Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Patience of a Cat

Harry is first of all certainly not complaining that he has the monopoly on attention in the house, though he still looks for Sarel for a few minutes each day. That exclusivity ends in two months or so...

Harry has also adapted quite nicely to my frequent urination, the classic pregnancy symptom; whereas he used to get impatient if I did not fulfill his needs right away, day or night, he now knows that I will be running to the bathroom often, and all he has to do is wait a bit. I can barely remember the times that I used to worry, because I wasn't peeing at the drop of a hat.

I hope he can adapt just as easily when the baby comes. One of my fears is that his fear of crying children will cause him to run away, rather than stay and smell the baby and realize that she is simply a new addition, a new kitten in our house.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You Know You're Pregnant When...

I met my friend Michal and her partner Yael for a birthday dinner tonight, it so happens that Michal and I share the same birth-day, which makes even more sense considering that we have become good friends and have supported each other during the fertility and pregnancy process.

It took three different attempts before we were able to find a table which accommodated mine and Michal's growing stomachs and low back pain, which sent us all into fits of laughter. And Michal kept asking the restaurant to turn up the air conditioner, as we hyper-hormoned women tend to produce inordinate amounts of body heat. Pregnancy might be the only time in my life when those little aches and pains are welcome as a sign of "normalcy."

Michal noted that I seem to be far less concerned about bringing the baby home and raising her, as opposed to my obsession to avoiding pain and complications during the birth itself. She is correct in her observation, right now my greatest fear involves the uncertainty of the birth, my pain threshold and most things related to my stay in the hospital. For the sake of my sanity and the ease of the labour, I need to get over that sooner rather than later.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Birthing Class, The Movie

Tonight, the second to last birth preparation class, we watched a movie about natural childbirth, dubbed from the original Austrian into Hebrew. Having been to several births myself, the blood and guts detail did not shock or scare me; if anything, it helped me come to an even greater understanding and appreciation as regards the miracle that is the human body, and specifically, birth.

The religious woman/child ran out of the room during the opening credits and refused to watch a single frame of the movie. Another woman in the class, the gum-smacking anti-Chiropractic nurse was the only one in the room who when asked, said that the movie frightened and disgusted her.

Two months to go, and I am not even sure if my parents will come from the States to help me after the birth, because the timing is "inconvenient."

Hanging with Bubby

I have a gift of prescient dreaming, though I cannot control when it appears. The last time I can remember having a dream with my grandmother, a dream that felt as real as waking reality, was eight years ago. She had died, quite suddenly in fact and at an early age, and I had certain regrets because I felt that we had not had the chance to say good-bye properly. She was like a surrogate mother to me, and her death had affected me deeply.

One month after her funeral (the Jewish Shloshim), I had a dream in which she and I were standing in the basement in their house in Providence; there were other family members in the scene but they faded into the background. I stood facing my grandmother, she was wearing her typical practical and yet fashionably layered New England/LL Bean look. We hugged, I told her how much I loved her and missed her, and I apologized for not speaking to her on a more regular basis before her death. I woke up the next morning feeling that we had truly bridged time and space, that place between the living and the deceased; I woke up feeling her love and a sense of closure.

Last night, I had a dream with a similar feeling. I was standing in the kitchen in the house in Providence, telling my grandmother about my pregnancy. My grandmother said, "I don't know why your mother was so afraid to tell me. I am so happy for you!" Then she had me pick up my shirt so she could put her hands on my belly, and I tried to encourage the baby to accommodate the moment and kick a little. After than, my grandmother and I decided to get into pajamas and watch a movie together. I didn't tell her, though I remember thinking this in the dream, that in fact she had passed on, and that some part of my child's name would reflect her legacy and her memory. I didn't want to spoil the moment, I was having too much fun.

Even in the after-life, she is one of the coolest women I know.

I woke up this morning knowing that she knew about this baby, that I had told her myself even if she already knew in a higher existence, and that for the first time since she died, she and I had done something together, just like old times. I woke up happy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Guy Magnet

Yesterday, I bumped into an old friend from Boston who was at the gym with his wife, I hadn't seen either of them for at least a year. Dave (the husband) asked me, "What's going on, anything new and exciting?" I pointed to my stomach, which at this point is certainly looking like a baby bump, and told him that I was pregnant and due to give birth in approximately two months, G-d Willing.

Men. He looked at my stomach, and at me, and said, "You're pregnant?" And then his first reaction was wonderful, unlike any I have received until now: "You realize that puts you in a whole different category, a baby is a guy magnet. They will be banging down the door for you."

It felt nice to not get overly personal questions like "Who's the father?", or sanctimonious and judgemental lectures about how hard it is to be a single mother in a Jewish world of couples and "real" families.

In the changing room, there was a woman in shower stall next to mine, clearly pregnant, she told me she was in her fifth to sixth month. Bigger stomach than me, but these amazing perky breasts. Since the first month my breast have become so much larger, I sometimes don't know what to do with them.

The rest of the day, however, I felt rather pathetic, running downstairs to mail box every hour on the hour to see if by some chance, any one of my relatives in the States had planned ahead and sent me a birthday card, so it would arrive in time, before Friday. Here I am, turning 41 years old and about to become a mother, and it is still important to me to get birthday cards, to feel valued by my family, which has for the most part ignored my needs most of my life.

A friend of mine told me that my problem is one of expectations. Just because I program my Palm Pilot to remind me of my second cousin's (once removed) birthday, just because I send out birthday cards two weeks in advance to be sure that my relatives in America will receive them on time; doesn't mean that anyone else will hold themselves to the same standard, proven by their track record in the past. It could also mean that I am way more obsessive than most of known Western civilization.

This morning I woke up and noticed discharge, and with my due date two months from my birthday, I am starting to get more and more paranoid about all the things that could possibly happen, for better or for worse. Seven months since I have gotten pregnant, and yet every time I go to the bathroom I check for spotting or bleeding, a part of me that cannot be 100% sure that I really have a baby kicking inside me, that I am not going to get my period any day now.

I will monitor the discharge situation for today, and just may set up a gynecological appointment, for peace of mind.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Man On the Moon

Forty years since "mankind" landed on the moon, and today also happens to be my Hebrew birthday. My English birthday occurs on Friday, July 24th, and it also happens to be the exact two month mark before my due date. While I am not one to celebrate my birthday - Hebrew, English or otherwise - in particular, this year has special meaning to me, as the end-goal of this pregnancy becomes more and more clear.

My commitment to this child has become all the more entrenched, as the recent news has been full of stories of children being abused or actually killed by their parents. "Child Left in Car, Dies of Heat Exhaustion," "Mother Starves Three of Her Children, Ultra Orthodox Community Rallies to Her Support," "Child Drowns, Unsupervised By Parents," etc. For a country in which families are actively supported, I wonder where we went wrong, when over one million and a half children live in poverty, and seem to be in constant danger from the very people meant to take care of them.

At last night's birthing class, she managed to get through the entire process of active labour to birth, without mentioning any breathing techniques. When I asked the instructor why she had skipped over the famous Lamaze system, she replied that her philosophy this entire course had not been to teach anything that would make a woman's thinking become rigid or too intellectual; she wants a woman to come into the Hadassah Hospital with her mind open to every possibility of birth, and to presumably take direction from the staff there, without having her own ideas of a birth plan or preferences. "Shut off the brain, turn on the instinct." Whatever.

What did in fact encourage me was the onslaught of questions from other women in the class, who themselves had become somewhat discouraged by the lack of useful and complete information in the five sessions we had had thus far. Every time the instructor tried to gloss over a topic, at least two people raised their hand and forced her to discuss the details; for example, how the staff communicates with the birthing mother regarding invasive procedures such as epidural or episiotomy; or the potential side-effects of a vacuum birth or a Ceasarian section.

The session ended with a free-association game, in which all the men in the room kept coming back to their child being a symbol and culmination of their manhood and the focus of their fears, and the women in the room kept trying to assure them that pregnancy is in fact about faith, and letting go of that need to control. That the whole process is a miracle happening inside the body even as we women go about our day, and while we can do our best to take care of the vessel in which this miracle takes place, it all works out the way it works out.

Big surprise, the religious woman/child who cries every time the instructor holds up a model of the pelvis, when asked how she felt about her pregnancy, said that she didn't. She didn't have any feelings associated with it, either in a positive or negative way. Let's hope she notices the baby when he/she is born.

I was exhausted by that point and put my head down to nap, and having five minutes to "shut off my brain," managed to think about all the loss I have experienced in the recent month, from my grandfather to my cat, Sarel. Which of course started me crying and of course I could easily blame on hormones, given the context of the class.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Birth Class...Boring

I would qualify the last two birth preparation classes as five hours of my life that I will never get back.

The instructor, a trained and experienced midwife at Hadassah Hospital, has a teaching style which caters to the lowest common denominator; she assumes that women not only don't know anything about their body, but that - as health consumers - don't want to know all the important details. In the last class, she glossed over the potential harmful side-effects of an epidural, and then incorrectly taught stretches to help with back pain during pregnancy. When I pointed out (as a Chiropractor) possible alternative directions in her approach, she glared at me, and seems to forget on a regular basis that this is what I have been doing for a living for the last 13 years. In fact there are several women in the class with medical backgrounds, and we don't need the fifth repetition of the basic anatomy of the female pelvis.

Throughout my life, I have never appreciated teachers who took the easy way out, who dumbed down material because the students were deemed to be "stupid" or "uninterested." I have always believed that if you respect an individual and assume that they have a natural human curiosity and interest in learning, they will rise to the challenge. At one point at the class this week a woman, who had been meek about speaking up until now, asked a legitimate question: she asked if it was true that as we get close to the birth, the baby will naturally have less movements, as there is less space inside and the body is saving energy for the contractions. (True and true.) The midwife's response? "We don't tell people that." Not acceptable ladies and gentlemen.

With three classes to go, and me learning less and less each week, I can only hope for some breakthrough as the practical aspects of the birth itself have yet to be addressed.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sarel "Runs Like Rabbit" Z"L

All my life, I have been asking G-d to send me a telegram every once in a while, to let me know what to expect. Surprisingly, it happens more often than I realize, and instead of paying attention I misread the direct communication.

Three nights ago, I had a dream in which I was playing with an adult male cat who died suddenly, and in the dream, I was quite saddened and disturbed by the whole event. I had to tell myself that not every cat survives. When I woke up, I went Freudian and decided that the cat was a metaphor for my pregnancy concerns and anxiety, though it perplexed me that the cat was male, when I know that I am pregnant with a girl.

Turns out, and this is certainly not the first time in my life that I have experienced prescient dreaming, it was a telegram trying to prepare me in the most literal way possible: I was going to lose a male cat.

In addition, according to the doctor, Sarel's problems began the day my grandfather died, although I did not notice it until it was more advanced and severe. Sarel and my grandfather essentially died of the same medical problem, shut down of the waste disposal systems in the body.

And in the most eerie manifestation of all, when I returned home sans Sarel and full of sadness, there was a message on my cell phone of Sarel crying. I have no idea how a cat calls its owner to say good-bye, but he managed it.

It was my choice to put him to sleep, because I was told that there was no guarantee that he would not die in a few days anyway; if he would live, he would need constant medical supervision for the rest of his life, which could very well have been for another seven years, at least.

I chose my welfare and health, and the care of my child. I could not even touch Sarel after the surgery because it might have caused complications for the pregnancy. It was painful for me to know that he needed attention and physical touch, and I was physically recoiling from him, out of concern for myself. Conflicted about the decision, I could not imagine the possibility of taking care of a new baby and a chronically ill cat on my own, as a single parent.

I rescued Sarel approximately seven years ago, after he had been run over by a car. He lost his tail in the traumatic event, but he had all these years living in a home, eating well, destroying my couches and getting lots of love and attention. Rare for a feline, he had a "posse," every morning when I would let him outside there would be three or four cats waiting for him, rubbing up against him and playing with him. Sarel had a rare kindness about him, and would actively recruit kittens to come live in our garden; he knew I would take care of his friends as I had taken care of him, so many years ago.

I will miss him, and I will tell the baby about him. First I must tell his brother Harry "The Highlander."

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Lessons of Children

At this moment, my seven year old cat Sarel "Runs Like Rabbit" is having emergency surgery. Thankfully it is not a tumor, though I spent most of last night and this morning imagining how I would feel if I did find out that he had cancer. A preview of the kind of concerns that new motherhood will bring, though I pray that I am not constantly playing out Worst Case Scenario in my head.

The hefty bill for this procedure left me reeling, but then again, I am not going to let him die a slow and painful death. I cannot, because he is family as much as anyone else. Unexpected expenses come up with pets, as they will most assuredly with children, and at the end of the day, it is only money, compared to the attachment and responsibility I feel.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Further Attempts at Dating

I belong to so many Jewish dating sites, my profile scattered throughout the net. I have stopped using them, not only because of the pregnancy, but because I am not a "virtual" personality. I would much rather meet a person, face to face, spend time with them and see a relationship develop out of a natural encounter.

Several days ago, a man contacted me from one of these websites, and I responded honestly that I am not in the active dating circuit right now. He pressed for a reason, and I told him that I am seven months pregnant, and assured him that if I never heard from him again, I would not take it personally. Truth be told, his energy was off, typical of the freaks who usually write to me; before we had ever met in person, he was already calling me pet names, telling me how wonderful I was and planning the wedding. I would not have been interested in him in any case.

My state of pregnancy did not turn him away, on the contrary, I received a three page email describing his love of children, and his enthusiasm in the possibility that he might become the father to my child. His only request was to know the details of the "involvement" of the biological father, to "understand" the current balance in my life.

I have always foreseen this aspect of the fertility treatments as a positive attribute, there is no ex-husband or ex-boyfriend, no legal battle to muddy the waters. And so I explained via email that there is no father per se, that all was done halachically and anonymously. In fact, in order to even start treatments I had to sign a legal waiver, relieving the donor of any emotional or financial responsibility, now and forever.

Go figure, since then I have not heard a peep from Mr. "I Love the Children of the World." Apparently, he would prefer an unresolved relationship or a messy custody battle to a lack of complications.

Darn, here I was hoping to ask him to attend the birth preparation classes with me...:-)

Finally, Some Chivalry

In a pregnancy first this evening, a college student on the bus gave up his seat for me, the pregnant person. I would like to say that this was not the highlight of the night's birth preparation class, but I was underwhelmed by the lack of practical information passed along in the two and a half hours of tonight's course. Much of the anatomical information was a repeat performance of the last session, a presentation not even on the level of one of my basic classes in the first year of Chiropractic school.

Add to that, the feeling of isolation, when everyone who came with a partner (husband, friend or otherwise) gave massages and I sat by myself, looking sad and well...alone. I do not regret having entered into pregnancy as a potential single parent, I enjoy every day of this pregnancy; but tonight emphasized for me the lack of a "sure thing," my not knowing that I have any one person I can count on to be with me and support me at the birth itself.

My parents will come when they can, from America. There are several friends who have committed half-way ie the "would love to be there" for me, assuming of course my birth does not fall out on a major Jewish holiday, or at an otherwise inconvenient time for them or their families. Duh: I am due to give birth sometime between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, so any way you slice it, the timing is likely to be "inconvenient."

I suppose I could take on a Doula, I am not yet sold on the idea. I suppose also that these feelings prepare me for the time when my baby has arrived and may very well be truly alone in the practical and emotional aspects of her care. Either way, I don't want to go to another birth class in which there is massage and intimate couples belly dancing (I kid you not), and I am standing on the side like a wall flower.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

MY News to Share

The recently divorced religious woman from my neighborhood, who has backed off for the moment of us being BFFs, has not ceased her crusade to spread the word around the neighborhood and in fact the country, despite my asking her to cease and desist.

Because she has always overcompensated for her lack of self-esteem and self-awareness, I have not had a particular desire to hang out with her, not in the 12 years that we have lived down the street from each other. Now that she is free of an apparently horrible relationship, and pregnant, she feels that it is duty somehow to point out that life is great, life is fantastic, and the stress in her life is the best thing that ever happened to her. That's her glossing over her feelings, as she works as a "Life Coach" and must be perpetually chirpy and bossy.

Now that she is due to give birth a week before me and we are both in the same situation of single parenthood, she also feels it is her duty to tell anyone and everyone that I am pregnant, which I resent. Not that my being pregnant is a state secret, but it is my news to tell, and quite frankly, I am getting tired of hearing from people, some of them virtual strangers, who say, "I heard your good news from Ms. ---." Even my family asks me if they can speak about the impending main event.

Perhaps she is hoping that the perceived power of the scandal of my baby's conception will provide enough fodder for the rumor mill, overshadowing the fact that she is an abrasive woman with a failed marriage. For a supposedly emotionally evolved Life Coach, she is doing a lousy job of listening and respecting my privacy.