Between Would Have, Could Have and Can Be

October 2, 2014

When my daughter Channah was in kindergarten, there were a number milestone events throughout the year. For my wife Rachel, every single one of them was bittersweet because it would be the only time we would have a chance to experience them. Early in the Grade 1 year, we found out Rachel was pregnant with Gabi. Suddenly the two huge milestone events of that year could be enjoyed without reservations. At least that is what I mistakenly thought.

Rachel marked two particular weeks that she predicted would have major complications during the pregnancy. They were the weeks that those special events were to take place. She spent the entire pregnancy with that worry.

The week of the first milestone we had a regular monitoring appointment. Gabi had earned the nickname “Princess” because she liked to sleep in the morning. At this particular appointment the doctor was concerned she wasn’t moving enough. They told us it was urgent to get to the hospital within the next 2.5 hours before the technicians went home. We went home quickly packed a travel bag and got on the bus to the hospital in Jerusalem.

Our plan had been to take the bus into Jerusalem and then get off and catch a taxi to the hospital. As we had never been to the hospital, we were not sure where the best place to get off was.  As we started to get stuck in traffic we began talking to the bus driver about our situation. He told us we should have gotten off at an earlier bus stop because our intended stop was a major bus hub, so taxis don’t stop there. He then started trying to flag down a taxi for us as he navigated the heavy traffic. He even drove on the sidewalk to get around a car that was blocking traffic. Thanks to the efforts of the bus driver we eventually made it to the hospital in time.

By the time we got to the hospital Gabi had been moving a little bit more. An eight-person medical team had a huddle in front of us while they decided what to do. One doctor declared that Gabi was going to be born that day. Even though I have experience as a NICU parent, the idea of Gabi being born at 25 weeks didn’t give me much comfort. They also told us that there was no room in the NICU and would need to be transferred to another hospital. The situation was quite urgent and someone would be at the hospital would be there to meet us when we arrived.

We had to wait around for the ambulance, which was really just a shuttle service. As the driver had other passengers to drop off, he left us a block from the hospital and pointed us in the general direction. Not only was there nobody to meet us at the hospital, they didn’t even know we were coming. There had been a number of hours between monitoring. By this point Gabi was fine and very active. They decided to keep Rachel overnight, so they could monitor and run tests in the morning.

For the long bus ride home, I ended up sitting next to someone who had moved into our community earlier that year. The only thing I remember talking about was asking him how he was adjusting to a new country and new community. He told me that his wife getting pregnant was the worst thing that happened to them in terms of making the transition. I bit my tongue and expressed sympathy for the challenges in their life. I don’t know if I will ever forget that comment.

The next day Gabi was fine. They wanted Rachel to spend another night in hospital on an administrative technicality. The doctor helped us with the process of how to check out of the hospital Against Medical Advice. Rachel was home in time to attend Channah’s first Grade 1 milestone.

One night during the week of the second milestone Rachel sensed something was wrong. Based on the events of seven weeks earlier, I convinced Rachel to wait until morning as she was already going in for regular monitoring. She hated me for that decision. Shortly before she died, she told me that the anger and hate directed toward me during her 22-month battle with depression was the depression talking and not her. I don’t know if she ever came to terms with the events of that night. We would find out in the morning that a True-Knot in the umbilical cord had taken Gabi’s life. She had been moving too much. At the time, I summarized the events of that day here.

Obviously, Rachel was unable to attend the 2nd milestone in Channah’s Grade 1 year as she was in the hospital post C-Section. A friend of mine hired a professional videographer to record the evening. She was awesome as she planted her giant tri-pod to make sure she had a good view. As parents scrambled for the best vantage point to take their own pictures and videos, she made sure her view was not blocked. Rachel was able to enjoy the milestone even if she couldn’t be there with me to watch it live.

Six months ago remembering any of these events as flashbacks would have left me incapacitated for the rest of the day. With a lot of work and professional help, I have been able to make major strides in how I am living my life. I have recently come to acknowledge one of the big differences between Rachel’s life– living under the burden of depression– and my life now. Rachel was entirely focused on “What could have been,” where I am learning to focus on “What can be”.

You never know when your words or actions are going to leave a lifelong lasting impression. Nobody could blame me if I let the painful blows that life has given me control my life. You would have to be stupid to want to be in my shoes. I can look at the good around me even when life was filled with heartache. I have carved out the beginnings of a wonderful future with my wife and daughter. Together we will enjoy the ups and stick together to work through the downs of life. At one point I had lost all hope. Now, I have hopes and dreams that I had never thought possible. I am looking forward to the future.

  • Jason Swirsky

    Jason Swirsky resides in Bet Shemesh, Israel with his 9 nine year old daugher. Through the last two years they have both gone through tremendous loss and have had many challenges put before them. From dealing with the loss of a child to the loss of a spouse, Jason has persevered through this loss and fought many demons to be where he is today.

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