Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I am moving

Hello, the three people who follow my blog :-)

Just wanted to let you know I am moving. No hard feelings, Blogspot, I just like the layout of Wordpress better.

Please continue to follow me here:


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pregnant women are like old people

I’m at the point in my second pregnancy when it’s difficult for me to fall asleep because I’m so encumbered by my belly bulk. And it was as I was desperately attempting to achieve some sort of comfortable physical position last night that I had the following epiphany: pregnant women are like old people.

And though I’ve never been old, I’ve heard and witnessed enough of the elderly to know that we really do have a lot in common besides for troubled snoozing.

Frequent Bathroom Trips
During the day, in the middle of the night – pregnant women and the elderly need to know the quickest route to the bathroom. This includes when we’re at the shuk, in the mall, or sleeping over at someone else’s house for Shabbat. The bathroom in any environment is probably the most important landmark, and needs to be available at all times. If the women’s stall is occupied in a restaurant, we will not hesitate to knock on the male stall and avail ourselves of it if it is free.

Slowing Down
The older you get, the slower you get. I’m not talking about those feisty exceptions, God bless ‘em, I’m talking about a general rule. Age takes its toll.

And so does belly bulk. The more pregnant you get, the slower you get. Whereas during the first six months of my pregnancy, I was still power-walking to work, a mere two months later I am waddling my way around the kitchen and holding my back as I straighten up from picking something up off the floor. My outings now consist of going to the shuk everyday (five pm and later, because I can’t stand the heat). The shuk is literally two minutes from my apartment. But if you walk like I do, slow and with a stroller, and adhere to crossing only in the pedestrian crosswalks, which I do, because of said stroller, it’s about a five minute walk. Then I walk about for as long as I can until even the ebbing evening heat does me in, and I return home.

People Stand Up For You on the Bus
In the early stages of my first pregnancy, it took me a while to get used to the idea of people offering me their seats on the bus. But as I progressed to the eighth and ninth month, I had no problem taking their seats; in fact, I expected them to be offered. Second pregnancy – my reluctance to take people’s seats faded as soon as I started to show. And though it does feel strange to be sitting in the front of the bus with all the older people, in my heart I know that I’m in the right place.

Loss of Inhibition
They said that when people get older, they lose their inhibitions and say things that they wouldn’t have said when they were younger. They tell it like it is, because life is too short to be spent beating around the bush.
Likewise, as the pregnancy wears on, your patience wears thin. When someone attempts to get ahead of me at the fruit stand in the shuk, I dramatically turn my protruding belly towards them and loudly say, “Excuse me!” If someone puts their hands on my belly without asking, I look down at their hands, then up at the person’s face, and incredulously say, “Excuse me!”

And just like most people cut older people some slack, same for pregnant women.
Okay, okay, okay. Pregnant women are not exactly the same as older people. Here are a few differences I can think of:

Hot and Cold
Pregnant women are HOT, and older people tend towards the cold side, which is why they love Florida and sweaters and central heating. I, on the other hand, would be most comfortable living in an igloo.

People’s Comments
As far as I’ve experienced, no one comments to an older person, “My, you’re looking especially withered today” or, “You’re hair has gotten whiter since the last time I’ve seen you!”
On the other hand, when it comes to pregnant women, people feel this inexplicable need to comment on their appearance. “Wow, you’re really getting there!” or “You get bigger every time I see you!”

If I could control the world, I’d choose to have people treat pregnant women like older people in this regard.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Get your hands off my belly

I know I’ve written about this before, but I can’t hold back from addressing this issue again. Maybe if I word it differently, it will be like a weight off my chest? Don’t know, but here goes:

For some reason unbeknownst to me, pregnant women seem to become the property of the world.

While no one would dare comment on a non-pregnant woman’s weight gain, or dare to touch her stomach, these inhibitions seem to vanish when it comes to pregnant women.

Some of the comments I’ve heard throughout both my pregnancies: 

“You’re huge!”

“Are you going to make it through the summer?”

“Are your legs swollen?”

While the offenders are not ill-intentioned, they’re still offenders.

Because I don’t want anyone commenting on the size of my stomach, at any point in my life. I don’t want anyone laying their hands on my stomach unless given express permission to (which I don’t know why I would grant, unless the person is my husband or a doctor).

I want people to treat me the way they would treat anyone with a health condition. To only speak about it unless I broach the subject. And since I rarely broach the subject, I’d like people to follow my cue.
Unfortunately, because certain people do not take their cues from me, I’ve simply stopped talking to them; in my mind I know that they mean well, but in my heart I cannot take their constant comments on about my stomach, my health, my state of mind.

Friends are different. Friends are friends.

Close family is different as well. They have their rights.

But, please, non-friends and family members – I know you might be happy for me, I know you might be excited and all a-jitter – but just stop. Stop reaching for my belly, and stop commenting on it. It’s really none of your business.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tisha B'av: Do mothers have time to mourn?

Tisha B’av is coming up.

It’s been looming in the back of my mind like a horrible, dehydrated monster for the past few weeks.

Why? Well, for most people it’s the most difficult fast day of the year. But when you’re nine months pregnant? Forget about it.

Our rabbi said I have to fast until I can’t anymore.

Which means that if I feel sick or any weird movements in my stomach, I can eat and drink. Reassuring, but still daunting.

Especially because I have a one year old baby to take care of, adorable in everything she does but a handful nonetheless. And did I mention I’m nine months pregnant?

So yes, Tisha B’av has been on my mind.

 In previous years, it was on my mind for different reasons. I used to prepare for it by listening to shiurim or reading through Megillat Eicha. On the day of, I used to watch Holocaust movies or clips on Youtube about the eviction from Gush Katif.

This year, I haven’t done my prep work. Not that I haven’t wanted to, I just haven’t really had the time or energy. And on the day of? It’s just not that plausible that my daughter will allow me to sit back and watch movies because she grasps the heaviness of the day.

Nope, not gonna happen.

So I will need to focus on her. And I feel guilty for this. I want to be mourning with the rest of the Jewish world, mourning the loss of a utopia unimaginable, the Jewish lives that were destroyed and the suffering that our people went through for so many years.

And yet, I’m prevented by doing this because I'm a mother, because of my physicality, by the fear of fasting and the impact it will have on my ability to care for my daughter. Not to mention the fear of going into premature labor. Which even though I’ve joked that I wouldn’t mind at this point, in all seriousness, no one really wants to go into fasting-induced labor.

But I need to get over it.

I need to accept that at this point in my life, there’s a new way of serving God for me. And it means that I don’t need to feel guilty for putting my daughter before everything; this is my role as a mother, as a Jewish mother. So even though I can’t mourn as I’ve done in the past doesn’t mean I’m a bad Jew. On the contrary, I can feel proud for getting myself and my daughter through the day in one piece.

The trick is not just to know this, but to believe it.
Epilogue: I ended up being sick the whole day and was allowed to eat. Then I felt guilty because a large brunt of the childcare fell on my husband. (There's always something to feel guilty about.) Thank God, he's an amazing faster and is always ready to help.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Insensitivity II: Pregnant people (the flip side)

 I read Bridget Jones’ Diary years ago. It was possibly one of the only books I’ve read which has a movie counterpart that I liked better. But that’s not the point. What I remember from the book are two things: first, every diary entry begins with her current weight, which is brilliant. (Also, not the point.) Second, the way she refers to married people. She calls them “Smug Marrieds.” (Yes, this is the point.)  

           Why is it so? Why do married people get a bad rap?

            Because some married people say incredibly stupid, insensitive things.

            When I was single, I actually started keeping a list of stupid things married people said to me. (I figured, if I'm being insulted, might as well have a sense of humor about it.) I don’t know where the list is now, nor do I remember many of the detailed barbs, just a few:

            Smug Married to Single Me: “You have no idea how good it feels to be married.”

            Smug Married to Single Me after a break-up: “Don’t worry, you’re not that old.”

            Smug/Stupid Married to Engaged Me: “I’m so happy you’re getting married, I couldn’t figure out what was taking you so long.”

            Generally, I’ve come to accept that people say stupid things. It happens to the best of us. Moreover, stupidity can be more easily excused than insensitivity.

            But at what point do you make the distinction?

            At what point do you say, I know everyone says stupid things at one time or another – but this is downright insensitive, and you should know better!

             I found myself contemplating this since I bumped into two random friends last week - friends of mine, acquaintances of each other. Both women were around my age – one pregnant, the other not.
            And as we all paused for the socially acceptable "stop and chat" to hear what's new with the other, the pregnant woman started to complain that maternity clothes are soooooo expensive in Israel.

            Like I said, people say stupid things. If she said it once, fine. It happens.
            But she said it a number of times. And not in a sensitive way. She said: “Who can afford to have babies in this country? Why is everything so expensive?” And on and on.

            Now listen – maternity clothes in Israel are expensive (and nowhere near as nice as the clothes in America) - she is 100% correct.
But wake up – you’re talking to a single woman who would kill to be married, expecting and paying through the nose for maternity clothes - and you’re complaining!

            At what point did people decide they can say whatever they want with complete disregard for other’s feelings? At what point did we become so enamored with the right to express our own feelings that we forgot that other people have the right not to be around stupid, insensitive people?

            I was embarrassed for this pregnant woman, who was, albeit unintentionally, spewing complaints in front of the most inappropriate audience. She had no idea how bratty and insensitive she came off. Which is unfortunate – because there is a time and place for  pregnant women to complain and express their feelings. It’s to others in similar situations, or to a really good friend who despite being single will understand, or to your husband. Not to people who you bump into to on the street who you’re sort-of-friendly-with-but-not-really.

            So I understand Bridget Jones' brilliantly coined phrase, “Smug Marrieds.” I just wonder when will these women open their eyes and ears and stop giving the rest of us Nice, Sensitive Marrieds a bad reputation?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Insensitivity I: Pregnant people

               You would think that anyone who has been pregnant or has known someone who was pregnant would know that there are certain things you just don’t say to a pregnant woman.
                You would think.
                Unfortunately, you’d be wrong, just as I was.
                 In both my first and current pregnancy, I’ve been amazed and astounded at the stupidity that comes out of people’s mouths. While I understand that 99% of these people have no malicious intent, I’m not sure how much of a consolation it is telling myself that they’re just stupid. After all, that means there are a lot of stupid people out there.

                I am more forgiving of men. Men, while they might have survived their wives’ pregnancies, never having experienced it for themselves, can be cut some slack. However, I’ve found that men are less likely to say offensive things than women; men know that walking on eggshells around a pregnant woman is the way to go. Women, especially older women, feel like they can say whatever they want. Probably because they went through it themselves.

                I would like to refute this assumption. They SHOULD NOT say whatever they want. They should keep their mouths tightly, tightly shut.
Here are some of the things I’ve heard throughout both my pregnancies:

                “You’re huge!”

                “Wow, it looks like it’s hard for you to walk.”

                “Are you in your ninth month?” (Not even close.)

                “How are you going to make it through the summer?”

                “What size are you wearing now?”

                “Are you having twins? No? Are you sure?”

I reiterate, the people who say these things are mostly a. older women and b. not ill-intentioned. So what makes them say these things? No idea. 

Don’t they remember what it was like to be pregnant, to feel like a specimen on display, “Here is my growing body for all to see!” Don’t they remember how bad the weight-gain makes you feel, how yes, it is hard to walk but they don’t need to comment on it, they just need to send a nice smile your way? Don’t they remember how it’s sweet when someone asks, “How are you feeling?” not when someone says, “You don’t look so good. How are you feeling?”

Obviously they don’t remember.

             I’m really just waiting for someone to say something to me. It will be the wrong day, the wrong time, the right amount of hormones making me bloated and prone to crying, and I will say: “I’m huge because I’m pregnant. What’s your excuse?” or “I can lose the weight once I give birth. You’re stupid, you’ve got to live with that forever.” I will dish out whatever bile the situation calls for, because I have been being filled up with it for two consecutive years. Woe unto that person.

                And then I will go home and cry, until the hormones clear up and I come back to myself again.

                And when I’m older, I will remember what it was like to be pregnant. And pregnant women around me will reap the benefit of my sensitive silence.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Facebook forums for mothers: helpful or hurtful?

Before I gave birth to my first child, a friend joined me to a Facebook group for mothers living in Jerusalem. It was really helpful before I gave birth – you know, first pregnancy, no shortage of things to worry about, and here I had a forum of experienced/going-through-it-at-the-same time mothers at my beck and call. I asked about stroller comparisons, doula recommendations, whatever worry was on my pregnant mind. While it was comforting to receive almost-immediate answers from a variety of different mothers, it’s only in hindsight that I realized that none of the answers ever made me feel definitively sure about anything.
            A mundane example– I asked about the difference between two strollers. I got all sorts of responses – but the truth is, most of these women don’t live in my neighborhood, where the streets are narrow, some don’t have cars, some don’t care about the fold, some don’t care about the price, etc. So their answers were nice, but weren’t really relevant, and in the end, my husband and I decided by ourselves (we chose the Baby Jogger City Mini and love it. But I digress.)
The point is, I felt good knowing that there was a place I could turn to where all my questions could be answered, or at least acknowledged.

            After birth, however, was a different story. At home on maternity leave, my laptop was my lifeline to the world. And because I hadn’t yet figured out that it’s possible to turn off FB notifications, I was receiving notifications from this group about every five minutes – it’s quite a popular group – and reading every question and comment because that was all I had to do. (Once I realized you could turn off notifications, I availed myself of this option. I've been much happier since.)
            Some of the posts were interesting or good to know. I learned how to make homemade almond milk from one mother. I learned about a sale on diapers from another. But the majority of posts, I couldn’t care less about. Why did one mother post about Matisyahu shaving his beard? Why were there a few mothers who insisted on posting pictures of their babies – no offense, but we all have cute babies, and I much prefer to look at mine than yours. Besides, that’s what regular FB is for. The combination of irrelevant and off-topic posts started to get on my nerves.

            But more than annoying, the group had morphed from a pre-natal comfort into a post-natal worry-creator! 

For example: my husband and I disagreed on sleep-training. He was all for Ferberizing - letting the baby cry in order to fall asleep on her own. I did not want this! So I posted for advice about sleep training on the group, got many responses, mostly falling into these categories: “You’re the mother, you get to decide.” “Crying is awful, don’t do it!” “We let our babies cry, I hated it but it worked.”
All very nice, supportive things to say – but how exactly does that help me resolve the conflict with my husband? My husband, who irritatingly enough, was more experienced than I in the beginning of our crazy parenthood trip from a slew of nieces and nephews, wasn’t pulling ideas from thin air. While my Baby Whisperer book advocated middle-of-the-road methods, he had a book that contradicted everything my book said! (It’s amazing that by chance, we both ended up with books that fit our personalities.)
            In any event, the “support” I received from the mothers in the group didn’t make me feel better; it made me feel worse. So what that I had all these mothers agreeing with me, or telling me it’s okay? It only made me more mad at my husband – and the fact that some mothers did it and it worked didn’t make me feel any better hearing my baby’s cries in the middle of the night. (My husband and I ended up compromising, mostly because my hormones were no match for his arguments or experience, and yet, when I couldn’t keep my eyes open, we did let baby cry for a few minutes – but not full-fledged Ferberizing.)

In short, I quickly realized that my participation in this group was not productive. 

            Not only was it unproductive, it was actually becoming harmful to me. I’m not talking about getting high blood pressure from annoying posts. I'm talking about jealousy-inducing posts, or FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, posts (for more on FOMO: Here are some examples:

 "I used to get up an hour before my baby so I could exercise. Now, my baby started waking up an hour earlier - when am I supposed to find the time to get back into shape?”
            Maybe I’m just a bad person, or maybe you can understand me a little when I say that I spared no sympathy for this woman. Instead, I looked at myself with a critical eye and said, “This woman has been getting up early to exercise every morning to lose her pregnancy weight. If you would get up early, maybe you could lose the weight, fatass.”
            Clearly not productive.

“My five week old slept for eight hours straight! I’m so well-rested!”

            Good for you! I’m about to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks because I haven’t slept in weeks, but I’m SO happy for you!      

            “My baby is so good to me. I flew with her when she was three months old and she only kvetched for about two minutes - I just had to brag!”

            Seriously? I take my baby to the doctor’s office and in minutes the walls of the waiting room are resonating with her wails. I feel really good about myself right now.

            Or, “We’re getting together in the park Wednesday morning. Who’s in?”

            Okay, people are allowed to get together. But the fact is, I’ve been dying of boredom and would love to meet and hang out with other mothers, but I work in the mornings.

Not only are these posts jealousy-inducing, not only do they inflict upon me serious self-loathing, but they make me question the goodness of my character (since I feel like I want to smack the people posting)!
            Still, I know that my feelings about this group are not shared by all. Clearly. Otherwise, the questions and comments that mothers post wouldn’t receive 10-100 comments. By mothers who are obviously nicer, more patient or more sympathetic than me.  
           And all the mothers mean well, even when they post things that can cause jealousy and that I personally find insensitive, annoying or TMI. (“My four month old has had diarrhea for the past three days and has been puking up everything. What should I do???” Call your doctor, genius. “Found dead moth parts in my baby’s mouth yesterday. Eeeeeew. Just had to share.” I really wish you hadn’t. "I think my IUD might be infected!" I'm really sorry for you, but TMI, TMI!)
            And I think that for most of the participating mothers, the group affords them a connection with others. After birth, I thought I was the only woman who experienced loneliness, since it’s not something that people really talk about. But belonging to this group and seeing the ridiculous amount of posts and comments has shown me that it’s not just me – motherhood can be lonely. And I shouldn’t blame these mothers for wanting to connect virtually with each other, since in real life, getting out of the house and meeting up can be difficult. I especially shouldn’t blame them for creating an online community that they seem to enjoy – it’s my own problem that it’s not my particular cup of tea.          
            So why don’t I just leave the group? Since I’ve turned off my FB notifications, I don’t read half the posts – and when I do, I get annoyed, as you see. So instead of complaining about something that hundreds of mothers find useful, why don’t I just ship out?

            Two reasons:

            First of all, because there really are useful posts. And this is what the group is about! Lending support to mothers (“I have to go back to work and am dreading it. How have other mothers dealt with this?”) and providing useful and helpful information (“I think my five month old has bedbugs. What should I do?”).
            The second reason I stay in the group is because: What if…?

            What if my baby is pooping and puking and I can’t reach my doctor? (I’d probably call my mother-in-law.) What if I’m making a Shabbat meal and need a dessert recipe? (Not likely – I love kosher food blogs and trust the ones I know much more than I trust mothers I don’t know.) What if I need to decide on my next stroller (Amazon and Baby Gizmo reviews – love and trust.)
            Okay, it seems like I mostly don’t need it. But what if I do at some point? What if I need moral support when I have a second baby? What if I need advice on how to divide attention between two children? I’m sure I will. What if my baby really does get bedbugs (please God, no!)? And while I have online and in-person resources, there’s a certain comfort in knowing that this group that has grown so irritating, so jealousy and worry-inducing, is there should I need it. And hopefully I will then appreciate it for all its worth. But until that time comes, I don’t plan on turning my FB notifications back on.