Ok, my house is officially haunted, and I think it's probably Grandpa Irv having himself a little fun. The TV turned on TWICE over Shabbos and no one had touched it. At 1am the TV went on, so Shmuel got out of bed to yell at whoever did it...except no one was there. So he left it because it was Shabbos. At 4:30am I woke up and heard the TV (I slept through the noise until then) and grumbled at Shmuel to yell at whoever turned on the TV on Shabbos. So he got out of bed again to look and again no one was there. At some point in the morning once everyone was up, one of the non-Jews living with us turned off the TV so we could have a peaceful Shabbos. Then in the afternoon Shmuel noticed an ambulance across the street and was standing looking out the window at it, Dovid was running into the other room to look out another window, Chana and Tzipora were playing on the floor, and I was sitting on the couch with Gavriella when the TV went on AGAIN. No one had touched anything, so we went looking for the remote control to see if maybe I was sitting on it or something. Nope. Remote was off on a shelf with no one near it. Super weird. Then, to top it off, I just found Chana B's glasses which have been missing for 2 weeks. I saw them on the ottoman just outside my bedroom door next to my purse. NEXT TO MY PURSE PEOPLE! No way I missed that for 2 weeks... Now I'm wondering what's next, though at least I know it's a friendly ghost.
I lost a dear family member this week. Your first instinct is probably to ask "which side of the family was he on?" Well, he was my sister's husband's grandfather - Grandpa Irv. Many times family is created through marriage, but honestly I feel as though the Simons became family long before my sister (Shira) and brother-in-law (Ben) were married. And now, every night when my husband tucks in the kids, he goes through a laundry list of people that love them. "I love you...and Mommy loves you, and Grandma loves you, and Grandma loves you..." After Grandma and Grandma always came Grandpa Irv...even before Aunt Shira and Uncle Ben! And every single Simon gets mentioned in the nightly shpiel - Ben's parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, niece and nephew. That's how close this family is to us.
Shortly after Shira and Ben's wedding (15 years ago!), Ben's grandparents (on his father's side) moved to Rochester. Since I was still in high school at that point I had the opportunity to spend time with them, and they came to my choir concerts, plays, etc. They also became friendly with my parents and grandparents. After my grandparents died, they became a surrogate set, and I loved them just as much as I loved my own grandparents. They treated me as their own, and I think somewhere down the line Grandpa Irv probably forgot that I wasn't blood related to him. :)
Grandpa Irv and my father became close after my Grandpa Bill died. They used to solve the world's problems over lunch each Tuesday. It's quite possible that after my father became ill he told Grandpa Irv to watch over me, because he certainly did. There's a favorite story of mine that really shows how Grandpa Irv had "adopted" me as one of his grandkids. About a month after I met Shmuel I was home in Rochester for winter vacation. It was about 6 weeks after my father had died, and the whole Simon family had come over for dinner. At one point Sheri (Ben's mom) was talking about how there were so many people getting engaged lately. I sat there with a smirk on my face, and when she noticed she called me out on it. I explained how I had met Shmuel and that we were seriously dating. At some point it was mentioned that he's 14 years older than I am, and Grandpa Irv really let me have it. Here are some quotes as I remember them: "What does he want with someone so much younger?" "Your mother doesn't want you to date someone so much older! Think about how she feels with your dad gone. He was a lot older than she, right?" "You know I'm only saying this because I love you, and your father's not here to say it for himself!" I tried to explain that he wouldn't be saying these things if he had met Shmuel and to wait to pass judgment on him. I knew that once they met that Grandpa Irv would have no problem with it. A few months later Shmuel came to Rochester and met the Simon family, and Grandpa Irv fell in love with him. Honestly, I think it was love at first sight with those two. After that all I ever heard from Grandpa Irv was "how's my Sammy?" It always used to make me grin, since I knew how upset Grandpa Irv was when I first mentioned I was dating someone older, and now here he was welcoming Shmuel with open arms. But that's just how he was...full of love. He loved us, and he loved my kids. I sent him a family picture with Gavriella in it a few weeks ago, so he was able to see her before he passed. I'm just glad the rest of the kids were able to spend some time with him when we went to Rochester this past May.
I did not used to be a very emotional person. When my father died I knew it was coming several weeks in advance. But I never cried at anything back then, and I stoically sat there during his funeral and even at his graveside with not a tear to be found. I wanted to cry, but for some reason my body just couldn't. Same thing at my grandmother's funeral a few months later. Same with basically every other funeral I've ever been to or when someone calls me with news of someone's death. Until this week. I knew Grandpa Irv was sick, and I knew this phone call would be coming, but for the first time ever I couldn't speak while Sheri was telling me that Grandpa Irv had died. I was trying not to cry into the phone or betray my emotion, so all I could give her was one word answers. I loved him as if he were my own grandfather, and in many ways he was. I will miss him terribly, but I hope he's getting to spend some quality time with Grandma Harriette who he's been missing the past 6 years, and I hope he gets to go back to having Tuesday lunches with my father so they can solve the problems of the world. Goodness knows this country could use their help.
This is Grandma Harriette & Grandpa Irv at my wedding - Aug 27, 2006. Not a great quality pic, but you get the idea.
This is a gorgeous picture of the Simon family taken in May. (From L to R: Shira, Grandpa Irv, Ben, Robert, and Sheri)
Sept 20 (21 days old) - She's only three weeks old, but Gavriella flipped from front to back today! Shocked the living daylights out of me... I put her down for some tummy time and within a few minutes she started squeaking, because she had turned herself over, and I think she was a bit surprised. I didn't think babies were supposed to be able to do that until they were like 3 or 4 months old! I thought it might be a fluke, but she repeated the feat the next day. Super baby!
For someone with misophonia, the sound of someone eating can be like nails on a chalkboard. Poor Shmuel gets "the look" if he tries to eat carrots in my presence, and there are times I need to just wear ear plugs during a meal. Yet the sound of Gavriella gulping down mommy milk during a feed is nothing short of the most delightful sound on this planet. It brings me no end of joy. Go figure...
Seriously she's gotten bigger in the last few days, and it's not surprising. She's been eating CONSTANTLY. Growth spurt!
I never remembered to record many milestones with the other kids, but I'm going to try better here. They may seem silly, but it's nice to have some kind of memory of how Gavriella's life progresses. For example:
Sept 4 (5 days old) - Gavriella's cord stump fell off, terrifying Shmuel in the process. "OMG WAS THAT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN???" You would think the father of 4 children would be expecting the cord stump to fall off, but no, this guy has heart failure about it. I assured him that it was fine and he didn't need to do anything special. Today I also realized that I'm not much bigger than my pre-pregnancy self, especially when I'm in the Belly Band-It. Actually, when I wear the Belly Band-It I am probably smaller than pre-pregnancy me, since it helps keep my abs together. I'm hoping I'll be able to fix my diastasis recti with exercise so I won't have the crazy ab muscles any more.
Sept 5 (6 days old) - Gavriella spit up for the first time, making me smile. I love knowing that my baby is getting plenty to eat and it's all coming from me. So a little spit up (and this was really only a teensy bit) means she's getting what she needs. Though her constant falling asleep mid-feed is driving me bonkers. 3 minutes nursing does not equal a meal!! *sigh* Today I also put on one of my favorite pre-pregnancy dresses. Unlike with my other pregnancies, where I couldn't wear this dress for months, if not a year, I was able to zip it up like nothing. YAY!
Sept 13 (14 days old) - For the first time I put Gavriella to sleep in one position and found her turned 90° the next time I went in to her. Looks like someone's beginning to scootch around!
Baby #4 made her arrival into the world yesterday (8/30)! She was born at 12:52pm, weighed 6lb 2oz and measured 19 in. We decided to name her Gavriella Esther. The name Gavriella comes from Shmuel's aunt (his mother's half-sister) Geneva. The name Esther comes from my father's grandmother Esther Faigl.
Gavriella's birth was just as quick as her older sister Tzipora's, but the birth story starts just about a week earlier. On the evening of Fri the 23rd I started to have some irregular contractions and thought "oh boy this is it!" But it wasn't. I went to sleep and they totally stopped...for several days. But that was the beginning of the sleepless nights. I would have a hard time getting comfortable and getting to sleep only to be woken up within hours to go to the bathroom or with a random contraction. Then it would take me forever to get back to sleep...only to wake up again a few hours later. It was horrible, and by the following Thursday (the morning of my 39 week midwife appointment) I was at my wits' end. I took herbal supplements, did acupressure and even saw someone who does shiatsu just to try to get things started, but nothing made even the slightest difference. I was starting to get nervous because with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana coming next week I did not want to be in the hospital alone over that holiday. So, when I saw my midwife on Thursday I begged her to strip my membranes. She did and also told me that I was a "stretchy" 3-4 cm dilated, so we knew that it wasn't going to be a long birth once things finally got started.
I went to bed on Thursday night a bit defeated that nothing had happened, since I was convinced that if I didn't go into labor at night that I for sure wouldn't go into labor in the morning. But when I did get up in the morning (around 7am thanks to Dovid looking for the Kindle Fire - and I got SO angry with him for waking me up since I was running on very little sleep) I noticed that I was having some contractions. They were uncomfortable, but I didn't think they were particularly regular. And I could still do other things during and between them - like run after Dovid screaming and finish my biochemistry project (which I did). Around 8:15am I called my friends Joanmichelle and Melanie who were going to be my
doulas for the birth. Joanmichelle headed over to my house and Melanie
went to work, knowing I would probably be calling her soon. It wasn't until about 8:30am that I decided to actually time them, and they were about 10 mins apart.
Joanmichelle arrived around 9:30am, and she was helping me through contractions, though I still thought they were somewhat irregular - they would speed up when I was walking around and then slow down if I sat. But they were still less than 10 minutes apart. By 10:30am I had gotten quite uncomfortable during contractions and knew that we had to leave. They were pretty close together - maybe every 5 mins or so - and I was not relishing the idea of doing them in the car any closer together than that.
We arrived at labor and delivery about 11am, and they took us into a triage room. I changed, got hooked up to monitors and then got checked around 11:30am. All the while the contractions were still about 5 mins apart or so and concentrated mainly in my back, which was not pleasant. Some of the time it would also migrate to my thighs, but at least that I could use hypnobabies to take care of - the back pain, not so much. When the midwife checked me I was already at 6cm, fully effaced and -2 station. I knew from experience that it would not take long for me to become fully dilated from this point - with Tzipora I went from 4 to complete in about an hour and a half. So, they took me into a room and I got situated there around noon.
By now the back pain was really terrible, so we tried everything. I already had a heat pack on, and whoever was closest to me would press on my back, but it was getting to be even too much for that. So we tried to put on my TENS machine. That helped maybe a little bit, but if the baby would move during a contraction, it would send me screaming about my back. Oh goodness I was having flashbacks to Tzipora's birth and not liking it. In contrast to Tzipora's birth, however, my contractions never really got much closer than every two minutes apart, I never got that "I've lost total control" feeling or had double-peaking contractions. I could easily talk and function in between contractions, and I never had the feeling of "oh just give me a break!" the way I did with Tzipora. But, from experience, I knew that I might feel better sitting on the toilet, so I headed over there just before 12:30pm. Sitting there was actually a bit better, but my midwife didn't want me sitting there for too long. She suggested that if I wanted things to pick up that I should get back on the bed and lie on my left side. I grumbled but obeyed.
As soon as I got on my side, the back pain during contractions was unreal. I was basically screaming for people to press on my back and whimpering (deja vu to Tzipora's birth!). The midwife had finally found another midwife who would do sterile water injections, but then said that I was probably complete and ready to push and to try and give her a good one. I was not convinced but did it anyway. She then checked me again, and I actually was fully dilated! Oops...no sterile water injections again - the exact same thing happened with Tzipora. By now it was 12:48pm. So I started pushing, but unlike with Tzipora it was agony. I was very confused since I remembered pushing being so easy and much better than contractions, but the back pain wasn't going away and now I also had lower abdominal pain with it. So I pushed as hard as I possibly could to get the pain to go away, and I could feel her sort of slip right down. So now instead of the back pain I had the abdominal pain and the "head crowning" pain. At this point I really couldn't control pushing vs not pushing even though the midwife was telling me not to. lol She's telling me to slow down and blow, and I'm yelling back "I can't! I can't!" Luckily the pushing didn't take very long, and she was born at 12:52pm - 4 minutes after I started pushing. My water broke as she was crowning, and she was born in the caul - something very, very lucky and unusual. We also realized why I was having such back pain as well as pain during pushing. The baby was turned sideways - so her nose was facing my inner thigh vs my tush - and she had a hand up by her face! Crazy baby! But since she's such a little squeaker, I was able to birth her quickly and without trouble. If she had been an 8 lb baby with a big head I don't think she ever would have come down that way.
Here are some pictures of the little cutie and the family:
Gavriella's birth by numbers:
6 hrs after waking up in the morning
4 hrs after beginning timeable contractions - though even at 9:30am it was hard to time them...
2 hrs after arrival at the hospital
1 hr in the labor & delivery room
4 mins of pushing
But here's the really cool part... The twins were born on a Wednesday on the Hebrew date the 22nd of Adar. Tzipora was born on a Thursday on the Hebrew date the 23rd of Teves. So I bet you can guess what day of the week and Hebrew date Gavriella was born, right? ;) Friday the 24th of Elul.
How do I even begin this post? No, it doesn't have to do with the baby - she's still baking away. But I'm hoping this post and the ones that come after will explain a little bit about my blogging absence for the last few months. So much has happened, but we were waiting for a good time to talk about it...which meant that I couldn't post about anything fun that was going on!
Let me start all the way at the beginning...over 60 years ago. My mother was born to two college students, and it was decided that she would be given up for adoption. Not many people in her biological family knew what was going on, but fortunately my mother was adopted into an amazing family. The adoption wasn't talked about, though basically everyone in my mother's extended adoptive family new about it, and for most of her life my mother really had no urge or intention to find her biological family - she had loving family and amazing parents, so what was the need, right? Then her adoptive father (Grandpa Bill) died in 2000 and her adoptive mother (Grandma Bess) in 2006, and I brought up the topic a few times to my mom over the years since then. I had even read this book about identical twin girls who had been adopted separately at birth and then found each other and, I believe, their birth family. I was pretty sure my mom wasn't a twin, but I was definitely curious about her birth family. In the fall of 2012 I saw an ad for an agency that helped get adoption records and find birth families, and I was finally able to convince her to see what we could find out.
Fast forward through several months of getting documents signed, notarized, and filed away with the agency...and, of course, waiting. In early March 2013, my mom received her adoption papers which named her birth mother (Grandma Lotta). Luckily for us her birth mother had a very uncommon name, so that coupled with the non-identifying information that we had from the adoption agency made it very easy to track her family down. Some basic genealogical searches led me right to the family within hours. Then I made a leap and contacted someone that was connected to the family on the genealogical website that I use (geni.com). I had no idea how close or far related this person was, but it was all that I had to go on.
I waited a few days and hadn't heard back from the woman, so I figured she probably thought I was totally insane. I mean, I had basically sent her a short note saying I thought this particular person on her family tree was my biological grandmother! Not exactly the type of email you expect to receive... But, in the intervening days this woman contacted one of Grandma Lotta's other children, Aunt Gina, who then used her expertise to track me down. She called my house and got my babysitter, who was completely confused. I was at school at the time, and my babysitter calls me on my cell phone saying she got a call from some random lady saying she was my sister or something. Immediately I knew it had to be my mother's sister, not mine, and I tried to keep from screaming gleefully into the phone. I don't think I was particularly successful at this, though. Luckily Aunt Gina had left her number with my babysitter, so I called her right up. And we talked...shared some basic information, tried to get our stories all straight, etc. It was March 4, Grandma Bess's birthday - coincidences like that just don't happen. In any case, none of the biological family even knew about the pregnancy, adoption, etc...except for one person - Grandma Lotta's brother - who eventually confirmed what we already had figured out. But that confirmation took a few days. I still have the voicemail saved that my Aunt Gina left on my cell phone when she got that final confirmation that she and my mom were sisters. There was no blood test necessary. The stories checked out perfectly, we had the document with Lotta's name and my mom's name, and just look at the family resemblance!
Guess which one is my mom and guess which one is her birth mother... ;) Even just looking at my mom and aunt next to each other now you can see they have the same nose and such. Aunt Gina has even said that sitting and talking to my mom feels like she's looking at their mother. Chana B has a very strong resemblance to one of my other aunts as well.
In any case, once all of this happened it took my mom a few days for the reality to sink in before she and her new found sister talked. And then my aunt went a step further and was able to track down my mother's birth father (Grandpa Joel). Unfortunately Grandma Lotta passed away a few years ago, but Grandpa Joel is still alive and well! Aunt Gina spoke with him and got his side of the story, and then eventually my mom made contact with him. In the mean time, Aunt Gina planned a trip to Boston for July so that she could meet everyone - my mom, sister and brother-in-law would all come up here for a little family reunion.
And that's why I haven't been able to update! I've wanted to post about our July adventures for ages, but I couldn't possibly do it without talking about Aunt Gina! Now that you're all clued in, hopefully in my next post I can get to talking about our fun in July and August...with pictures, of course. :) And there will be more to tell about Grandpa Joel, too.
P.S. I use the terms adoptive and biological/birth only to make things more easy to understand. Grandpa Bill and Grandma Bess will always be my grandparents who I love and miss terribly, I just happen to now have additional family to get to know, including some who live right here in Boston. The heart never gets consumed, it only grows bigger.