Sunday, May 24, 2009

Two Great Questions

The two questions that I have been waiting to hear, have finally arrived:

1. Have you put on weight lately? (Or a variation of, "I've noticed that your body looks different...but I didn't want to say anything..." Followed by awkward silence.)

It may not be much, but I am starting to show, and couldn't be more pleased.

2. Are you feeling the baby kick?

Not kick exactly, but this child is a strong swimmer, and basically any time that my body is at rest, I can feel distinct movement in my new belly area. This pregnancy thing is a miracle, and I would recommend it to any woman.

In fact, I think that if men could feel this for even one week, the world would be a very different place.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fear of "No"

Amidst all my joy today in seeing the baby again, and knowing that we both have, Thank G-d, a clean bill of health, I also started addressing one of my most primal fears.

I really want my mother to be there for me when I give birth. I do not want to have to worry about how I will get to the hospital, and who will truly look out for my interests when I am in labour. I have inferred and asked politely several times, and my mother has simply said that she does not have the time to "waste" waiting around for the baby, and that both my parents would rather come later, when it is more convenient for them in terms of travel and work.

In speaking to my friend (SC) yesterday, she asked me why I simply don't demand that my mother and/or parents make me a priority, that they be there for me because I have asked them, because I need them.

My answer? I am less afraid of going through the birth alone, rather than hear the word "No," again. Because it would bring up the pattern of trauma since the beginning of my childhood, when my needs were consistently ignored, when I was made to feel that I hadn't even made the list of priorities for anyone. I tried so hard to be the Good Girl, that I became absorbed into the wood -work, and when I finally started asking for help and asserting my needs, no one in my family responded.

No wonder I moved to Israel, 6,000 miles away from "home."

I have a few more months to figure this out, ie whether I will ask a member of my family to put themselves out for me, or whether I can find an option in Israel, closer to home, closer to my home. For now, I have identified the issue and will let it sit for a while in my sub-conscious, to be dealt with when I am ready emotionally.

The Word Is Out

I went this morning for my ultra-sound and System Scan, and thank G-d, the doctor says that everything is developing as it should, with the size of the baby dated at 22 weeks + 2 days. In contrast to the Week 16 System Scan, the baby did not cooperate for the camera, preferring to snuggle along side the placenta.

To be truly accurate, the baby at one point picked her nose, and when I made the simple request that we get one good picture for the album, she seemed to laugh, as if to say, "Mom, you had better learn now that most times I will not do something just because you want me to."

The woman before me was a friend whom I met at Hadassah, we both got pregnant at the same time. The woman immediately after me was a woman from the "hood," that myopic Orthodox mindset, who was absolutely shocked to find out that we were due to give birth around the same time. I, in turn, was absolutely gobsmacked to find out that while she is having this child, her marriage failed after less than six months, and she is due to make the divorce official this coming Sunday.

(The difference between myself and this woman is that I went into this pregnancy knowing there would be no guarantee of a spouse, whereas she started out with a different concept and will now forever have a child torn between two biological parents.)

At the front desk, I met another woman from the area with her husband (and two of her current five children); she was having a week 33 ultra-sound and looked miserable, between the heat of the day and the weight of her body. Her husband, the son of an ultra-Orthodox Rabbi, feels that birth control is a sin, and this woman will probably continue to pump out the kids until her body quite simply collapses. In fact, the positive commandment of "Be Fruitful and Multiply" was given to Adam, and by extension, men in general; which means that halachically, women in specific have every right to use birth control and tell their husbands that they draw the line for their body.

So even though I am not really showing, my secret is out, and I expect that I will become the source of rumors and innuendo. Let them talk, if they have nothing better to do with their time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pool Humor

Several years ago, simply for the sake of convenience ie a two-for-one discount on the annual membership, I joined the pool with a symbolic "spouse," a woman named Ilana who at the time was a stranger, and is now someone I consider a friend.

I had not seen her for at least two monthss; she swims much earlier in the morning than I do. Today we were finally there around the same time, and I looked at her mock seriously and said, "As my spouse, you should know that I am expecting a baby."

Ilana of course was pleased to hear the news, joined in the joke and said, "I'm going to be a father."

Nice way to start the day.

But here's a math riddle: My subscription to the pool and gym expires in June, and I am due to give birth in September. A three month membership (not including locker) apparently costs 1700 NIS, while a year's membership costs around 2000 NIS. Hmm...maybe I will simply buy myself a treadmill for the house, as I don't know how long it will take me to get back to the gym after the birth.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Popularity Contest

When I was going through fertility treatment and desperately needed my mother's emotional support, she refused to talk to me. When I told my mother that I had succeeded that they had another grandchild on the way, she worried what others would think if they found out.

That tune has changed in the last week, Lord knows why. In the world of Junior High School (at the age of 63), my being pregnant as a single parent has made my mother the most popular girl in the synagogue. She calls me every day and starts with the sentence, "This is who I told today, I told them all about you, and this is what they said..."

I keep telling my mother that I don't care if I have the approval of people from the outside world who barely know me. I keep telling my mother that I will only let her around my child if she does not show negativity and judgement. And yet, she persists, insisting that this is her way of showing how happy she is for me, in her oddly constructed fantasy world.

The Rabbi of their synagogue - the same man who sanctioned putting my brain-dead grandfather into a further coma, for the sake of halacha, a man who knows little to nothing about modern medical procedures - was happy for me. Wow, that made my day.

My intolerant and judgemental relatives on my father's side, ultra-religious men and women who have not spoken to me in over twenty years, or invited me to any family events on their side, because I was not religious enough for them; parents who married off their children at the age of 17; they assured my mother that my having a child will not prevent me from getting married. Like I hadn't said that to my mother several times in the last month.

My mother also told absolute strangers, like the mother of my sister-in-law's Rabbi in Washington DC, and expected me to be overjoyed that random strangers across the globe have my best interests in mind. My mother is continually surprised that people have been "nice" and "lovely."

The most important stamp of approval yet has been the local synagogue yenta, a woman to whom my mother was afraid to talk, given the speed at which the news would travel once "Mrs. V" knew about it, the chain of gossip that would mortify my mother within her community. Mrs. V wants me to use the same Douala her daughter in Jerusalem used, and has volunteered to be my long-distance breastfeeding coach. She herself had all of her children on the floor of their living room, with an audience, and believes in breast feeding well into the late toddler years.

G-d bless my mother for embracing this pregnancy, but oh how I wish she would learn after all these years that unless you love and accept yourself, until you can take full responsibility for your choices and their consequences, all the external validation in the world is not worth a damn.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

We're Everywhere...

It is an odd phenomenon, once I became pregnant, it seemed that pregnant women appeared everywhere, on the streets where I do my daily errands and on television programs. Every time a character in a movie or program acts conflicted or has been throwing up, I say (speaking to the other clueless characters in the show), "Can't you figure it out, she's pregnant!" And lo and behold, I am correct.

In my real life, I have had two encounters recently, both of which leave me concerned. First, I received a phone call from an acquaintance, a woman who knows that I have gone through the fertility process and Hadassah Hospital and for a long time, has considered doing so herself. There was an urgency to her phone call, she basically wanted me to tell her that it was OK for a single religious women in Jerusalem to bring a child into the world. She wanted me to tell her that the sperm bank was professional and reliable, that not necessarily having a male figure in the home would cause no harm to the social and emotional development of the child. She spoke of her ticking biological clock, and then said that perhaps she would get herself pregnant, and hope she wanted the baby by the time he/she was born.

I told this woman in no uncertain terms that she must fully understand the lifelong responsibility that a child represents, before she "gets herself pregnant." No one else can make that decision for her.

I explained to her that I thought about this for two years, and did thorough research in the financial and emotional realms before committing 100% to becoming a single mother. I confided in her that while I have real fears regarding being a single parent, I am not counting on there being a husband and father in our lives, and yet, I continue to enjoy every day of this pregnancy.

The next day, I saw a posting on a public Jerusalem Anglo-Saxon site from a woman named Miriam: "I am a single religious woman in my mid-40's who has not yet found her bashert. The doctors screwed up [Author's note: Highly unlikely], and the social workers have found me unfit to adopt a child. I am looking for a healthy sperm donor, aged 18-30, a man to have no involvement with me or the child once the donation is made; I will pay you 400 NIS and if it works out, I will send you other customers."

Although I normally do not bother to respond to postings I find idiotic, I found this entry terrifying. I immediately wrote back to her regarding the dangers of taking on an unknown donor, both in the short term and the long term. She will have no assurances of this man's health, nor will she have any legal protection in the future. Furthermore, if she was found unfit to adopt, I suggested that she undergo psychological counselling before involving an innocent child.

As a doctor, I find it hard enough to see completely dysfunctional couples have children whom they ruin, children who live in an environment filled with unhealthy tension rather than love; and yet, their situation is far more acceptable because they represent a traditional family situation. We need a license to drive a car, to work in our profession, and to get married, while anyone can conceive a child. There should be a test for the most amazing, most difficult and most important job on the planet.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

I decided that the time had arrived to tell my two aunts, my mother's sisters, that I was expecting, as growing up, I had been particularly close to them and their children.

More afraid of telling "D", because lives squarely in that Jewish Orthodox (lobotomized) life, she was immediately enthusiastic and supportive; and her two sons, both Orthodox Rabbis, felt that single parenting in 21rst century was a halachic non-issue, no biggie.

My aunt "H" on the other hand, has shattered every expectation. Unfortunately, for all her supposed open-mindedness, liberal views of the world, and intelligence, she has managed to get it all wrong. This is the email she sent out to her three boys, informing them of my news, with my own commentary attached:

"So, one of your cousins is pregnant..."

Oooh the suspense, who could it be? Let's make this a dramatic moment in the Keller family history. Everyone hold your breath now...

"She has been trying to get pregnant for a while now (artificial insemination, of course!)"

I either take that to mean that I should not be misconstrued as a slut who got knocked up; or that it means that "of course!" no man would want to be in a relationship with me or have a child with me, so "of course!" I had to go the sterile medical route.

"and she is due around Yom Kippur time."

"While this is quite uncommon and unacceptable in American Jewish Orthodox circles,"

Nuh-uh. I have a blessing from the Chief Rabbi of the RCA, the Orthodox Union in America.

"apparently it is very popular in Israel."

What's in This Spring? Pastels, and Single Mothers. Get it while it's hot! And since when has my iconoclastic aunt become the aurthority on traditional Orthodox Judaism, since when does she care what the mainstream thinks?

"Because so many Israeli men die in the army, there is apparently an excess of single women!"

How did she pull that erroneous and bogus explanation out of her ass? I am trying to imagine the scene in modern-day Israel, a bunch of Amazonian type women wandering the cities with their children in tow, foraging for daily existence and capturing the few men they can find in order to mate.

I never asked her, nor is it appropriate for my aunt to justify my choices; I have chastised my parents when they have attempted the same offensive maneuver. If H even felt the need, she could have come up the truest, most respectful and simple sentence: "She would love to be married but has not yet found the right person, and she did not want to miss out on the experience of being a mother."

It is times like these when I am ever so grateful that I live in Israel, 6,000 miles away from the meddling and negative influence of my family.