Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pregnancy and Nutrition

(This blog is not meant to diagnose or prescribe treatment for any particular condition. Please consult with a qualified Chiropractor or MD in individual cases.)

One of the best sources, for all aspects of pregnancy is the so-called Bible, What to Expect When You're Expecting. They also provide excellent guidelines for proper eating during the pregnancy, for optimal healthy weight gain.

Nutrition plays an integral role in the healthy development of the fetus. Avoid large meal and long periods of time in between meals. Increase fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and water intake. Take the pre-natal vitamin your doctor recommends, though you may have to supplement the Calcium levels, and the Folic Acid levels in the first trimester. The fetus absorbs the mother's calcium for bone building, and a pregnant or lactating woman has a higher calcium need than most. Druing the first trimester, it is also common for a woman to be repulsed by certain foods or smells, and dinner duty may have to be temporarily re-assigned.

An article I read recently made the following specific food recommendations:
AVOID Uncooked protiens, Spearmint and Sage (Herbs), no more than three cups of herbal tea per day, peanuts, nightshade foods (tomatoes, eggplant, green pepper, white potatoes), garlic, spinach and fish (because of mercury poisoning)

ADD IN Figs, Sesame/Techina, Beets, pomagranet, dates, avocado, grapes, papaya

I guess that means I should have my sushi and hot saki now, before I conceive...

Less Pain, Less Labour Time

(This blog is not meant to diagnose or prescribe treatment for any particular condition. Please consult with a qualified Chiropractor or MD in individual cases.)

Research relates that close to 60% of pregnant women will experience back pain, noted more among younger women with a previous history of back pain, and among women who have had three children or more. The entire curvature of the spine will shift its center of gravity, with alterations in posture due to natural weight gain and hormonal imbalance. Modified Chiropractic adjusting procedures can reduce back pain during pregnancy, and also results in a reduction of mean labour time, and the recovery period.

Before initiating chiropractic treatment of the pregnant patient, the DC will take a thorough history. Certainly, if a patient even suspects that she is pregnant during the intial consultation, x-rays would be avoided, as well as any therapeutic modality that might induce early contractions or a miscarriage. For overall health considerations, the woman should avoid smoking, alcohol, drugs and caffeine; and she should take Folic Acid supplement at least three months before she is intending on getting pregnant, in order to avoid neural defects.

The following recommendations of activity and exercise apply throughout the pregnancy, in order to ease the discomfort and promote a healthy birth:
1. Strengthening of the abdominal muscles
2. Generalized stretching in the pelvic area to improve bladder control and tonicity
3. Stretches to ease calf cramping and ankle swelling
4. Stretching and strengthening of the postural neck musculature, to reduce tension headaches

If you already exercise on a regular basis, don't stop, rather be aware of the changing baseline of your body as your pregnancy progresses.

The patient should also be aware of other health issues that may occur during the pregnancy. For example, the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, common in either the second or third trimester, and usually resolves spontaneously after the birth. In addition, as ligaments loosen to prepare for birth, a trochanteric belt may be necessary during activity, to stabilize the area.

Pregnancy demands an alteration of lifestyle, physically and emotionally. You might have to buy a more supportive bra, or experiment with comfortable sleeping positions. A woman who is used to working full time, wearing the power suit and the two inch heals, may have to cut down on her hours, and wear what my patients call "ugly shoes." You may find yourself forgetting key information or snapping in anger, that would be the hormones.

As the birth gets closer and the fetus pushes down on the bladder and up towards the diaphragm, a pregnant woman may find the need to increase the frequency of Chiropractic visits. If your baby has not turned by the end of the eigth month, the non-invasive and effective Webster Turning Technique can help.

A healthy mother, surround by a stress-free environment, can bring a beautiful child into the world. Insure proper care and awareness before, after and during the pregnancy.

Babies Cost Money II

As this process continues, I am composing a list of supplies, both pre and post natal, in terms of needs for me as a mother and the physical and emotional needs of my child. I have also sat with KB (my cousin) and his wife, and constructed a basic monthly budget.

If you think I have missed something, please let me know!


Basinet, Crib, Bouncy Chair, High Chair, Changing Table, Air-tight diaper disposal container, Rocking Chair for Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding Pillow, Bath (including non slip mat and bath toys)


Snugli, Stroller, Car Seat, Baby Supply Travel Bag

Fun and Education

Toys, Books, Baby Groups

Technical Equipment

Breastfeeding Pump, Digital camera/video, Tush Thermometer, Treadmill (so Mom can exercise without leaving the house)


Formula (as supplement for Breast Milk), Bibs, Pampers, Bottles and Sterilizer, Wipes/Desitin, age and size appropriate clothing as baby grows; and as Mom grows during the pregnancy and shrinks afterwards, Breastfeeding Bras.


Pre Natal Classes and Doula, Brit Milah (if it's a boy, including the Mohel, catering and renting the space), Babysitters

Babies Cost Money I

One of my largest fears at the moment is the amount of money a baby costs in terms of its basic physical needs in the first six months, and as I have been told by many parents, it's not about the planning, it's about the surprises. Because I am an independent contractor, when I don't work, I do not get paid. I also do not expect my family overseas to start supporting me financially, and turn me back into a teenager getting a glorified allowance.

I do have a house fund that could easily become a baby fund, should the need arise. Many mothers I know pass around used clothing and baby furniture, saying that there is no reason to buy all new of everything, when the baby grows so quickly in the initial stages. I would also like to think that this child will not only benefit from my love and attention, but will also extras in his/her life, and will not feel a sense of lack. I don't plan on buying out all of Toys R Us, but I suspect that this child will be mildly spoiled.

The real change manifests as my priorities shift, and I notice myself thinking twice before I buy something that is not absolutely necessary. Money saved today can be spent later. I have already thought about the cost of my Pilates sessions (60 NIS/hour) and my membership at the gym (2500/year) and how I can make this all work once the baby arrives.

I have also come to the realization that TV programs with nudity, violence or bad language will not be shown when the baby is awake, and certain rock songs just don't cut it in the values category. My swearing when I drive will have to be muzzled; and I will not be able to sleep in when I feel like it. I accept all these "costs" willingly.

There are certain government based programs which help in smaller ways:

1. National Health Insurance will pay for most of the doctor visits and hospitalizaitons and will largely subsidize the vitamins and medications that may be needed, other than purchasing the sperm donation itself, and hormone shots, which can be costly.

2. Bituach Leumi (National Insurance) takes the amount of money earned in the last three months before birth and maternity leave, and will pay 75% that amount for 14 weeks.

3. My professional insurance will pay before the birth, only if there is a dire medical need to stop working earlier than planned.

4. The Jerusalem Municipality will grant a 20% refund in Arnona (property taxes) and a single mother has one extra point of credit toward taxes.

5. Some nursery programs give discounts to single parents, but it is solely based on household income, and not on family status.

Now I have to include my insurance agents and my accountant in on my plans, so they can start the legwork for me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Not Mutually Exclusive

Finding my soul-mate is not mutually exclusive with this process of insemination and pregnancy. Though my dating style may be cramped while I am in fact (and G-d Willing) pregnant, I do not see my choice to become a mother as closing the door to a successful and loving long-term relationship with a husband.

It's funny how the Universe throws tests at you. Around the time when I found out that my appointment with the Sperm Bank had been canceled due to lack of supply, I received an eerie email from WG, an old college boyfriend, a man who BTW is now supposedly happily married to his wife and quite proud of his son.

WG wrote that on and off in the past 20 years, he has contemplated how his life, and our lives would have been different had we stayed together and married. He said that there is still a place in his heart for me, and that if I ever wanted a genetic sample from him, he would be happy to donate sperm and be the biological father of my baby. He added that any child of ours would know the imprint of true love.

While flattering, I responded that the choice to bring a child into the world with someone I know, someone I care about on some level but with whom I can never experience full intimacy is both selfish and dangerous. Not only for me and any expectations it might generate in my imagination, but also for him and his wife and his marriage. I made it quite clear that even if I were to agree - because even today he does fulfill most of the specifications for my ideal mate- he would have to sign off on any legal right to claim paternity later in this child's life, and that I would not allow him to insert himself into our lives as a family. For both his sake and for ours.

My friend LC agreed with my approach, and pointed out that if indeed I am planning on dating before I conceive and once I give birth, having an anonymous sperm donor simplifies the situation. It makes it so much easier for another man to lovingly step in and raise the baby together, when there is no biological father standing in the wings.

I have not heard from WG since sending that email, and hope that he sees and accepts the sense in my words and actions. Though I still hold onto that warm feeling from his generous offer.

Open Mouth, Insert Thermometer

In my urgent quest to avoid having to inject myself with hormones, I came upon a book with the gracious assistance of my upstairs neighbor (EG) called Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH. In it, she describes in detail the three physical signs that can be monitored by the woman herself, which combined tell you exactly when you have ovulated and how to achieve pregnancy most efficiently.

I recommend that any woman trying to get pregnant, or opting not to use chemical birth control, check out this essential read.

And so I went to the pharmacy and bought a digital thermometer, and every morning I take my Waking Body Temperature, before I even get out of bed. Charting the results has become fun, an art project and a science experiment; I need to know this information because I will not necessarily be able to get to Hadassah Hospital to get an ultrasound on the right day, depending upon my cycle.

I pass along several points that have bearing on my fertility, and recommend again that you read the book cover to cover.

1. The Luteal phase will largely determine if the ovum will have enough time to implant, once conception has taken place. To increase a short Luteal phase, she recommends Vitamin B6, in addition to Folic Acid.
2. To increase the chance of conceiving a girl, sex or insemination should take place on day 4-2 before the peak of ovulation. To increase the chance of a boy, inseminate 1-0 days ie at the peak of ovulation.
3. Once pregnant, body temperature will continue to rise, and thus the woman can know if she is pregnant before taking official blood tests which check for hCG levels.
4. Using temperature as a guide, the due date can be worked out mathematically: Peak Ovulation (from Chart) plus nine months, minus one week.

Of course the baby will still arrive when he/she is ready to leave the confines of the womb, when the space starts getting cramped.

When Do You Kick Out the Cats?

(And other somewhat irrelevant questions.)

Q: When are you planning on getting rid of your two cats? Aren't they dangerous around new babies?

A: Firstly, you may be referring to the problems of cleaning out the litter box, and in that case, no worries. My two cats use Gaea's bathroom, I have not cleaned out a litter box in years. Secondly, medical research has shown that babies and children who are exposed to pets at a young age have fewer allergies as they get older. Third, I have seen many cases where cats, (dogs and hamsters) not only add to the household, but actively protect the new baby, as it were there own kitten. Knowing my own felines, they will make excellent older brothers.

Q: If you could choose the horoscope of your child, or the season of the birth, what would it be?

A: According to Western civilization, I am a fire sign, and according to Chinese I am a wood element. Despite my holistic view of the world, I still have doubts as to the chicken-egg explanation of signs; does the horoscope fit the person, or do we humans in our search for order try to fit the random personality types. Regardless, I do not have the luxury of waiting six months, and as long as the baby is born healthy, I will be happy.

Q: Would you leave Israel and move to America once you give birth, to be closer to your family and have built-in baby sitters?

A: I made a choice to move to Israel in 1997, and that choice represented a long-term plan to live and raise a family with the values here as opposed to the United States. I might consider the move if I had twins, but since I am going for as natural a conception as possible (no hormones for the moment), a multiple birth is less likely. My work, my life, my friends are in Israel; besides which, I would not want to travel on a 12 hour international flight with a new baby and two cats.

Q: If this were your only chance to have children in theory, why not go for a multiple birth and super-fertility treatments? That way you get a whole family at once.

A: I have watched the parenting television shows, and I will admit that I find certain personality traits present in "onlies" less attractive. Only children don't learn how to share or compromise when they are getting 100% of the attention and rule over 100% of the territory. That being said, I had the important experience early on of a reality check. I visited and spent time with a woman named Dvorah Ross, an Orthodox Israeli woman who pioneered the halachic movement for single women to enter into motherhood in this country. She has a ten year old boy and a set of twins with special needs, and at the moment, no desire to date. On the one hand, she is an inspiration for the religious and non-religious communities in Israel; I can report, however, that she does struggle in certain areas, and certain givens fall by the wayside.

So for now, I will start with one.

Please feel free to ask any questions, and I will address them from time to time in this blog.

I Want To Suck Your Blood

Medically, So Far and In Brief

6/1/08: Consulted with my gynecologist, who referred me to the Women's Fertility Clinic at Hadassah Hopsital, Ein Kerem. Started taking Folic Acid to prevent neurological defects.
13/1/08: Initial visit at Hadassah Ein Kerem, Blood Taken to start checking for STDs. (Clear)
28/1/08: Blood tests done on Day 3 of period for basic hormone levels and more STDs (Clear, not that I was expecting any dramatic news).
12/2/08: Follow-up appointment at Hadassah Ein Kerem, I "probably" missed the date of ovulation for February, but they can't be sure because some of my blood test results were lost.
13/2/08: Originally scheduled appointment for initial consultation at Sperm Bank canceled, because they have literally run out of their supply. The next time I can realistically meet with them is at the end of March, and insemination must take place before Pessach, when they take vacation.
24/2/08: Blood tests done on Day 4 of period, informational only, and to make up for some of the hormones not tested in January. The nurses treat me with extra care and compassion, because they know that losing the last set of results really set me off.
I also find out that despite being owned by cats for the last five years, I tested negative for Toxoplasmosis.

For a person with a fear of needles, I am getting used to being bled for the sake of science.

Please Donate Sperm!

Before I go any further, I ask all those readers who wish to make a difference to please donate sperm, not just for women like me, but for married women whose husbands sperm count works against their success in entering into pregnancy.

In Israel, the demand far outstrips the supply.

Thank you.

So Who Knows? (A Sampling)

Quite a lot of people actually, many of whom will be mentioned in later blogs. The idea of the pregnancy and the single parenthood simmered inside me for almost two years, and once I made the decision with joy and faith, I had no choice but to share it with those who I knew would give me love and support. And even with those who have a peripheral connection to my life, because Israel is one large extended family. My business will become every one's business, and being 6000 miles away from my blood relatives, I must create a new family for the child I will bring into the world.

EG: My upstairs neighbor, a married woman from my home town in the States , with one very expressive child. An acquaintance who is fast becoming a friend.
DB: A friend who married a widower with two girls and had trouble getting pregnant, she herself had IVF and after five years gave birth to a boy.
MS: A friend who found her husband through the Internet and had a difficult pregnancy herself. When I first told her, she reacted by the following slipping out of her mouth, "Oh, you are going that route?" And quickly corrected herself by saying that she and her husband would support me in any decision I make. We share the same gynecologist.
TC: My cosmetitian who is in a committed relationship but has no desire or intention to have children, her partner three dogs are enough for her.
ME: An old friend from the United States, a lesbian in a long-term committed relationship, my Survivor buddy and currently recovering from breast cancer.
YL: My youngest brother, with whom I have an exceptionally close bond despite the difference in years and having not grown up together. He spent almost every weekend in my house when he was studying at a program in Israel, and we get each other, without speaking, and accept each other without condition or judgement.
SC: My massage therapist and spiritual counsellor, she has stepped up and is already calling herself "Savta" (Hebrew for grandmother) and wants to help me on this path, in any way that she can. She is already planning day trip with my child.
YO: A client who once offered to donate sperm to the cause, and has consistently told me that any child will be lucky to have me as a mother.
LC: A single mother in Jerusalem who lives in a building complex that happens to house five other women (four of them Orthodox) who are single mothers by choice. She has helped me understand the personal and bureaucratic maneuvers that face me in the months ahead.
KB: A distant cousin and adopted brother who lives down the street from me, he and his wife have pledged their full support to me, and have even offered to be there when I break the news to my parents.

I do of course wonder what some of my clients say and how they will react, especially those who come from the Ultra-Orthodox community. Would they discontinue to utilize my services because I have made a choice that goes against their personal and communal value system? Will I become a pariah and the fodder for gossip in my own neighborhood?

That is not in my hands and not my problem, each person must act in a way that is true and consistent to their inner voice, and my inner voice cannot wait to meet my future child.

About My Family

I was raised on the East Coast of the United States, in an Orthodox Jewish community. At the age of five, my mother and father got divorced, and three years later I acquired a loving step-father. At the time time of the divorce and re-marriage, the phenomenon was rare and embarrassing. As a child, I can remember the faces of pity when I walked into the room, the whispers and assumptions that my mother must have driven my father away, when in fact my father was cheating on her.

The oldest of five children in our blended family, two of my brothers and my only sister are married, with children. My youngest brother is not married, but only because he is still in college, though my family is already planning his wedding. That is the assumed path of a "normal" Jewish child.

Go to college, find spouse, get married, provide grandchildren and live happily ever after. For a variety of reasons, I missed that train, and to this day am mystified as to why an attractive, intelligent, and successful woman like myself has not found the Ultimate Roommate, the man who will want to make love to me and raise a family with me, and grow old with me. I will not, however, deny my character or be ashamed for living outside the box.

My personal mission is such that I commit deeply and emotionally to my friends and family, and to any cause in which I believe. Added to my rigid Orthodox upbringing, I am quite simply unable to have random sex without a great level of trust and connection to my partner, no matter how great my natural need for intimacy.

As a result, I am today 39 and a half years old, and a virgin. In halachic terms, I am able to marry a Cohen.

(Awkward pause. Right now you are thinking, "My G-d, what a cliche. She should join a nunnery, or the Jewish version thereof.")

In my own defence, I attended a Charity Ball last week and had every intention of getting piss drunk and sleeping with a man who vaguely fit the bill, to end the tyranny of my virginity and make the subsequent birth of my child just a bit easier. This time Gaea intervened and gave me my period.

It has taken me time and space, geographically far away from my family, and therapy, to realize and embrace the idea that not everyone follows the conventional path. That despite the fact that I am single, I run a business, own a car and pay taxes. I am a grown-up, and in many ways, more capable of raising a child responsibly than those who marry young, or marry badly.

So have I told my family about this choice to become pregnant in the next few months? No, between unfounded superstition, closed-minded religious beliefs and the pervasive "What will the neighbor's say" mentality that runs in my family, I do not trust them enough to be supportive of me in these precious months when I must be relaxed and exuberant about my future, and all the changes a child will bring.

Upon the advice of my new friends - women I have found in Jerusalem who successfully gave birth at a later age and are raising the child (or children) on their own - I have made various hints to my parents, but will only tell them for certain when their grandchild is growing and healthy in my womb. I do promise to give them enough time to absorb the information, and hope and pray that when their grandchild, my child, is a fact on the ground, they will get past their own issues and be able to give all the love this child deserves, without judgement.

The Quest

I am on the path to become a JSMBC, a Jewish single mother by-choice.

At the age of 29, I moved to Israel, with the following plan in my head and heart: set up successful business, meet amazing man, get married have children, buy house with picket fence in suburbia.

At the age of 37, after several failed long-term relationships and a broken engagement, I briefly considered getting pregnant, and came to the conclusion (after superficial research and major soul searching ) that I was not emotionally capable to bring a child into the world.

Within the past six months, I have emotionally committed to being a mother, because while finding my soul mate does not have a time limit, the physical ability of my body to carry to full term and bring a healthy baby into the world does.

It was actually a confluence of events that re-ignited the thought process and consideration of entering into single parenthood; for one, my friend and Pilates instructor, a single woman about my age, recently had a child using artificial insemination, and she is the happiest I have seen her. I can't count the number of times that people assume I am already a mother, when they see me interact with children. And in recent conversation with a close friend, she pointed out to me all the benefits I have in the "pro" column, things I could not see because I am too close to my life and my reality, and a bit afraid of leaping out of my comfort zone.

I run a successful business and am CEO of my own company, so I decide when I work and when I don't, and thank G-d, the business is thriving and stable. I exercise four to five times a week, have the advantage of a healthy cycle, and the advantage of maturity and life-experience.

Add to that, Israel as a society ranks highest in Western countries for fertility R and D, and as a country is much more supportive of parenting and mothers, providing 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. Not to mention the automatic health care at a minimal cost.

When the expert Russian sales-woman asked me if I my bra size had gone up from 36B to a 40 C because I was breast feeding, I responded, "I wish." I think I am ready to have a child.

So join me in my adventure, this blog will share the technical aspects and emotional roller coaster, and will hopefully open a forum for other women in Israel and all over the world considering the same life-altering plan.