The day my Children were Ripped Away from Me // My parenting challenges of the past paled in comparison to what awaited me in the future

As told to Goldie Schwimmer

I never dreamed I’d be sharing my story with the public. Private by nature, I don’t consider myself much of a storyteller. However, I am a big believer in the fact that some stories should, and must, be told. Mine is one of them.

My life was cruising along a blessed path. I considered myself fortunate to be able to work from home in my chosen field of medical billing while caring for two children, with a baby on the way.

When our daughter arrived in September, we were ecstatic. She was every inch the princess, and we swooned over our newest addition. Baby Shaindy, however, appeared to be less enamored with us. She cried incessantly. Though my other babies hadn’t been poster children for Dr. Spock, Shaindy took things to a whole new level.

I was that lady you saw in the grocery store with an empty carriage and a shrieking baby in hand, attempting to shush her. As anyone with a challenging baby has probably experienced, I was given reams of advice, usually from those who just wanted to silence her! Baruch Hashem, she was developing normally, as the pediatrician assured me regularly.

Concurrent with this nisayon, Hashem sent our family a new challenge. Although my husband and I had never been wealthy, neither had we worried about money. But suddenly we began to experience financial hardship that impacted us tremendously. Between our financial instability and Shaindy’s hollering, I struggled to keep my head above water. Rather than burden our parents, we hoped time would resolve the money issue.

Life limped along, a blur of sleepless nights and strained days. It was only when Shaindy was four and a half months old that things appeared to be improving. Or so I thought. Little did I know that future events would have me begging to return to my old life.

One afternoon when my son was home sick, I took out some ingredients for baking, putting Shaindy down for some tummy time a few feet away. Just as we were getting into the activity, something made me look over at Shaindy. Her face was to the mat, and she was immobile. I felt myself go cold. I picked her up; she was like a lifeless rag doll in my arms.

My brain went into autopilot. I ran across the room, grabbed the phone and called Hatzalah. I remember yelling my address, adding, “I don’t think she’s breathing!”
We live on the second floor. Holding my limp, inert baby, I opened the door and sat down on the top step. Still on autopilot, I began doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. (I’d like to thank my high school CPR teacher, Mrs. Sprei, who taught us the ABC method.) I only did rescue breaths, though; my jumbled brain completely forgot about chest compressions. I’d later count this among one of the million “small” chasadim that Hashem sent that day.

After what seemed like an eternity, Hatzalah arrived. They snatched Shaindy from my arms and rushed her to the ambulance. In no time, our street was buzzing with sirens and squawking radios.

A neighbor took my son and watched him for me. I was shepherded into a car behind the ambulance and sat there, frozen. There were no tears, no screaming. I just repeated the same chapter of Tehillim again and again, on a loop. After a 15-minute wait behind the stationary ambulance, a burly Hatzalah paramedic came to talk to me. Desperate, I asked if my baby was still alive. He was evasive and hightailed it right back to the ambulance.

At some point, it occurred to me that I hadn’t called my husband. I then remembered that he was a distance away. Not wanting to alarm him, I simply told him to come home and that I’d explain later. Everything would be fine, I assured him, but deep down, something told me that our little girl was no longer alive.

The Hatzalah paramedic was back. He asked if anyone was available to come with us to the hospital. When I mentioned my mother, he asked, “Is she a strong woman?” To me, this question confirmed what I already felt.

I was hustled to the front of the ambulance, the door slamming on my foot as I got in. The driver manned the ambulance as if it were a tank, and all the while the EMTs rapidly fired questions at me. Yes, she was a healthy baby. Normal, full-term, natural delivery, and she was developing typically. But why would they be asking me these questions if she were no longer alive?


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