Tuesday, August 31, 2010

That Four Letter Word


There I said it, and I bet as soon as you read that four letter word, you started scratching your head. Many years ago, when my hair was the longest and curliest it has ever been, I got a serious and gross case of L***, and it scarred me for life.

Last night, at the parents' meeting for Raphaela's nursery, the topic arose, and I realized that now I have to think about all the various diseases, large and small, that my child will bring back from the school yard. Until now she has enjoyed the small child care settings, which severely restricted her exposure, and that is about to change.

Emotionally, I feel ready for Raphaela to expand her social contacts and essential experiences. I am not and will never be ready for the L***. I wanted to run out in the middle of the gathering to the local drug store down the street, and buy every remedy both natural and toxic.

However, if I were to wish the plague of L*** upon anyone, it would be the mother of the child who stood up at the meeting last night and announced with disdain that she was "uncomfortable" and angry with the idea that "The Crawlers" - the youngest group in the nursery program, Raphaela being one of them - will set back the development of her own two year old, apparently a super-genius.

Don't all parents think that their child will save the world?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Goodbye Summer, Hello Gan

Picture the scene last Friday: mothers and fathers with babies, all around the same age as Raphaela. Balloons and a large picnic mat, with a kiddie pool on the side in the shade. Two full tables of summer food, and a chocolate birthday cake for Daniel. A nice way to close the first Summer of Raphaela's life.

Around 12:30 in the afternoon, all these babies with all their individual personalities and needs started kvetching and crying, as they all seem to be on the same nap schedule. You would almost think that these children conspired to have the simultaneous outburst and bring the birthday party to a close.

This week the chaos starts as far as child care. Since Raphaela's official nursery will only take her in October, when she turns one year old by both the Hebrew and English calendar, I now have to coordinate between three women. Elana, her care taker from last year, has graciously agreed to pick up most of the non-Jewish holiday hours during September. Hopefully Shira, her babysitter during July and August, and Michal, the newest 'staff member' will take care of the rest of the times I need.

I must work as often as the holidays allow, as at least half the month doesn't count, and my bank account doesn't care either way, as long as it stays full.

October remains slightly unbalanced, as Raphaela will initially have a staggered schedule, as she adapts to a new place, new toys, new kids and new care takers. I will still require my staff of sitters until Raphaela attends nursery full-time, as planned, without tears or separation anxiety.

In between all this, does anyone have a reliable house cleaner they can recommend? Not like my house qualifies as a disaster area, but I can't seem to hold onto anyone decent.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Party Planning

Tomorrow Raphaela and I will be attending the birthday party of her friend Daniel, who is exactly one month older and turning one. Inspired, I sat down and started a guest list for a party for Raphaela, though my parents need to forward me their travel itinerary, so I can time the event for their visit to Israel.

Amazingly, with inviting "essential personnel" only - Raphaela's friends and my family - I arrived at a list of over 40 people, half of that children. It seems that at the age of 11 months, Raphaela has more friends than her mother. Growing up, I was an introvert and hardly a member of the popular kids, and so I wish for my daughter that she always feel like the Belle of the Ball.

Raphaela also showcased a new skill today; when I sing the Hebrew version of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" (Yadayim Lemaala), she lifts her arms into the air and waves them around, with a big smile on her face. She can now recognize more and more words, and identifies her toys and household objects correctly. Funny how something so small could give me so much joy.

I can't wait for her to say "Mommy" for the first time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Difficult Days

One of my aunts always tells me being sick represents the hardest part of being a mother, single or otherwise. As an unwell individual, you need to stay in bed and rest, and yet practically and logistically that becomes impossible; by default, you come last.

Today, Shabbat, I experienced a combination of (best guess) oppressive Jerusalem heat leading to exhaustion and dehydration, combined with some version of food poisoning. I spent much of the day running back and forth to the bathroom, trying to take care of Raphaela's needs in between, during the "good moments." And when I needed to rest, Raphaela would come nuzzling up to me, or she would crawl off into some corner of the kitchen and (no exaggeration) start ripping up tiles.

I had to prevent Raphaela from getting hurt, of course, though I could barely move without feeling nausea, or a shooting pain in my intestines, or the spreading numbness in my hands. She finally fell asleep around seven pm, at which point I took a cold shower, simply to feel semi-human.

Today was difficult in itself, and it also reminded me of the less fun aspects of Raphaela's pregnancy: the first four months of nausea, unable to even think about most foods without vomiting. The next three months of intermittent constipation and sleeplessness. The last three months of constant muscle aches because a certain someone fetus was pressing on my back. Labour without an epidural.

Yes, Raphaela is worth all of that, but I question my ability to try for a second in the future, on my own. I don't know if I could go through the fertility treatments and the hormone shots and the pregnancy, while taking care of an active and growing child.

Then again, today she started giving me (and every stuffed animal in the vicinity) kisses; with such amazing loving energy coming from my first attempt, how could I not think about another?

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Smallest Things

As adults, we have a skill set and we have long since forgotten that we had to learn and practice the most basic aspects of life that we take for granted.

Yesterday, while in the kiddie pool, I asked Raphaela to pick out her rubber duck from the 20 or so scattered objects. I watched her as she scanned each toy in the water, and then she picked up the duck and handed it to me. I felt proud and amazed.

When we go to the park, Raphaela will throw herself down the slide, no fear at all. I put my hand in front of her stomach just to slow her down and prevent her from falling at the base of the slide, and Raphaela almost seems to resent my interference. Not even eleven months old and she is asserting her independence.

Recently she has also started standing while barely holding onto furniture, the precursor to walking. I observe her physical strength and stability, and can hardly believe that last year at this time she was still growing inside my stomach.

I personally think it is a blessing that we don't remember events like teething and toilet training; if we remembered all the agonizing moments, we may not ever evolve into healthy confident adults.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

By the Numbers

I received word from my family doctor this week that my blood tests results show totally normal and stable readings, and that in her words, there is no reason to think that I could not have another child, should I choose to do so. The fact that I have not had my period for the last 19 months, in addition to continuing to nurse, has nothing to do with my ability to ovulate and get pregnant.

Then I realized that since Raphaela has been born, I sleep uninterrupted for no more than three hours at a time. I work full time and get through the day, but collapse by 8:30 pm.

I very much want Raphaela to have a sibling, but I think it most prudent to wait and see how/if my life changes once she starts Gan in October, and in theory I have more hours in the day for myself. The last thing I want is to spread myself too thin - emotionally, physically and financially- because I am in love with the idea of having another baby.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Breast Connection

This past Sunday, for the first time since Raphaela was born, I left her with a sitter all night, so that I could attend a wedding. Other than the oppressive heat and humidity of Tel Aviv, at a certain point I started to feel the milk filling up, and had no way to deal with with the discomfort. I learned several things that night, the least of which is that I am no longer able to stay awake until midnight, and that I miss my daughter when I am not in the same city as she.

Yesterday, the husband of a friend of mine started complaining to me, about how my friend is still breast feeding their year and a half old daughter. "Enough already," he said, "why can't my wife just move on and stop nursing?"

I answered this man honestly from my own experience. Men don't get it, and I am not even sure that I can put the feelings into words. There is something intense and wonderful, magical almost, with the connection between mother and child during nursing. If a woman can get past that first awful, awkward and difficult stage in infancy, breast feeding becomes fun, a time of bonding.

With my own supply starting to dwindle, I have felt sadness that this period for myself and Raphaela may be coming to an end. My books say that after one year, the actual nutritional value of breast milk is minimal in any case, and yet I hope we can continue.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Baby as Leverage

Since June I have been in on-and-off negotiations with my landlord, regarding the renewal of my lease for 2010-11. Since June, despite my efforts, I have been carrying around the stress of the uncertainty, of worrying that each morning I will find out that I must move, that my daughter and I will be temporarily homeless.

This morning I finally received an answer, that yes, the owner is planning on raising the rent but that the number I had proposed was acceptable to him. The one condition of his acceptance was that I stay out of the way of his contractor, "Mr. Moshe" when the construction starts up again.

The owner of the apartment made it quite clear that he was agreeing not for me, but for Raphaela; "Now your daughter can go to nursery next year. May you have much joy from her."

A part of me feels dirty, for using my child as a negotiating tool, until I realize that I am in fact trying to establish a stable home for my child, my intentions are honorable. The owner of this apartment, and many others around Jerusalem, may be a thieving bastard, but he has a soft spot for babies.

I further reinforced his good will by not disagreeing with him, when he expressed anger and disappointment that the neighbors in the building did not allow him to steal public property for his construction project. "The neighbors aren't always nice to me either," I told him, and he felt comfortable enough spouting another five minutes of complaints.

This now allows me to take a whole year at my own pace to explore other areas of Jerusalem and outside the city, so that when we move it will encompass thoughtful consideration and planning, rather than being motivated by desperation.

I can breathe again.