We learned that feeling angry can be normal but there are inappropriate responses to it. Most importantly, we learned that every circumstance is a teaching moment. We say that to ourselves when we try to lead by example with our children. I desperately began thinking about how I could learn from anger – because, believe me, I get angry a lot.

 So, I drove home from the Chabad House today (after eating more than my share of Chanie’s freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, by the way – still angry at myself at that!) and was thinking about how I could apply the class to my own life. The entire ordeal I went through 15 years ago came into focus. It was a teaching moment that Hashem had clearly orchestrated. Of course.

 It took me way too long to get the message. But now it’s crystal clear to me.

 I learned patience. I learned to be calm in the face of adversity. I learned that “excruciating” sciatica pales in comparison to the pain one feels when watching her baby covered in tubes being fed by machines. I learned that if I wasn’t so fast to be angry, I would have be open to the possibility of “getting” the lesson learned far sooner. Might the teaching have stopped with the three day labor?  I also learned that, in the grand scheme of things, there is very little to be angry about when you have been blessed by Hashem with not one, but two, amazing children.

 Sure, even with this lesson now clear in my mind, I can’t say I won’t overreact to situations. In fact, as I am writing this, I just yelled at said 15-year-old to get out of my office while I’m “writing.”  LOL  (Yes, most of you know her. But, for those who don’t, that tiny sick baby is now a fantastically beautiful, intelligent, funny, outgoing healthy teenager.)

 But I’m amazed that Chanie’s Rosh Chodesh class is as powerful as it has been for me. After only two classes, I’m seeing myself in a whole new way. In fact, after I wrote this I showed it to a friend a couple of people from the class. They shared with me

 If you have read this and have been moved at all, I encourage you to attend the next class. It may or may not be life-changing. But, I guarantee it will force to you think and likely change your way of thinking and behavior – even if just a little bit.

 I want that for each and every one of you.

 -- Bari Faye Siegel

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