May 17, 2016 apparently was a Tuesday that I’m never meant to forget. For reasons I’ll explain later, I do not actually remember anything from that day, when my twin newborns were 14-days-old. However, what I have learnt from that day is that being an olah chadasha, in a place where your immediate family is not actually at your disposal, isn’t necessarily a curse, as so many people believe. This unfortunately stops them taking the plunge to come and make aliyah.
On May 3, 2016, my two little identical twin boys were born via C-section, after a very hard third trimester, where I could hardly walk and I had to rely on the kindness of neighbours and friends to help me with my daughter and even the week before Pesach my 3-year-old stayed with a friend and went to a Keytana, as I was admitted into hospital for bleeding and feared that the babies may be born in week 34 and so my husband stayed there with me.
We stayed in the hospital until May 8 and then came home to start our lives as a party of five. We were slowly settling in and catching our grove!!!!!!!, when we hit a slight speed bump on the following Motzei Shabbat, when I felt a gush of blood from my uterus. My husband called Maccabi, who said as long as it had stopped and I wasn’t in pain that I had nothing to worry about. One of my friends on the other hand was concerned, as she had experienced this and ended up very sick in hospital.
As I wasn’t in pain and the bleeding didn’t continue after having a shower, I chose to wait until the next morning, to go to the clinic. I had newborn babies to take care of, 12 days post-partum, (May 15, 2017) as I had an appointment there for one of my babies to have his tongue-tie clipped. BM was done first, totally randomly the first baby the doctor picked up and he said to me we could do one baby the next day, as BM would need extra TLC that day, while his clipped tongue healed. After the tongue was clipped, I fed BM for 20 minutes to ensure the bleeding in his mouth had stopped.
Within an hour of this finishing our worlds were literally turned upside down. I went to the Mercaz Briyut HaIsha (Women’s Centre) to ask to be checked, after what had happened to me the night before. The nurse took my blood pressure and suddenly I started to haemorrhage from my uterus and it would not stop. It was lucky that it happened there, but it was like a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with what felt like half my blood leaving my body. I can’t imagine what the ante-natal ladies waiting in the corridor must have felt, when clots of blood were left scattered around the floor. An ambulance was called and took me to hospital and my mum was literally “left holding the babies.” She and a nurse were also left trying to close the buggy, with no success. She had to put it in the rear of the car, unfolded.
I asked my mum to come to hospital, so that I could breastfeed and continue to be with my babies. The ambulance did not take me to the hospital the twins were born in and so I did not have the option to keep the babies with me in the hospital, as they had apparently become “infectious” to newborns. When my mum arrived with the babies, she was told that I was not allowed to breastfeed, because of whatever drugs they had pumped me with. I started to feel engorged and my mum and husband were having to feed the babies only formula rather than my expressed milk, formula and my boobs.
When eventually I was admitted to the gynaecology department many hours later, my family had to leave me and take the babies home to be fed, as my mum and husband had run out of formula and clean bottles, thinking I would be breastfeeding. When they left I was ever so sad and still very engorged. A lactation consultant came and told me that I could have in fact breastfed my babies, as the medication I was given was not harmful to the babies. She then organised for me to have access to a Medela Symphony breast pump for the duration of my stay and gave me all the pumping extensions to start expressing milk that I would need to be able to pump milk, refrigerate and give to my babies via bottles while I was stuck in hospital. I continued to pump every two and a half hours until the next morning when I was was due to have a D and C surgery. At this point I was also given twelve pints of blood, (don’t they work in litres?) as I had lost so much while I bled out, before the clots finally stopped coming (is this necessary?). I was so depressed and low at this point having my angels taken from me and not knowing when I would see them or my princess again. I feared I would miss out on all their firsts, I didn’t want to miss a thing.
At 8:30 on Monday, May 16, 2016, the gynaecologist took me for a scan to ascertain the current situation and said we needed to go immediately to the operating room for the D and C.
I woke up I believe at about 9:45 and demanded my phone. Everyone who knows me knows that my phone is with me most of the time, except Shabbat and Chagim and that if I didn’t have any next of kin with me, which I didn’t, as they were home taking care of two newborn, that I needed to be able to reach them.
They brought me my phone, then I suddenly felt another gush of blood. I remember speaking in Hebrew and then repeating in English, because I wasn’t sure that they understood me, as I may not have been so clear after just waking up, and I saw the colour rush from the gynaecologist’s face, as he could not understand what was going on. Suddenly, I was surrounded by a few anaesthetists and doctors, who were working out what the next action was going to be.
They decided they were taking me back into theatre to try and establish where the bleeding was coming from and how they would stop it. At 10:30, I remember looking at the clock (it was a big white face with 5-minute counters on it, like I remember having at school), and they repeated what the paperwork said. I was meant to sign it to give them the go ahead to give me another operation. At this same point, I hazily remember messaging someone that I was going back in for another operation and had no idea what was the matter or when it would be resolved, but that I had no idea when my mum or husband were due to arrive. Apparently, at this point I had been sending all sorts of ghastly messages to people, but I have no recollection of this, and I plead that the meds were causing this.
At 10:46, (I remember the time, because that was the last time I remember), the anesthetist who was a women for this procedure, rather than the guy from the previous operation, told me she was taking my phone and giving it to my next of kin, outside. At this point I broke down and said there was no one outside for me and they were at home looking after my princes and munchkin. Little did I know that these could have been my last words ever. I showed her my cutie pies pictures and made her promise to return my phone to my mum whenever she would hopefully arrive and then I drifted off to sleep. Apparently that next operation took six hours.
With me not posting my daily dose of my beautiful new babies from May 13, everyone that knows me started to get worried about me.
I remember nothing after drifting off to sleep that Monday morning, until the Thursday morning, which was three days later. I found out later that I had been in Intensive Care for 48 hours, from Tuesday, May 17, 2016 and had suffered from a pulmonary embolism.
My next recollection is 8:30 on Thursday, May 19, watching my father walking through the door to the room, where I lay in a hospital bed, pulling along an aeroplane carry-on suitcase. This was bizarre to me, as I had just, the week before introduced him to his new grandsons and waved him off back to the UK with a promise from him that he would be returning for my boys’ Brit Mila, once they were big enough.
When I came out of whatever had been happening to me for the past three days, I saw all sorts of people talking about me. My mum, dad and a few close friends were advocating for me.
What I then found out was that for the past 48 to 72 hours, the amazing community, of Kaizer and Shimshoni, in Modiin, where I live, had been caring for my newborns and ensuring my family were fed, watered and prayed for. Every three hours throughout the night and day, a different set of two volunteers had gone to my home to look after my boys by feeding them, burping them, changing them, loving them, cuddling them, and helping them fall back to sleep. (An attachment parent’s worst nightmare, but for my babies a total miracle).
I managed to persuade the hospital to discharge me on that Thursday, not really understanding the full extent of what my body or family had gone through. I only think I remember crazy things the psychologist talked about me, when I was not lucid, but cannot be sure.
I went home and my mum kept trying to tell me about these amazing neighbours, friends and people in the community, who had cared for our family, while I was gone, and how nursing mothers, some of whom were total strangers had been so kind as to donate milk for my babies and others had offered to nurse them. A close friend, I found out later, wouldn’t allow this as they feared I wasn’t going to pull through, and they wouldn’t be able to track it for Tipat Chalav (Health visitor). The amazing love and support these women wanted to and did provide for my family was amazingly appreciated and nothing I do, I believe, will ever live up to this wonder.
There was a rota, which I recently saw, that had been planned for another week, until they found out the miraculous news that I had recovered.
On the warm Shabbat afternoon, after having hibernated for what felt like an eternity, I told my husband I was taking the babies out for a little walk and I was going to surprise my firstborn princess, who was out with my father and mother. (Also a miracle, seeing as they have been divorced since I was two, and prefer not to be in the same vicinity as one another!)
I walked down the road, pushing my tiny babies in a single bassinet towards the park. A few people walked passed me and smiled. When I got to the park, which is known as the Shabbat Park, as it is extremely popular and gets very crowded on Shabbat, it felt like the Red Sea parting. I was received with such awe and amazement. I had no idea why all these people, whom I had never spoken to in my life, were suddenly wishing me well and telling me how they had prayed for me and were so happy to see me, so well.
I don’t think, even still now, that I really understand how sick I was. It’s the weirdest thing being told about your life and not actually experiencing it. Being told about all the amazing gestures by people who know me and complete strangers. For example, there is an amazing woman, who has a Facebook group of people, who help new mothers to provide them with food during their first week after birth. This woman organised it for me after hospital and it was like receiving Michelin Star catering. Another lady who heard what was happening started pumping 250 ml of milk every day for my boys and she had never even met me or them.
I am in so much awe of the kindness of strangers and do not believe that back in the UK I would have had the same care taken by a community, only by those who knew me personally. I really am blessed to live in such a wonderful place, with extraordinary people, who on a daily basis go out of their way to help one another.
On Thursday May 26 (a week after being discharged from hospital), the boys at 23-days-old were finally able to have their Brit Mila, which fell on Lag B’Omer, so not only did we have an amazing turn out of adults excited to see me well, at our sons’ Brit, but we had a lot of children bringing pure joy and Simcha. I will never forget saying Baruch HaGomel and seeing tears in the eyes of one of my husband’s rabbi’s wives, who was crying for joy at seeing me standing there alive and well.
This period of my life will always haunt me, after being so happy at my amazing identical twins’ births and then at an all time low, being separated from them.
However, I am going to make it my life’s work to help others, like my family was helped.