Saturday, May 14, 2011

Surgical Post Script: In Defense of Single Motherhood

My mother left to return to Boston last night, and admittedly, we have a volatile if not dysfunctional relationship, but I think that this past week allowed us both to see aspects of each other that had been previously unrevealed.

When I made aliyah 14 years ago, I did so in order to fulfill my potential away from the pressure and expectations of my family, and certainly out of a strong feeling of Zionism and commitment to Israel.  I know Jews living in Israel who preach that all Jews from all over the world belong in our Homeland; I disagree, the life of an Israeli is not easy and is not for everyone, just as the choice to become a single parent does not suit every woman, no matter how much she wants to be a mother.

When I chose to become a JSMBC, I spent over two years considering the possible complications on multiple levels.  I interviewed couples with children to find out how much, practically speaking, a child costs at each stage of development.  I spoke to the single mothers by choice who lived in my area, and observed their day-to-day routines.  I spent over a year with a Life Coach to work through some of the more major issues I had with my upbringing, so I wouldn't bring that psychological baggage into my relationship with my future child.  I did not choose this status lightly, and was fully aware that there would be challenges above and beyond that of a traditional married couple.

When I collapsed on the floor of my apartment and needed to be rushed to the Shaarei Zedek emergency room, every thought (other than, "OMG, this hurts!) revolved around Raphaela.  Who would take care of her?  How would she react to her mother being "less than" herself for the period after the surgery?  What if I die and never see her again?

Even living 6,000 miles away from my blood relatives, know that I never once feared that I or my daughter would be abandoned.  I am grateful for my mother, and I am grateful for the social network of friends and neighbors and clients here who helped me in some way in the last two weeks, and continue to offer assistance.  As I have said before, but it bears repeating, I do not regret living in Israel nor do I feel guilty about being far away from the majority of my family.

If I didn't live in Israel, I couldn't have afforded the fertility treatments to have Raphaela, and I wouldn't receive the ongoing support for the choice of my 'alternative family.'  For those of you considering the transition into SMBC, think hard and think long , as you must; but don't be afraid or ashamed of the choice.

When I was post-op and still in the hospital, the nurses and the doctors kept asking me, "Are you in pain?  What can we offer you?"  And I always answered, "I want to see my daughter. I want to bask in her smile.  I want to hug her and read her a book and sit back and watch her play.  That is all the medicine I need."

This surgery clarified my priorities.  If I do nothing else with my life than be the best Mommy for Raphaela, and give her what she needs to fulfill her potential, I have done more than I ever imagined.


Commenter Abbi said...

In response to the issues that Amy brings up (which are very real), it did occur to me that doing what you're doing in Israel is very different than doing it in the US, purely for cultural reasons.

First of all, people did step up for you right off the bat- her own nursery teacher brought RR to her house for two nights! I doubt this would happen in the US, purely for litigious reasons. I think that if your mom couldn't make it, your friends would have stepped up and done a rotation to get you the help you need, because that's just how things are done here on a regular basis, whether it's formalized previously or not.

Even if you had secured guarantees from friends and neighbors previously that they would care for RR in the event of an emergency, life takes strange turns. Who knows what would really work out and what wouldn't.

Being a mom is hard, no matter if your 62, 42 or 22, single or married. I think we all try to do the best we can with the circumstances we're given. I think you did the best you could in this case, for RR and for yourself. And the proof is that you're all ok. Could things have been done "better" from the outset? Maybe. I don't think there's a definitive answer.

Living in the states, you might be geographically closer to your mom, but more miserable and poorer, because health and childcare would be so much more expensive.

Refuah shleimah

Doc said...

I don't deny that Amy makes important points that need to be considered. I also can't imagine my life without Raphaela.

I have a will which names a guardian for her in case G-d Forbid anything happens to me, and now I realize that I have to create a quick plan in case of emergencies. As Abbi said, even with promises of help, when it comes time to make good, you never know where other people will be in their lives.

But I thank G-d that I am home and basically healthy, and able to be with my daughter.