Monday, February 28, 2011

Israel Fertility Statistics

I would like to thank the Macabi HMO for paying the bulk of my expenses of the treatments, pregnancy and birth of Raphaela.

They reported today the following regarding the steep rise in fertility treatments among women 40 and older, since 2005.  The HMO provides fertility and IVF treatments through the age of 45, and they note that for "relatively older women...the chances of a successful pregnancy are not necessarily connected to technology, but to the quality of the woman's eggs."

Beer Sheva  +76%
Rishon LeTzion  +76%
Bat Yam  +60%
Tel Aviv/Bnei Brak  +52%
Rechovot  +42%
Jerusalem  +37%
Ashkelon  +31%
Ashdod  -16%

Of particular note are the increases in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, two cities dominated by the religious and Ultra-Orthodox populations.

I love being a statistic.

Philosophical Crossroads

An article in Haaretz last week highlighted a new genre of children's Hebrew literature for "non-conventional families."  With titles like "Little Treasure" (about a jsmbc), "Families, Families, At Least a Million," "Bentsi the Colorful" and "The Cow that Laid an Egg" (about surrogate pregnancies), the market is exploding.

Each night, I read Raphaela an edited version of the English book "Our Story," written by the Donor Conception Network.  (She is a little young to learn about sperm and eggs and insemination at this point.) I have seen these Hebrew books and for Raphaela at this stage, I feel that they are too wordy and overly complicated.  Utilizing the KISS principle, Raphaela needs to know that there are many different kinds of families, that she was wanted from the very beginning, and that she stands on equal footing as any other child.

This past week I received several email invitations for a "Single Mummies Group" here in Jerusalem. I did not attend because it was one of those days that Raphaela refused to nap at all, and she generally collapses and goes to sleep earlier than usual in this (repeating) situation.  I have no problem meeting new people and making new friends, single or otherwise. 

But it also made me recall a conversation I had with a JSMBC, one of the first to do so in Jerusalem close to nine years ago.  She told me that at a certain point she stopped going to these single mother specific events, because her son was so comfortable with himself and the facts of his conception, and it was counter-productive to remind him that he was different than other children.

This idea was reinforced to me when one of the women who invited me said the following:  "This group is important to me because then my son can be around other kids just like him, and not feel like a Freak."

I know that Raphaela will have questions about her conception and her biological father, but I hope that she never feel any less for it.  At the age of five, when my mother divorced my biological father, the phenomenon of divorce was rare if almost non-existant, and people in our Jewish community made me feel like a so-called 'Freak.'  Today the divorce rate among families stands close to 60% unfortunately, and most every child lives a non-conventional life.

I anticipate that by the time Raphaela starts school, there will be at least three or four other children just like her in her class, and the Single Mom by Choice will represent one of many family options.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Sunday Gan Report

When I arrived to pick Raphaela up from Gan today, one her teachers asked me a series of questions:  "Do you change Raphaela's diapers standing?"  "I just realized that Raphaela hears English at home, do you want me to speak English to her here at Gan?" (Hell, NO!)  "Did you know that Raphaela, of her own initiative, goes over to the sink and washes her hands after she eats?"

At some point Sarah, the head Nursery teacher, came over and scolded the two of us for talking over Raphaela's head, when she was clearly right there and the topic of conversation.  The observation was correct, of course, no person at any age deserves to be ignored, and I take pleasure in being corrected, because it reaffirms my belief that I chose the right place for my daughter.

I then had a long conversation with Sarah, to obtain her permission to organize the parents as a group, to give one of the other recently-married teachers a wedding present.  Sarah's policy, as part of the philosophy of her school, forbids the giving of presents; and in fact she said that under normal circumstances, she would fire an employee who took gifts from parents, she considers it "bribery."  (Sarah grew up in Romania, where she saw corruption on every level, including in the educational system.)  A wedding gift was an exception, she said, but she wanted to make sure that we parents did it together, and that the overall present be "modest."

On the way out, another mother told Sarah a story about her son, and his behaviour this past Shabbat.  Her son, it seems, was insulted because he was not served food before his father.  This boy told his parents, "I am a big boy, I go to Gan and I sit quietly in shul on Shabbat."  Sarah, rather than being impressed by this child's self-assurance, encouraged the mother to reinforce the heirarchy in family roles:  "The father is the King, the mother is the Queen, and your son is the Prince.  He has to accept that the Prince becomes a King one day, but he respects his parents because they are his parents." 

I knew I liked this Gan.

When we arrived home, out of habit I started carrying Raphaela up the stairs.  About half-way, I could have sworn she said, "I do it!" I put her down, and she then happily climed up the stairs and into the house by herself.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Day in the Life

Yesterday afternoon, Raphaela and I visited a friend who had recently given birth to a new baby girl.  I forgot how small they start out, and quite enjoyed holding this week and a half year old baby, while Raphaela looked on with curiosity, for the most part.  When we got home, she became very clingy and kvetchy, and in fact fell asleep on my chest while I was reading to her;  she normally only wants me to rest with her when she is ill.

Remembering how much attention a newborn needs, and seeing Raphaela's reaction to only the briefest exposure to a smaller child, it made me reconsider my burning desire to create a sibling for Raphaela, at least for the moment.

The night was marked by lightning and thunder, rain and fierce winds, and we both went to sleep fairly early.  This morning there was a message on my land line from one of my clients, an active 90 year old woman who recently lost her 96 year old husband.  She lives nearby, and called because she was "concerned" for me and for Raphaela, that our apartment was not properly heated.  (She was, of course, absolutely correct;  the Co-op board has not turned on the heat all Winter)  She then invited the two of us to sleep over at her "nice warm apartment," should we be suffering here.

I have not experienced that level of spontaneous kindness in a long time, and I bless her for thinking of us.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Letter I Wrote my neighbor on Friday afternoon, after our drive to Savta Shira's house for the weekend.  Sometimes, I am told, it's enough to get the feelings down on paper, and then file the letter away, never to be sent and read by the person for whom it was intended.  I am still undecided.

"  Dear [      ],
I wanted you to know that after our little parking encounter, I went upstairs and cried;  I want you to understand that you have no idea how your tone and behaviour affects others.  I want to explain my day, so you understand why I cried today, twice.

All week I have lived with pounding and drilling.  For someone who never gets headaches, I have been suffering almost non-stop since they started the construction beneath me over one month ago.  Then, I thought, Friday, one day of quiet and not worrying about the Arab workers drilling smoking and leering at me.

So instead they start the pounding earlier than usual.  Seven AM and I can't sit and have breakfast with my daughter in peace.  In fact, they were still working when I left for the weekend, less than two hours before Shabbat started.

Then, when I have spent the last few weeks fighting for parking spaces in my own building, you accuse Me of "creating the situation" that prevents you from pulling your car in.  I have stopped counting the number of times that I have parked around the corner and carried the baby up the hill, because there were no spaces in our lot and on our street.

What I find most troubling is the lack of sympathy any of the neighbors have shown toward me since the construction started, and I must deal with the noise and the disruption of my life with no one to help me or protect me.  True, none of this is your problem, but for some reason I expect people to display basic acts of "Menchlichkeit."

To top it all off, today is the tenth anniversary of my almost being killed by a Palestinian sniper.  And today I traveled down the same road where my car got shot, with my daughter in the car.  I held my breath until we arrived safely and then cried a second time, thanking G-d for getting us to our destination safely.

The short version of this letter? Please think before you speak, because you never know what the other person has been through, what they are feeling."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Faux Pas

This morning, the teller at the bank asked me if I was expecting a second child.  I responded (in a way that would cause him the least embarassment possible) that "No, not expecting, just wearing a Winter sweater."  It makes me think that I need to go through my wardrobe and buy clothing that fits me better, now that I stand at my thinnest since high school.

In order to make up for his faux pas, the teller - who has known me for years - then said that it was the smartest thing that I did, bringing my daughter into the world and not waiting until I found a husband.  I thanked him and tried to change the subject.

On a positive note, I find it refreshing that in comparison to the reception I received while pregnant, those who know me even on a superficial level treat my single motherhood as something natural and wonderful.  If I were to announce that indeed I had undergone fertility treatments for a second round and was carrying a little brother or sister for Raphaela, I have no doubt that the reaction to the news would be supportive.

Today's Factoid, from the Israeli papers:  Research has confirmed that breast-fed babies are 8% smarter than bottle-fed babies.  As well, 41% of Israeli men resent the fact that their wives/partners are nursing.  Apparently it is hard to share...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chicken Pox!

Here's an open invitation to anyone who wants to expose their children to Chicken Pox the natural way, as opposed to the less-effective vaccination.  Raphaela, and the rest of the children of her Gan, may or may not be coming down with the virus within the next week, caught from one little boy in Raphaela's group who stayed home this week.

Intellectually, and certainly based upon my background as a doctor, I know that this is the best thing to happen to my daughter, to get exposure to Chicken Pox early on, with less suffering than if she were older, thus giving her life-long immunity.  I and two of my cousins had the Chicken Pox together, when I was about four years old;  we hung out at my aunt and uncle's house, trying not to scratch, though I do remember that I was afflicted with a particularly bad case.

As a Chiropractor, I can objectively listen to a patient's symptoms and give a calm and reasonable analysis.  Somehow, for my own child, I find myself incapable of being rational about the subject.  I keep hoping that because she is still nursing, Raphaela will have enough anti-bodies so as not to manifest the more awful symptoms of the virus.  I am already entering into a panic about finding a sitter for a week, should she need to stay home. And every time Raphaela's skin starts to redden, I frantically search for the classic rash of Chicken Pox.

The virus can incubate for 10 -20 days, so by next week, we will all know for sure.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Raphaela's Bravery

Normally, when a baby turns one in Israel, they are sent for standard blood tests, to measure iron levels mostly but also to get a general picture of their health.  I put off those tests for almost five months, because it was clear to me that Raphaela was neither malnourished nor under-developed, and because I have needle issues.

This morning my clinic schedule for the morning was lighter than usual, and so I took Raphaela to the hospital, resigned to the fact that it had to be done at some point.  They draw blood through the finger rather than the adult stick-a-needle-in-your-vein method, and yet Raphaela started crying as soon as the nurse applied sterilizing alcohol.  Not because it hurt, but because she thought they were going to cut her nails, and she hates that.

Raphaela got through the procedure, though I felt myself tearing up as she was squirming and crying, no parent likes to imagine their child in pain. Once we arrived at Gan, it was all but forgotten, and she had a band-aid to show off to the rest of the kids.

As I was walking out the door of Gan to start my work day, they handed me a poem that Raphaela had colored, in honor the recent "Family Day" celebrations in Israel.  The poem read (in Hebrew), " Dear Mommy, I give you my heart and all of my love, in honor of Family Day.  I love you because you are the sweetest Mommy. Love, Raphaela"    Started crying again, this time for the best of reasons.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mixing Pleasure with Business

This afternoon I received a call from one of the other Gan mothers who had given birth last week, C-section.  She asked if I could come over and give her a Chiropractic treatment, as the birth and the surgery had left her whole body tight and painful.

After picking up Raphaela from Gan, we drove over to their apartment and while the two girls played, I went to work. The visit ended up lasting several hours, we sat together and had dinner together and enjoyed each other's company.  Once they felt comfortable enough to ask, this couple broached the subject of my aliyah and my single parenthood;  it was nice to be able to discuss my choice with other parents of a child the same age, and not feel any judgement, only acceptance.

At a certain point, both girls started acting out due to fatigue, and as I bundled up Raphaela for the ride home, the mother asked me how much she owed me for the treatment.  Truth is, I had given this dilemna much thought today, I did not want to ruin a potentially wonderful and deep friendship over money, and yet, I do deserve to get paid for my house call and for my expertise.

I replied that I would accept a "symbolic" amount, because I try not to mix pleasure with business, and we both felt satisfied by the quick and painless (I apologize for the pun, LOL) resolution.