This blog post originally appeared in Wise Women Canada.
I really don’t know Liz that well. Although, I feel like I’ve known her since she was 7 years old. How is this so?
by Suzanne Reisler Litwin
Liz’s father was my doctor. From the age of 17 until his passing, he was my gynaecologist. More so, he was a passionate medical professional and loving family manWhen I first met Dr. Daniel Wiener he was a young tall doctor with a mop of dark hair and a great tan. I was young, dumb and stupid! Basically we met because I needed a prescription for a birth control pill. After I got my prescription he made me promise that I will “never ever never” marry a person who is a Tay Sachs Carrier. As I promised, I looked around his perfect office and noticed the pictures of his children and beautiful wife. Liz was around 7 at the time. She was so cute and full of gorgeous curls.
Without having to go into length about Tay Sachs, simply when a male and female carrier of the gene pass it onto an embryo there is a 1 in 4 chance of creating a Tay Sachs diseased fetus. If the fetus is diseased it will grow into a child which will die within 3 years of life as a required enzyme will fail to develop. It is a slow and awful death. Prenatal diagnostic testing is required to identify the gene and it is followed through the fetal stage. Enough said! I find it hard to write this even though our discussion happened over 30 years ago.
I promised Dr. Wiener that I would NEVER even date a Tay Sachs carrier. Who needed that? So I dated and dated and met a really great guy. We fell in love. A serious kind of love. After about a year of dating I asked the dreaded question, “Are you a Tay Sachs Carrier?” He replied, “Yes! Are you?”
HOLYSHIT!!!!!! NO WAY!!!!!! F*CK!!!!!!!
My immediate response was, “I’m so sorry I can’t see you anymore! I can’t because of the problems we might have. I just can’t. I made a promise. I’m really sorry.”
I tried to break it off but I couldn’t. My love said we would go through this together and be stronger from all of it. So, I broke my promise and we got married.
The next appointment I had with Dr. Wiener was difficult. I told him that I broke my promise.
He accepted the challenge and said, “We will, also, go through this together”.
Now Liz was around 13 in his family pictures. His family was growing up.
My first and second pregnancies were disasters. We produced Tay Sachs diseased fetuses. I chose to terminate both at around 18 weeks gestation. A terrible, heartbreaking experience. My whole body, world, and life was altered.
Dr. Wiener was with me every step of the way. He cared for my body, mind, and soul. His reassurance was always present. I felt safe.
After the second terminated pregnancy he reassured me that I would have children of my own. I looked at the pictures of his children in his office. He held my hand and reassured me that “I” would have beautiful children just like them. Liz was around 16 in the pictures at this time.
In March of 1990, I was called out of my classroom to take a call. It was Dr. Wiener who received the prenatal diagnostic results of my current 3rd pregnancy. He told me my pregnancy was going to be “GOOD!” I cried and thanked him for the call. We were in business, he said. I asked if he would be at the delivery of this child. He said it was a promise! He was there to deliver my daughter Allyn.
My next pregnancy was also successful. He delivered my son Taylor.
He commanded the madness of the deliveries like it was a normal event. I always felt safe and assured that the babies and I were going to be fine.
I became exhausted from the process. I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore. I wanted to have an IUD to prevent pregnancy.My 5th pregnancy produced a diseased fetus. Dr. Wiener was there to help me through that terrible disappointment. Then, I miscarried the 6th pregnancy. He was there for that too.
Just before the IUD install appointment I wasn’t feeling well. To my astonishment, I was pregnant for the 7th time.
He said, “7th is a charm!”
I was 37 at the time, Liz was around 27. His family was growing and expanding and the pictures told the tale of celebrations and happiness.
Dr. Wiener was at the delivery for my son Duke. He didn’t miss a step. That was the final chapter of my pregnancies. My back gave out during that delivery and it hasn’t been the same since.
Non-obstetrics appointments followed and routine examines. My family was growing and so was his. I saw pictures of his children married and with children. I saw him go from a dark thick mane of hair to salt and pepper. Always with a healthy tan and always smiling. He was a Grandfather now.
Then…the tan faded too fast. He became ill but still worked as though everything was in place and fine. Always the perfect medical professional. Right down to his adorable handwriting. The pictures of his family kept showing happy expansion and celebration. I still felt safe and that everything was going to be fine.
One day my neighbour told me Dr. Wiener passed away. I sunk. NO! What about all the promises? Who will take care of me? This isn’t possible! I felt lost. My safety net was gone.
I went to the funeral and wept. I went to the shiva and wept. I went to his then dismantled office to pick up my medical chart and wept. I read and studied my medical history in his adorable handwriting and wept.
This was a disgustingly, terrible loss to everyone associated to him.
And…Then life went on. I see his face all the time now on Facebook because Liz looks just like her father. Liz’s son looks like his grandfather now, too! His face lives in them. When I see them, I feel comfort in knowing he’s still present in some way.
To answer the titled question. Do I know Liz? Not really. I’ve only seen her grow up through her Father’s office pictures. I see her now through Wise Women. I feel totally connected to her in a familiar way.
We shared a similar experience. She loved her father and so did I. I wasn’t “in” with him. I loved how he cared for and about me. With him I felt safe and confident. We went through the most difficult journey of my life together.
Our lives have moved forward, our families have grown in our pictures. Yet we are bonded together via this man. He would be so proud!
A note from West Island Blog founder Rhonda Massad: This post is compliments of Suzanne and Wise Women Canada – one of my favorite blogs. Truly inspirational. Thanks to Liz and Lisa.
Suzanne Reisler Litwin is an author/writer/columnist/