Monday, August 4, 2014

Under fire

If anyone would've told me I'd have to grab a sleeping Naama from her crib and run to our safe room because of a nighttime air raid siren, I'd have laughed in their face!

When Naama was a newborn, I was so unsure of myself around her because of my disability that I didn't even pick her up on my own until she was 13 weeks old, and now at 2.5 years old, I can get her to our safe room in time when a rocket siren sounds! My how far I've come, huh?

With balance issues from Cerebral Palsy, there was NO WAY I could lift Naama from her crib really quickly, especially if her crib bars were pulled all the way up, but that's exactly what I had to do on July 7th, when the air raid siren wailed at 8:30 pm.

That night, Mary Poppins left at 8pm. My husband had called earlier telling me he wasn't far from home. With Naama sound asleep, I started washing dishes while listening to the radio on my phone. Suddenly I heard a loud siren. I quickly turned away from the dishes and looked out the window frozen in confusion, shock and fear. I knew what the air raid siren sounded like only from daytime drills the Israeli army periodically conducted.

They NEVER conduct drills at night.

Oh God! This is real! 

The rockets raining down on southern coastal Israeli cities were now reaching my area, about 40 kilometers from Jerusalem.

Getting Naama to our reinforced room was all I could think about. I dropped the dish in the sink and ran as fast as I could down the hall to Naama's room

"Get up Naama... get up my baby, hurry hurry," I blurted as I ran to her crib. As the siren continued wailing, I remembered I had 90 seconds from the siren to get to our safe room and secure it, so I didn't think twice about grabbing a dazed Naama from her crib even though the crib bars were up. I had never taken Naama out of her crib this way. I was always too afraid I'd lose my balance and fall if I didn't lower the bars first, so I was surprised how easily I dragged her out of her bed. As I set her on her feet, my phone fell out of my hand and slid under her crib. I quickly retrieved my phone and we ran out of Naama's room towards the neighboring room, which is our reinforced room/ home office.

As I entered our safe room, I turned around expecting to see Naama following me, but the poor kid was so disoriented and freaked out by the wailing siren, that she was running in a circle towards the living room. The siren was still blaring, but I was running out of time to secure the safe room.

I was scared, but I held myself back from bursting into tears because I had to think clearly.


Thankfully Naama listened to me and quickly ran into the room. Doggie however wasn't listening to my call, so I let him fend for himself as I pulled the heavy door shut.

"Sit on the floor," I said to Naama, as I ran over to the window to slide the iron plate across the window.
I pulled and pulled at the lever but the iron plate wasn't sliding across, so I just shut the window and Naama and I sat as far away from the window as possible.

I pulled Naama onto my lap and I was finally able to catch my breath, but I very quickly realized how stifling it was in the room, which was sealed except for air conditioning vents, but the AC wasn't on, so there was NO air in the room. I made a mental note to get a fan in there ASAP. Following an air raid siren, we were supposed to stay in the safe room for ten minutes in case a rocket hit, but I think Naama and I lasted 5 minutes in there without air!

To pass the time, I cuddled with Naama and told her everything was going to be just fine.

"The loud noises woke me up mommy."

"I know. I'm sorry."

Later that night, people were saying that the siren in our area had been a false alarm. God I hoped so! Once was enough! But unfortunately that first siren was no false alarm. The next night, around the same time as the previous night, the air raid siren pierced the nighttime silence as I was taking something out of the fridge. The siren is so loud and jolting that I lost my balance, fell backwards, and slammed my head against the kitchen cabinet. Not having time to think about the pain, I quickly got up and ran towards the safe room.

"GET NAAMA!!" I yelled to my husband as I ran. He quickly brought Naama into the room and handed her to me, so he could secure the room.

My husband and I looked at each other and spoke with our eyes. It looked as if Hamas' rockets from Gaza were REALLY targeting us in central Israel as well now too. We heard and felt the booms of rocket interceptions by the Iron Dome. This was unbelievable!

Several people on Facebook suggested the siren sound be changed to something calming like Enya, or a song by Michael Jackson, so we could dance our way to the safe room. After slamming my head on the cabinet because of the jolting sounding siren, I totally agreed with people's suggestions.

"I vote for the calming siren," I said to my husband as I touched the bump on my head.

Now that I put a fan in the safe room, we sat in there for the required time as we watched the news. It felt strange to me that a room in our apartment was suddenly transformed into a room that could save our lives.

The next day, as I walked Naama to daycare, I didn't realize how tense and scared I was about being outside until I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I neared a school and residential buildings I could run into for shelter if need be. It takes me 20 minutes to walk to and from Naama's daycare. I'd only be near shelter for about 5 minutes of the walk, so I made my husband walk her in the mornings. He could pick her up and run with Naama to shelter. I couldn't. My husband wasn't usually home in the afternoons, so I'd walk as quick as I could to get Naama from daycare.

Usually, I take Naama to the park after we have lunch, but I didn't want to take her to the park because if the siren went off, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find cover with her in 90 seconds and I didn't want her to have to take cover the way these kids in the city of Ashdod had to, so we just avoided the park for over a week. I felt terrible depriving my daughter of outdoor time, but her safety came first.
Playground in one of the cities near Gaza.
I finally took Naama to the park after we were siren free during the day for a few days straight. I felt guilty having a good time when our soldiers were dying every day fighting in Gaza, but then I realized that giving us the ability to go to the park with our kids freely is exactly what these soldiers are fighting and dying for. I tried to remember that, but the sadness was overwhelming and palpable. 

Over the next week, the sirens sounded nightly around 8:30-9 pm. Knowing that pattern made me breathe a bit easier when I had to pickup Naama from daycare, but it really screwed with her bedtime schedule, especially the one 2AM siren we had! 
2am siren

Usually just as we were putting Naama down for the night, the siren began to wail, freaking her out. 

Nighttime sirens also meant I wanted someone with me twice a week my husband comes home really late at night. Just because I didn't fall as I dragged Naama out of her crib when the first siren sounded, I didn't need to be a hero and try it again!

I was overwhelmed with fear at the thought of being alone with Naama if the siren went off at night. 

How am I going to lift her from her crib and carry her if she isn't already awake from the siren? Maybe I just got lucky the first time? I didn't want to try it again, but during the day, I took Naama out from her crib when the bars were up. With Mary Poppins on summer vacation, I was practicing just in case...

Luckily my father was in town for a visit and stayed with me when I needed, which really came in handy. One night, as I was about to take Naama out of the shower, the siren sounded. My father quickly grabbed a naked Naama and we ran for the safe room.  I was really thankful for my father's help. 
I startle very easily (I think Cerebral Palsy has something to do with my startle response). Anyway, I was afraid that if the siren sounded while I was bathing Naama, I'd startle and lose my grip on her, so I was glad I asked my father for help.

Naama knows the sirens aren't good noises, but we tell her the Israeli air force planes she often hears at night, are good noises because they are protecting us from the bad people, but the loud noise of the planes overhead scare her a lot. Often, Naama would wake up screaming for me in the middle of the night and then spend the rest of the night in our bed. Needless to say, all this made for sleepless nights, which required emergency mother daughter and dolly beauty treatment for the dark circles under our eyes!

Even dolly got a treatment!

  Wow did I screw up when I put her to bed one night following another siren!

I left her crib bars down because they weren't going up easily and without realizing that I was thinking OUT LOUD, I said, "it's better the bars are down so I can get you easier if there are loud noises." Naama started crying that she didn't want loud noises...go me, right?? It took me awhile to calm her, as I promised there wouldn't be anymore loud noises and if there were, the people who made the noises would be in trouble=) thankfully there weren't more sirens that night, but I wish Hamas would pick a more convenient time instead of bedtime to fire a rocket in our direction!

The sirens seemed to be affecting Naama more than I thought. One night as I went to put her down, she hung on to me and said in a tearful voice, "no mommy. Wait for the siren." I told her the siren probably wasn't going to start because it was past its usual time.

"Yea it will mommy."

No matter that I told Naama that if the siren went off I'd come get her right away, she wasn't letting go of me, so I rocked her in my arms till she fell asleep, but every once in awhile, she'd pop up and say "what is that noises mommy??" I'm not sure what to do now because she asks about EVERY noise. Man do I feel like hanging every Hamas member from their....members!!!

Truthfully, I'm also extra jumpy now. During the day, especially when I'm with Naama, I realize I'm constantly waiting with bated breath for the siren to go off. I try to go about my daily tasks as if all was normal, but the next siren was always in the back of my mind. Thankfully, we haven't been under constant rocket bombardment like southern cities, but we have had enough sirens and heard and felt enough Iron Dome interception booms, that I'm still nervous, especially at night, but I was always thankful Naama was with me for every siren, but one day she wasn't.

We had been siren free for nearly a week. Naama was at daycare and that day was her favorite because it was swimming day. I got home and settled into work. About an hour later, the siren sounded.

I jumped out of my chair and burst into tears as I headed for the safe room.

"Oh my god!! my baby!!" I cried. She's gonna be so freaked out if they were outside in the pool when the siren sounded. Thinking about how scared Naama and the other kids must be, made me cry harder. I felt so bad that I couldn't be there to comfort my baby, especially knowing how scared of the siren she was. My husband hugged me and told me he'd call the daycare to find out if everyone was ok.

Thankfully, the kids were inside when the siren sounded and they knew just what to do. They filed into the safe room and sang songs with their teacher until it was time to come out. I was so proud of my little person and her friends! I was worried that incident would set Naama back into a pattern of crying and sleepless nights, but to our relief, she didn't even mention the siren sounding while she was in daycare!

Unfortunately, 3 weeks later, rockets are still being fired into Israel, but unlike other cities, we have had relative quiet, with only the occasional siren sounding, but every time I pass Naama's room at night, my breath catches and I am reminded of the first night time siren and rushing in to get Naama to safety.

To help both of us cope, and to show thanks, Naama and I baked a big carrot cake for our soldiers serving in Gaza. One of the soldiers serving is our neighbor's son.

Naama loves helping me bake and she was excited that we were doing something nice for the soldiers who were protecting us from the bad people who make the siren sound.

Naama happily drew pictures to be sent with the cake. 

A few days later, I saw that our cake and pictures were very much appreciated by IDF soldiers. I excitedly showed the picture to Naama and I asked her what she thought about the soldiers protecting us.

After thinking a bit, Naama said "you're great....and I love you!"

IDF soldiers with cake and pictures