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October 13, 2015 / 30 Tishri, 5776
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From The Greatest Heights (Part VII)

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Still, I held my breath as the doctors performed the procedure. I couldn’t shake the feeling of how odd it was to be in the delivery room for reasons other than the delivery of our twins, but I knew I needed to be there to provide moral support.

The doctors told us that the cerclage procedure was a success, and while my wife was still groggy from the anesthesia, I walked alongside as they wheeled her to the antepartum unit. I never asked what an antepartum unit was exactly, as I assumed it would become clear when we got there.

For all practical purposes, an antepartum unit is an inpatient unit for high-risk, pregnant women on bed rest who require full-time medical attention. Having forgotten what the doctor had said, I didn’t ask how long they expected her to remain in the unit, but it became clear rather quickly that they intended for her to stay for the duration of the pregnancy. That could be as many as 20 weeks.

My wife wasn’t happy with the news, but she realized she had to do what needed to be done for the babies. Most people don’t understand what it is like to be in bed for 20 weeks. The only time she was allowed out of bed was to use the restroom. She would be in bed for more than 23 hours a day, every day for 20 weeks! Bedsores were a major concern, and physical therapy was a must to ensure that she didn’t lose too much muscle because of lack of movement.

This was also a time before wireless Internet, and one of the biggest challenges was staying occupied. I still had to work, so I couldn’t sit at the hospital with her during the day. Friends and neighbors provided us with electronic games, books and a portable DVD player to try and keep her occupied for her long stay.

I decided that I would sleep on the pull-out couch every night so that I could be there for her through most of the ordeal. That also meant that I would spend Shabbos with her at the hospital every week.

It wasn’t long before I started receiving all kinds of advice. While there were some offers to help (a neighbor of ours was incredibly valuable, cooking meals for me during the week and making sure I had everything I needed), most of the advice and concern focused on my wife.

I fully understand why my wife was the focus of everyone’s concern. She was the one carrying the babies, and her physical and mental wellbeing were absolutely crucial for the health of her pregnancy.

I was told dozens of times, from rabbis, family and friends that I needed to be strong for my wife. I’m not sure why, but the metaphor of being strong like a rock was one that repeated itself often.

I understood my role, and I knew that I had to be strong and do whatever I could to provide help and support to my wife in every way. However, in what would become yet another theme in our ordeal, not a single person inquired as to how I was doing. The focus was always on what I needed to do for my wife.

I desperately needed help and assistance. I needed to express my feelings, fears and frustrations, but I was never given that opportunity.

I was never asked how I was coping, and whether I needed any kind of emotional support. I felt very close to my babies, and I was going to do what I had to do to help my wife and try to save them, but I did internalize the message that I was getting: I am irrelevant and it is all about my wife.

While that attitude likely allowed me to focus on what needed to done for her, at times putting in almost superhuman effort to hide my feelings, I will be paying the price for that emotional toll for the rest of my life. There is only so much a human being can handle, and as an intensely emotional person, hiding and trying to ignore my feelings increased the emotional scarring as the pregnancy progressed and things turned from bad to absolutely tragic.

About the Author: Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed is a freelance writer, public speaker and social media consultant. He is currently working on a book about his collegiate experience. He welcomes comments and feedback at chaimshapiro@aol.com or on his website: http://chaimshapiro.com/

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