Irena Davidoff – her story

Growing up in the beautiful city of Tashkent impacted my life in a very positive way. I have very warm and vivid memories of living there. Tashkent is a city of four seasons; I still remember the warmth of the sun and the aroma of blooming apple and cherry trees. I remember climbing cherry trees and eating ripe cherries right off the tree. My father used to take me up to Chimgan
Mountains, and I remember that beautiful, energizing nature. Tashkent is home to various ethnic groups –Armenians, Uzbek, Russians, Ukrainians, and Koreans-and as a little kid, I was aware that my family was Jewish. My older cousin introduced me to Shabbat candle lighting when I was ten years old. I became super excited about making different wishes every time I would light a Shabbat candle. We celebrated major Jewish holidays in my grandmother’s house, surrounded by the warmth of close family members.
My parents introduced me to the beauty of European culture through music and movies. I grew up watching movies with Louis De Funes, listening to Ricci e Poveri, Albano and Romina Powell, Joe Dassin (which I still enjoy today). I also remember how I loved Michael Jackson and used to be glued to the TV screen watching his music videos!  In Tashkent, my father was the head of Uzbek Cable Company, and there was no need for my mother to work. I grew up in a traditional household; my parents always shared their childhood stories- they served as role models of kindness and respect.
In 1998 when I was 12 years old, I came from Tashkent to New York with my mother and my younger brother. My father could not go with us at the same time, as his mother was terminally ill. My grandmother wished to be buried next to my grandfather in Tashkent. Although I never met my grandfather as he died long before I was born, I always heard incredible stories about him. My father has been coming every three months to visit us until he permanently came to New York in 2000.
In New York, everything changed, and my mother had to take over and work to make a good living for my brother and me. At 12 years old, I felt a sudden shift from being a kid to becoming a young adult. I took over the responsibility of looking after my brother, helping my mother take care of the household, and adjusting to the new school environment. It was also a culture shock for me since until 12 years old, I was only Jewish, but I now discovered I was a Bukharian Jew. In my household, we never spoke the Bukharian dialect.
I was a timid teenager growing up, and I loved spending my time at home. My first job at the age of 13 was tutoring a beautiful girl, and at 16, I started working as a dental assistant at my relative’s dental office. School years were not hard for me, and I graduated with ease. I chose my path to become a Registered Nurse. I was so eager to go through college and obtain my degree because I always wanted to give back to my parents for all the support they’ve given me, teaching me to hold my class and hold my head high and heart strong during any circumstances.
In January 2012, I got my first job as a Registered Nurse in my most favorite-field, Labor and Delivery, at the hospital near the financial district in Lower Manhattan. With my passion for Maternal-Newborn Health, I worked on Labor & Delivery, Postpartum, Nursery, and NICU units.
Coincidentally, my passion for Maternal-Newborn Nursing crossed paths with personal obstetrical struggles. My first son was born in 2009 via emergency C-section due to placenta abruption. A few years later, when I was already working as a nurse, I was hit with unexplained secondary infertility, which eventually led me to discover I had the beginning stage of endometriosis.
I didn’t know how to move forward during this dark time as no one had any answers. People used to look at me with sorrow; many people would ask me, “What’s going on? Why does it take so long to have another baby?” Although Bukharian culture is unique and beautiful, it could undoubtedly be very harsh because of the constant stigmas we face.
I worked in the obstetrical field, and I was a victim of obstetrical problems. I witnessed many joyous and sad moments, which had an everlasting impact on me. I will never forget the day when a patient walked into the maternity ward to deliver her baby. She was not a known patient to any obstetrical practice in the hospital; she had no prenatal care and literally came off the street. She delivered a baby boy and requested to immediately give him up for adoption. She never wanted to bond with him or look at him. She just walked out. (I don’t want to be judgmental as everyone has their reasons and makes their own choices, but it is sad seeing a baby being given up). I was looking at that baby, who was so new to this world and denied love and care by his very own mother. This precious little boy stayed at the hospital for about one month. Each of us (nurses) held him and cared for him every shift until an appropriate foster home was found. On the day of his discharge, I went to the Century21 Department store not far from work to get him some cute outfits to go to foster home nicely dressed. A few other nurses got him some toys, and all of us signed his newborn card wishing him the very best. We were all wondering how soon adoption would happen for this baby boy, and we were told that infants get adopted relatively quickly, and soon this boy will be with his permanent family. I went home that day thinking about kids in orphanages who never experienced family warmth, kindness, and attention. I genuinely wish that all orphan homes would close down one day and all those children would find a loving and caring home.
A few years forward, I decided that I could no longer focus my time on going through infertility treatments (which put a negative toll on me), and making excuses as to why I don’t have another child. Instead, I enrolled in Grad school and obtained an MSN degree. I also received various certifications in the obstetrical field. I focused on improving my quality of life. Through some fantastic people that I work with, I was able to find the right specialist and go through laparoscopy to eliminate endometriosis.
When I least expected it, to my biggest surprise, I became pregnant with my second son and he was born in June 2018. It was certainly a bitter sweet experience as he was born prematurely at exactly 36 weeks and spent some time in the NICU due to respiratory distress. Seeing my son undergoing various treatments in the NICU was very hard, but I had to remain strong and I stayed with him every day and night until he was finally discharged. My two precious sons are nine years apart. The wait of nine years helped me understand that everything in life has the right timing- I should not rush anything.
My nursing career has been taking me onto different paths. I worked as a Nurse Educator, and I progressed my career into academia. I took on a part-time job working as a Clinical Professor at various universities, training a new generation of nurses in the field of Maternal-Child Health. My hard work and dedication in the hospital paid off, and I was promoted to the Nursing Administrator role, and I continue to strive for professional growth.
I discovered that I could positively change someone else’s life by reflecting on my struggles. My endometriosis journey allowed me to share my experience with my nursing students, and many of them thanked me because they suffered in silence. Just recently, I was part of an infertility workshop for Bukahrian women- and I was able to share my experience in hopes to help other women.
Nevertheless, I am grateful to G-d for all my ups and downs. In the Prayer of Thanks, one of my favorite lines is “Thank You for my periodic difficulties, my occasional setbacks, and for the times when I don’t feel happy, because everything is for my ultimate benefit, even if I don’t see that it’s for my best….”
I hope my journey will help Bukharian youth get inspired, stay strong, and become creative and determined. Never give up, and remember that G-d has perfect timing.