Friday, December 26, 2008

Parent's Prayer

This morning I attended the Bat Mitzvah of a colleague's daughter, at the area of Robinson's Arch, near the Western Wall. The Conservative Jewish ceremony moved me, but especially the prayer that her parents gave when she was finished reading from the Torah. It made me cry, not only because of the emotion of the event, but because of the process through which I am plodding at the moment.

After the Bat Mitzvah itself, each guest went to the Wall and gave our own personal prayers, and I felt that this was a place where I could be heard, though I believe that G-d is not geography specific, listening wherever we may be found.

I reproduce this Parent's Prayer below, for all of you who are already or are trying to become mothers:

What I wish for my child I wish for all our children.
I wish for you to be a person of character: strong but not tough, gentle but not weak.
I wish for you to be righteous but not self-righteous, honest but not unforgiving.
Wherever you journey, may your steps be firm and may you walk in just paths and not be afraid.
Whenever you speak, may your words be words of wisdom and friendship.
May your hands build and your heart preserve what is good and beautiful in our world.
May the voices of the generations of our people move through you, and may the G-d of our ancestors be your G-d as well.
May you know that there is a people, a rich heritage to which you belong; and from that sacred place you are connected to all who dwell on Earth.
May the stories of our people be upon your heart and the grace of the Torah-rhythm dance in your soul.

(Written by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Round Two, AS (After Surgery)

By my own calculation, I have had only legitimate IUI attempt, since for the first six trials there was the small issue of the IUD/polyp. Having negotiated successfully with Hadassah to allow another IUI this month, I start my journey, less than a month after the last insemination.

The way I see it, I am meant to have the next procedure on January 1, 2009, the day of little baby Jesus' brit milah. Sounds like a good day to invoke the good will of G-d.

25/12/08 (Day 5): Hadassah for blood tests and ultra-sound. I received a lot of sympathy from the nurses, who said to me, "We really thought the last one was going to take." Walked home (in the drizzle) from town instead of exercising this morning.

29/12/08 (Day 9): Hadassah for blood tests and ultra-sound. I have three follicles on each side (so far), and have spent the morning smiling. I also bumped into the older sister of a woman who attended college with me, and we spent the morning discussing US politics.

31/12/08 (Day 11): Hadassah for blood tests and ultra-sound. In addition to going to the mikva in preparation for tomorrow's IUI, I also returned all the mini-ice packs I had received from the HMO to transport the hormones thus far. They were grateful to have the supplies - there were lots to return - and I feel this is a gesture that says, "It is going to work for me this month, let some other woman benefit now from the hormones."

Hooray for Michal

I am pleased to report that my friend Michal is unofficially pregnant. I met her today at the hospital, as I successfully negotiated one more IUI try this month, and she and her partner Yael told me the good news.

Of course it is very early, but nevertheless, it left a smile on my face all day, just the right way to celebrate the holiday season.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Integrating Plans

My blood test came back negative, but I knew that was going to happen.

I spoke to the nurses about the transition process into IVF, and they told me that in a best-case scenario, I would still have to wait at least a month.

In the past, they have pushed me not to "miss an opportunity," even when I felt I needed a break. Using their motivation to manipulate the situation, combined with my highest desire to avoid IVF if possible, I suggested that I "might as well" do another IUI this month, if I would have had to wait until 2009 anyway to enroll in the IVF program.

Furthermore, I pointed out that my first six rounds were destined to fail, due to the blockage of the neck of the cervix. Now that the surgery in November had repaired that crucial design flaw, in truth my seventh and most recent attempt - the first after the surgery, could be thought of as the first try, and so my body deserved another chance.

I provided as proof the fact that this period has been the heaviest in the history of my cycle, since I started at the age of 12 and a half. Maybe my body has just woken up.

I await their consideration and response.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No Chanukah Miracle

Yesterday, I started bleeding, three days ahead of even my normal schedule. Assuming that I was not pregnant, I called the hospital and asked them if I still needed to come in for the beta hCG blood test this week, or if I could sleep in.

Eternally optimistic, the nurse suggested that I come in today instead, take a blood test just in case my body was bleeding and it had nothing to do with an unsuccessful IUI. (Whatever...) She also suggested that I make an appointment with my doctor, to officially confirm the transition from IUI to IVF.

I am in un-chartered territory here, and all I know about IVF is that it involves many more hormones, and removal of the eggs under general anesthesia, followed by several days of not working due to partial incapacitation. I did not want to go this way, if only because I wanted the process of life to begin from the first second inside my womb, instead of a petri dish.

I was so hoping for a miracle this week.

As I hung up the phone from Nurse Chava, she said in a chirpy voice - as if all our intentions would make a difference with the results of the blood test - "Good Luck!" Whatever.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hope and Despair

It has been less than a week since I had the IUI, and this morning, when I took my temperature, it had dipped almost to baseline. Not a great sign according to the books I have read.

Then I tried to console myself with the awareness that this round feels different than all the previous ones, and maybe that is a good sign.

Then I took a shower and cried, and subsequently avoided any public places other than the supermarket (food, out of necessity). When I saw a mother with a baby, I smiled, hoping that would be me in nine months or so. When I saw a woman carrying a gerbil cage, I imagined the discussion I would have with my child; how it would not be prudent to have a gerbil in the house, with two clever and determined felines.

My fears and hopes overpower me still, no matter how much busy-work I create for myself today.

Did I go back to work too soon? Did I lift something too heavy? Did I wait long enough (four days) before going back to exercise? Did the cold weather freeze out my chances?

Is G-d punishing me in some way? When I went to the Mikva, maybe I didn't do all the preparations, mental and physical?

Can I even take this one piece of superficial evidence, 36.1 degrees Celsius, and decide that all is already lost?

Meanwhile, I distract myself with prayer, directed toward a potential life growing inside me: Please stay. Please stay.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Going Into Round Seven

When I got my period five days ago, I actually felt excited, because it meant that my body was ready for another try, and it meant that the timing was excellent for the insemination. I have been carrying around this positive attitude since then - even my Chiropractor made a comment to that effect yesterday - and am holding onto the optimism of the doctors after my minor surgery last month. According to them, I am clean and good to go.

I noticed something particular and wonderful to Israel; an Ultra Orthodox woman sits all day at the Sperm Bank and prays. I don't know if she is praying for the health of the frozen sperm and eggs, or the success of the process, but either way, I appreciate all the positive energy coming my way and for the others trying.

12/08 (Day 5): Hadassah for ultra-sound and blood tests. One woman (a newbie, named Orit) keeps asking me permission before she does anything, I think she thinks I work there. I bump into Michal, who will probably do her IUI tomorrow; it would be fun and fantastic if we gave birth around the same time.

Several of the woman described a torture session with the blood tech, who apparently after 20 years in the field is still missing the blood vessels and causing massive bleeding and bruising. For me, having gotten over the personal needles issue, I did not need to hear that.

When I had my legs up and the ultrasound inside me, literally, the cleaning woman for the floor casually walked into the room and started chatting with the technician about cakes, with no sense of the privacy I might desire. The test shows at least two follicles and other baby follicles on the right side, excellent for Day 5, especially when I only start injecting myself with hormones this evening.

4/12/08 (Day 6): Hadassah for ultra-sound and blood tests. Because of the changes in traffic in the center of town, I arrived even earlier than usual to the ward, and it is a good thing too. By the time the doors were opened, over 30 woman stood in line, fighting about who gets to get pricked and examined first. Orit The Newbie and I played tag team, I secured her a good spot on the ultra-sound list and she got me an excellent place in the blood lab.

And because I had already procured advance paperwork, I was able to get in and out, and have enough time to exercise before starting my work day.

7/12/08 (Day 9): Hadassah for ultra-sound and blood tests. Not quite the rush there was on Thursday, though the ultra-sound tech came late, so there were a few irritated women waiting for her.

8/12/08 (Day 10): Blissfully, I was able to sleep in this morning, no blood tests today. I did, however, have my first in the series of three acupuncture sessions, to encourage my follicles to grow big and strong. (Energetic Wheaties, so to speak.)

9/12/08 (Day 11): Hadassah for ultra-sound and blood tests. Apparently I am meant to report back to the hospital tomorrow in the early morning for another round of tests, which seem superfluous, given that I am also meant to get inseminated tomorrow, in the mid to late morning.

Here's hoping and praying that this round is the last round.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Adding Insult to Injury

Fuck Buddy (def) One step lower than "Friends with Benefits" and one step higher than a "One Night Stand." Insulting nonetheless.

Last Thursday I received a call from an acquaintance of two years. For much of the two years he has run hot and cold, and so I came to the conclusion that he did not want to pursue any form of serious friendship, or intimate relationship. In our discussion, he explained his inconsistent behaviour toward me: For the past two years he has not stopped thinking about me. He thinks I am sexy and wonderful, but not "wife material." He wants to have sex with me - so much so that he was offended when I did not immediately invite him over to my house - but has no intention of committing to me in any way. In fact, he would prefer that the whole arrangement remain secret, because he is pretending to be an Orthodox Jew, and does not want word of his hypocrisy to get out into the community.

(I could not have consummated his indecent proposal in any case, as I have my period and am preparing for the next round of insemination.)

The next morning, I received an email from my ex-boyfriend (married, at the moment), telling me about the troubles he is having with his wife and how they may be headed for divorce. And that he has spent the last 20 years thinking about me with love, and wondering what might have been. As if that knowledge would send me on the next plane, into his arms and into his bed.

No wonder I am not married yet.

Then I have my weekly chat with Mom, in which she tells me with great joy and relief that she has consulted with none other than the Chief Rabbi of the RCA [the American Orthodox Union] about my 'condition,' and turns out, my children will not be considered bastards in the eye of Jewish Law. The halacha will not treat my children like illegitimate castaways, and presumably now, neither will my own mother, their grandmother.

Disregarding for the moment that I had already conducted research into the halacha, and that I was determined regardless to continue with this journey, the absolute lack of consideration for me and my feelings made me want to laugh and cry. Here my mother thinks she has done us all a favor by getting the approval of a random Rabbi, and instead, she has instilled in me the fear that every time she will look at my children, she will see a mutant of sorts, an oddity.

What have I learned from the message sent by the Universe this week? That I deserve to be treated as the number one priority in someones life, rather than the "other woman" or the "shameful secret." That my children will deserve all the love I can give them, and that I must surround them with others who will give them the same, without judgement.

I will not compromise on either.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sorry Mom, I am Not a Lesbian

Even with the remarkable progress my mother has made in accepting my choice and trying to be supportive, we clearly have a ways to go.

Two weeks ago, when I told her about a man who had been verbally abusive to me in front of others, a man with whom she had tried to set up a date for me, her response was, "Do you think he likes you?" As if this 43 year old man child had regressed to some version of pulling my pigtails and dipping them in ink. Moments earlier, she had reiterated that I should not compromise in my choice of husband and soul-mate.

Last week, she suggested a blind date set-up with a man who I had not only previously dated while in graduate school, but who had recently (after years of trying to have successful relationships with women) come out of the closet. Mom's query to this revelation, "Do you think he knows you?" As if we might date again, and he just may decide that his homosexuality was a brief experiment.

Then Mom came out with the question that I can imagine has been sitting and stewing in her mind for years now; she asked me if I was even interested in dating men anymore. I asked her if she would feel better telling her friends that her 40 year old daughter was not married because she was a lesbian, rather than because she had simply not found the right one. She stammered and tried to recover by clarifying her question, wondering if my fertility attempts were mutually exclusive of my trying to find a husband and a natural sperm donor as the father of my children. (Sex: the Fun Conception Method)

I pointed out that it was most unlikely that even today, sitting across the table from a man on a date, that I would share the details of my treatments. It would be inappropriate and frankly, none of his business. In fact, it is also unlikely that I would announce my pregnancy until three months had passed, and I had the assurances of my doctors that both I and the fetus were safe and developing nicely.

In truth, I have often thought that if I were a lesbian, I would be in a fantastic relationship right now, as there are many more quality women, looking for stable and fulfilling long-term connections, than there are men in the Jewish traditional world.

But I like men, specifically those with hug-able chests, a good sense of humor and intelligence, and some ambition. Know anyone?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Me, Revolutionary Role Model?

Now that I have decided to wait until December, and give my body a solid few weeks to rest, I have been immensely enjoying going back to the gym, sitting in the sauna and drinking wine at festive occasions. I have lost several kilo already, and figure it is healthy to start a pregnancy with less weight rather than more, though I am not overweight to begin with.

What is more odd, in the last two weeks, I have been approached by several acquaintances (single, observant women) who know about the Great Pregnancy Plan. They want to sit with me and hear about my experience, because somehow my example of courage and/or insanity has inspired the idea that they might enter into this as well.

My cousin (KB) last week accused me of being too open and up front (I believe he used the phrase "in your face") about my trying to get pregnant, as a currently single woman. He believes that this is a wonderful process, and while he is glad I am so comfortable with the idea, he feels it should be kept quiet. Until I am showing.

I have never been accused of not expressing my opinion, and have no shame in feeling confident and secure in my decision. If people are talking about me, so be it, if it allows women in my situation and in our closed Orthodox singles community to dare to think beyond the conventional family model, and achieve happiness through motherhood.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Break, By Choice

I spoke this afternoon with the doctor responsible for my case in the Fertility Unit at Hadassah, and he said that as far as he and the surgeon are concerned, I could and should try to get pregnant again, this month. I would start taking the series of hormones this coming Sunday.

I suggested to him that my body might need to rest and recover not only from the surgery, but from the last loss of the pregnancy, which left me sick and unable to function for two days. Remembering the last time I took their advice, and pushed myself into another round when I felt like I needed a break, I told the doctor and the nurses there that in all likelihood I would next be seeing them in December rather than next week.

The nurse almost seemed to take it personally, ending our phone conversation with a formal, "Well, we are always here for you." I appreciate that they want to get me knocked up as soon as possible, and to move me to IVF as soon as possible; as of right now, I am choosing to listen to my body and give it all the chances to succeed next time around, by waiting a few more weeks.

Braver Women than I

I want to devote very little time in this column today to myself and my surgery, and so here is the summary: It is a good thing that I brought my own soft Kleenex tissues, because I spent a lot of time on-and-off crying that morning before the procedure, mostly because I am a very bad patient and a sissy. Number two on the surgery list for the day, I was wheeled in and put under (for 47 minutes!) around 10:30 am, and brought back to my room around noon. Around four pm, after the doctors and nurses saw me getting up by myself, taking patient calls (don't ask) and moving furniture ( a medium sized chair), they decided that I was well enough to go home, which I did.

I was under anesthesia much longer than anyone had expected, and it was what I call a 'dead sleep,' meaning that while I did not feel any pain Thank G-d, but I also did not dream, and when I woke up, had no memory of having been asleep for almost an hour. I didn't like it.

"This Womb in Clean," [Reference: Poltergeist, the movie] declared the surgeon. After waking up today in my own bed around ten in the morning, I will make every attempt to rest for the next three days, before the boredom makes me want to scream.

While in hospital, Barack Hussein "What the Hell have I gotten myself into" Obama became the 44th President of the United States, and my sister in New York gave birth to a healthy baby boy, with only 15 minutes of labour time.

Now , I would rather focus on two extraordinary women who have shared their stories with me, as I go through this process toward having my own healthy pregnancy and my own healthy child.

The first is Irena, my roommate yesterday at Hadassah. Thanks to my protected status, I received a semi-private room with only two beds, with our own clean bathroom and shower. Irena, an Israeli-Russian nurse about my age, was happily pregnant at 22 weeks - no complications - until three days ago, when she abruptly lost her first child while on vacation with her husband. They rushed back to Jerusalem and she had a D&C, and despite the surgical and medical intervention, when I left yesterday her fever was getting worse rather than better. The surgeon in the Women's Unit had told her that they could only identify one of the two bacteria with which she was infected, and so they were "throwing the antibiotic book" at her system, hoping that one of them will strike the target.

Here's the kicker of this story: she became infected after some amniotic fluid was removed last week in a standard exam for women "our age," by a very capable doctor whom they hired privately at great expense. She did all the right things with all the right doctors, and fell into that small percentage who are harmed by this procedure.

In all this, she comforted me when I was crying, welcomed me with a smile when I returned from the recovery room, and shared her home-made blintzes that her husband had brought. Thanks to her, I did not feel alone, and I did not have to eat a stitch of hospital food.

The second woman I honor today is "A," a friend from college who recently contacted me on the net. In the last four years, she has apparently had too many miscarriages to count, and last year lost a pregnancy after nine weeks. She writes that tissue obtained from the D&C showed that the fetus had an abnormal chromosomal count, and would not have necessarily survived, or lived a healthy life.

Her persistent faith in G-d and Universe amazes and inspires me, she writes: "You should look at each unsuccessful try not as a setback but as part of your journey...I have not lost hope yet that I will have a healthy baby. "

Amen to all of us trying to become mothers, I hope to see you all in the maternity ward with me, within the year.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Day Before

Had a bit of a scare this morning, thinking that the surgery might have to be postponed by a month, but Houston, it's a go!

Today, the day before my minor surgery, I plan to go to the gym and run at least 4k; get a facial and a massage and then work a little. Tonight, I plan to pack for the hospital and get to bed early, as I need to report to Hadassah tomorrow morning by 7:30 am.

I hope that the cats will cooperate and allow themselves to be locked in the house for the next 24 hours. I have already begun the preparations surreptitiously, putting out the litter boxes and extra food, but have done so quietly over the last two days, so as not to tip them off to their impending incarceration. But maybe I do not give their instincts enough credit.

See you all on the other side...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Surgical Instructions

Pre-Op Instructions

1. Wear glasses (rather than contact lenses) the day of the surgery.
2. Remove nail polish from fingers and toes
3. Arrive at hosptial fasting, at least six hours before the surgery.
4. Cancel patients for Thursday, and plan on resting through Saturday.
5. When packing, plan on waiting around for a while ie bring a good book, and don't bring anything truly valuable in the suitcase.

The Day Of Surgery

1. Arrive at hospital at 7:30 in the morning, surgery itself will be anywhere between nine and noon.
2. Don't take any medications or vitamins that morning.
3. I am allowed to brush my teeth however.
4. I will be under for approximately 20 minutes, and once I wake up, I may eat and drink if I feel like it. The infusion will stay in place as long as I need it.
5. After resting for 4-5 hours, I may go home, unless I am feeling unwell and want to sleep at Hadassah overnight, for more supervision. (And all that yummy hosptial food...)


1. There should not be pain after the surgery, but certainly spotting or bleeding anywhere from three to ten days.
2. For the next month, no sex and no using tampons.
3. Starting Sunday after several days of rest, I may return to my usual routine, including exercise, except for avoiding swimming as exercise for three weeks.
4. Two weeks after surgery, report for an ultra-sound.

Notes to self:
1. Don't forget to pack: heavy socks or slippers, a robe from home, a sweater or sweatshirt.
2. Get someone to bring me sushi once I wake up, I am not eating hospital food.
3. The night before, I must also set up the house to keep the cats inside, in case I end up sleeping overnight.
4. Give several people contact information for my family in the US, and a copy of my will. (Just in case...)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tapioca Pudding, Anyone?

Today, I attended my pre-surgical orientation at Hadassah Hospital. I had been under the impression that I would be in and out within two hours, and when I arrived, the nurse handed me my schedule for the day, which stated that I would be lucky if I left before 3:30 in the afternoon. Lunch - courtesy of the hospital - included.

8 am: Almost missed bus, after staying awake much of the night, listening to the rain.
8:45 am: Arrived Hadassah Hospital, told that the form I received yesterday from the HMO is incorrect and unusable.
9-9:45 am: Sat in Hadassah Admissions while they worked out the proper form and payment from the HMO. That is the wonderful element of this whole process, that the socialized medical system and my HMO in particular is picking up the costs for basically everything except sperm samples and hormones.

The first question they asked me in Admissions was "Next of Kin;" I did not understand initially what they needed from me, until I realized that I have lived in Israel alone for the last eleven years and more, that I have no direct family members living here, nor do I have a husband. It took me several minutes to think of a person (a distant cousin) whom I thought would want to know if I died on the table. That was perhaps the worst part of this whole day, realizing how alone I felt.

9:45 -11:45 am: Lots of waiting interspersed with brief interviews with the nurse, the doctor, and the lab tech. I managed to finish a great book for science geeks, "How the Mind Works" by Stephen Pinker, a wonderful combination of neurology, psychology and pop culture.
11:45 am-12:30 pm: Lunch, tapioca pudding and all. I resolved that the time that I needed to spend in the hospital next week would include sushi, snuck in with my overnight bag if I had to. I shared my meal with a lovely elderly couple, originally from Brooklyn; the wife was in hospital and her husband had come to visit her. Since they live near Hadassah as well, they said they would be thrilled to adopt me next week while I was in recovery.
12:30 pm: More sitting, and wishing I had not eaten the chicken.
1 pm: I am supposed to meet with the anesthesiologist, who is delayed by several hours. My doctor calls me into his office to explain the basic risks of being put under, I will sign the last of the consent forms the day of the surgery itself. I am released today earlier than expected, mostly because the Women's Floor, and the IVF Unit have a joint field trip day, what is called in Israel a "Yom Kef," and there is little likelihood that any more will get done.

What am I feeling? The IVF Unit at the same facility has lots of light, and an overall pleasant and welcoming atmosphere. Though (ironically) I work with un-well people as a profession, the Women's Floor felt like a hospital, with tired people hanging off their beds, others shuffling around in an inadequate hospital gown, the halls cramped and the bathrooms dirty.

I have until now, Thank G-d, lived a healthy life, and had no intention of being hospitalized until the birth of my child. I am uncomfortable with the idea of being partially incapacitated, and needing help for basic functions like standing up and using the bathroom, even if it is just for one day. And I also don't know what the surgeon will find as long as he is poking around, that unknown quantity scares me most of all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

When is a Polyp Not a Polyp?

Answer: When it is the tip of the iceberg.

During my hysteroscopy today, the doctor discovered that the small polyp removed earlier this month was only the little bit sticking out from the neck of the cervix, and that in fact the much larger section is sitting inside, and blocking the neck. And probably stopping me from keeping my pregnancies, either by preventing the sperm from entering, or by excreting hormones which send mixed messages to my body and prevent implantation. (Kind of like the effect of an IUD.)

I wonder if the outcome of all these attempts at IUI would have been different, if the smaller polyp had been removed two years ago, when it was discovered by my gynecologist on a routine annual check-up.

So next Wednesday I have surgery, real surgery with anesthesia and recovery time, to remove this non-malignant growth and generally explore my innards. I asked the surgeon to break my hymen, as long as he was visiting anyway and I would be unconscious. He agreed, and I will then no longer be a technical virgin.

Polyps are certainly a better diagnosis than fibroids (with which my mother had suffered for many years) and yet I cannot get excited about surgery, no matter how beneficial it will be to my quest.

It's good that I will be asleep, as evidenced from my hysteria today, doctors make the worst patients.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mom's Yom Kippur Epiphany

Through therapy but mostly life experience, I had long given up on changing my family, but especially my parents; parents and children tend to get locked in patterns that rarely evolve. My mother and father have known about my attempts to become pregnant, and the subject was stuffed away in the Denial Box. I figured that when the baby was a fact on the ground, they would accept their role as grandparents, or not.

Perhaps it is the season of introspection and forgiveness, or perhaps it was the ultimatum that I gave my mother; mainly, I told her (and I meant it) recently that I was a 40 year old grown up who did not have to ask her for permission to get pregnant, and that if she chose to sit in the corner and stew, it was her loss, not mine. But right before Yom Kippur, my mother and I experienced a break-through in our relationship, and specifically as regards the potential that I will become a mother myself before I become a wife.

We talked, she cried and apologized for her actions and words not reflecting her intentions. I told her that I was angry at G-d, the Universe and Everything for the loss of this last pregnancy, and that I felt that I could not sit and pray when "G-d and I have nothing to talk about." Mom may have been thinking that my lack of traditional participation in Yom Kippur prayers would send me straight to Hell, but what she said was, "I guess that is between you and G-d." ( I did fast for the occasion of the Day of Attonement.)

As much as I can feel the support of my parents from 6,000 miles away, it is a far better and more secure place than I have ever been.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

One More Chance

Despite the nurse's optimism this morning, I knew that I was not pregnant, and took the blood tests to check the beta hCG levels, which were as expected, negative. After a long consultation with the doctor, here is the current plan:

1. October: break time, due to Jewish holidays. I get to use this opportunity to take all sorts of lovely and invasive tests in preparation for switching from IUI to IVF.
2. November: last chance for an IUI cycle, aided by hormones, after which we switch over to the IVF plan.

Upside? Less lines for blood tests.
Downside? Many more hormones and a procedure of egg collection that will need to put me under anesthesia, and will put me out of commission for two to three days afterward.

I am very much hoping it does not come to that.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Return of an Old Enemy

On Sunday I literally vomited from the morning and through the night, and while a small part of me hoped that this was hell's version of morning sickness, it felt too much like the PMS I used to have as a teenager.

On Monday I was doubled over with pain, like a knife sticking into my stomach, a pain so bad I could not work.

This morning I got my period, and instead of being kind and loving to myself, I find myself being sad and quite angry at my body. And angry at the Universe for deciding that I do not deserve to have love in my life from a husband, nor do I deserve a child.

In this same morning, I was so distracted with my anger that I neglected to notice an open door on the porch, and walked into a pane of glass. Better than any soft break I ever did in karate. And the washing machine broke, and the hot water boiler needs to be replaced.

Hell of a way to go into Yom Kippur.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Not Quite Pregnant Test

I was supposed to go to the Hospital early this morning to take a blood test, to check my levels of Progesterone. Why? Because the level might say that you might be pregnant. Why? Because that is the procedure (arms folded in stubborn indignation).

I looked at the time, felt exhausted and asked myself why there was any reason to possibly boost my hopes when I could wait one more week, take the official betaHcG pregnancy test, and know for certain. I agreed with myself and turned over and slept for two more hours, and then went to the pool.

A morning well spent.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Does Doctor Know Best? (Round Six)

15/9/08 (Monday): After a much more successful attempt this past round, a huge mountain of stress ended that pregnancy and even brought my period on early. I met today with my doctor at Hadassah and we spoke and consulted for over a half hour, and decided to give it one more try before the Jewish holidays begin.

A friend and colleague of mine, a woman who happens to be an extremely dedicated and knowledgeable Women's Health specialist, is convinced that the reason the pregnancies are not working is because I have an undiagnosed case of PCOS. She is like a dog with a bone, and I will be getting the damned insulin tolerance test despite the fact that the doctors at Hadassah had considered and disregarded that possibility.

16/9/08 (Tuesday): I got a call this morning from Rut, the woman in charge of the Sperm Bank. Normally a serious individual, she had called to see how I was doing, to encourage me and to let me know that the new choice of donor was "something special," in her estimation. I felt wonderful to see the more human side of her, and I can only appreciate more the work she does for all women who come to her with hope and disappointment.

18/9/08 (Thursday): Blood tests and ultra-sound at Hadassah Hospital, onward with the plan of 100 cc of Puregon injections for the next several days. They seem to be ignoring the small cysts they saw on the ultra-sound, apparently it is not getting in the way of their projections.

19/9/08 (Friday): Massive fight with my mother because my aunt opened her very large mouth and told my mother that I was trying to get pregnant and didn't want to tell her. All the stress and drama that I was hoping to avoid, right at my doorstep.

21/9/08 (Sunday): Blood tests and ultra-sound, looks like the goal of an IUI on Tuesday has been pushed forward a few days, due to the fact that my follicles aren't quite as large as we would all like. Time again to rearrange my work schedule for the week. I also have an appointment this week with my GP, to try to setting the PCOS question once and for all.

22/9/08 (Monday): My GP believes that I have had enough invasive testing for the moment, that there is no real indicator to presume PCOS, and that the hormones with which I am injecting myself should plow through anything going on down there. Also had a session of fertility acupuncture today, in anticipation of the IUI later this week.

23/9/08 (Tuesday): The acupuncture worked like a charm, while I had three small follicles on Sunday, I now have 5 small to medium follicles. Because of the timing of the Jewish holidays, the schedule should proceed for Thursday, with another session of acupuncture and mega hormones in the next 36 hours.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Veteran of the System (Round 5)

Saturday night, August 23 (Day 5): Started injecting myself with hormones, I seem to be getting better at it with each round.

Monday, August 25 (Day 7): Hadassah hospital for Ultrasound and blood tests. I got there so early and the regular crowd had not arrived yet, and so I was able to leave before eight am, it was a pleasure. The nurse also allowed me to fill out a bunch of forms in advance, practically giving me free reign within the office; in recognition both of my status as somewhat of a veteran of the process, and my status as a medical professional.

I also started reading serious parenting books from two role models in the world of children and psychology: Dr. Phil and Mister Rogers. Understanding the entusiasm and love these two men have for their calling, that of raising the happiest children possible, I cannot help but get excited as well.

Tuesday, August 26 (Day 8): In addition to the normal injections and vitamins, I received an accupuncture treatment from a woman who specializes in cases of fertility, and has apparently helped many women overcome the disappointment of failed pregnancies.

Thursday, August 28 (Day 10): While waiting today for blood tests I spoke to one of the "regulars" and we started comparing the common experience of anticipation and dissapointment every cycle. I suggested to her that we speak on a regular basis, when we need to, to be each other's support system. As we started talking about our families reaction to our choice, turned out we had a lot in common: she comes from a religious Sephardic family and they, like my own parents, are having a very hard time dealing with the possibility that thier daughter will conceive a child without a proper husband. They called her decision to enter into IUI selfish. (In contrast, my parents have not called me anything, as they refuse to discuss it...)

After the ultra-sound, the technicial asked me if I was still spotting, as there had been blood when she was checking for follicles. Concerned, I asked the doctors what the blood meant, and he answered that the tech probably scratched some other biological part along the way. Meanwhile, the IUI is scheduled for next Monday.

I went to a BBQ tonight to help a friend celebrate 16 years of living in Israel. There was great wine there, and I abstained - something about alcohol elevating the temperature in the liver, according to the accupuncturist - and I could not help but wonder how the other single men and women who were there would treat me if I had showed up to the party with a belly and sans husband. I would like to think that at least some of the women, who themselves want to be married and have children, would respect the choice.

Some people take on a mortage, I am taking on parenthood.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Standing Up for Myself

It is Day 31 since I last had my period and my fertility route was put on hold, because my body reacted to the increase in hormone dosage by developing cysts.

No real sign of my period, except for a bit of PMS in the form of stomach cramping and diarrhea this morning, which also could have been from too much dairy eaten last night.

I went to Hadassah Hospital this morning, the ultra-sound examination was cyst-free (yay!) with a thick uterine opening. The nurse implied that my period is on the way.

I was actually proud of myself for standing up to the nurses. They had given me instructions - without properly reading my file updates - to prepare for a natural IUI, and I immediately challenged it. After one nurse was appalled that I would question her authority, she passed me along to another nurse in the office. I explained that if they checked my records, I had done three natural IUI treatments with no success, and thus, the doctor had put me on the hormone-assisted IUI path; there is no sense in continuing to do something that has not worked in the past. The second nurse humored me, and said she would confer with the doctor again.

One hour later, she called me back and admitted I was right, and told me to prepare for Puregon injections on Day 5. After not insisting hard enough in the beginning of July that I needed a break, I am now taking my body and my inner voice much more seriously.

Now all I need to do is get my stress levels under control, so that it does not interfere with this process.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No Clear Answers

Yesterday, when I started the blood test/US route early, it was unclear if I had already gotten my period, though it was clear that my betahCG was zero, not pregnant. Yesterday it was also unclear if I would be able to start the injection regimen this month, because I had already started the follicular stage, and my uterus was juicy.

26/6/08: 11th year anniversary of moving to Israel. Blood tests and ultrasound show increased follicular development and an even juicier uterus. The nurse asked me if I had started real bleeding for a period, I have not, and so we are all unclear on the path this month will take. I still find myself wondering if I should take a break for a month, for sanity's sake.

28/6/08: Mystery solved, a "real" period started this morning. I will go to Hadassah tomorrow and ask if I should now be monitored along the regular procedure, and if they will want me to start injecting myself with hormones on Day 5.

29/6/08: Blood tests and ultrasound at Hadassah Hospital, my body is back on track according to the results. Yelena and her husband tell me that they are pregnant, I couldn't be happier for them.

2/7/08: Blood tests and ultrasound, specifically to determine if I should start taking hormones this evening. And if I cannot, I have been told to continue the natural route, because I don't want to "miss a month." Or at least they don't want me to miss a month "at my age."

3/7/08: Started injecting myself last night, a relatively low dose of 75 cc of hormones. This dosage stands for four days, until my next set of blood tests.

6/7/08: Blood tests and ultrasound, follicles are growing nicely apparently, but I don't know yet if I will have to increase the dosage of the hormones.

8/7/08: Blood tests and ultrasound, Ovitrelle in the afternoon, IUI tomorrow.

Graduation to the Next Level

Three tries, and three times that I became pregnant but did not remain so, like 95% of "natural miscarriages" that occur with women in nature. I met with the doctor today at Hadassah Hospital, and we came up with a new plan, one that involves more aggressive hormones.

When I asked him about his theory as to why the pregnancy is not sticking, he said, "Better not to speculate." That was right before he reminded me that I am turning 40 in less than a month, and I started crying.

Quite frankly, yesterday when I started spotting - despite using Progesterone to lengthen my cycle - I was ready not only to give up on becoming pregnant, but also ready to leave Israel. After 11 years of living here, and almost 40 years old, I never imagined that I would be quite so alone. What makes it worse is that many of my friends who claimed they would "be there" and support me when things got tough, they have all started avoiding me, not returning my phone calls.

Apparently my choice makes them uncomfortable, and it is unfortunate that they cannot get past it and help me. I must get used to this idea, because at the end of the day, I will be getting up at four in the morning to breast feed, I will be taking my child to nursery. It is my life that will change.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thinking Positive

Even as I was getting my period, there were well-meaning people telling me to "think positive," that if I thought I was pregnant, I would be pregnant. Biology does not work that way, and as much credit as I give to the power of my mind, I was going to get my period.

Not giving up on the traditional medical fertility route, I have added in the guidance of a Chinese homeopath, who agrees with me that my primary issue is a shortened Luteal cycle; my Progesterone levels run out before the fertilized egg can implant.

Now I take folic acid, and herbs, and hopefully together it will give me the edge I need to keep this next pregnancy. I don't want to go into a round of hyper-hormones.

6/5/08: Blood tests and Ultrasound at Hadassah Hospital, on day 7 of this cycle. I have two "good looking" follicles on the right side.
8/5/08: Blood tests and Ultrasound at Hadassah Hospital, some lousy service because the Jewish holiday of Shavuot starts tonight, and thus they are understaffed.
10/5/08: Blood tests and Ultrasound, the technician arrives an hour late and the waiting list grows to 35 women. I get the OK for IUI tomorrow, and don't need to inject myself tonight, as I seem to have had "spontaneous ovulation."
During this cycle, after the IUI, I will be taking natural Progesterone ("Ultrogestan") in order to extend my Luteal phase, and hopefully allow for successful implantation.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Before Shabbat

The IUI prodedure, done almost two weeks ago, seemed to have "taken," my body temperature was elevated and I was even feeling minor bouts of nausea. My skin cleared up in the way it only does since I have started this fertility process.

And then two days ago I started to 'smell' my period; women will understand what I mean. And today I started spotting. I have not stopped crying, no matter how rationally people explain to me that this is all part of the fertility cycle.

Of course I won't know for sure until I get a full-fledged period, and until the hospital tells me what I already know on Monday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Process, Round Two

I am less naive about the process, and thus am taking the route in a much more somber and realistic manner. Which is not to say that I don't hold onto my hopes and optomistic outlook, just toned down from last time.

I was speaking to a patient yesterday, and new buzz word for an abortion is a "reduction." It amazes me how human beings use language to deny truth, and the associated feelings to such an important decision. One that I hope to never have to consider.

12/5/08: Blood tests and ultra-sound. By their estimation, I should aim for the IUI this Thursday.
13/5/08: Bonus sleep-in day, as I am not required to go to Hadassah Hospital today. So eager am I to be pregnant that I asked them several times if they were sure that it was not necessary.
14/5/08: Blood tests and ultra-sound, was hoping to report for duty tomorrow and was told that it will probably have to wait until Sunday. It does avoid the glitches of George Bush's arrival, and the traffic jams he will cause.
15/5/08: Blood tests and ultra-sound, because of Bush's visit and the chaos it has created in the streets, five women arrived to the Womens Clinic and found it locked, as all the staff people were delayed. My friend from the last cycle, the young Russian woman Yelena and her husband were there, and we chatted; I am sad for her that last round did not work out. Now awaiting word from the hospital vis a vis insemination on Sunday.
17/5/08: Self-injection of hCG hormones, IUI scheduled for Monday despite my concerns that I will miss the height of ovulation. They are the experts, I trust them.
19/5/08: IUI achieved, same doctor as less time. The speculum hurt more, but I felt like the procedure worked better. Blood tests in two weeks, Yom Yerushalaim.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Last Week, Next Round

This past week a crashed, thinking about the difficult timing of the last two cycles, and trying to put myself in a positive place for next week, when I begin my next round of blood tests, ultra sound, and hopefully, insemination.

This past week Israel celebrated its 60th birthday, and I realized that in making the decision and the active choice to try to get pregnant, I no longer fit in socially with many of my single and fearful friends, and I also don't fit in with my married with children friends. I worry that in my single-minded focus on fertility and pregnancy, I have socially isolated myself, and will not have the support group that I will need when G-d Willing the procedure works and I am "with child." I am worried about being a single Mom and not being in a healthy relationship with a nurturing man.

I cried, I started to doubt myself and my higher voice, I started to throw temper tantrums and behave rather badly around the grown up set. Luckily my life coach (TM) was able to talk me down, and encourage me to use this time of Israel's celebrations to socialize outside my comfort zone, take some risks.

Stay tuned as the early morning blood leeching start up next Tuesday.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

All in the Family

Speaking to my sister yesterday, before Pessach, she mentioned that she is pregnant with her fourth child, and is due to give birth in November. I am of course pleased for her, she is an excellent mother. My sister-in-law is due to give birth around August with her second child, she and my brother have a girl who is already over a year old, and they will be moving to the DC area in June.

How odd that I am nearing 40 and working on my first child, sans husband, and my siblings are working on expanding their family. Odd but not sad for me, and I look forward to this time next year when G-d willing I join the ranks of motherhood.

And who knows, there may even be a husband in the picture as well, the Universe is capable of surprising me.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fertility Lottery Ticket

Drank half a bottle of wine last night, check.
Sat with friends today at the cafe and had my first coffee in a month, check.
Will have sushi next week for dinner.

This process of fertility and IUI is like buying a lottery ticket, when the winnings are in the many millions. From the time you buy the ticket until the actual draw, you fantasize and plan how you will spend your millions, how your life will change. You may know full well that the chances are slim that you will be the Grand Prize Winner the first time around, and yet you live in a euphoric bubble.

It was so nice to be pregnant for that week and a half, to speak to my stomach and know that something was new and different, knowing that the statistics work against me. Yet I felt happy and expectant, ready to turn my life upside down with the advent of motherhood.

When my lottery number did not come up this time, I certainly experienced the disappointment, but can't wait for my next cycle, to try again.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Official Results

The official results of the blood test are in, and even though I was somewhat prepared for the negative answer, hearing it was sad for me, and it made it even harder to pretend at work that everything was cool, and that sniffling was my allergies. I will grieve this very short pregnancy, does it count if it was under two weeks? And once Pessach is over, I will try again.

Meanwhile I am putting a re-frame on this situation (to quote my life coach): now that I am not pregnant for the next month, I can freely imbibe alcohol and coffee, eat sushi, and sit in the sauna. I can take Lorastine for my allergies rather than sneezing myself through the day. I can even get laid for real, lose my virginity and possibly get pregnant the non-Hadassah way.

For tonight, I am shutting off my phones and opening up that bottle of wine that has been tempting me for the last three weeks. Tomorrow I will deal with people.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I think I started spotting this morning, but it so minor, and this cycle has been very different, that I just don't know. And my Chiropractic kinesiology testing is sending so many mixed signals, because I want this so badly.

If I didn't have to pay my own way, I would cancel all my clients today and wallow a little.

Today I am sad.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Buying the Pregnancy Test

Although I will not have Hadassah test my blood for hCG until Thursday, all medical research points to its presence in the urine by day ten, which will be tomorrow. So I went to the pharmacy and after perusing entire shelves of what seemed like the same deal in different packages, I bought a Pregnancy Test.

The pharmacist was thrilled to sell it to me, wishing me a congratulations in between my pointing out that I don't know yet, but that is Israel. There is a woman at my pool who has started showing - I already knew she was pregnant - and all the older women now feel the right to tell her how to be pregnant and how to raise her future child. Like I said, that is Israel.

So tomorrow morning I pee on a stick, keeping in mind that these tests are 99% correct. False negative or false positive results happen, but it gives me something to think about until Thursday.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Resisting the Urge to Plan

It has been one week since they performed the IUI, and while I can hope that it worked, I will not know for sure until next week, when Hadassah does the test for the presence of hCG in my blood.

Meanwhile, I am learning the very important lesson of living in the Now, and going from day to day. Yes, I am taking care of myself physically and talking to my belly; "How are you today, little baby? Have you implanted on the left side or the right side of my womb?" But I am not planning ahead to the next month, the next year, or the next ten years. Other than thinking about baby names, I have not shopped for strollers or maternity outfits.

This is a hard lesson for me, if you had asked me at age 13 how my life turned out, I could have given you details, names of husband and children, trips taken and piano recitals attended. The cliche says that "Man plans and G-d laughs," and so I have given into the uncertainty of the process, knowing that I have done all I can to prepare myself mentally and physically, up to this point.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The First Dating Litmus Test

I attended a single event today, and bumped into an Israeli man whom I had dated at least five years ago. If my memory serves me, we met as volunteers, went on two dates, and I dumped him when he started getting overly possessive and stalker-like.

Today, at this singles' meal, he said that he was willing to give me another chance, if I was game. And as part of the natural conversation, the idea of single mother's arose; I swear I was not the one who initiated it as part of any test per se. He made it very clear that he felt that women who chose to raise a child alone had "problems," and that it was better to have a lousy father in the house than none at all.

Proving only that my first instinct about him five years ago was still correct, and that with my new reality, a man like this has no place in my life.

Friday, March 28, 2008


The mild bleeding I had for the 24 hours after the procedure concerns me.

When I got off the table right after the procedure, I saw a little puddle on the paper, and the irrational part of me thought: what if the technician spilled the sperm sample by accident and then pretended to do the IUI? What if I have no chance of getting pregnant because it didn't take place?

The fluctuations in my body temperature worries me, even as all the fertility doctors and nurses at Hadassah say that this method of measurement is unreliable.

I went to the pharmacy yesterday, to refill my prescription of Folic Acid. While I was standing on line, I happened to notice that the "Day After" pill is sold over the counter, along side with throat lozenges. Outraged, I thought about all the care and time I had put into making the decision, the choice to become pregnant. Apparently, anyone can have wild sex and the next day, without consultation or responsibility, terminate a potential baby.

On behalf of myself and all those other women who came every morning this past week to do blood tests and to try to get pregnant, I demand justice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Just Another Morning

This morning, I woke up around seven am feeling rested, and knowing that I had two hours before my cleaning person arrived. I sat in front of the computer to check emails, and looked at the time, and realized that I had forgotten that the clocks moved ahead one hour this morning, and that in fact I had less than an hour to organize myself, before the day started.

Just another Friday morning, except that today, I may be pregnant. I received the IUI treatment yesterday, and have been floating on air since then. I may have have a beautiful healthy baby developing in my uterus right now, even as I go about my normal life schedule. Of course the fetus would only be at blastocyst level, but I continue to shower my stomach with messages of love and acceptance.

The procedure itself was simple, if not overly technical, ruined only by the shock exhibited by the Arab nurse when I explained that I was not only a single woman without a husband, but also a virgin, and so she would have to be careful with my body. I felt like she was being rough on purpose, trying to break my hymen manually just to prove a point.

My friend and neighbor BW, the same man who brought my loving feline Harry into my life over six years ago, drove me to the hospital and kept me company, and his affection and support were a godsend. Especially when we tried to drive the direct route to Hadassah Hospital and found most of the roads in the neighborhood to be closed off, due to the Jerusalem marathon. I would have never found a way to drive, without taking on the stress of the traffic. BW's wife gave me a lovely gift before drove off, a red string bracelet with a "hamsa", symbols of health and luck.

On the drive home, when I was gushing and all I could say coherently was "Wow," "Oh my G-d," and "I am going to be a Mommy," he looked into my eyes and said, "I think it worked."

I can only hope and pray, and at the same time, accept with love any outcome.

As I walked into the Women's Clinic, Yelena, my Russian fertility friend was walking out, having just finished her IUI. We smiled quietly at each other and shared our secret, and I think it would be great if we both ended up giving birth together, at Hadassah.

Here I go crying, just thinking about it. Isn't the over-the-top emotional response part of pregnancy? I hope so.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Change of Pace

For some reason I woke up this morning with more energy than I had yesterday, when I felt like a walking zombie. And the experience at the hospital today was also a bit different than usual. I and several other women had to wait until almost 7:30 am, for a nurse to open the door to the Women's Health Clinic, and so there was a crazed run to get to the ultra-sound sign of list.

Technically second, the Arab woman before me started signing up all of her friends, and it was the Russian woman (Yelena) who protested, and made them stick to the order more or less. The same happened on the line to get referrals for the daily blood test, and this time both Yelena and I made it clear than Arab woman number eight could not push ahead, just because her friend was there earlier.

When I got to the Blood Lab, there was a longer wait than usual and I suspect that the new nurse whom I met yesterday still hasn't figured out the procedures, in order to make this whole process more efficient.

More cutting in line at the ultra-sound station, and so I missed my ride back home, a delay of almost a half hour. By the time I got home I was nauseous from the bus ride, but excited: I had noted sticky vaginal excretions, a sign of impending ovulation. I have never been more excited about a mucousal discharge in my life.

Along with the nausea I had a headache, compounded by two very noisy teenagers standing above me and speaking loudly. As I neared my stop, one of the girls started criticizing people who seemed to take time off their busy schedule to enjoy life, that they did not seem to be rushing to work. As I left the bus, I turned to her and said that when she got a little older, she would learn to appreciate the true pleasures in life, and would learn to be less judgemental of others.

Such an Israeli thing to do - she was visibly shocked that I addressed her - though it was partially educational, and partially revenge for my headache.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Practicing Fatigue

Day three of waking up early and getting to the hospital, where I started noticing repeat women - Arab, Jewish and Russian - and started smiling at them, bus-buddies of a sort. I suppose I never considered that Palestinain women would have fertility issues, when the media constantly compares the low Jewish birth rates to the increasing Arab numbers.

Different nurses today, both at the Fertility Unit at Hadassah and at the Blood Lab, and it felt to me that everyone was moving just a bit slower than usual, perhaps because of the terrible heat and dust storms outside.

I need to return tomorrow morning for the same set of tests, apparently my follicles aren't fully cooked just yet.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Meet the Candidates

Second day in a row of getting up excessively early, and going for blood tests and an internal ultrasound. I approached the nurse with fear, given the mood she had been in yesterday. When I asked her how she was feeling, she answered cheerily, and I responded with relief. The nurse must have understood, because she explained that her mood yesterday was part of her Purim disguise.

Me: So is that the excuse you are using for acting like a bitch?
Nurse (laughing): Yes, I suppose it will have to do.

More exciting, I met Rut of the Hadassah Har HaTzofim Sperm Bank. After resolving a Hebrew-English misunderstanding -I used the word "Aliz" to mean that I do not wish to have a gay donor, and she understood the word in its classic sense of happy - we have three potential candidates for the IUI, which will take place in the next two to three days. We also had the requisite discussion about having ginormously tall children.

Bachelor number ONE: Sephardic (good for mixing up the gene pool) son of diplomats, who spent part of his childhood overseas. Tall and fair skin for this ethnicity, intelligent and good with languages (turn on!), currently working as an English teacher.

Rut says: "Good looking"

Bachelor number TWO: Ashkenazic son of academics, a somewhat famous artist (total turn on!) apparently with lots of joy, tall and fair skinned, similar to my coloring.

Rut says: "Definitely not ugly, average looking"

Bachelor number THREE: Ashkenazi, with an MA in International Relations and Asian studies, and he works in high tech. About my height with blue eyes.

Rut says: (gushing) "Absolutely gorgeous"

Bachelor number FOUR: Italian (non Jew, very good for mixing up the gene pool) currently unavailable.

The polls are open...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Countdown, With Blood-Letting

As the time of the IUI gets closer, I am monitoring my cycle, and this morning (on Shushan Purim) took another set of blood tests and an internal ultrasound. According to these latest results, I will be at the peak of ovulation some time in the next two days, and therefore must return again to Hadassah Har HaTzofim tomorrow morning for another round of blood letting.

All for the sake of science, and this baby.

I don't mind the tests, the hospital has been rated the top in the country for fertility medicine, though I do wish the nurses had a little bit more warmth. The nurse who took my blood today would not make eye contact, and when I tried to have a friendly superficial conversation, I received in return a five minute diatribe about how she did not even want to be working today; and that I shouldn't bother trying to speak to her or make polite conversation because she just wasn't "in the mood." Then she whipped out a giant needle, complaining that my veins were too deep and hard to find.

I have issues with needles that I suppose I will have to get over, rather quickly.

So another early morning tomorrow with more medical tests, one step closer to fulfilling this amazing dream.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Nature's Timing

So the original plan, based upon last month's cycle, was to start follow-up next week and get inseminated at the end of March or very beginning of April.

Last night I started spotting, which means that my period will probably come today, and that the whole schedule has been moved up by about five days. Biggest problem is that the first available appointment with the sperm bank is March 24th, which may turn out to be the day right before insemination, and I hope there is enough time.

I know that in order for this to work, I need to be calm, and I need to trust the Universe that this is all happening at this pace for a reason; so I am off to do deep breathing and meditation, and a little bit of praying.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anything Different in Your Life?

An odd and yet reassuring thing happened to me yesterday, when I walked into my Pilates class. I had arrived early, and waited with the cheery secretary until the floor cleared a little.

She looked at me, and started asking me all sorts of obtuse questions, like: "Anything different in your life?" "Are you planning something big?" "How are you feeling?" Finally, with a puzzled look on my face I asked her what she truly meant to ask me, and she whispered, "Are you pregnant?"

Once I recovered from the question, and assured myself that I was not any fatter today than I had been the last time she saw me, I replied, "Not yet," and filled her in on the barest details. She smiled large, and explained that when I walked in, I had that pregnant "glow" in my face, and when she looked in my eyes, she could have sworn that I was "with child."

I am glad that I am starting to radiate a serenity about my choice, because it means I am in the right place for pregnancy to happen, and that's a good thing, with insemination theoretically less than a month away.

The glow comment also gives me pause, because later in the day I went for a facial treatment, and TC mentioned that I looked a bit sunburned, so who knows what the secretary saw.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Switching Hospitals

Because of the sperm shortage, today I switched from Hadassah Ein Kerem (closer to my house, nicer nurses) to Hadassah Har HaTzofim (further away but more professional). I arrived with my partially completed personal file and waited close to an hour, comforted with the book I had brought to read, and the knowlededge that at least they take their time with each client.

The doctor felt that even if I had heard the deflating pep talk several times, it would not hurt to hear it again: I am old relative to the fertility process, and I should not expect smooth sailing without a few bumps. Although it was his opinion that I immediately try to boost my hormones and increase the chance of multiple births, we agreed to try it my way for several months, ie chart my natural cycle and inseminate at the peak of ovulation. He is a firm believer in conventional medicine, and pooh-poohed the idea that gender or pregnancy could be influenced by body temperative, mood or diet.

So now it becomes a waiting game, for my next period and then a series of ultra-sound exams and blood tests. I think that today was the last time I attend these consultations by myself, because from now on, I start counting down to the first exciting attempt at pregnancy. I believe that the energy of love and support around me most definitely impacts conception, and the personality of the child.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pregnancy and Nutrition

(This blog is not meant to diagnose or prescribe treatment for any particular condition. Please consult with a qualified Chiropractor or MD in individual cases.)

One of the best sources, for all aspects of pregnancy is the so-called Bible, What to Expect When You're Expecting. They also provide excellent guidelines for proper eating during the pregnancy, for optimal healthy weight gain.

Nutrition plays an integral role in the healthy development of the fetus. Avoid large meal and long periods of time in between meals. Increase fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and water intake. Take the pre-natal vitamin your doctor recommends, though you may have to supplement the Calcium levels, and the Folic Acid levels in the first trimester. The fetus absorbs the mother's calcium for bone building, and a pregnant or lactating woman has a higher calcium need than most. Druing the first trimester, it is also common for a woman to be repulsed by certain foods or smells, and dinner duty may have to be temporarily re-assigned.

An article I read recently made the following specific food recommendations:
AVOID Uncooked protiens, Spearmint and Sage (Herbs), no more than three cups of herbal tea per day, peanuts, nightshade foods (tomatoes, eggplant, green pepper, white potatoes), garlic, spinach and fish (because of mercury poisoning)

ADD IN Figs, Sesame/Techina, Beets, pomagranet, dates, avocado, grapes, papaya

I guess that means I should have my sushi and hot saki now, before I conceive...

Less Pain, Less Labour Time

(This blog is not meant to diagnose or prescribe treatment for any particular condition. Please consult with a qualified Chiropractor or MD in individual cases.)

Research relates that close to 60% of pregnant women will experience back pain, noted more among younger women with a previous history of back pain, and among women who have had three children or more. The entire curvature of the spine will shift its center of gravity, with alterations in posture due to natural weight gain and hormonal imbalance. Modified Chiropractic adjusting procedures can reduce back pain during pregnancy, and also results in a reduction of mean labour time, and the recovery period.

Before initiating chiropractic treatment of the pregnant patient, the DC will take a thorough history. Certainly, if a patient even suspects that she is pregnant during the intial consultation, x-rays would be avoided, as well as any therapeutic modality that might induce early contractions or a miscarriage. For overall health considerations, the woman should avoid smoking, alcohol, drugs and caffeine; and she should take Folic Acid supplement at least three months before she is intending on getting pregnant, in order to avoid neural defects.

The following recommendations of activity and exercise apply throughout the pregnancy, in order to ease the discomfort and promote a healthy birth:
1. Strengthening of the abdominal muscles
2. Generalized stretching in the pelvic area to improve bladder control and tonicity
3. Stretches to ease calf cramping and ankle swelling
4. Stretching and strengthening of the postural neck musculature, to reduce tension headaches

If you already exercise on a regular basis, don't stop, rather be aware of the changing baseline of your body as your pregnancy progresses.

The patient should also be aware of other health issues that may occur during the pregnancy. For example, the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, common in either the second or third trimester, and usually resolves spontaneously after the birth. In addition, as ligaments loosen to prepare for birth, a trochanteric belt may be necessary during activity, to stabilize the area.

Pregnancy demands an alteration of lifestyle, physically and emotionally. You might have to buy a more supportive bra, or experiment with comfortable sleeping positions. A woman who is used to working full time, wearing the power suit and the two inch heals, may have to cut down on her hours, and wear what my patients call "ugly shoes." You may find yourself forgetting key information or snapping in anger, that would be the hormones.

As the birth gets closer and the fetus pushes down on the bladder and up towards the diaphragm, a pregnant woman may find the need to increase the frequency of Chiropractic visits. If your baby has not turned by the end of the eigth month, the non-invasive and effective Webster Turning Technique can help.

A healthy mother, surround by a stress-free environment, can bring a beautiful child into the world. Insure proper care and awareness before, after and during the pregnancy.

Babies Cost Money II

As this process continues, I am composing a list of supplies, both pre and post natal, in terms of needs for me as a mother and the physical and emotional needs of my child. I have also sat with KB (my cousin) and his wife, and constructed a basic monthly budget.

If you think I have missed something, please let me know!


Basinet, Crib, Bouncy Chair, High Chair, Changing Table, Air-tight diaper disposal container, Rocking Chair for Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding Pillow, Bath (including non slip mat and bath toys)


Snugli, Stroller, Car Seat, Baby Supply Travel Bag

Fun and Education

Toys, Books, Baby Groups

Technical Equipment

Breastfeeding Pump, Digital camera/video, Tush Thermometer, Treadmill (so Mom can exercise without leaving the house)


Formula (as supplement for Breast Milk), Bibs, Pampers, Bottles and Sterilizer, Wipes/Desitin, age and size appropriate clothing as baby grows; and as Mom grows during the pregnancy and shrinks afterwards, Breastfeeding Bras.


Pre Natal Classes and Doula, Brit Milah (if it's a boy, including the Mohel, catering and renting the space), Babysitters

Babies Cost Money I

One of my largest fears at the moment is the amount of money a baby costs in terms of its basic physical needs in the first six months, and as I have been told by many parents, it's not about the planning, it's about the surprises. Because I am an independent contractor, when I don't work, I do not get paid. I also do not expect my family overseas to start supporting me financially, and turn me back into a teenager getting a glorified allowance.

I do have a house fund that could easily become a baby fund, should the need arise. Many mothers I know pass around used clothing and baby furniture, saying that there is no reason to buy all new of everything, when the baby grows so quickly in the initial stages. I would also like to think that this child will not only benefit from my love and attention, but will also extras in his/her life, and will not feel a sense of lack. I don't plan on buying out all of Toys R Us, but I suspect that this child will be mildly spoiled.

The real change manifests as my priorities shift, and I notice myself thinking twice before I buy something that is not absolutely necessary. Money saved today can be spent later. I have already thought about the cost of my Pilates sessions (60 NIS/hour) and my membership at the gym (2500/year) and how I can make this all work once the baby arrives.

I have also come to the realization that TV programs with nudity, violence or bad language will not be shown when the baby is awake, and certain rock songs just don't cut it in the values category. My swearing when I drive will have to be muzzled; and I will not be able to sleep in when I feel like it. I accept all these "costs" willingly.

There are certain government based programs which help in smaller ways:

1. National Health Insurance will pay for most of the doctor visits and hospitalizaitons and will largely subsidize the vitamins and medications that may be needed, other than purchasing the sperm donation itself, and hormone shots, which can be costly.

2. Bituach Leumi (National Insurance) takes the amount of money earned in the last three months before birth and maternity leave, and will pay 75% that amount for 14 weeks.

3. My professional insurance will pay before the birth, only if there is a dire medical need to stop working earlier than planned.

4. The Jerusalem Municipality will grant a 20% refund in Arnona (property taxes) and a single mother has one extra point of credit toward taxes.

5. Some nursery programs give discounts to single parents, but it is solely based on household income, and not on family status.

Now I have to include my insurance agents and my accountant in on my plans, so they can start the legwork for me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Not Mutually Exclusive

Finding my soul-mate is not mutually exclusive with this process of insemination and pregnancy. Though my dating style may be cramped while I am in fact (and G-d Willing) pregnant, I do not see my choice to become a mother as closing the door to a successful and loving long-term relationship with a husband.

It's funny how the Universe throws tests at you. Around the time when I found out that my appointment with the Sperm Bank had been canceled due to lack of supply, I received an eerie email from WG, an old college boyfriend, a man who BTW is now supposedly happily married to his wife and quite proud of his son.

WG wrote that on and off in the past 20 years, he has contemplated how his life, and our lives would have been different had we stayed together and married. He said that there is still a place in his heart for me, and that if I ever wanted a genetic sample from him, he would be happy to donate sperm and be the biological father of my baby. He added that any child of ours would know the imprint of true love.

While flattering, I responded that the choice to bring a child into the world with someone I know, someone I care about on some level but with whom I can never experience full intimacy is both selfish and dangerous. Not only for me and any expectations it might generate in my imagination, but also for him and his wife and his marriage. I made it quite clear that even if I were to agree - because even today he does fulfill most of the specifications for my ideal mate- he would have to sign off on any legal right to claim paternity later in this child's life, and that I would not allow him to insert himself into our lives as a family. For both his sake and for ours.

My friend LC agreed with my approach, and pointed out that if indeed I am planning on dating before I conceive and once I give birth, having an anonymous sperm donor simplifies the situation. It makes it so much easier for another man to lovingly step in and raise the baby together, when there is no biological father standing in the wings.

I have not heard from WG since sending that email, and hope that he sees and accepts the sense in my words and actions. Though I still hold onto that warm feeling from his generous offer.

Open Mouth, Insert Thermometer

In my urgent quest to avoid having to inject myself with hormones, I came upon a book with the gracious assistance of my upstairs neighbor (EG) called Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH. In it, she describes in detail the three physical signs that can be monitored by the woman herself, which combined tell you exactly when you have ovulated and how to achieve pregnancy most efficiently.

I recommend that any woman trying to get pregnant, or opting not to use chemical birth control, check out this essential read.

And so I went to the pharmacy and bought a digital thermometer, and every morning I take my Waking Body Temperature, before I even get out of bed. Charting the results has become fun, an art project and a science experiment; I need to know this information because I will not necessarily be able to get to Hadassah Hospital to get an ultrasound on the right day, depending upon my cycle.

I pass along several points that have bearing on my fertility, and recommend again that you read the book cover to cover.

1. The Luteal phase will largely determine if the ovum will have enough time to implant, once conception has taken place. To increase a short Luteal phase, she recommends Vitamin B6, in addition to Folic Acid.
2. To increase the chance of conceiving a girl, sex or insemination should take place on day 4-2 before the peak of ovulation. To increase the chance of a boy, inseminate 1-0 days ie at the peak of ovulation.
3. Once pregnant, body temperature will continue to rise, and thus the woman can know if she is pregnant before taking official blood tests which check for hCG levels.
4. Using temperature as a guide, the due date can be worked out mathematically: Peak Ovulation (from Chart) plus nine months, minus one week.

Of course the baby will still arrive when he/she is ready to leave the confines of the womb, when the space starts getting cramped.

When Do You Kick Out the Cats?

(And other somewhat irrelevant questions.)

Q: When are you planning on getting rid of your two cats? Aren't they dangerous around new babies?

A: Firstly, you may be referring to the problems of cleaning out the litter box, and in that case, no worries. My two cats use Gaea's bathroom, I have not cleaned out a litter box in years. Secondly, medical research has shown that babies and children who are exposed to pets at a young age have fewer allergies as they get older. Third, I have seen many cases where cats, (dogs and hamsters) not only add to the household, but actively protect the new baby, as it were there own kitten. Knowing my own felines, they will make excellent older brothers.

Q: If you could choose the horoscope of your child, or the season of the birth, what would it be?

A: According to Western civilization, I am a fire sign, and according to Chinese I am a wood element. Despite my holistic view of the world, I still have doubts as to the chicken-egg explanation of signs; does the horoscope fit the person, or do we humans in our search for order try to fit the random personality types. Regardless, I do not have the luxury of waiting six months, and as long as the baby is born healthy, I will be happy.

Q: Would you leave Israel and move to America once you give birth, to be closer to your family and have built-in baby sitters?

A: I made a choice to move to Israel in 1997, and that choice represented a long-term plan to live and raise a family with the values here as opposed to the United States. I might consider the move if I had twins, but since I am going for as natural a conception as possible (no hormones for the moment), a multiple birth is less likely. My work, my life, my friends are in Israel; besides which, I would not want to travel on a 12 hour international flight with a new baby and two cats.

Q: If this were your only chance to have children in theory, why not go for a multiple birth and super-fertility treatments? That way you get a whole family at once.

A: I have watched the parenting television shows, and I will admit that I find certain personality traits present in "onlies" less attractive. Only children don't learn how to share or compromise when they are getting 100% of the attention and rule over 100% of the territory. That being said, I had the important experience early on of a reality check. I visited and spent time with a woman named Dvorah Ross, an Orthodox Israeli woman who pioneered the halachic movement for single women to enter into motherhood in this country. She has a ten year old boy and a set of twins with special needs, and at the moment, no desire to date. On the one hand, she is an inspiration for the religious and non-religious communities in Israel; I can report, however, that she does struggle in certain areas, and certain givens fall by the wayside.

So for now, I will start with one.

Please feel free to ask any questions, and I will address them from time to time in this blog.

I Want To Suck Your Blood

Medically, So Far and In Brief

6/1/08: Consulted with my gynecologist, who referred me to the Women's Fertility Clinic at Hadassah Hopsital, Ein Kerem. Started taking Folic Acid to prevent neurological defects.
13/1/08: Initial visit at Hadassah Ein Kerem, Blood Taken to start checking for STDs. (Clear)
28/1/08: Blood tests done on Day 3 of period for basic hormone levels and more STDs (Clear, not that I was expecting any dramatic news).
12/2/08: Follow-up appointment at Hadassah Ein Kerem, I "probably" missed the date of ovulation for February, but they can't be sure because some of my blood test results were lost.
13/2/08: Originally scheduled appointment for initial consultation at Sperm Bank canceled, because they have literally run out of their supply. The next time I can realistically meet with them is at the end of March, and insemination must take place before Pessach, when they take vacation.
24/2/08: Blood tests done on Day 4 of period, informational only, and to make up for some of the hormones not tested in January. The nurses treat me with extra care and compassion, because they know that losing the last set of results really set me off.
I also find out that despite being owned by cats for the last five years, I tested negative for Toxoplasmosis.

For a person with a fear of needles, I am getting used to being bled for the sake of science.

Please Donate Sperm!

Before I go any further, I ask all those readers who wish to make a difference to please donate sperm, not just for women like me, but for married women whose husbands sperm count works against their success in entering into pregnancy.

In Israel, the demand far outstrips the supply.

Thank you.

So Who Knows? (A Sampling)

Quite a lot of people actually, many of whom will be mentioned in later blogs. The idea of the pregnancy and the single parenthood simmered inside me for almost two years, and once I made the decision with joy and faith, I had no choice but to share it with those who I knew would give me love and support. And even with those who have a peripheral connection to my life, because Israel is one large extended family. My business will become every one's business, and being 6000 miles away from my blood relatives, I must create a new family for the child I will bring into the world.

EG: My upstairs neighbor, a married woman from my home town in the States , with one very expressive child. An acquaintance who is fast becoming a friend.
DB: A friend who married a widower with two girls and had trouble getting pregnant, she herself had IVF and after five years gave birth to a boy.
MS: A friend who found her husband through the Internet and had a difficult pregnancy herself. When I first told her, she reacted by the following slipping out of her mouth, "Oh, you are going that route?" And quickly corrected herself by saying that she and her husband would support me in any decision I make. We share the same gynecologist.
TC: My cosmetitian who is in a committed relationship but has no desire or intention to have children, her partner three dogs are enough for her.
ME: An old friend from the United States, a lesbian in a long-term committed relationship, my Survivor buddy and currently recovering from breast cancer.
YL: My youngest brother, with whom I have an exceptionally close bond despite the difference in years and having not grown up together. He spent almost every weekend in my house when he was studying at a program in Israel, and we get each other, without speaking, and accept each other without condition or judgement.
SC: My massage therapist and spiritual counsellor, she has stepped up and is already calling herself "Savta" (Hebrew for grandmother) and wants to help me on this path, in any way that she can. She is already planning day trip with my child.
YO: A client who once offered to donate sperm to the cause, and has consistently told me that any child will be lucky to have me as a mother.
LC: A single mother in Jerusalem who lives in a building complex that happens to house five other women (four of them Orthodox) who are single mothers by choice. She has helped me understand the personal and bureaucratic maneuvers that face me in the months ahead.
KB: A distant cousin and adopted brother who lives down the street from me, he and his wife have pledged their full support to me, and have even offered to be there when I break the news to my parents.

I do of course wonder what some of my clients say and how they will react, especially those who come from the Ultra-Orthodox community. Would they discontinue to utilize my services because I have made a choice that goes against their personal and communal value system? Will I become a pariah and the fodder for gossip in my own neighborhood?

That is not in my hands and not my problem, each person must act in a way that is true and consistent to their inner voice, and my inner voice cannot wait to meet my future child.