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?