Saturday, March 23, 2013

You Can't Fly with Only a Right Wing

This morning I learned that the world lost Elissa Froman, and I wanted to share some thoughts about her. Elissa was someone who really stood out to me. She was extremely passionate, thoughtful, smart, a really good friend and just fricken hilarious.

I met Elissa when I was the Program Director at George Washington University Hillel in 2003-2004, when she was a sophomore. I was introduced by Wade Strauss, who was working with engagement of some of the younger students, and she worked with him and some other students to organize the retreat for Jewish freshmen. Elissa felt that Hillel was really organized around Israel and Israel politics as well as religion, but that one major piece was missing. We were, after all a school in Washington DC, and many of the students were interested in domestic politics. Elissa started a student group dedicated to liberal American politics. One of my favorite lines of hers was the non-existent t-shirt design for the student group: Because You Can't Fly with Only a Right Wing. It would have picture of a bird falling out of the sky.

Elissa truly stood out in my year at GW. She was always around, involved in so many great activities and with all of the best people. She did SO much, and she did it with a fantastic attitude and so much dedication. She was always the one who would go shopping for some program at 10pm, stay after to clean up, debrief...and she was just so great to have around. I remember driving Elissa to the airport at the end of the year, to fly off for the summer, and realizing that she was just a super special person.

Every time I was in DC I met up with her, saw her in New York when I lived there, and the last time I saw her was in 2010, when I was 12 weeks pregnant with Samara. She made time to meet me for dinner during the AIPAC convention and a lot of her own responsibilities. She sent a gift when Samara was born, and we swapped a few emails since, but while I was living up my experience in Singapore, Elissa was fighting Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

I won't pretend to know all of the details of her experience or treatment, but she was diagnosed in 2006, she was treated, cancer free, then it returned. She ultimately had a stem cell transplant, and she blogged about some of her experiences, from 2008 to 2011 here. I also don't know the details of her death, but as I understand it, it isn't exactly the cancer, but rather that her body had so much to deal with. She has been in the hospital for over a year with infection after infection and finally her body lost her battle.

Elissa touched and inspired so many lives - she went to Jewy camp, worked at amazing organizations, including the Religious Action Center, National Council for Jewish Women, she was accepted to HUC rabbinical school and was planning to go. And she was a leader wherever she went. She truly spent her life and her well years doing all that she could to make the world a better and funnier place. There is a spot in my life that will be empty of her, and I know this is true for so so many people in Chicago, DC and around the world.

This is another of those moments when I absolutely hate living so far away (and at this moment not even being allowed to leave my apartment at all...). If I were in the US, I would hop on a plane in a minute to be at her funeral in Chicago on Sunday, just to be with so many other people who loved her too. The world will truly miss Elissa Froman.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bed Rest

I haven't written in two months - and for good reason. Just about nothing has happened to me, as I have been in bed, on bed rest, for the last seven weeks.

A week after my last post I went on an awesome work trip where I spent about three days on Cape Cod with six other women, doing a brain dump on what it takes to launch a program targeting women, in a bank. Other than the fact that I froze my arse off, I learned a lot, got to know incredible women, and loved being in the US. I had a super brief stop in Jersey City and got to spend some time with Eli, then got a few hours with Sarah in Boston, and headed to New York for a day of meetings...then back to Singapore. Only perhaps carrying my suitcase into a bus, then around Boston, lifting it up in the train, up and down the New York subway stairs, through the city, etc - perhaps that wasn't good for me, given the fact that I was 12 weeks pregnant.

Five minutes into dinner with a good friend in New York on that Thursday night, I started bleeding. Luckily Laura was a REALLY good friend, helped me through it (including running to the drug store...twice...), and I ended up seeing my doctor who did my surgery ONE YEAR exactly, before that incident, the next day (and canceled all of my meetings for Friday). He cleared me to fly that night, and I made it back to Singapore on Sunday morning. I assumed it was nothing more than a small blood clot, as my doctor in New York had seen, and I would be fine. Not so much.

After the blood clot got reabsorbed, the sac that has the baby in it (the sac holding in all the black stuff in an ultrasound, with the baby in the middle), detached about 70% from my uterus, and there was loads of blood in between the sac and wall of my uterus. I continued to bleed, and my doctor said I was at major risk for miscarriage. I was ordered to bed and only get up for essentials. It kept getting worse for a few weeks, and it is finally getting better. I have stopped bleeding, and I will see the doctor in a week, and I'm hoping for at least limited movement - like being able to parent actively, get coffee when I went, get fresh air, get food that I want, when I want it...but we will see. Apparently this stuff usually clears up around 18-19 weeks (I will be 20 in 2 days) and then comes back in the third trimester. Should be a fun few months!

Pros of being on bed rest:

  • I can talk TV. I have never been able to talk TV (I hate TV), but now I can talk about Downton Abbey, Homeland and Girls.
  • I won't be sick of my maternity clothes (as fast...) when I wear them. I can hang out all I want at home, so I haven't even asked Matt to take them down for me yet.
  • I have gotten a bit better at asking people for things. I asked a friend to go get me bubble tea (remember I'm also pregnant!), have had friends bring lunch, and ask Rose and Matt for things all the time. I'm usually rubbish at this and prefer to do everything on my own.
  • I can read a lot.
  • I lost so much muscle that only now, at 19.5 weeks, am I just 1kg past my pre-pregnancy weight. Perhaps it will be easier to lose weight after the baby?
  • I get to see Samara a lot - even though I can't parent like I want, I can't potty train, I have a hard time disciplining (though she's so good she does her own time outs while I lie in bed!), and I can't do fun, creative things - I still get to have lots of cuddles. We probably average 10 books per day (usually one book at least 8 times - but not always the same book), and we have a lot of giggles in bed.
  • I have the best bedroom to be on bed rest. I have two full walls of windows so lots of natural light, cross breeze (when it's not too hot), a big comfy bed, a nice enough's really not so bad to be suck here, of all places.


  • It's pretty scary when you're at risk of losing your baby for so long. I have been very reluctant to admit to myself that I am pregnant (though now that I can feel it moving it's easier!), and I haven't felt able to think abut what the future will be like - one month, two months, six months, or a year down the road. Too much is unknown with this.
  • I feel super isolated and really need a lot more social interaction than I'm getting.
  • I may not always be in the best mood, so I may not be the best wife right now.
  • I am probably making socially awkward comments to visitors since my social interaction is so limited.
  • I am constantly frustrated that I can't get up and get or do what I want. The biggest challenge for me has been food. For some reason I am so sick of everything we have in our house - even though we can get anything anytime at the grocery store across the street. Just nothing ever sounds as good as a sandwich from a restaurant, or fried noodles or something else that's not in this house.
  • I can't cut my hair. It is about a foot too long. The second I get off bed rest, I am cutting it off and donating it. It is heavy, slow to dry, frizzy and just plain nasty. It's about 3 inches from my tush when I pull it straight. WAAAY too long.
  • No travel probably until baby is 8 weeks old. That's like hell for me.
  • Our helper is leaving in the next month or so, and I can't get out to interview new helpers, or train a new one, or really help with the transition for Sam. This one will only get harder in the next few weeks. 

So this photo is what my life has been. I have borrowed a tray from a friend (lifesaver - seriously), and I switch between my work computer and my personal computer. I play a lot of Ruzzle. I talk to friends and Facetime with family a lot. I have read the news, Facebook and other random things. Watched all of Downton Abbey, the first season of Girls, the first and a half season of Homeland. I'm trying the Wire, but having trouble getting excited about it.

I go to the doctor twice per week to get a shot of progesterone, and other than that I'm not allowed to leave my apartment. Luckily they have a Starbucks at the hospital, so that's one thing that makes me happy twice per week (though when the woman asked me if I want my "usual" today, I was depressed that the hospital - where I don't work! - should see me so often!).

I have had about 3-5 visitors per week - depending on the week. I REALLY appreciate when people come by. It's great to remember that there is a world beyond my bedroom, and I love to catch up and hear what is going on. Also, I'm usually a super social person, and the isolation is very difficult.

This past week was a bit more difficult as Sam got Hand Foot and Mouth Disease from school. She couldn't go out, and I couldn't get visitors. Pretty isolating and hard to keep myself still when trying to entertain a 2 year old. Obviously Rose is fantastic with her, but sometimes she wants to be with me, and I am just super limited. We play everything possible in my bed, and sometimes Sam even has her lunch or snack with my tray (she loves that).

Hoping for good news next week...but all in all, we're so lucky that we got pregnant at all. We were pretty sure that wouldn't happen.