Sunday, June 28, 2009

Birth Preparation Class, Session Two

In this second session, we started to learn more practical information, the most important discussion being, "When am I truly in labour and when do I go to the hospital for the birth?" Feeling less overwhelmed with emotion than last time, I settled into the comfy beanbag chairs they had provided for us pregnant women, and for lack of anything more nutritional, ate the cookies they had provided. (Not all the cookies...)

A very young religious woman sat in the corner with her husband, away from the rest of the members of the group. Apparently she preferred to go into the birth blind, "the less I know, the better"; her husband had to convince her that knowledge can be a powerful tool. Several times during the two and a half hour session, this woman ran out of the room crying, specifically when the midwife was illustrating in three dimensions the exact physics of how the baby leaves the womb, and how the body expands to accommodate the 10 cm or so head. Having participated in several births with friends and patients, I can say that yes it is messy and scary, and at the same time the most awe-inspiring miracle I have ever had the honor to witness.

We all wondered how she had planned on being a mother, if she could not handle the idea of the birth; after all, the baby has to get out whether she chooses or not. There will be greater challenges for the rest of their lives when they have a child.

Shame on the Ultra-Orthodox community, which marries off their women young when they have been forbidden contact with the opposite sex; a social order which tells these young men and women to "Be Fruitful and Multiply" and then does not prepare them in any way toward the end result. True, the female body was built to give birth without instructions, but both the child and its parents deserve better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Birth Preparation Class, Session One (Stomach Envy)

It has indeed been a strange day, one which started with a sad phone call about my grandfather's passing, and ended with my first session out of seven at Hadassah Hospital for the birth preparation course. Such is the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

The material was not new to me, with my profession as a Chiropractor giving me plenty of anatomical background. One of the doctors who presented was the woman who gave me my discharge papers from the fertility unit, and I was somewhat unimpressed that she did not remember me at all. Though I suppose they see and help so many women, it is easy to get lost in the crowd.

As the women walked into the room, I found myself quietly playing a competitive game of comparing stomachs, call it "Stomach Envy." I cannot help my competitive nature, and had to continually remind myself that while I might have the smallest bulge in the room, it means less weight to lose later. The crowd attending this course is quite varied, with one French couple, one Russian couple, several secular Israeli couples, several Ultra-Orthodox couples, and some of the hospital staff also due to give birth in the Fall. As far as I can tell, I am the only single mother there.

As both a Chiropractor and a prospective mother, I balked and became nauseous when they showed pictures of a vacuum birth and a forceps birth. However, when they started showing pictures of cringing women in labour, and couples holding and bathing and changing their newborns, I realized something: Oh my G-d, I am going to have a baby!! I almost started crying in the middle of the first lecture.

The expanding stomach, the kicking, the lack of my period and the planning has been enough to tell me that my life is changed forever; but today, for the first time, I saw myself in one of the labour rooms, pushing out a baby. My daughter.

The complex feelings come so quick at this moment, and I keep coming back to one thing: Oh my G-d, I am going to have a baby!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dr Morris L Keller Z"L

Last night, after severe medical complications (bordering on medical mismanagement), my 91 year old grandfather, Dr. Morris L Keller, died. He will be buried today in the town where he was born, Providence, Rhode Island, next to my grandmother, Rebecca Danzig Keller.

Years ago, when I visited Israel with my grandparents, he stopped on Strauss Street, in front of what used to be Hadassah Hospital (in the 1920's -40's) and is now an HMO building. For five minutes he told anyone who would listen that this is the place where his wife, my grandmother, was born. That my grandmother was a seventh generation Jerusalemite, and how much he loved the land of Israel. Throughout that trip, my grandfather would stop any soldier, male or female, and insisted upon kissing them, and thanking them for defending the country of the Jews.

I never had a chance to tell my grandfather that he would have a great-grandchild through me, the first to be born in Jerusalem, the city of his wife whom he adored. Zaide fell into a coma before he had the chance to know about my daughter, and I think he would have gotten a kick out of knowing that some part of his family had not only returned home, to Israel, but that the line continued and renewed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Inspiration for the Day

An article which appeared in the International Herald Tribune today has engaged and inspired me, and I wanted to share a small piece of it. The reporter interviews Science Fiction legend, Ray Bradbury, who says, among other things:

"I have total recall...I remember being born. I remember being in the womb, I remember being inside. Coming out was great."

I can only hope that my child feels the same way, and lives as varied and fulfilling life as Mr. Bradbury.

Later in the article, he says: "The children ask me, 'How can I live forever too?'...I tell them, 'Do what you love and love what you do.' That's the story of my life."

What more could a mother wish for her child, to experience love and adventure and joy; and at the end of the run know that it was a life well spent.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reframing Old Traumas

Story One: My mother told me that for each of her five pregnancies, she lost one tooth.

Story Two: At the age of four, my mother and I were in a car accident that should have killed us both. My mother swears that at the time of impact, she heard the voice of my great-grandfather (who had died two days earlier), assuring her that we would be safe. Several other times in my life as an adult, I have been involved in near death experiences, and felt the security of his continuing protection.

As per the advice of the pregnancy books, I saw my dentist today for a pre-birth tooth cleaning. As the books predict, there was lots of bleeding from the gums, but I am determined to not lose a tooth just because my mother did. At the conclusion of the visit, my dentist recommended that I return for another check-up in approximately four months, and I replied that it is most likely that I will be busy, either in labor itself, or taking care of a new baby.

On the way home, I drove past the spot where I was almost killed by a Palestinian sniper, on February 18, 2001. While I thought I had fully processed the experience, somehow realizing that here I stand, eight years later, about to become a mother to a G-d willing beautiful baby girl, and it overwhelmed me. I feel like I am living a miracle. I began to cry (not so great when you are driving), and asked my grandmother - a truly loving and positive force in my life until her death seven years ago - to watch over my child as her father watches over me. I cannot think of a better Guardian Angel.

Damn hormones.

Then I went to the baby store sale and bought a carrying sling, a breast feeding pillow, and some educational/early development toys. Still doing research on the big ticket items.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Uses for a Belly Button

Today I woke up especially early in order to partake of the GCT (Sugar) Test at the HMO clinic in downtown Jerusalem. I brought along my own freshly squeezed lemon juice, and it tasted like a good glass of lemonade.

While waiting the hour, I took out my mp3 player, having already read the morning paper. I attached one of the earpieces to myself, and the other in that deepening hole that used to be a belly button, so that the baby could enjoy the music as well. I don't know if it was the sugar high or the music - she prefers either classical music or New Age - but I got a fair number of kicks.

When I look at the long list of tests that I have gone through, since the beginning of the pregnancy, I am astounded that I have only one ultra-sound left before the birth, that I am really in the 25th week of my pregnancy, and that in approximately 100 days, I will be a mother.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I may even buy a car seat at the baby store that is having a 50% Going Out of Business Sale. And to further help me get over my fear of baby stores, Michal and Yael have arranged a trip to the ultra-Orthodox place, because they apparently have the best prices in order to accommodate large religious families.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sharing Stories (Please Don't)

In my line of work, I hear a lot of stories about a lot of families. Even those clients of mine who have figured out that I am pregnant, they come in with stories of horror about their daughter's miscarriage, told in all its gory detail. Or I have other clients who have special needs children, who share the intimate facts about how difficult it is to raise a Downs Syndrome son or daughter, how it is ruining their marriage and perspective on life, how they expect their son or daughter to always need diapers and constant care and supervision into adulthood.

The doctor part of me has learned how to listen and how to sympathize with their stress. The pregnant woman part of me wants to gag them as soon as they start talking, because it feeds into my most basic fears about my own daughter. I believe my doctors when they say that she is thank G-d healthy, and yet, there are days when I want to run screaming from my office.

If someone guaranteed me, right this moment, that I would not have to worry about making a living and paying bills for the next year, I would close my office tomorrow morning, and settle into a routine of support and calm for the rest of this pregnancy.

And please keep the birth horror stories to yourself.

Friday, June 12, 2009


As I enter my 25th week, I observe that my belly button has become almost looks scary. I feel as if I stuck my finger all the way inside, I could touch the baby. I suppose it is still better than becoming an "outie," though that may happen as well. As long as my feet don't expand; my size 11 feet are hard enough to fit fashionably as it is.

Plus, my breast are huge, and seem to be growing every day.

Today I went on my first outing to a baby supply store, with my friend Michal and her partner Yael. Yael it seems has done serious research about the various products available, and had a huge list of questions for the saleswoman about package deals, strollers, and the materials from which the cribs and dressers are made.

I personally felt overwhelmed by the experience, and understood that my idea of waiting to look at the big ticket items only after the birth is naive at the very least. Part of me does not want to tempt fate by ordering baby supplies before the birth, but after today, I realize that I must give it more thought.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More Shifting Priorities

I have been serving on the Executive Board of the Israel Chiropractic Society for the last four years, because I felt that you can only really make a difference from the inside. Other than an amusing and major temper tantrum by one of the board members last night, I realized that not only have I not made a difference to the quality and acceptance of Chiropractic in Israel, but that since I have become pregnant, I don't care as much.

In fact, while I enjoy most of my work days, when a client starts whining and I have not slept the night before because this baby is a constant swimmer (rather than a kicker), I find that I have limited patience (excuse the pun) for my job. I want to reserve all the energy I have, emotional and physical, for this child growing inside me. I can also say that if someone walked into my house right now and offered me complete financial security, I would close the office today, and spend the rest of my life taking care of this baby, traveling and fostering the creative side in me that has become quite dormant.

By the time the next board meeting happens in late July, I will have resigned my post, using the pregnancy as an excuse of course, but there is a deeper reason: I have always believed that in order for my life to have some meaning, I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I arrived. I am simply not sure anymore that the ideal venue is via my career. (For that heretical statement, I just may be banished from the Barnard alumnae list...)

Today was a perfect case-in-point: a patient who has consistently not been returning my phone calls for the last six months called today, saying that he "did something" to his neck and had to be treated today, right away. I replied in a professional and kind manner, saying that I had a full schedule and could either put him on a waiting list, or recommend a colleague.

One hour later, he called back, "Well, did anyone cancel?" Again I answered politely, saying that if he had not heard from me, then the answer was no. He took on a condescending and impatient tone, and said, "Is this a money thing? Because I will make it worth your while, I will pay you extra to see me later tonight."

I lost it, and though some inner voice wanted to simply say, "Fuck you," and hang up, instead I said in a voice most like a displeased nursery school teacher: "Here's the truth, I am in my sixth month of pregnancy and am working a seven hour day already today, after going to sleep last night after midnight because of a stupid meeting. I have to think of myself, my baby, and the fact that you do not want me to treat you when I am exhausted. This has nothing to do with money. Furthermore, I want to make it very clear that if you do not hear from me today, it means that you did not get off the waiting list and I do not want to hear from you."

My Israeli friends applauded me, saying that it was maybe a 5/10 on the "Mean Meter," and that I must think about myself and this life growing inside me. My greater fear is that my clients will not respect the time I plan on spending with my child after the birth, because after all, their pain comes before my right to live my life. (NOT!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Friends

Even two years ago, when I started researching the topic of pregnancy and single-motherhood, I was astounded to find out that within Jerusalem, there exists quite a large group of single mothers by choice.

I have only recently begun to truly appreciate that phenomenon and support, having made friends with two women, one who gave birth to a little girl only two and a half months ago, and another who gave birth to a girl about three and a half years ago. Not only do I enjoy hearing the joy in their voices, the stories of the enrichment that becoming a mother has brought them. I also can finally speak to people who have undergone very similar experiences, from the fertility treatments, to dealing with their families and community; and hearing a preview of sorts of what I can expect in approximately three and a half months, when I am due to give birth.

I have had trouble as an adult making new friends, and it has been a while since I spent a solid two hours on the phone with a girl friend. I love that feeling that not only am I living outside the traditional box, but that I have a whole group of amazing women living there with me.