Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Myth of the SuperMom

I never imagined that the career driven woman I once was would be saying the following words: next to Motherhood, the rest is a distraction.

My cousin, her Russian-Israeli husband and their seven month old daughter came to visit yesterday; as they live in California these days, it was quite a rare treat. It felt wonderful to have another new mother of a baby girl in the same room, to compare notes and share advice. And of course it was sheer pleasure to watch Raphaela and their daughter Lia "play" together and speak what I call Pebbles-Talk, as much as infants can be said to interact. (As in baby girl Pebbles from the television cartoon, the Flintstones.)

At one point, my cousin, who is head of the Hillel at Stanford University, asked me if I planned on breast feeding exclusively, once I went back to work full time. Having been asked that question many times in the last three months, I enthusiastically replied, "Absolutely!" My cousin sighed, and said that she had tried the breast feeding/pumping/working plan, and that once Lia got to six months, something had to give. Now Lia receives bottles instead of the breast, and doesn't look any worse for it.

I am often accused by random Israeli women of naivete and First Child Syndrome, if I believe that the breast feeding can continue as I intend.

We both expressed the sentiment that no matter how intelligent, motivated or organized, a modern woman cannot achieve excellence in all aspects of her life, especially when a baby comes into the picture. The Super Mom Myth has pushed many a woman - single or married - to sleepless nights and over-scheduled days, and in the end, it is most likely the woman and her family who suffer the consequences. Having attended Barnard College, where women roar the loudest and must definitely conquer the world, I still have come to the conclusion that there must be priorities in my life.

I choose Raphaela, over Chiropractic and my professional aspirations. She is my long-term project, and I am happy and secure in the statement that I cannot have it all, and that is OK.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Girl Power

One of the first baby books I read by Penelope Leech, contained a sentence which at the time gave me much joy and relief. She stated that whether you are talking about a married couple or a single parent, as long as a child has one consistent and loving figure in their early life, they will grow up to achieve emotional health and loving bonds with others. For most children it is the mother who provides that stability, while a helpful father/husband can only help. (The opposite is also true, according to Dr. Phil, who stresses the importance of parents providing a unified front; children will manipulate and take advantage of any cracks in authority, ultimately resulting in a damaged upbringing.)

Today, Savta Shira came with me to the care taker, to pick Raphaela up after my short Chiropractic work day. As I, Savta Shira and Elana sat in the same room, I marveled at Raphaela's blessed life. She has a mother who will always love her and take care of her, an adopted grandmother who showers her with affection, and a care taker who gives her stability and structure where I sometimes fail to do so. Three amazing and committed women.

I of course hope that my father and extended family will add positive male role models, and I still do not rule out the idea of my being married some day to a husband and lover, and a father to my daughter. I wish for my daughter to have the same closeness and connection with my mother as I had with my grandmother, Rebbecca Keller, for whom Raphaela was named. At the moment, because there is the small matter of 6,000 miles, my parents have taken on the serious duty of grandparents and have begun to plan a party for Raphaela, when we go to the States to visit for Pessach. At last they have come to fully embrace their part in my daughter's life, and want to introduce her to their extended community.

I do, however, want to state for the record that I in no way believe the Jewish Old Wives Tale that warns that if you do not have a festive meal for a daughter, they will not find the appropriate match for marriage. Religion was meant for higher goals than that of gossip and scare tactics.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Biological Connections

I am not at all close with my biological father (S), who divorced my mother when I was less than five years old, and moved to California before my Bat Mitzvah. As you can imagine, the years of ugly custody battles and law suits to force S to pay child support did not endear him to me.

When I moved to Israel in 1997, I briefly reconnected with S through email, and that attempt failed after six months, because he did not wish to sustain it. As it stands for me, in the present, I have let go of the confusion and anger with the help of temporal and physical distance, as well as with several years of intense therapy; we email each other once or twice a year, for Rosh Hashana and birthdays.

My mother - derided by the Jewish community as a divorcee/ single parent, when it certainly was not in fashion - remarried when I was seven, and this man for all intents and purposes raised me; I love "Dad" and feel his love as if I were his own from the beginning, and so I have no complaints in the father territory.

When Raphaela was born, I felt I had to acknowledge S for being my sperm donor, so to speak. He was a terrible parent and though basically absent from my life and my consciousness, I must admit and be thankful for the fact that without him, I would not exist. And so I sent S an announcement of my daughter's birth, along with some pictures, because he is technically Raphaela's grandfather. I did not expect him to fulfill the title in any practical way, but he deserved to know.

Today I received a rather generous check from my biological father, for my daughter, his grand- daughter, and being properly trained in the New England fashion, immediately sent out a thank you note. How nice that he can get past his ambivalence toward me, and contribute to my daughter's welfare. My expectations go no further.

I debated telling my mother about this gift, and decided that what she doesn't know won't hurt her, in this particular case. It would spark a discussion of S's financial and mental state, which ignites her insecurities even after 31 years of a loving and nurturing relationship with Dad. Why couldn't he have paid child support when my brother and I were young, and my mother needed the money for basics? And does he think he can buy his way back into my life when he has neglected me (or done worse) all these years, etc.

Families get very complicated.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Resenting the Breast

In Gina Ford's Contented Little Baby Book, she writes that it is not a badge of shame if a mother chooses the bottle over the breast - even though "Breast is best." - because the most important key to a happy child is a happy and well rested mother. No child ever died from being breast fed.

I have to admit that she made me feel a little better about the feelings of guilt I have been experiencing lately, when Raphaela latches on and I feel this pain and sensitivity in my nipples, and I wonder if the breast feeding is worth all the fuss.

Both my La Leche counsellor (and a Barnard sister) and my doctor assure me that the sensitivity could be a commonplace Candida (Thrush) infection, and I have already started using the cream the doctor gave me. Mostly, I love the time with her on my breast because I know that it serves us both well emotionally and physically; I look forward to that smile on her face when she is done eating.

But I am human, and I cannot deny that the pain makes me jump and instills in me some fear, which would then presumably affect the supply of my milk in the short and long run. Sometimes I like expressing much better and giving it to Raphaela in a bottle, it is my milk without the pain. I am hoping that this period passes and we resume our happy routine, because I intend on breast feeding for at least six months.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

#?!@# Schedules

Last week, my excellent caretaker introduced me to her "Baby Bible," Gina Ford's Contented Little Baby Book. In truth, it was the first among all I have read that spoke to me, because she was spot on in her analysis of Raphaela's (and other babies her approximate age) daily cycles and rhythms. Except for a four hour break in eating which doesn't suit my daughter, all the naps and feedings coordinate exactly, when you stick to her regimen.

If only Raphaela would not wake up at four am instead of the Ford seven am expectation. At this hour she is wide awake, eyes bright and stomach hungry. Sometimes she falls asleep again and sometimes - like this morning - she immediately becomes overtired and cranky and needing to be held continuously. I have not gotten anything done, as it is next to impossible when you need to lug around 11 pounds of baby girl to avoid the shrieking that could shatter crystal glasses. No shower, no breakfast, no expressing my engorged breasts.

I didn't expect Raphaela to conform to a strict timeline the first week, though the book says it can happen within 48 hours; but thank G-d I am taking her to the caretaker for four hours today while I work with grown-up Chiropractic clients. We both need the break from each other, and the money I make can go towards therapy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

CSI: The Case of the Missing Lamaze Bugs

Little people like Raphaela have little toys. While I was still in recovery at Hadassah after the birth, I received as a gift the developmental toy from Lamaze, with two hand rattles and two foot rattles. They are all in the shape of various bugs, great bold colors and black and white stripes, and are meant to cause excitement in her neurons when she discovers her extremities.

Two weeks ago, I noticed that one of the bugs (a lady bug) went missing. It was clearly on the changing table last time I checked, and now it was gone. I checked in the obvious places and some less than obvious options, and the lady bug is no where to be found. When the cleaner came on Friday, I gave him the mission to search for this toy while he takes care of the rest of the house.

This past week, the second hand bug went missing. Again, it was clearly in its designated spot on the changing table on Friday morning, and on Sunday morning it had sadly vanished.

I have three suspects in mind:
1. Myself, as my level of exhaustion may lead me to do silly things, like throw things away with the dirty diapers without noticing.
2. Harry. The cat has been hanging out in Raphaela's room lately, recovering from an injury to his paw. Perhaps he perceived Bug as a threat akin to a small mouse and battered it to death.
3. The Cleaning Guy. Never emotionally stable to begin with, he has developed what I fear is an unhealthy attachment to my house and to my daughter. The same way that serial killer collect souvenirs, perhaps he is taking home one of her toys each week. It gives me the creeps to think about it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Only in Israel

Today I had a dental appointment, and originally, one of my friend's daughters was going to baby sit while I had my teeth cleaned, but they took a day trip in the end and were not available. When I arrived at the office, I apologized that I did not have someone to watch over Raphaela, and that I hoped she would not be too much trouble.

Immediately, one older woman sitting in the waiting room offered to feed her a bottle, and the secretaries assured me that they would love to take care of her while I had my check up and treatment. In fact, I did not see my daughter for a half hour, and at one point, one of the secretaries came into the room to let me know that they were changing her diaper. When I finished my appointment, I saw another random woman, who was waiting for her daughter, rocking Raphaela to sleep in her stroller.

Only in Israel would I feel such warm support, and only in Israel would I give my daughter to strangers without hesitation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Financial Concerns

Having grown up in Manhattan, I normally appreciate the candid behaviour (called "Dugriut" in Hebrew) of Israelis. Most of the time, I appreciate when a person speaks to me directly, straight up, without sugar coating or playing the supposedly polite politically correct game.

Yesterday, however, this was not the case. My cousin's wife, a highly educated, intelligent and "dugrit" Israeli, gave me a whole lecture about how I better get back to full-time work as soon as possible, as I don't want to lose my Chiropractic clients and get my daughter thrown out into the street because we won't be able to pay the rent. I should have a sitter put my child to bed at night so I can take late patients, etc. To prove her point, she casually mentioned that she started working two weeks after her youngest daughter was born, and she took the baby to all her business meetings.

I get it, she has five children and she knows better than me. I get it, I am a single parent and I need to worry about my child more so than the traditional parent.

Thanks (NOT). I had already gotten into a frame of mind of thinking about money issues, about how many hours I would have to work to cover our expenses without my losing out on precious time with Raphaela. I have come to accept that I will earn less per month because I will quite simply not be putting in the hours I used to, before the pregnancy and before I gave birth.

If someone said to me, right now, here's enough money to cover you for the next year, I would close my office and never look back. But I cannot afford to do that right now, unless some random relative I have never met dies and leaves me his estate. (I am not counting on that option, just putting it out there to the Greater Universe.) I also don't want Raphaela to feel the stress of just getting by emotionally or financially, because I believe that babies are especially perceptive to mood and emotions.

Yesterday, Raphaela pulled herself into a sitting position and held her back there, and she has begun to 'speak' spontaneously; I cannot afford to miss that.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Traveling with a Baby

Today I confirmed our tickets to the States for Pessach, as well as confirming that the bassinet will come along with the bassinet seat on British Airways. On the one hand, I can't wait to see Raphaela interacting with her cousins, she reveled in the company of other children on our first weekend away. On the other hand, I now have a whole new list of concerns regarding traveling with a six-month old infant, as I have never done it before.

In addition, it appears that between the two of us, we only get two pieces of luggage, and I was so hoping to shop at Childrens Place and buy the store out...

Onto my list of premature worries:
1. How will I get myself, a baby and her stroller, and two pieces of luggage out of my house and to Ben Gurion Airport?
2. How will I get myself, a baby and her stroller and two pieces of luggage to the check in area?
3. Will Raphaela melt down while we are waiting to board the plane?
4. Will she melt down at any part of the flight, or during the three hour layover in Heathrow?
5. How will I get my tired self, a tired baby and her stroller and two pieces of luggage out of the airport and through customs in Boston?
6. How much a disruption will occur in Raphaela's sleeping and eating patterns, while we are in America for two weeks, and how long will the effect last once we return to Israel?
7. How will I get my tired self, a baby and her stroller and two much heavier pieces of luggage out of customs once we return to Israel?
8. How will I drag myself and my child home after that long trip?
9. How can I afford to take off two and a half weeks of work, in addition to all the shopping that is bound to take place?

On the up side, as an Israeli I will only be doing one Seder.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First "Away" Weekend

In the two and a half months that Raphaela has been born, we have attended a few Friday night dinners at friends, and some Shabbat lunches as well. On Friday nights, whether I am at home alone with her or in someone else's house, I rarely get to eat past the first course. Even during the week, a civilized dinner has become a rare luxury.

This weekend, the baby and I are going to Efrat, to stay at the home of one of my oldest college friends; her husband runs a regimented and religious routine with their four children, and I have already let them know that my life is anything but orderly these days.

On the more banal side, I have no idea how to pack for a 36 hour period outside the house, other than the obvious ie diapers. I am also having a hard time dealing with my own anticipated discomfort, when I have to breast feed or if she keeps the family awake at night. I worry about Raphaela's reaction to a strange (non-home) environment, and the change in her routines.

On a more existential level, this weekend brings up the recurring conflict I experience regarding organized religion. This issue comes up for me every time the baby and I spend time with my cousins as well, who are Modern Orthodox but also place 100% emphasis on the Torah and Judaism in their home, in the way they raise their children.

I was raised in the New York Metropolitan area in the Yeshiva University/Rav Soleveitchik model: you can be a Jew with the Torah as your moral and behavioural compass, and also enjoy the benefits of the secular life and contribute on the 'outside.' My father, who got smicha (Rabbinic ordination) from Rav Soleveitchik, took us mixed swimming. I wore jeans, I took art lessons and drew nudes. Of course we watched television. In the past 20 years, most of the Jewish world has moved to the right, whereas I have stayed in essentially the same place, so now I am the less religious sibling, if you don't count my brother the agnostic.

I can pick and choose because I have the Jewish academic background and the personal experience of Orthodox Judaism, and I understand what parts of observance are truly important and what aspects derive from the male-dominated establishment and their need to control the religious population through fear. I find the synagogue atmosphere stifling and quite frankly, boring after a while; though for my daughter, it could become a place where she sees her friends, and therefore it inherits a positive image.

Living in Israel, however, presents a challenge for raising Raphaela. Israel, by the virtue of being The Jewish State, permeates with a cultural atmosphere of Judaism without necessarily keeping the Torah to the letter of the law. Secular Israeli friends of mine drive on Shabbat, and yet keep a kosher home, have Pessach seder and know more about the Torah than many Orthodox Jews in America.

And therein lies the question: do I educate my child in the Orthodox way, even though I find so many aspects random and distasteful? How can I offer her a choice as she gets older, if she does not realize and understand all the options available to her? And how can I explain to my child that there will be many within the Orthodox community who will look down on her, because of the way she came into this world, even when I followed halacha?

American Consulate: The Seventh Circle of Hell

Savta Shira was supposed to come with us this morning, to be an extra set of hands, but she got the flu. Raphaela waking up at 2:30 this morning did not help matters.

I had lived a full day with her by the time we had to leave for the American Consulate in East Jerusalem, to register her birth and apply for a passport. We took a cab during the height of rush hour, and every time we stopped at a red light, the baby cried; she prefers movement of any kind.

Upon arrival, we did not have to wait too long on line, but I had to check the stroller and car seat, and carry her for the remainder of this form of citizenship torture. ("You want to be an American citizen? How badly do you want it? I dare you.")

Window 5: "You're a single parent? I have to clear this with my supervisor."

Thus ensued a conference of sorts, to decide how they deal with an apparently strange case like mine, which ended up with me having to provide ten pages of proof, and then sit in the corner. At one point I was standing, trying to feed Raphaela a bottle with one hand and locate documentation from my bag at the same time; I must have looked so exhausted and flummoxed that a kind stranger (a young religious woman) came over and offered to finish the feeding. When Raphaela started crying out of impatience and I was trying to calm her, another stranger (a recent convert to Judaism) said to me, "You look like you're about to cry yourself."

Then came the big interview, in which the supervisor tried to trick me into revealing that I am actually a Russian spy, or that I borrowed someone else's baby. (No and no...) I passed her interrogation, even put on a bit of a Bostonian accent, and then had to maneuver myself, two bags and a baby through a small turnstile door. You guessed it, we got stuck in between the metal spokes and the exit. Call in the extraction team and Security.

Outside and around the corner of the street in order to return to the front gate in order to claim my stroller and cell phone.

In the cab on the way home - it took a while to hail a cab - I looked at the receipt from the Consulate and noticed that they had spelled my last name wrong, which meant that her passport would be incorrect. I consoled myself at the bakery near my house, with my first jelly doughnut of the Israeli Chanukah season, and a serious cup of coffee to stop my hands from shaking.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Latest Obsession: Gilmore Girls

The television series, Gilmore Girls, is now running on Israeli Channel Three, and I have become addicted to the show. Not only because the star is a Barnard graduate, and I am a proud alumna, but because it portrays a woman who has raised a wonderful daughter as a single parent.

And the other characters are quirky and the dialogue is sharp.

I don't delude myself into thinking that television is real life, but it is not often that a single mother situation is portrayed in such a positive light, and that comforts me. It is a hell of a lot better than watching shows like Friends, which remind me of my miserable single days on the Upper West Side in The City.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Israeli Logic Will Kill You

Explain this: at the mall, the reserved parking for mothers with babies in carriages is right next to the designated (and densely populated) smoking area. That way, newborns and their breast feeding mothers get to inhale all that healthy second-hand smoke.

Huh? (And this in a country that values family and encourages population growth...)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Parent Protecsia

I learned this week that "Protecsia," an essential concept of living and survival in Israel, works even better when your prop includes a baby in a stroller.

I had always resented that men and women who had family obligations could use their children or spouses as excuses, whereas it was assumed that I, as a single professional, did not have any responsibilities, or for that matter, a life. Why couldn't I work until eight at night, after all, what else could monopolize my time or my interest?

I started to return to work this week, albeit on an extremely limited scale; on the one hand, a few hours apart from my daughter is good and healthy for both of us, but I am not ready to give up time with her, as she learns and changes daily. One patient came 20 minutes late, and for the first time in my Chiropractic career, I was able to say without any hesitation or guilt that she would receive less time, because I had other obligations. I had a child to pick up from her care taker. This pronouncement was accepted immediately, in a child-friendly and family-friendly country like Israel, who could refuse the mother of a newborn.

Today, Raphaela and I woke up earlier than usual, in order to get to downtown Jerusalem and apply for an infant passport. Though I have a car and drive to most places, I dislike the parking situation in the Jaffa Road area, messy to begin with and worse with the never-ending light rail construction. So we took a cab (Raphaela's first cab ride!) and when we arrived at the offices of the Ministry of the Interior, the guard immediately pushed me and my stroller to the head of the line. Because I was the only person on line with a two month old baby, I bypassed the normal procedure, was the first to be processed and spent a total of 15 minutes in their offices, a personal record.

In fact, I was then able to go to two other government offices in the same general area, walk home with the stroller from the center of town to my neighborhood, and still have a late breakfast at ten am. This morning far surpassed my expectations, with Raphaela quietly sleeping in the stroller and allowing us access and privilege I have never experienced before.

I can't wait to be one of those mothers who gets to board a plane before all the other sardines in Coach.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Separation Anxiety

Yesterday marks the first day of the Separation Experiment, I dropped Raphaela off at the house of the baby sitter of choice for four hours, while I stayed home and saw a few patients, did some laundry and managed to fit in a decent un-interrupted lunch.

Yes, I cried a little when I left her, but I quite liked getting back into the grown-up world, if only for a few hours. When I picked Raphaela up, she was clean and content and playing with the baby sitter's Brain Gym; I got a big smile and from there we went about our day together. I know she is only two months, and yet now is the time to get her used to strangers who will be taking care of her for the small hours during the week when I go back to the Chiropractic work full time.

I felt like it was the first day of school, I laid out her clothing and her supplies, and we arrived early, as even childbirth will not erase my "Yekke" nature. This morning, Day Two, we slept in a little, I suppose to make up for the great change of yesterday.

We are OK, both of us.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Closing the Circle

With great emotion, Michal and I (along with her partner Yael and both our babies) followed the path we had taken so many times while undergoing the fertility treatments at Hadassah Hospital. I carried Raphaela, Michal carried Daniel, and Yael carried the largest fruit basket I have ever seen. I was so hoping that my favorite nurse, Chava, would be there so I could tell her how much she actually assisted in bringing Raphaela into the world, but unfortunately we happened to choose a day to visit when all the nursing staff except one were attending a conference.

We still dropped off our various presents to the IVF/Fertility Clinic staff, and I did have a chance to see Professor Horowitz, the head of the department and the doctor who did that final insemination that worked for me. We also distributed gifts and personally thanked Rut, the coordinator of the sperm bank. Rut is a hard person to read, she comes off as totally unemotional and hard, and yet today there were cracks in the armor. She loved the photo I gave her of Raphaela, and wanted to be sure that I had written the baby's birthday on the photo. Rut also held Daniel, and complemented Michal on how handsome he had turned out. Rut ought to know, as she had engineered the unique matchmaking in this situation.

Michal and Yael are already talking about starting a second round of treatments within the year, as they want to have four children together. I am content at the moment with one healthy baby who is growing in leaps and bounds, and one cat who at the moment is sitting on the keyboard and begging for attention, now that Raphaela is sleeping.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Who Does She Look Like and Other Recent Discoveries

I have always maintained that Raphaela, who is coming up on two months old this week, inherited my ears and my lips, but that she does not resemble me overall. Considering genetics, she could look like the donor, and I feel fine with that, as long as she stays healthy and happy.

Yesterday, looking at her discover her hands for the first time, I realized that she reminds me of my biological father's mother, my grandmother, with whom I was not particularly close. My mother divorced my biological father when I was about five years old, and then remarried the man I call "Dad," the man who raised me in every sense of the word. I remember bits and pieces about my paternal grandmother, but not enough to ever be able to describe the kind of person she was.

Most surprising of all was the reaction of my mother, in speaking to her about this resemblance. My mother was badly burned emotionally and financially by the divorce, and was herself a single parent of two children in the time before she remarried. The topic of my biological father, normally fraught with anxiety even after all these years, did not phase her. In fact she said that she had noticed this when Raphaela was first born, and did not say anything to me because she thought it would upset me and affect the bonding with my newborn. Yesterday on the phone, she said, without stress, "Your father has strong genes."

Indeed. And whatever genetic material Raphaela has inherited, I love her for who she is, and cannot wait to see how she turns out.

She is so grown up, compared to even a week ago: she can sit in the bassinet for an hour, eyes open and staring at the ceiling, and she no longer cries after five minutes and needs to be held. She examines her hand and laughs, and pumps her arms up and down. Raphaela discovered cause-and-effect with the Brain Gym, and realized that if she pushes the chimes, she will hear the beautiful sound they make.

Raphaela, like all babies, is a developing miracle, my angel.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fear of Little Fingers

I have developed two recent fears, both regarding Raphaela's little fingers. The first involves cutting her nails: since her birth, I have always gotten others with more confidence to cut them, as I am petrified of removing a piece of her body along with the nail. This all started when I read in one of the many baby books on my shelf, "and when you draw blood..."

The second recent issue revolves around my long curly hair, and the fact that Raphaela always grabs a handful. This morning I noticed a particular strand wrapped around one finger, practically cutting off circulation. I went into a major New Mother panic, and was ready to take her to the emergency room.

When do these feelings go away?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Day

My three favorite holidays, both religious and secular, in descending order:
1. Thanksgiving Day
2. Succot
3. The December Holiday Season (Chanukah, Christmas; specifically in The City)

I have so much to be thankful for this year, and I feel that every moment that I spend with my daughter. I also feel the loss for her, that she will not necessarily grow up with her American cousins and experience the holiday traditions that make days like this so special. The food, the predictable arguments, Macy's Day Parade, the mass migration of the men into the den to watch football all afternoon, the midnight deli feast to which only the adults were invited.

The amazing smells of my grandmother's cooking. That feeling of being surrounded by family, for better or for worse. I will have to find Israeli traditions to replace that void.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Like Riding a Bike

Having finally arranged child care for Raphaela, an arrangement that I can accept because I trust the person, because it is only for four hours; and because having her out of the house makes more sense, as it allows me to concentrate on my patients.

Or at least I hope so, because putting her in someone else's hands for even 12 hours a week will be an emotional trauma that I will have to work through, as has every parent before me. If I am distracted at work thinking about her, I might as well not go back at all.

This decision means that I will miss one feeding, but for that we have the Avent hand pump.

I had secretly feared that not working for over two months would make me rusty, but today I adjusted my friend and colleague, and got a badly needed Chiropractic adjustment myself, and I knew what I was doing, I felt confident and ready when the time comes to start working on my patients again, and even getting paid for it.

I am, however, choosing to be selective about which patients I inform when I return to work, because between giving Raphaela away so to speak and picking up Chiropractically where I left off, I want the cheerful patients, the relatively easy cases in the beginning. Thankfully I have the option of creating my own work schedule, and its content. In fact, that is one of the main factors which convinced me that I could be a single parent by choice.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Feeling Grossly Inadequate

Moved to the edge of insanity by two days in which Raphaela did not nap for close to 15 hours straight, followed by two nights where it took several hours to get her to sleep, I finally got the electric breast pump I had borrowed from Yad Sarah over two months ago, and took it out of the box. You see, the other night I was so exhausted and frustrated that I had no desire to put my own child on my breast, and wanted at least to have the option of giving her a bottle with my milk. I also did not want to get to a place where my very kind neighbor - whom I had called over around eight pm in a state of panic - asked me if I thought the baby was hungry, and I said, "I don't care."

My friend Rachael pointed out that since Raphaela and I had spent the whole day together, and into the night, she was probably as sick of me as I was of her. It is in these moments that I truly feel the burden of being a single parent.

True to the scientist part of my nature, this breast pump may have provided the key as to why my daughter gets so ornery at certain parts of the day, and sometimes needs over two hours to calm down at night: she may very well be hungry.

When I started pumping, I expected to receive at least 60 ml from the effort, and barely scraped away with half that amount. At this stage, Raphaela needs between 90-120 ml at each feeding, and clearly, my milk supply is inadequate. That is one of the fundamental problems with breast feeding, you cannot measure the serving you have provided.

First off, I feel like a failure; despite my best efforts and intentions, I am not giving my child enough food. That translates to serious guilt in every religion, not just the Jews.

Now I must come up with a plan, which includes supplementing throughout the day with bottles, but finding the right formula that will not activate what I suspect is lactose intolerance. (I find the soy based formulas stinky.) I plan on pumping as often as possible, to increase my own milk flow. I also plan on reading the latest book borrowed from my friend and upstairs neighbor, which tackles the specific issues of sleep patterns and behaviours.

Thank G-d babies do not remember most of the traumas of early infanthood, hopefully all she will remember is that I tried my hardest and that I love her.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Visions of My Future

I spent two hours today with Raphaela at the birthday party of Zoe (Zoharia), the eight year old daughter of my friend and Chiropractor. Twenty one very loud girls playing musical chairs and mystery gift party games, and touching everything in the house that was either rare or breakable or off limits. My friend's husband kept following the swarm with a garbage bag, trying to clean up after them practically before they finished an activity, and finally gave up and retreated to the back yard, away from the chaos.

Raphaela was a hit, not just with the girls but also with Zoe's older brother and his friend, who all saw her as a dress up doll with small fingers (relative to their size) and who actually smiled and ate and pooped. My assumption that the fascination with babies is genetically and sociologically programmed only into the women-folk was mistaken.

Raphaela has attended her first birthday party, and in my mind I have already started the guest list for her one year old birthday extravaganza.

Today I also finally bought myself a rocking chair, Israeli style rather than the classic American wood jobs I would expect to see in my grandmother's house. We tried it out with tonight's feeding and enjoyed, and at the moment, Harry is sitting there, curled up on the blanket I left for him. I would not have expected any less.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Truly, A Miracle Child

Not only did I lose weight while pregnant, but according to the optician today, my eyesight improved. I had been having trouble reading and had been getting some headaches, which I attributed to the position of my head during breast feeding. Turns out my myopia went from minus 4.25 to 3.75, thank you Raphaela!

(I can see the headline: "Amazing Fat Sucking Baby Cures Vision")

Now if only she could learn better sleeping habits, we would all function better, except for Harry who waits until just the worst possible moment to desperately need food/attention/to be let out. His timing is uncanny, and straight out of the textbooks on sibling rivalry. I realized that Harry makes the perfect developmental toy for Raphaela: he's black and white, he moves and makes noise, and has a fuzzy texture.

Though her skin was flawless at birth, Raphaela started with the classic baby acne in the last week. In response, I am cutting down on the processed sugar I intake, as it gets processed immediately into milk; and I have started the baby on non-lactose formula, for the one to two bottles she gets each day. She has to look great for her American passport photo.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

All Clear!

I had my six week gynecological appointment today; my stitches are fine and every organ is back in place. I weigh exactly the 78 kilo that I started at, at the beginning of my pregnancy, and now that I am allowed to resume running, my stomach may actually get return to my previous level of fitness.

(Why can't doctors check women without sticking their fingers in the least comfortable way possible?)

I also received a very important message from my subconscious today: after investigating another, better child care option, I started crying, because I understood that I am not ready to go back to work. I am not ready to give her to someone else, to miss that time watching her grow, no matter how much I enjoy being a Chiropractor. It feels so much less important than investing in my daughter.

I love her more and more every day, even when she resists to sleep, and must find a way to make this work thing work, without traumatizing me, and without going into minus at the bank.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

First Laugh

First laugh this morning. There is nothing in the world like it.
Shabbat Shalom!

The More Things Change...

After days of phone tag and mistimed feedings, Raphaela and I finally got together with Michal and her son Daniel. We all met in the Hadar Mall in the Talpiyot area of Jerusalem, and walked around to various stores, baby and otherwise. Michal insisted that we hit some grown-up stores as well, as long as the two babies were content in their strollers; "We mothers deserve time to ourselves too," she said. Indeed, the Baby Whisperer would be proud.

Turns out, the woman in the changing stall next to us at Castro was a single mother by choice, and had given birth to her son last year, at the age of 41. The three of us talked about maternity leave and breast-feeding boob sizes, and how having a child changes your life; how one smile or laugh lights up the world, and makes you forget your annoyance or exhaustion.

Then Michal's partner Yael met us for brunch, which for me was the only full and relaxed meal of the day. As we were sitting there, one of my mother's oldest friends from college, a religious woman who tried ever so hard to hide her discomfort, came over and asked me the second most annoying post-birth question: "Well, are you ready now to get married and get your baby a father? I want to set you up with a very nice boy."

(For the record, the most annoying question has been the not so subtle prodding of patients: "Are you bored yet? Because we need you to go back to work.")

As if my happiness, and my need to focus on bonding with my child are not legitimate until it can be said that I have a proper husband. Not that I have anything against marriage, just not now, five weeks after giving birth.

I politely told this woman that I did not feel ready to start dating. What I would have loved to do as well was introduce her to my lesbian friends sitting at the table with me, simply for the shock value, but I held back on the L-word. As a Chiropractor, I did not want to be responsible for possibly harming someones physical or mental health.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Child-Care Blues

As a new parent in a foreign country, I am learning new important pieces of information every day. In Israel, there are, apparently, four different levels of child-care:

1. Baby sitter, ie the person who charges around 30 NIS per hour and comes to your home and watches your child. After having interviewed many candidates, I believe I have found one woman who satisfies my requirements and has my trust in this position; I could have her watch Raphaela while I work in my Chiropractic office, knowing that my child is in the next room with a competent and caring person.

2. Metapelet [Hebrew for Care Taker] ie a woman who takes two to three babies into her home or specific place of work. Less expensive than a baby sitter but not located in my home, so I have less information as to the details of how Raphaela spent her time. However, it gives my very alert child a chance to socialize and learn how to share.

3. Mishpachton [Hebrew for Family Center] ie a location outside the home with six to ten children and hopefully a decent ratio of care takers. They will keep your child pretty much all day, feed them and change them and make them take a nap. That kind of atmosphere spells trouble for me, at the very least because it represents way too much exposure to germs, and Israelis are not quite as careful as they should be about not keeping sick children at home.

And now we have arrived at today's story, with our number four option.

4. Maon ie a location outside the home that accepts children from the age of six months and through three years old. Like a Mishpachton, they will keep your children all day, and on the positive side, once your child gets used to the place and the people, they don't have to leave for three years, or readjust to a new situation every year.

I visited one such place today, within walking distance from my apartment. First thing I noticed was the play area outside, climbing toys inside a giant sandbox. As a cat owner, I kept thinking about what my relatively clean cat (Harry), and his less than clean street cat friends would do in a place like that. When I walked in, it smelled like fried fish, which had in fact been the lunch that day.

The babies area contained 14 children for two care takers, and at least two of the children exhibited throaty coughs and/or runny noses in the ten minutes that I stood in the room with Raphaela. This part of the nursery also contained row after row of small cribs, and reminded me of the opening scene in the orphanage, in the Broadway musical, Annie.

Though the play space was baby-proofed, the entire facility felt "institutional" to me. I felt like this was a place that I would only leave my child if I had no other choice, no matter how convenient the idea of consistency for the first three years; and no matter how inexpensive compared to other options.

I am told that not every maon feels like this, that there are high quality facilities as well throughout Jerusalem.

As a child, my parents did not have a lot of money, and we lived (at one point before moving out of the New York area, four children and two adults) in a cramped three-bedroom apartment. I started working as a baby sitter at a young age, and always sought out opportunities to earn money for myself, to help pay for basics like a new outfit, or a "luxury" like art supplies.

I always felt less-than, looked down upon by my classmates and pitied by the adults in our Jewish community. Being in this maon today reminded me of the shame and sadness I felt in my early life, and I have no intention of exposing my daughter to the same thing.

I, and my daughter, deserve better.

There He Goes Again (Obama)

As a registered Democrat who did not vote for Obama - both in the primaries and in the general elections - and as an American citizen living in Israel, I am allowed to complain.

Along with his recent snub of our Prime Minister, here comes news that Obama's health care plan includes a (penalty) fee of $750 per person, for American citizens living abroad; for my $1,500 (myself and Raphaela) we receive the privilege of a health care plan which we cannot use.

Raphaela and I already have basic and additional private health insurance here in Israel.

As a woman with her own Chiropractic clinic, I already pay a self-employment tax to the American government, as there is no reciprocity agreement with Israel on this matter. By the time I reach the age of 65, the Social Security I am owed will be bankrupt.

As a single parent, trust me that $1,500 goes a long way towards paying for diapers, especially when I am on maternity leave and not earning money at the moment.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Like Blind Dating

The process of finding a nanny feels like my previous experiences with blind dates.

You speak to someone on the phone and you get a vibe from them. You decide if it is worth the time to meet up with them anyway. You figure out how much time you will spend with them in person, so as not to be rude, and towards gathering the information you need to make a decision. You ask questions to understand if you want to get to know this person better, and in this case, if you want them to spend quality time with your child.

I am looking for that elusive "chemistry" as well as experience.

You tell them that you will call them, knowing that some people will be disappointed, and not wanting to hurt their feelings.

I spent this entire afternoon in interview mode with potential care givers for Raphaela, and came out with one candidate who fits the bill. I have three more interviewees on Sunday, and will make a decision by Monday. In any case, I see myself easing back to work part-time in the beginning, mostly because I don't want to spend too much time away from my daughter, and because I honestly don't understand how a woman goes back to work so soon after the birth.

But bills must be paid, and that represents the reality of my situation even more so, as a single parent. I am lucky enough that I have the Chiropractic as a viable and successful career, and that I can make my own hours.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Search for a Caretaker

Wanted: Responsible and experienced caretaker to take care of a infant two to three days per week. Non smokers only, English and/or Hebrew speakers. References and interviews a must.

The response I got to this ad varied from actually experienced pediatric nurses and caretakers, to grandmothers who wanted something to do during the day and to earn a little extra income, to teenagers who thought babies were "cute" and "adorable", and who wanted to use my little Raphaela as their social experiment.

One person recommended her room mate, who is unemployed at the moment but has some experience with slightly older children in a previous job incarnation. She wrote, "If I had a baby, I would trust her with my child."

All niceties aside, I challenge any man or woman who has not yet had a child to casually recommend a caretaker, no matter how good and responsible the person may be by grown-up standards. Raphaela is my treasure, I will not entrust her to just anyone. Even if the babysitter comes to my home and watches her while I work, even when I am on-site.

From the many responses I received, I singled out four to five of the candidates, and start interviewing later this week. I should also start pumping, because the sitter, whoever she is, will most likely have to take care of one feeding, and I prefer that Raphaela get my milk rather than formula.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Crash and Burn

When my mother was here, after the birth, she kept telling people that she was waiting for me to crash.

Well, one month after Raphaela's birth, I got to the point where I was so exhausted and so frustrated, that I was actually afraid that I could lose control. Last night, it took two and half hours to put my daughter to sleep. At a certain point, when she started crying again, I immediately put the baby down, and walked out of the room and counted to ten. In a scary way, and in a way that causes me much guilt, I got to a place where I was so exhausted that I could understand how ordinary, normal, intelligent and loving parents get to Shaken Baby Syndrome.

And I have spent all day today feeling guilty about even thinking about it, when it never came to that and never will.

My friend Rachel, who has three children, assures me that this is normal, and that there have been times when she has been crying, as she held her crying baby.

It would have been great, however, if I could have handed her off to someone last night, even for an hour; the most simple luxury of an extra pair of hands is unavailable to me as a single parent.

Savta Shira, Raphaela's adopted Israeli grandmother, came to the house this morning and after I had a solid cry, Shira watched Raphaela for two hours while I took a nap. Afterwards, Shira expressed amazement at how alert and active and interactive this child is, thank G-d, but to steal a quote from Stan Lee, with great power comes great responsibility. And great frustration.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Baby Book Club

Last book read (not finished) before giving birth: Hitchhikers Guide Series (Douglas Adams)

Pile of books waiting to be studied and said theories utilized: What to Expect, The Sears Baby Book, The Baby Whisperer, Well Adjusted Babies (the Chiropractic version), Mother and Baby, Your Baby and Child (Penelope Leach), Mister Rogers' Guide to Parenting, Family First (Dr. Phil)

The point of most of these books is to make you feel like an incompetent parent.

Pleasure book, very large and at the bottom of the pile: The Gathering Storm (the most recent book from Robert Jordan)

Probability of most of these books getting read is low, given that Raphaela actively fights sleeping during the day because she is afraid of missing something exciting, and given that at night I am going to take every opportunity to close my eyes in between feedings.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

FAQ: How is the cat handling the addition of the new baby into the house?

Answer: He is actually quite jealous, and quite curious at the same time. Harry will allow Raphaela to lay down next to him, and he will purposely put himself near the baby, even when she is moving around and crying. I have no fears that he will harm her.

Instead, he is showing all the classic symptoms of an older brother who cannot understand why this little crying and smelly thing is not leaving the house. Harry will ask me to let him outside or to feed him, just as I have sat down and pulled out my breast to nurse Raphaela.

I set up the Brain Gym from Tiny Love, which Raphaela enjoys at her level, spending lots of time looking up at the parrot, and at her reflection in the mirror. Harry, in an effort to impress me, show me how he can actively start up the chimes and how he can grab at the monkey hanging from above.

In my amateur psychological opinion, Harry has resorted to kitten-like behaviour as a response to changes in the house, but just as older brothers and sisters survive, my "first born" feline will find his place in our new, redefined family, and will even hopefully become friends with Raphaela.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On Our Own, for the First Time Really

For two days after the birth, Raphaela and I were in the hospital. For three days, we experienced the Baby Hotel. The day I came home was the same day my parents arrived from the States.

For the last two weeks, my mother and father and I have been living under the same roof. Tension could be expected, of course, but it was nice to have them here and to have the extra sets of hands, and of course, the free instantaneous baby sitting.

The Nesher taxi came this morning, and as of today, Raphaela and I are on our own, together, for the first time. I am not yet freaking out, as there is little she needs at this age and I continue to enjoy her company. Bath time ought to be fun, and then - since there is no particular outside appointment on the agenda for today - I will invent a reason to get her in the stroller and take a walk, since it helps her sleep at night.

Tomorrow we have a well-baby check up with her pediatrician.

Hard to believe that three weeks ago, I was pregnant and single, when I can no longer remember what my life was like BR (Before Raphaela), and what gave me meaning when I didn't have her energy around me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Blackout Baby Challenge

Raphaela is almost two weeks old, and I can't remember a time before I became her mother.

Yesterday evening, my extended neighborhood experienced a blackout for close to two hours, my mother (who has been staying with me) was not at home, and it became a serious challenge to my fledgling parenting skills.

Can I breast feed in the dark? Sort of.
Did I change her diaper in the dark? Nope.
Can I get her to fall asleep when I can't even see where I am walking? Yes, with the help of a rocking chair.

I tried not to move around too much, because I could not find my flash light and did not want to trip over some piece of furniture and G-d forbid injure the baby. The darkness gave us time to bond, and while Raphaela got in a nap, I was unable to, constantly on alert.

Too bad, because last night she did not get much sleep, she was not hungry, her diaper clean. I have never imagined frustration and exhaustion on that level, not knowing what she needed and how to translate her cries.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Already She Inspires

I have been invited to speak to a group of religious single women in my neighborhood, they have formed a group for unmarried women who are veering close towards the danger zone of fertility, and they meet to talk about the possibility of doing what I (and others before me) have done.

I did not go into this pregnancy and motherhood gig to become a leader of a new revolution, but apparently my so-called bravery has broken through the taboos associated with single motherhood. Now it is OK to talk about it and think about it, in public as opposed to the lonely recesses of the mind.

How can I be a role model to anyone? For all the life skills and intelligence I possess, I barely know how to dress this child, and cannot get her on any sleep or eating schedule. This experience has humbled me to the core, I feel like a novice and anticipate a steep learning curve.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Journal from the Hotel

Some post-birth thoughts I had, while I was still enjoying the luxury of the baby hotel and before I went home this past Tuesday afternoon. Enjoy, and enjoy the recently posted photos of Raphaela.


I had the strangest and most wonderful existential moment today, looked at Raphaela while she was sleeping: I had the strongest feeling of deja vu, not as a woman looking at my three day old daughter, but looking at her face and into her soul, and knowing that I know her. She reminds me of someone, I don't know who, but she is not a stranger to me.

I came to another realization of a dream this morning, spurred on by a comment of the night nurse, "There's nothing like a first-born daughter."

Raphaela is now the fifth link in the chain of eldest daughters, going back to my Bubby's mother.


I have essentially been awake since three am, waiting for the nurses to call me to breast feed now that my milk has started to come in. (Which sort of defeats the purpose of having the staff there to babysit...and me to sleep.)

My milk is leaking every where and my breasts are heavy, and so I find myself just as dependent on her as she is on me. Only she can relive this pain. Amazing how nature insures the survival of these tiny beings.

I am also having trouble sleeping because I am at least partially ready to go back to my home, with my child, and to try to start figuring out the skills set needed for this new life. The many thoughts of being scared and a complete idiot when it comes to newborns have certainly plagued my brain as well. For the first real time in my existence, planning goes out the window, and my every action is dependent upon a four day old baby.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Angel Has Arrived

With thanks to G-d and the Greater Universe, my daughter was born at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem on Friday 10/2/09, after less than 12 hours of labour overall, and no epidural. (Not my choice!)

Named in shul in Newton Center, Massachusetts by my father today, she will be call and counted among the people of Israel and the planet as Raphaela Rivka Danzig Leeder.

More details on the birth and this miracle child when I return from the Baby Hotel, where Raphaela and I are relaxing and getting to know each other for a few days before we return to reality.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Monitor Shmonitor

Got the correct bus this morning, and only had to walk up a small hill to get to the medical center.

Brought grapes with me so I wouldn't have to eat the disgusting sesame cookies. As a result of the natural sugar rush, I had to placed on the monitor for almost an hour and a half, before the baby stopped moving and gave them what the nurses and doctor's considered a "standard" read-out.

Ultrasound showed a bit less amniotic fluid, to be expected with a pregnancy lasting more than 40 weeks, and certainly within normal limits.

However, the doctor found no evidence of any opening, and could therefore not perform stripping. And because there are various due dates floating around on the chart, he is not going to insist on my being induced on Sunday, but rather I should return to be monitored once again, and they would induce on Monday. Unless, hopefully, of course the baby is born sometime this weekend and then a weight estimation will be done outside the womb. :-)

The doctor did ask me to go home and go through a course of Castor Oil today, in the hopes that the bowel movement will not only start some cervix opening action, but also stimulate an increase in prostoglandin hormones, which is necessary to induce contractions toward labour.

My Chiropractor thinks that I will go into labour this weekend with or without inducing diahrea.

On the way home (I walked for forty minutes rather than take the bus) I visited some friends who work downtown, and bought a nursing bra. Wishful, positive thinking can't hurt.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Whole New Level of Beurocracy

I should have known that it was going to be a very long morning, when I got on the bus to go into town, to have an ultra-sound and fetal monitoring, and the bus made an entire tour of the city, due to the construction downtown; the bus' final stop was the Central Bus Station, and I was forced to walk another 15 minutes back towards the Mahane Yehuda market, to get to the medical center.

Hadassah Hospital, where I conducted my fertility treatments and follow up appointments, seemed much more organized than my HMO. First of all, I had five different stations today: Monitoring, Ultra-Sound, Urine testing, blood pressure and a doctor's consultation. At no time was there an order assigned, and so at each location, tense fighting broke out among the women mulling around; "I was here first." "I have a scheduled appointment." "I am in my 41rst week and considered an emergency." (That would be me!) "I am due in three weeks but am considered a high risk pregnancy, because I have twins."

I didn't need that stress.

While sitting on the extremely comfortable easy chair during the fetal monitoring, the baby slept, happy after the walk and exercise I did to get to the clinic. To wake her up, they gave me these disgustingly healthy (even for me) sesame cookies, which certainly caused movement but also gave me nausea. If I have to go back, I will bring grapes and water from home, maybe a whole picnic, as I ended up spending most of the morning there.

In my consultation with the doctor, he requested that I come back for the same round of testing on Thursday, assuming I have not yet gone into labour. He plans on doing stripping, which he has already warned, is painful. (I bought Castor Oil today, and will only use it instead of the stripping on Thursday. I prefer diarrhea to invasive vaginal and pelvic pain.)

And he told me that when my water breaks, I am to rush immediately to the hospital, as there is an increased concern regarding infection with overdue (Week 41-42) women. My doula disagrees, and has said that if the water breaks and it is clear, there is every reason to labour in the comforts of home, until the contractions are approximately four minutes apart.

If nothing happens over the weekend as a result of various minor interventions, they will send me to the hospital to be induced medically next week. Meanwhile, I am meant to "walk a lot" (hasn't worked) and engage in "lots of loving."

To top off the morning, I received a call from a particularly obnoxious patient, who spent five minutes yelling at me because I hadn't kept her informed of my progress or lack thereof, and who spent much time telling me that it is my "fault" that the baby has not yet checked out of Hotel Uterus.

So glad I stopped working before Rosh Hashana, any inner strength I have left must get me through this next week.

My major emotional hurdle right now involves realizing and remembering my faith, that G-d and this baby will decide when it is time; and trying not to be angry on some irrational level at the baby for staying inside. It comes from love and wanting to meet her (95%), and I will admit, impatience (5%, but that's a powerful 5%).

On a whole other level, even though it is of a much lesser concern right now, my parents have plane tickets for next week, Chol Hamoed Succot. Booked on the assumption that the baby will have already been born, and I will have had time to recover in the Baby Hotel, I can't imagine how much more tense it will be with three family members waiting for her arrival, instead of one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Operation Starve Out the Baby

In the end, I decided not to eat anything at all during Yom Kippur, and with my limited and halachically based drinking, maybe had a total of two glasses of liquid all day.

Despite my heroic efforts, the fast is now officially ended and there is no sign of consistent contractions or the briefest glint of labour. As of tomorrow morning, I must start doing intense monitoring via ultra-sound and Doppler, so that the general Israeli medical professionals can decide if I am truly overdue and in need of inducing.

I think on the way home, after the monitoring, I will stop by the pharmacy and pick up some Castor Oil. (This very strong-willed child has already resisted Acupuncture, three Chiropractic treatments in the last week and pressure points. I am getting desperate.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

No News...

is no news. I suspect and hope that my fasting (with drinking and eating in the halachic way) will kick start what one of my friends called yesterday, "the final launch."

Gmar Chatima Tovah to you and your families, may we all be blessed and inscribed with a wonderful year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Four Different Due Dates

Depending on the source, apparently I have many different due dates, summarized in the handy chart below:

Event: Projected Due Date (Week 40)

My last period: 27 September 2009 (Yom Kippur)
Actual IUI: 29 September 2009
12 Week Ultra-Sound: 24 September 2009
22 Week Ultra-Sound: 20 September 2009 (Rosh Hashana)

So Sunday of Rosh Hashana came and went, with me thinking that I was past my due date.
Today came and went, with me thinking that this was the actual accurate due date, as I had been told that the ultra-sound is most diagnostic.
Now, having just returned from my gynecologist, he seems unconcerned as he thinks I am due right before Yom Kippur. He informed me that should I not give birth by the fast day, starting Tuesday of next week I must get a specific monitoring and ultra-sound, every two days, until they find the "smallest excuse" to send me to the hospital and induce.

Meanwhile, I am peeing almost continuously. When I went to the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens yesterday to feed the ducks, I went to the bathroom, flushed the toilet and as I was washing my hands - hadn't even left the room - had to pee again. I would take longer walks if I weren't so afraid of needing a relatively clean toilet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Revenge of the Hormones

In the last week, hints of the nausea I suffered through in the first four months have returned. My skin has become quite sensitive, combined with my usual Fall allergies.

More than that, and perhaps aided by my recent sense of boredom and lack of structure, I got into bed last night and was suddenly overcome with an inexplicable and overwhelming sadness; and a whole series of unfounded concerns about the baby, wondering if she is OK in there; and a feeling for myself that I don't know how I could emotionally get through the next two weeks, if the young lady decides to arrive late, as the official due date has arrived today.

I sat in bed and cried, and when I was done, I could not tell you why I was crying or why suddenly I was playing out worst-case-scenarios in my head.

I have not cried that way during most of the pregnancy, with the exception of several stressful events, and have not succumbed to the stereotype of the irrational and hysterical pregnant woman, though I suppose all this could be blamed on hormones.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Filling Time

It has become my goal to find at least one errand or activity that gets me out of the house, each day. It was easier over Rosh Hashana, because there were meals and holiday schedules. Now, in my second official week of pre-birth vacation/maternity leave, the challenge grows.

Yesterday, I rented a movie and after returning it, went to the supermarket. In the evening, I received a Chiropractic treatment and took the very long route home, in order to force myself to walk the local hills of Jerusalem.

Today, I have a facial scheduled for the early afternoon, and am hoping to meet a friend for lunch, as the area of Emek Rephaim has some wonderful cafes, and people keep telling me that once the baby comes, it won't be so easy to simply meet friends outside the house.

On Thursday I have a doctor's appointment, should I not be in labour.

The rest of the time is filled with naps, phone calls and small jobs around the house. As I am not the type to enjoy totally unstructured free time, I welcome the challenges that will come when this baby arrives.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Still Hanging In There

Sometime last week, I remember thinking that it would be nice to give birth after the first rain of the season. I love that fresh smell in the air after the rain has fallen; Fall in general is my favorite season. Then I decided against the idea, because normally the first rains come to Israel during the holiday of Succot, which is approximately three weeks away.

Lo and behold, it rained both days of Rosh Hashana, and I thought, "Aha, a sign from G-d that I could give birth, any moment now." Especially since my official due date falls anywhere between today (Sunday) and Thursday of this week, depending on whether you go by my last period, the actual insemination, or the ultra-sound results.

Alas, Sunday is almost over and other than the usual Braxton Hicks contractions, I am not feeling any signs of active labour. I have also been told (way too often) that first children normally arrive late, no matter how excited I feel for the big event. Maybe tonight she will decide that with the start of the Jewish New Year, it is a good time to meet and greet her fans.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Better Sleep Through Boredom

Until I stopped working, for approximately the last month and a half, my sleep patterns had degraded to a large degree; partially due to physical discomfort but mostly due to too much thinking, a crime of which I have been accused often. Miraculously, last patient leaves the office on Monday evening, and that night I notice a marked difference in my sleep.

I am dreaming again. As a lucid dreamer since childhood - I have always had 3-4 dreams per night and remembered them all in detail upon awakening - I had not been dreaming with the sleep disruption, because I never had one complete cycle. In the last few nights, even with interruptions from my body and the cat, I have experienced enough of a "normal" sleep cycle to have and remember 2-3 dreams, and I can feel the difference.

This of course, can be counter-balanced by the sense of boredom I have felt in the last two days, without the assumed structure of my work as a Chiropractor. I started maternity leave early less because my body could not handle the strain, but more because in any service and people related industry, your energy goes out toward your clients; particularly as a Doctor I get paid to hear people kvetch and help them feel better. I had arrived at the point where I knew that this energy needed to be directed inward, toward me and baby, toward preparations for the birth.

My Chiropractor implied that I would not give birth before Rosh Hashana, more likely to be next week. I am ready. (In fact, I am ready today...) I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Shana Tova UMetukah, and may the next year bring sweet and wonderful events for all of us.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are We There Yet?

Yesterday, I felt so happy to be on official pre-birth maternity leave, that I was singing. Today, by 10 am, the thrill had passed and I found myself bored, wondering how to fill the time. Amazing how the removal of work as the focus of my single life creates a gap so large that I don't know what to do with myself.

So I napped, watched TV (a million channels and nothing worthwhile), received a Chiropractic appointment, as well as a standard visit with my doctor. According to my gynecologist, there is no real sign that I will give birth before Rosh Hashana, though after the Chiropractic appointment, there is always the possibility of labor within a few days, as I have seen in my own practice. My gyn also gave me a guess-timate weight for the baby, somewhere around three kilo, which is the weight at which I was born.

I have also started to receive telephone calls from friends and patients, essentially asking if I have given birth yet. Like finishing work yesterday means that this baby and G-d and the Greater Universe will attune itself to my schedule and state of readiness...I would love to have the baby Thursday in sync with my Dad's birthday, and yet I know that I don't control the timing at all.

I accept the greater plan, and pray that the baby take as much time as she needs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Difference One Year Makes

Today is my last official day of working, I need the time for myself, before the birth and before the Jewish holidays take over the country of Israel. I bumped into a friend of my father's from college, a man known to be an excellent pediatrician in Israel. He said that he would be happy to take us on as clients once the baby is born, and then pointed out, almost too casually, "You know you have another two weeks to go..."

I don't want to hear that, as I am not sleeping, have started heartburn in the last few days, and am actively experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. I would like to think that the size of my belly is deceptive, even to the professionals, that it is easier to assume that a small stomach means that the baby will arrive late. My father, for whatever his instinct tells him long-distance, feels that I will give birth this Thursday, on the day that also happens to fall on his birthday and happily before the major holidays. I am happy to give him that birthday present!

I also had an acupuncture appointment this morning, different than the usual, in that she worked on pathways to the uterus, places which she had previously avoided. Acupuncture can take affect anywhere between 12 hours and three days, and I am looking forward to seeing the results.

I end today on a sad note, commemorating the life of Pilot Asaf Ramon, son of the Israeli pilot and NASA astronaut, Ilan Ramon. The 21 year old Israeli Air Force pilot was killed yesterday in his F-16, and all of Israel mourns for him, and for his family. It makes me think about the importance of family, of the connection between children and their parents, and it makes me want to meet my child even more.

Last year, on Yom Kippur, I had just experienced a severely painful miscarriage, and reacted in kind, both emotionally and physically. Beyond angry at G-d, the Greater Universe, and my body, all I did was fast, and refused to open myself to a word of prayer or understanding. How wonderful it can be one year later, as I await to meet my daughter, who will be born in this time of introspection.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Husband's Boyfriend (NOT What you think...)

I went to the pool and gym today, one of the first times I was able to do so this week. I always find it strange that I can easily exercise on the treadmill for 25-30 minutes, I love the way the movement feels; and yet getting from my apartment to my parked car, or getting from the car to the gym seems like an eternity. Running feels great, normal errands only emphasize the weight of my stomach, and my reduced ability to walk at anything but a snail's pace.

I am hoping to continue to exercise carefully for at least some of the time before I give birth, though as with everything else, I take it day-to-day. Regardless of my desire to not feel like a blob, I gave up my locker at the gym today: I don't know how much longer I will be attending the gym, and even if I don't give birth for another two weeks, with all the Jewish holidays in between I won't be going daily. And I don't know how long I will be home after the birth itself, before I return to regular exercise outside the house, nor am I pushing myself before my body will give the signal that it is ready.

On the way out from the gym today, I bumped into my pool "spouse" with her boyfriend, Daniel; our "relationship" began several years ago for the purpose of getting a cheaper membership, and now we are friends. She introduced me to him, telling me that he knew the whole story and that she was quite proud to be the father of this child; and that I am the only woman she knows who got more fit and lost weight during pregnancy.

The closer I get to this birth, the more grateful I am to my friends, the warmth and support they have shown me throughout this process, especially because I don't have any real family in Israel, other than distant cousins. I wish for my child this love and friendship as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Like a Ripened Peach

Amazing how every person has an opinion about the pregnancy and the birth, whether solicited or not. While standing on line at the supermarket today, a random Israeli man told me that I was "definitely" having a boy, based upon the shape of my stomach. The ultra-sounds would suggest otherwise.

A patient this morning said that I was not yet ready to give birth because my face did not resemble that of a "ripened peach." I argued that since I am consistently losing weight - except in my stomach - it is likely that I will not get bloated before I give birth.

Another patient said that I was not yet ready to give birth because my belly hadn't dropped, and I pointed out that my mother did not drop for any of her children, and perhaps genetics is coming into play here.

A friend encouraged me that I could still give birth any time, despite the fact that the baby is quite active when I am not having Braxton Hicks contractions. "My baby was active until several hours before the birth."

I appreciate the intention behind all the helpful advice, and am trying to filter as much as possible, to maintain my excitement for labour. Not that I am a masochist, but I get to hold my healthy beautiful child after the discomfort, G-d Willing, and that makes all this worthwhile.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Michal and Yael, Their Newest Addition

I just returned from the Brit Milah of Michal (and Yael's) baby boy, welcome to the world Daniel Chaim! It was a typical and wonderful religious Sephardic affair, with plenty of food and moving customs, some of them more long-winded than others.

Michal's mother was glowing, her father was the Sandak (Godfather) of this beautiful little boy with the most intense and alert gaze I have ever seen. Michal's grandmother, who was supportive of her throughout the fertility and pregnancy process even when others in the family were not, held her great-grandson with obvious pride.

I felt badly for Yael, who is going to legitimately be the other parent of this baby. Because the family remains in complete denial regarding Michal's sexual orientation, Yael was not "allowed" to be wished a Mazal Tov, she was pushed to the back of the room so she could not watch the circumcision, and was ignored, despite the fact that she cried just as hard as Michal when the baby was welcomed into the Jewish community.

I am not a lesbian, and without addressing the issues of "alternative lifestyles," I still felt that Yael deserved better.

I cried as well, out of joy of course, for Michal and all that we two have been through on this journey to motherhood, for Michal and Yael who have become parents to Daniel, and for myself, in anticipation of my initiation into this club.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

The bassinet has been assembled, the sheets have been laundered, and the car seat with its base have been installed in my car. I know that as ready as I feel, although I have a few more errands I would like to get done before the birth, I cannot truly anticipate the experience and transition into motherhood. But I feel like now that the baby has a place to sleep, she can come home, happy and healthy.

In order to take your baby, all you need is to show evidence of a car seat. If you are homeless and living on the street (G-d Forbid) but you produce a car seat, you may sign yourself and your new child out of the hospital. I believe this to be the law in most countries on the planet, and do think that there should be some investigation into the fitness of the parents and their environment, before you leave a child to the mercy of a random life.

I don't think I will read the Israeli weekend paper, because there seem to be all sorts of articles about single parents living in poverty and misery, or about the number of families who need financial assistance just to put food on the table, or celebrate the upcoming Jewish holidays. Without trying to remain naive and idealistic - I know that birth will involve some pain, and that raising a child is far from simple - I don't want or need to hear horror stories at the moment.

I am too excited, and grinning from ear to ear.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Trust Issues

Growing up, it was difficult for me to ask for help or express my needs. As an adult and outside the context of my immediate family, I have learned how to do that, and try to make myself clear at the moment, rather than bottling it up inside.

As I look towards the future of parenting this child, I have practiced this more and more, and along the way have been comforted by the many people who have extended themselves verbally to me, saying that they will be there for me and this child, that I can always ask for help, no matter what time of day.

Well, actions speak louder than words.

Several of the key people upon whom I have been relying as the birth gets closer have not only not been helping, but have made me feel that they cannot and will not make the time for me. There are only so many times when I can ask for assistance -and we are not talking about major projects here - and be ignored, or be told that it is simply not convenient for them.

Yes, I know that people have their own families and their own lives, but if you cannot follow through, don't offer in the first place.

Then there are my parents, who have very readily fallen into the role of potential guests in my house. They are meant to be coming to help me after the birth, but because I have spent my whole life being the psychologist and facilitator, the grown up in the house even as a child, they have left all the arrangements in my lap. I am contacting the travel agent and arranging for their lodging. I am sending them the list of their friends here in Israel, while they talk about what a wonderful vacation they will have when they come.

Here I thought that the breastfeeding, exhausted pregnant woman and their new grandchild would be the focus of this trip. But as my friend and acupuncturist reminded me today, I will only be disappointed if I have any expectations.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Let the Shopping Begin

I was speaking to a friend of mine yesterday, telling him that with less than three weeks left before my technical due date - I could even give birth before - I am working almost every day, though with slightly less intensity than I have in the past. After expressing concern for my physical well being, he said to me, "What are you doing with all that money?"

And the answer is this: I am spending it faster than I am making it.

In the last week, I have completed the down payment on the baby furniture package, so it can be delivered to the house at a moments notice. I have bought all sorts of little items that will be needed to make the baby's initial stay comfortable, until I figure out what I will really need on a day-to-day basis. I can now say with confidence that should a newborn's diaper need to be changed in my house, I have the supplies.

I don't resent the money spent on this child, and if in fact she were a teenager right now her eyes would be glowing with happiness at the amount and attention being spent on her.

My "To Do" list has significantly shrunk as well, with only several more key errands to run before I will feel like I am ready for this baby to arrive. But of course, as this pregnancy has taught me more than any other lesson in life, I do not control when she comes, and can only hope that she decides to be a good sleeper and a healthy eater. There are only two beings in the Universe who know her birth day, G-d and the child still growing inside me, and neither has sent me a telegram with specifics.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pregnant Rabbis

When was the last time a male Orthodox Rabbi got pregnant, gave birth, started breast feeding and then had to think about fasting for 25 hours on Yom Kippur? Never. Has a male Orthodox Rabbi ever even had a period? Nope

And yet, this seems to have become the basis of many discussions, as the birth comes closer and I get edicts such as, "If you are late and have not given birth by Yom Kippur, you had BETTER fast." "You know you can only get out of fasting if you give birth within a week of Yom Kippur, even if you are breast feeding."

Here's the problem I have with this approach, other than the lobotomy effect of male-centric organized religion: the reason so many babies are born on and immediately after Yom Kippur is because the fasting causes sudden and severe dehydration for the fetus, along with a sudden and unexpected drop in glucose levels. The child, thinking that the womb has now become an unsettling, inhospitable and non-nurturing home, initiates labour in an attempt to flee to a place where he/she may be fed properly again.

I believe that all elements of pregnancy and birth, both physical and emotional, will make or break the experience, and I don't want labour (if needed) initiated by trauma and fear. Of course I would not sit down at the table on Yom Kippur and indulge in a three-course steak dinner, but I will not automatically accept the Jewish religious philosophy that "Life is Suffering."

Furthermore, the 48 hours surrounding the esteemed fast of Yom Kippur are the heaviest in terms of traffic in all hospitals in Israel. Call me selfish, but I would much prefer to be one of three or four women giving birth, rather than one of 30, because of staffing and space considerations at Hadassah Hospital.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weight Gain, Finally

A much more pleasant gynecologist visit today, now that the period of questioning and crisis has passed. Turns out I have gained one whole kilo in the past three weeks, and it is all baby. Trust me on the all baby part; it is only in the last two weeks that I feel the pressure in my pelvis and find it difficult to stay in one position for more than two minutes, before I must contort myself.

As someone who does not normally have complaints about my physical state, I find the word "Oy" coming out of my mouth much more often, due to the discomfort. I sometimes feel like an old lady, and then I remember that if I am feeling this way, it means the baby is growing, and that is the most important thing to remember, and to rejoice.

I technically have another standard check up with my doctor in three weeks, and who know, it could be my last before the birth...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Segula Dip

I don't know where it originated, but I found out about a wonderful custom here in Jerusalem: at the beginning of the ninth month of pregnancy, a woman goes to the mikva for a "Segula" (Blessing) dip. Rather than the official protocol of cleaning out every orifice on your body, this becomes a celebration of sorts, and many women like to time their turn after the pregnant woman; it is said that they will then get the blessing of pregnancy as well, if they are trying to do so.

I managed to get up and down the hills of my neighborhood, despite the pressure of the ninth month stomach, and quite enjoyed knowing that I had come so far, and that an event that was once theoretical in nature was now so close to its conclusion. I also know that as much of adventure as I experienced in pregnancy, a whole new life awaits me with the healthy birth of this child.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Publically Pregnant

Today I went to a party and barbecue that my friend threw on the occasion of his nine year old daughter's birthday. This was, as expected, primarily an adult party, and I had a hard time finding a drink for myself that did not have at least 5% alcohol content.

It was also the first time that many people had seen me actively pregnant, and the reception I got varied, all of it quite funny. For the first time, people felt that my belly was public domain, with virtual strangers coming over to put their hand on my stomach. Several people offered up toasts to me for my "bravery" in the choice to become a single parent by choice. One person kept shouting at me rather than speaking to me in a normal voice; much like kind and yet misguided people do towards foreigners, presuming a person can understand a language better if you speak to them like they are retarded, in a voice level several decibels above normal.

I didn't realize that pregnancy was viewed as a disability as such, and I felt quite proud to show off my stomach and be "The Pregnant Lady." I even met another woman there, another single mother by choice, with her adorable two year old daughter, wearing the cutest dress from Children's Place. I looked at this woman, settled into her role as mother and actually able to attend a party on a Friday afternoon, and thought, "Soon, this will be me, and I can't wait!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thank You, Harry

This morning, my cat Harry "The Highlander" decided to stay inside longer than usual, and went to rest on the futon in the guest room, the room that will at some point become the nursery. I know that cats sleep 16 hours a day, but I could not help myself; I picked him up, rubbed his belly, gave him kisses, and told him how much I love him. Harry did not reject the attention, he may look like a 6.5 kilo mini-tiger but he is one of the most affectionate cats I know. After several minutes, he continued to allow me to cuddle him, but started to whine just a bit, as if to say, "C'mon, why can't I just finish my nap?"

It occurred to me that this baby in a way is not my first born, that taking on Harry as a kitten over seven years ago opened me up to a place I had never truly experienced before with my own upbringing: overflowing and full expression of the emotion of love, the idea that I can love someone or something so much, that my own needs become secondary. And when I later rescued Sarel "Runs Like Rabbit" (Rest in Peace), it taught me an even more important lesson, that of accepting a person/feline for who he is, with his background and complete set of baggage and loving him just the same.

Considering how well adjusted Harry has become, I figure I can trust my human parenting skills and instincts as well.

And so I thank Harry and Sarel, for educating me and for bringing this warmth into my essential programming. I feel as if this child will gain from the person I have become, and that no matter the circumstances, there will be affection and security in the love I have for my daughter.