Monday, June 28, 2010

The Big Leagues

This afternoon, while sitting in the library with Raphaela, a little girl of about three years old came over and sat next to me, and simply opened the Hebrew book she had chosen to the first page. Ignored by her older brother, she designated me as the next best surrogate reader and friendly face in the room; and so I began reading a story about a rabbit who learns that true friends like you for you, and not for your stuff.

It felt good to know that I radiate a warm and positive energy, and not just to my own daughter. It also felt great that I could read a Hebrew book to a native Israeli child and not stumble over the words, as I used to do when asked to read Hebrew in front of others.

The 13th anniversary of my aliyah passed without much fanfare this past weekend, I have been so busy juggling the various aspects of my life. I know that I will always have an American accent no matter how elevated my Hebrew vocabulary. Though I am quite sure that Raphaela will teach me more than I ever learned in Ulpan, I finally have the confidence to speak up and read in public, a proud accomplishment.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gathering Information

I am the kind of person who reads the last chapter of a book before I start the first page, so I have some sense of how the story will come together. In other ways and in other parts of my life, I have learned to accept the transitory and uncertain nature of our day-to-day existence. Sometimes I even enjoy the suspense of having no clue, and seeing what the Greater Universe will throw at me.

When I was trying to decide whether to start the fertility process, a friend advised me that I don't want to end up in a place in my life that is not of my own choosing, because I refused to commit to a choice and play it out. When you make no choice, you allow an external force to decide your fate for you.

I have been applying that lesson in the last week, simply trying to gather information that will help me return some order to my plans for the day. When the workmen showed up and started digging last Thursday with no warning, a part of me felt angry and most of me felt relieved, at least I could say that the construction had begun, and plan accordingly.

Now I am playing telephone tag with the contractor, and with the owner of my apartment. I don't expect that all my decisions will be made for me, Fairy Godmother like, but am hoping that with answers to a few key questions, I can guide my choices.

How long will the construction take place? Do I have the option to live in my apartment for a few more months, and look for a new place at a leisurely pace? Are my child care plans confirmed for next year?

It would be nice not to wake up with a sense of dread.

To quote my dentist, when I asked him when Raphaela's teeth will come in, given that she has been drooling since two months: "It will all work out eventually."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Trying to Keep it Together

This week I had to decide where Raphaela would receive the best child care next year, and I chose the Montessori nursery, even though there is a certain element of risk and folly, given that it is one the most expensive facilities in all of the Jerusalem. I am willing to add work hours while she is in day-care in order to pay for her early education, because she is worth it, and I grew up in a family which sacrificed for education.

Which is not to say that the choice doesn't scare the shit out of me, way more significant than for example, trying to buy my car.

There is the threat of construction right underneath my apartment, they will not answer my faxes or phone calls, and I have no idea when they are planning on starting the Big Dig, considering they were supposed to start drilling two weeks ago. Every time the phone rings or the fax goes off, I have a TIA, and every morning when the building equipment doesn't arrive, I breathe again.

Until today, when I realized that the lease on my apartment expires next week, and the owner (same family doing the illegal construction) and I have not officially renewed the rental agreement. I spent all of today in a moderate-grade panic that next week, July 1, he will say, "Guess what, you're evicted." I do not put it past him to make a single mother and her daughter homeless. Or he will extort a huge rent increase because he knows I am limited in my ability to make last minute arrangements.

I am trying to figure out what my legal rights are, as a tenant and with my current contract. Meanwhile, for the last four nights I have not eaten dinner (too ill from the stress) and have not slept well. I need more emotional support than I am receiving.

This stress is starting to affect the time I spend with Raphaela, because I never get a break from trying to resolve some major crisis in our lives. I knew I was going to struggle at various points as a single parent, but Raphaela is worth it. I just hope I can hold it together for her.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Didn't Happen Today?

It's almost eight o' clock at night, I have a list of three or four 'important' things left to do before I can go to sleep, and I maintain that if I had a 50 hour day today, it would still not be enough.

1. The spectre of destruction and construction has reared its head, and they are planning on starting with the heavy drilling some time this week, they won't tell me when. I kept leaving messages for the contractor, to get some useful and vital information as regards their schedule, as I must temporarily relocate my office and possibly find another place for us to sleep during the initial period. The contractor finally returned my calls today, and in a most rude and threatening way made it very clear that he does not care how this will affect me or my daughter, and that as far as he is concerned, I can "move out or be homeless."

So now it looks like I will get a very last minute warning before the trucks and cranes arrive, and will have to be quite organized so as not to forget any supplies when I move my office.

2. I will be visiting two kindergartens (Gan) near my house, one tomorrow morning and one in the afternoon, and will have to decide where Raphaela will spend her day once the Fall starts. They are asking for 1000 NIS deposits to secure a spot, and so just for kicks today, I called my bank and asked them how much was sitting in my open account. I expected to hear several thousand shequel, and was told that I had 555 NIS in my account, and furthermore, that I had missed the day that I could transfer money from my savings. (For the record, I called them last Thursday to do just that, and the bank was on strike.) I am fairly certain that the reason for this shockingly low amount is my Visa bill, which should arrive any day now, but it doesn't make me feel any better.

Now I can not only worry how the care taker will react when I tell her that Raphaela will not be returning next year, but I can come up with very creative ways of providing the gan I like with their down payment.

3. I took Harry to the vet this morning, Savta Shira watched Raphaela at the house. I came out to my car afterwards and found a parking ticket on my wind shield. I am going to appeal it, as there is no clear signage that indicates that part of the street as a no-parking zone.

4. I was so looking forward to my cleaning person coming today, Raphaela was wiping up Jerusalem dust every time she crawled on the floor. I got a message this morning from her that she was ill, and so I cleaned my house. I did a good job, but that was two hours or so that could have gone to something else on the list.

5. In the past two weeks, I have not had the time to get to the supermarket and today I had to, as Raphaela has run out of diapers, formula and rice cereal at the care taker. In between the house cleaning (everything except for the floors) and the phone calls, I went shopping, and even had some time for us to play at the Gymboree set up in the mall.

6. Raphaela, thank G-d is growing by leaps and bounds, and has started standing in her crib. Worried that she may fall out or jump out, I had a handy man come to the house this afternoon and lower her crib and fix some small repairs that have been waiting since April.

My "Just Do It" list (as I call it) still has seven time consuming items remaining, but tonight I must look over a contract, repair my chiropractic table and do a color laundry. Doesn't look like I am going to get dinner tonight, or get to relax in front of the television even for a little bit.

Funny, in speaking to my mother today, she said that if/when I have another child I must hire an Au pair. I feel like I could use one right now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Distracted Refocusing

" If she [the mother] is preoccupied by something else, when he [the baby] looks at her he will only see how she feels...He [the baby] can only discover what he feels by seeing it reflected back. If the infant is seen in a way that makes him feel that he exists, in a way that confirms him, he is free to go on looking."

Claudia M Gold, International Herald Tribune "Hang up and see your baby" (An opinion piece which maintains that a child's early development suffers if the mother has less positive eye contact with her baby, because she is too busy on the cellphone, drinking coffee and trying to push the stroller with half a hand.)

I have been preoccupied lately, that is certain. Since moving to Israel 13 years ago, I have always asserted that when the time was right, ie when I became a family, I would move out of Jerusalem and into Efrat; a place which reminded me of my early childhood in America, a city that is close enough to Jerusalem but has the feeling of suburbia.

Amazing how I held onto that ideal for so long, and only recently have I realized that I am a City girl at heart. Earlier this week I drove through the Zayit neighborhood of Efrat, and felt fear and uncertainty. I don't know if that fear derives from my previous near-death experience on the Tunnel Road, or if my true inner voice does not want to live in a place that is so quiet at night that you barely hear the birds singing. There is also the inconvenience factor, I will still have to commute to work in Jerusalem, and do my shopping and errands in the proper city of Jerusalem, while leaving Raphaela at a care taker for longer hours than I would prefer.

While I have not definitively decided that the move is not for me, I already feel some sense of relief, of knowing (to quote a rock icon) that don't always get what you want, but you get what you need. I still intend to spend a full weekend in the area with my friends, and see if the social gains and benefits outweigh my gut feeling that I may need to move from my current apartment, but that I want to stay in Jerusalem.

To think that I once lived in Manhattan, and mocked Jerusalem for being a hick town.

Once I let go of Efrat as a necessity, the opportunity of a Montessori nursery presented itself, right down the street from my apartment. I plan on visiting the nursery tomorrow, and speaking with the teachers, and then will decide if it is a better and viable option to the current care taker situation, which has unraveled lately.

Just knowing that I have choices, I am breathing easier.

Of course the breathing takes place in between my running after Raphaela, who has become a champion crawler, has started pulling herself up onto furniture, and is slowly taking apart the house. The pride comes along with the exhaustion.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Silencing the Voices

I was once asked in an interview when I would stop blogging, and I replied that I would stop when it no longer served its purpose. Based upon the responses to my last posting, it seems that time has come.

I chose to become a single parent by choice because I did not want to live a life of regret. I did not want to look back - once I was menopausal, and whether I was married or not - and feel the emptiness of never having experienced pregnancy, birth and the joy of raising children. I do not regret my choice, and have more joy in my life than I have ever felt before, although I had quite an accomplished life before my daughter came along.

I chose to blog about the process of becoming pregnant and being a single parent in Israel because I wanted to share, and I wanted to inspire. I wanted to tell a story about the hardships and rewards of making the choice, so that other women out there who might be considering this path, or other women who were themselves single parents, would not feel alone.

Now, apparently, I am "self-righteous," a "pain in the ass" and an aggravation for those who cannot give me the benefit of the doubt. Once I might have gotten excited that my writing created "buzz." Not lately, however, and so now I choose to retire this blog, this will be my last entry for a while.

There will be amazing times ahead, and I am not ready to share it with some of you; I thank those of you who enjoyed reading this blog and responded positively.

Let my mother know, will you? She hates this blog.

Film Appreciation

Last night, I re-watched a film that I had seen many years ago called "Baby Boom," starring Dianne Keaton. Set in the Reagan 80's, the basic premise presents a career driven woman who becomes a single parent by accident, and long story short, by the end of the movie realizes that her daughter is more important than earning huge amounts of money on Wall Street, and that she can find love in the most unlikely of places. The first time I watched the film, I remember liking the Happily Ever After ending, and thinking that it must have been hard to give up the status and success she had achieved in the business world.

Of course now that I am a parent, my reaction to the ending of the movie was completely different: once I stopped tearing at the scene of Keaton's character playing quietly with her daughter, I felt like applauding the choice, because it made perfect sense to me. For me, there is no feeling like the one I get when I see Raphaela after a day of work, when she smiles at me and comes crawling toward me to pick her up, it gives meaning to everything else.

Being a mother has also affected my reactions to other scenarios in my day-to-day life. Last Friday, when we arrived at the pool for Raphaela's swimming lesson, one of the other mothers of our group was sitting at her car, bawling. She had accidentally locked her son in the car (it was a rental, and her husband wasn't there to help), and was hysterical at the idea that her baby would suffer heat stroke, or worse. All the mothers from our swim group rallied around her, in the end someone "broke into" the car in order to open the door, and then we all cried with her when her son was healthy and happy.

I have always been one to volunteer to assist a stranger who seems to need the help, but this time I and the other parents could empathize; it was a completely different experience.

Yesterday at the park, I politely asked an Israeli man who was smoking right behind us, to please put out his cigarette while he was standing near other children at the swing set. I explained that the wind was sending the cigarette smoke toward me and my daughter, and that we were allergic. (Not to mention the known effects of second hand smoke...) His wife stomped over and started swearing at me - solid use of the F-word there - saying that Israel is a free country and that her husband had the right to smoke wherever he felt like and for as long as he felt like, and that I had the selfish "chutzpah" to ask him to stop.

Normally I am the so-called Smoking Police when I see people smoking in densely populated public areas, like the mall or in cafes and restaurants. As a Chiropractor, I believe that everyone should enjoy life to the fullest, and that smoking threatens that experience. This time, I was protecting my own child, and had no problem returning this woman's aggression, because the cause was just.

Children re-arrange all your priorities and challenge your value system to the core.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Caretaker Conflict

In the past two days, Raphaela's care taker has snapped at me in anger several times, leaving me wondering what is going on in her life to make her react to me like that, and wondering what I am doing to trigger that reaction. Actually it makes me feel terrible, and I would cry (because I can feel the emotion getting stuck inside me) but (a) no one seems to have the time to listen to me and therefore (b) I don't cry alone. Which makes me feel more alone.

After today's incident, I sat down at the computer and sent her an email saying essentially "Whatever I have done to you, unknowingly, I apologize." And then I wished her a better next week.

Because I don't want to piss off the person who is responsible for my daughter - my most treasured possession and the joy of my life- while I am working.

What I am actually thinking and wishing I could say is far different than the apology that makes no real sense. I am annoyed at her for deciding that she will take summer vacation three weeks earlier than every other private care taker I know. I am annoyed at her that even when she plans to work in July, she intends to end two hours earlier, so I must supplement my child care with a private baby sitter in the afternoon. I am annoyed that she sometimes talks at-me and not to-me; she can be very strict about certain elements of Raphaela's schedule, and then ignore my needs as a parent. The stairs on the way to her apartment kill me, and yet I never complain.

She has stress, yes, with her three children and husband. I have stress too, not that I am using the single parenthood as an excuse.

I want to move to a more modern apartment but my finances are shaky at the moment. When my finances are unstable, everything seems more tenuous. There are times during the week when an extra pair of hands and a supportive shoulder would do me a world of good. I wish I wasn't responsible all the time for everything in my life and Raphaela's life.

But that is what I chose, and I wouldn't trade the experience of watching Raphaela grow up for anything in the world.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Revising the Family

While assiduously trying to avoid the news and the reaction regarding Israel's botched operations (paint guns?!), I came across an editorial in the International Herald Tribune entitled, "How babies are made (revised)" by Ross Douthat.

Without regurgitating the entire piece - though I suggest you read it - he basically addresses the new reality in America as more and more couples use anonymous sperm and egg donation. In his op-ed, he quotes various data from a study by Elizbeth Marquardt, Norval Glenn and Karen Clark, which studies the emotional development of children who were conceived by anonymous donation.

Here is the bit that disturbed me the most, he writes that children "conceived through sperm donation also are more likely to feel alienated from their immediate family than either biological or adopted children...They are more likely than adoptees to say that 'when I see someone who resembles me, I often wonder if we are related.'"

In short, these children between the ages of 18 to 45 seem to feel that they were bought, like a sweater at the mall.

I know that Israel as a society is more supportive of the process that I, and many other women, have endured not for selfish goals, but for the express joy of being a mother and bringing a child into the world. As single parenthood by choice becomes more "normal" around the world, I sense that therapists will be cashing in, thus creating more stress than I believe is necessary.