Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Grammy Edythe Kutlow and Grandma Helen Sachs

As read at his bris...

Dear Idan,
You’ve only been in our family a little over a week and already I can’t imagine my life without you in it. You are so tiny and yet your arrival on the 49th day of the Omer, the period of great anticipation before God gave us the Torah on Mt. Sinai, has profound meaning for our family. Like your brother Shalev, you showed up a day early for the big party. He was born a day before Simchat Torah and you, the day before Shavuot. I guess that’s how you get the best seats. Nonetheless your birthdate appears to be very auspicious. You were born on 6.6.11 at 10 to 10 at night. And I’m no gematria expert but when you multiply six and six you get 36 or double chai. It’s no wonder that you are a Gemini, the sun sign of the twins.

Your arrival is really the beginning of the next chapter in our lives, the one that’s set in Israel, and your name, Idan – meaning “era” in Hebrew – is meant to signify this new adventure. You are also named to honor two important women in our family. Idan is for my Grammy Edythe Kutlow. Your second name, Hillel is to honor your Aba’s Grandma Helen Sachs. Both were incredibly strong women who faced significant challenges in their younger lives but both lived to be well into their nineties. Edythe Kutlow, born in New York City, would have been 101 years old this year. She lived for several years in an orphanage when her own mother was unable to provide for her financially. A resourceful and beautiful girl she lived to find a life partner in Benjamin Kutlow, have three terrific children, nine fantastic grandchildren (I'm the ninth) and now her eighteenth great grandchild. She was incredibly gifted with her hands and made beautiful heirloom baby blankets, kippot, needlepoints and afghans. She even crocheted the kippah that your Aba is wearing today for our wedding nine years ago. She was 92. Aba’s Grandma Helen Sachs was born in Leipzig, Germany and managed to escape the Nazis with the help of her brother in 1939 to resettle in America. Many of her family members could not fathom the evil of the Shoah and stayed behind, including her mother who died in Auschwitz. Helen resettled in Worcester, Massachusetts and along with her husband Julius, had two wonderful daughters and three incredible grandchildren – one of whom was your Aba. You would be her sixth great grandchild Idan. Her lineage was meant to perish in the holocaust and yet here we are, celebrating your new branch on a family tree that only continues to flourish.

The name Hillel also honors the great rabbinic sage who is known for having said,
Im ein ani li mi li. If I am not for myself, who will be for me.
Uch sh’ani l’atmzi ma ani. If I am only for myself who am I.
V’im lo achshav, ematai. And if not now, when.

He is also known for his ethic of reciprocity, or "Golden Rule":
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

You’ve come into a world with many challenges and you belong to a people, both Jewish and Israeli, that has faced and continues to face some of the greatest manifestations of hatred the world has known. And yet we are hopeful that you and your generation will be the ones to usher in peace, acceptance, compromise and love. That yours will be the “Idan Hillel” – the era of mutual respect. That is our greatest wish for you, for our family and friends and for the whole world. So you have a lot of work ahead little guy.

One last bit. Idan, you are our third and, it’s safe to say, our last child. Like you, I am also a third child. It’s not always easy Idan. The older two will be in cahoots a lot of the time and you’ll have to make up your own games and use your imagination a lot. You’ll make up for it with very close friends though and when you’re older the age gap between you and your siblings will fade and you’ll forget about how your big brother and sister teased you. Well you won’t forget, but you’ll forgive. Mostly.

And so today we welcome you into a family and a community that already loves you very very much. And we wish you a long and wonderful life shared with the ones you love.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

After Birth Story

Father and Son

The thing about the third time around is that the after part is horrible. Everyone said this would be the case, but I thought how bad could it be compared to pushing out a nine pound human? Turns out, pretty bad. My iron stores were already pretty low and some other blood related thing was low too. Clotting or white blood cell count or some such thing. So for two hours or more after the birth I had nurses and doctors pushing on my abdomen to help expel all of the crap that was hanging around in there. And there was a lot. Nevermind the placenta (which we brought home in a cooler, by the way, and had a friend dehydrate, pulverize and encapsulate for personal consumption. Kooky, to be sure, but good for the healing. And there's a lot of healing going on over here.) I'm talking about tons of blood and clotty bits of ME. Like human tissue. MINE. All this without even considering that I'm already in a world of pain from the 9 POUND BABY I have just passed through my vagina. And while I am grateful for what amounts to only about three hours of labor (as opposed to 28 with my first child and 9 with my second), a fast and furious delivery can often mean a train wreck downstairs, if you catch my drift. So the midwife puts on her seamstress hat and gets to work while the other nurses put on their baker hats and get to work kneading the flabby, doughy blob that is now my midsection.

After some time it appears that I am bleeding too much and there is some fear that something is left behind. Like maybe my lungs are still in there and my heart. Because I am sure that all else has been expelled. So they're weighing the blood and the doctor on call, the one I don't like, comes in to tell me that I will likely need a D&C which is short for drug the new mom and scrape out her contracting uterus with a small tennis racket. Terrific. At this point I sort of don't care, though part of me feels like I went through the trouble of having the baby drug free so it's a little annoying that now I need all of this medical intervention. Meanwhile my midwife is standing behind him mouthing don't worry dahling. We won't need to do it. The doctor's cookoo. The doctor says he'll have to come back in half an hour to see if the bleeding has slowed. That's when I get two shots of something in my thigh, another medication up my tush and a pitocin drip to try and get my uterus to contract, soften up (or maybe harden up - whatever it was supposed to do) and avoid the D&C. It works but the contractions are atrocious. Nevertheless I'm still flying on endorphins so none of it matters. And squishy baby is now being washed off and weighed and poked and rocked and kissed and swayed. Then he pees on Mr. Rosen. All systems are go.

I spend the next day and a half in the hospital getting pricked and poked and cathetered and pressed on. The baby slept both nights in the nursery because as much as I love the idea of rooming in, we'll be rooming in the next 18 years so I'd rather get some rest. Plus, Mr. Rosen was sleeping at home with the kids and there was no way I could get up at night to pick up the baby in a timely manner. Better they bring him in to nurse and hand him to me. It was painful enough just to sit upright in the bed.

My big kids come to visit with Grandma in the morning and they are thrilled with their new brother. My son is actually more thrilled by all of the medical equipment. And my daughter quickly climbs into bed with me. So I pick up my belly and move it to one side to make room for her. The rest of the day is spent getting my ice changed, getting my pee measured, taking ibuprofen and getting my son the snapping turtle to nurse. Good times.

And now it's just a matter of adjusting to our new situation. The first night home Mr. Rosen, in a sleepless fog, asked if we could just let the baby cry (he cried a lot that night. Big baby. No milk. Mad baby). I think we do that at four months, not three days. Lots to remember. Just today I remembered that trick about putting the baby down two hours after they wake up in the morning. Totally worked. Today anyway. Tomorrow is a whole other story...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Birth Story

When my due date on June 4th approached I decided to sign up for some acupuncture so we could get this party started. Dr. Lee took one look at my belly and says, "Baby head on side. No good." No kidding Doc. Let's poke him with needles until he gets engaged in my pelvis! What say you? And that's exactly what he did. My mom had come to town two days before so we were fine with coverage and I was starting to worry that this baby was getting too big. Sunday comes and goes. On Monday I decide this is the day. I go to see my midwife in the morning but since she is on call and catching a baby, I see another midwife. I am two centimeters dilated. Not bad. I ask her to strip my membranes which I'm not even really sure what that is but I know it stimulates dilation and is less "messy" than drinking castor oil.  Indeed she does a quick swipe and I grow to three centimeters almost immediately. At 2:30 I have my second appointment with Dr. Lee. He checks the pulse of my right middle finger and concludes, "Baby engaged. Let's make contractions." Let's do it Doc! More needles. I walk home after (how rad that my acupuncturist is two blocks from my house!) and spend the rest of the afternoon getting my stuff organized for the hospital and finishing up some orders.

At 4:30 a package arrives. It's the mezuzah that I ordered a week ago. When we had the house on the market we took down all of our mezuzahs to remove all religious affiliation. What were we thinking? How could we bring a new baby into the house without a mezuzah? So I ordered this one which arrived just in time and I hung it up on the correct side of the door so as not to offend any future carpet cleaners.

At about 5:30 I have a series of random contractions and sort of have the feeling it is showtime. I start making dinner for the kids and then walk over to the dry cleaners to pick up the tablecloth I had them make from this awesome piece of fabric I'd just bought. There is a mariachi band playing at the school across the street. Very festive. Today is definitely the day.

By 6:30 I am keeping track of contractions and texting my husband to get the hell home. I boil some water to make corn. Contraction. I download some paperwork. Contraction. Make the cous cous. Contraction. Hug my kids who are starting to wonder why mommy is leaning against the refrigerator ever five minutes and humming.

him: Is the baby on your vagina?
me: Pretty soon I think.

Mr. Rosen gets home and he gets everything in the car. We say goodbye to the kids and grandma. I am pumped! The hospital is seven minutes away and we arrive at 8:00 pm. My contractions are still pretty manageable but I am quite sure that things will move quickly. I come to learn later that Mr. Rosen is thinking he's in this for the next 10-15 hours and is unsure how he will manage the pain of his pinched nerve while trying to compress my hips during contractions. Brother.

I check in at reception and appear to be fairly calm for a woman in labor. Another midwife is somewhat doubtful based on my appearance that I will deliver any time soon. I remember doing this with my first baby and looking like a lunatic because I have been in labor already 24 hours and arrive at reception at 9 centimeters. This time around things are under control. Indeed, the nurse checks me and I am at 5 centimeters. They hook me to the fetal monitor and Mr. Rosen and I slow dance our way through about a half hour of contractions. My midwife arrives and ties a sheet around my belly to hopefully get the baby's shoulders in line with its head. By now the contractions are getting kind of hairy so I pad over to the shower and Mr. Rosen braces my hips during contractions while nurse Michelle counts them out for me and student nurse Manhung (yes, a lovely male Vietnamese nurse named Manhung, as in Man Hung), sprays my butt and back with warm water. At one point my midwife mistakenly calls him Hungman in her Mary Poppins accent and I'm pretty sure I giggled myself from 8 to 9 centimeters.

After about forty minutes I know it's time and I need to push. The contractions are relentless. Michelle checks me while in the tub with what feels like her whole fist and my water breaks so I hobble out of the tub and walk toward the bed. Meanwhile Manhung and the gang are trying to untie the wet bed sheet that I am wearing like a kimono. Do you have a visual? I come to learn that this is the first birth Manhung had ever attended. Awesome. He can't  wait to get home and tell his new wife so they can hurry up and get pregnant. I can't even get to the bed before I have to push like crazy. I climb onto my side and pull my knee up to my chin and push as hard as I can. The gang is cheering me on. Manhung is shouting that I can do it. Something feels not quite right and my telepathic midwife tells me to roll to the other side when I realize this is exactly how I delivered my daughter. Another push and out came his head. One more push and out came the rest of him including my intestines, uterus, bladder, 30 years worth of swallowed bubble gum, a marble, three dollars and fifty cents, a rubber duckie and a pit bull. All of it. Just pouring out of me. Including about a liter of blood (this part will prove to be kind of scary but mostly annoying later in the story). And then he was on me. This giant, slimy, hairy gorgeous thing that only one second before was on the inside. He's out and I'm high as a kite.

part II to follow.

Friday, June 17, 2011



Idan Hillel (ee-DAHN he-LEHL)
6.6.11 at 9:50 pm
8 lbs 15 oz
21 inches (23 with hair)

All are recovering nicely at home.
The epic tale of his timely arrival coming soon.
Plus a few words about his name and namesakes.
For now, a big sigh of joy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wiser for the journey

Seven years ago I tried my hand at the National Stationery Show in New York. I had never been and I was five months pregnant and I had decided I would just wing it with my own line of cards. I did very little research, spent a few thousand dollars on the booth and a curtain and renting a table, plane tickets for my Mr. Rosen and my mom and I, and off we went flying by the seat of our pants. And I remember one night before going to bed saying to Mr. Rosen, what if I don't bring enough brochures or what if I can't fulfill all of my (zillions of) orders. Brother. 

We got there and I felt completely overwhelmed. People had shipped or ordered whole store fronts. Everything in my booth we packed in our suitcases. I remember renting a car and driving to the IKEA first out in Jersey and then on Long Island looking for stuff to make our booth a little more substantial. We only had a day. We stayed with friends in Soho and used some of their furniture. And friends in New York stopped by the booth. It was cute in the end. But I remember feeling mostly dejected by the whole thing. Everyone had the same kind of stationery - little icons of purses and heels in pinks and greens, all preppy throw-back. Some of it was exquisite - the Hello! Lucky stuff and other letter press creations. But that cutesy stuff was selling well. Hardly anyone stopped in my booth. I had to kind of lure them in and puff out my belly so they'd think I was kind of cutesy. In the end it wasn't a complete bust. I got five contracts and one was even from Whole Foods in NYC. But still, altogether they maybe amounted to about $1000. Not exactly what I was expecting.

I sold that collection (it was the inner toddler stuff) for another few years, here and there. Some on ETSY and some to shops. When I was on maternity leave with number two I had renewed energy and actually reached out to some blogs. I even got some coverage on Cool Mom Picks and Design Mom. It was fun. But the sales weren't exactly pouring in. So I stopped. I mean, I was also working full time and raising these two kids. It was more than I could manage.

And then after taking some time off I got a second wind. Started my blog. Started reading other blogs. Got inspired by what some other self-taught artists were doing and started painting again. Different stuff. Started developing my own style. Started getting into ketubahs and Judaica and sort of found a little niche for myself. And here we are. Seven years later.

Two weeks ago one of my images debuted at the National Stationery Show with a company called Calypso. Not a whole collection, mind you. Just the one. But I didn't have to fly my pregnant self there and spend a week and a small fortune getting it seen. I just got an email one day in March that said they wanted to use an image. We agreed on licensing terms. And here we are. Ironically it's a "congratulations on your move" card. I have a stack of them at home now so when someone does decide to buy our house, I am well equipped to congratulate them.

Funny how sometimes the choices we make lead us back to the start - wiser for the journey.