Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Life with a newborn: a sample of my day

Shira is six weeks old, and we are finally getting into some sort of routine. Not anything rigid, but I'm starting to feel that there is some order in my days, and that I know pretty much what I can expect in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

Morning:

Wake up, usually because Shira is calling for Mommy's milk. Nurse baby. Usually, after a good morning meal, she will go down for a nice long nap - God be praised! After a night of disrupted sleep I normally don't get up very early but that's alright for now. Get dressed, fix hair, brush teeth and devote a few minutes to prayer.

Late morning - early afternoon:

Get going, and quickly, because I don't really know how much time I have. Eat breakfast. Take care of basic housework, such as dishes and laundry. Start preparations for dinner. Pack husband's lunch for the next day. If there is time, some cleaning (today I cleaned the surfaces and mopped the floors in our bedroom). Eat lunch - usually something simple, such as a sandwich, egg and salad, or leftovers from last night's dinner.

After lunch:

Nurse baby. While nursing, I usually read something uplifting, and/or pray. Sometimes I tell Shira, "now we are going to pray for Daddy". I have noticed that often she will calm down during prayer time.

Afternoon:

Shira is usually wide awake after her long nap, and doesn't like being left alone. I usually bathe her in the afternoon, then feed her again, and if she is fussy and/or her tummy is bothering her (which happens often), I hold her and/or give colic drops. When I need to get something done, she'll usually be happy in her bouncy seat for half an hour or so, as long as she can still see and hear Mom.

Early evening:

Waiting for Mr. T to come back from work. Fix my hair again, change my clothes if they were stained with leaking milk or baby spit up. Shira will eat every 2.5-3 hours. If she is content to remain in the bouncy seat for another half hour, I can do a bit of crocheting or answer an email or two. Or even better, squeeze in a shower.

Evening:

Dinner and time together with my husband. Each one of us takes turns watching the baby while the other showers (if I haven't showered earlier). Nurse baby. Prepare for bedtime.

Night:

Nurse baby. By this time she is getting tired, and will usually be content to fall asleep after a good big meal, which will usually sustain her for 4-5 hours, after which she will wake up, eat, and fall asleep again. I fall asleep again too.

Throughout the day:

Errands, phone calls, grocery shopping, changing diapers, blogging, feed the fish, and any little thing you can imagine that might need to be done here at home.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not enough hours in a day

I can't believe Shvat had passed already! I wish all my Jewish readers a very happy and blessed month of Adar. At the picture above, you can see a part of our Tu B'Shvat table (I'm a bit late in posting it, I know).

I imagine some of you have already started cleaning for Pesach (or simply spring cleaning), but around here, the most I can manage right now is to keep a livable home, catch up on laundry, wash the dishes and cook a simple meal now and then. I suppose that, when we join forces with my husband, we will be able to do more - but I won't even aim for perfection this year.

Still, I suppose I can consider myself lucky - Shira has developed a habit of taking a late morning/early afternoon nap. It's a time when I'm not yet tired enough to collapse too, so I have at least a couple of hours to catch up on housework every day.

I'm not too worried about having a perfect home right now. Like one wise lady pointed out, in six months the house will be there - but Shira, in her current adorable tiny baby phase, won't. They are little for such a very short time, and I just wish I could hold on to each precious moment.

And truly, there are hardly enough hours in a day to fully enjoy all the pleasures God has so generously given me; to hold and kiss and snuggle my baby; to open the doors and windows to sweet air and sunshine; to look forward to an evening with my husband; to spend quiet time in prayer and meditation. To read wonderful books, and to work with my hands. To hang laundry in my back yard, and listen to the birds sitting on our grape vine, happily chirping away. There's so much I eagerly anticipate when I open my eyes every morning, to be found right here at home with my loved ones.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Precious life

Through Karen's blog, I followed a link to this blog, written by a young woman named Myah. Myah's daughter, Faith Hope, had been prenatally diagnosed with anencephaly - which is a terminal condition - but despite the pressure to abort, Myah chose to carry the baby to term.

From Myah's blog:

"I am 23 years old, unmarried, in my last year of university, no maternity leave, and pregnant with a baby girl who was diagnosed with anencephaly - a birth defect considered to be "incompatible with life."

If anyone had an excuse to terminate their pregnancy, it was me. But I didn't, not because it's wrong, but because I love her. If I can do it then anyone can. You don't need to be strong. All it takes is love and faith in God."

I just couldn't help but cry when I read through some of this young mother's story. How incredibly hard this must be for her; yet she is blessed by a loving heart that told her it's better to give her baby all the life she can, even if it's just nine months in the womb and a short time outside it, to hold her baby, and love her - and mourn for her properly, thus opening a door for consolation and healing - than to pretend she never existed.

Like Karen said, none of us really know how much time we have with our precious children. Today, early in the morning, I was sitting up in my bed with Shira, nursing from my breast, snuggled close. Her sweet little head was resting in the curve of my arm. So very beautiful. So perfectly peaceful. I felt tears of joy and gratitude in my eyes. Little Shira has been in our arms for almost a month and a half now, and I cherish every moment.

On this earth, we all have only a limited time together with our loved ones. We don't know when we are going to be parted, and how long it will pass before we are joyously reunited in the World to Come. I'm so grateful for every day I spend with my dear beloved husband; our precious daughter; my sweet family and cherished friends. How thankful I am to love so much, and to be loved. Each treasured relationship is like a small reflection of God's immeasurable, boundless, limitless love for us all.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Married love: confronting reality

Another week begins, and in the snippets of time I find here and there throughout the day, I read two great articles on aish.com:

Keeping the spark alive in your marriage: a woman's guide

"How can I possibly keep the spark alive?" you ask. "The house is a mess, there are three kids pulling on my dress, spaghetti sauce is boiling over and I don't know how we're going to pay the electric bill. Who has time to even think about sparks?"

... Of course there's no time if creating sparks involves a major effort. But it doesn't need to. It begins with not despairing, with not being resigned to a "spark-less" existence. And with being realistic about how to create them.

... While there is clearly room for romantic evenings in every marriage -- I certainly don't want to discourage that -- we shouldn't feel that we have to wait for those rare moments to work on keeping our marriage alive. Or that there aren't many varied ways of keeping the flame burning. Each couple has to find their unique road.

Is married life the easy life?

... Marriage is for pleasure, not for comfort. If you want a comfortable life, stay single. On the other hand, if you want the pleasure of having a meaningful relationship, get married. Just remember, this pleasure comes with a price.

... So when you start having a "bumpy ride" in your relationship, don't be surprised. Expect it. Relationships are never easy -- even in the best marriages. There will always be things to work out, sacrifices to be made, and changes that we each must undertake to accommodate our spouse.

Highly recommended reading!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Our baby, our choices

A question to all the mothers out there: do you remember the time when you had been new Moms? Did you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the flow of inquiries and advice?

When we got discharged from the hospital and went home with our baby, many people were surprised we're not having any relatives to stay with us and help. To tell you the truth, after I gave birth I didn't want to see anyone but my husband (and our little darling, naturally!) for weeks. I felt I need the time and space to just be with my daughter, and learn things at my own pace.

When you are a new mother, more experienced women will almost undoubtedly comment on how you feed, change, bathe, dress and handle the baby, how your baby is growing and developing, and which improvements your parenting style could do with.

Something many older women disagree with: I feed my baby on demand. That doesn't mean I nurse every time she cries or gets fussy, because that would be every ten minutes! She might cry because she's wet, uncomfortable, or has gas in her little tummy; or simply because she needs to be held by Mom, bless her little heart - quite understandable for a one-month-old. But if she's showing obvious signs of hunger and nothing will calm her, she will eat, even if less time than usual passed since last feeding.

I keep hearing that my baby "needs" a pacifier every time she gets fussy. I'm not saying there's something inherently wrong with giving a pacifier. But I have noticed our baby usually does not cry "for no reason". She's hungry, or uncomfortable, or has colic; or sometimes she just needs to be held - and that's fine! She's a tiny baby, and she has to be secure of our presence. I want to know what she needs.

Also, I heard that the use of pacifiers might undermine breastfeeding. Not giving a pacifier is our decision, and I would expect it to be respected, especially when I've explained our reasoning numerous times.

There's nothing wrong with accepting advice. On my blog, many wonderful ladies have left me tons of valuable hints, tips and practical information. But there's this thin line between making information available to a new mother, and making her feel incompetent if she doesn't accept certain suggestions. Like a friend of mine once said to me, babies don't come with instruction manuals, and sometimes you just need to trust your instincts and figure out on your own what works for you and your baby.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

To Love, Honor and Vacuum: book review

I finished reading "To Love, Honor and Vacuum", and as planned, I'm posting a brief review. First, let me say that Sheila did a good job with a book. It's a great, practical survival guide for any wife and mom who is trying to maintain her sanity while keeping the house livable. The book also deals with deeper matters, such as the attitudes behind housework and why women define so much by it.

Many portions of the book are dedicated to how to get children to actively participate in household chores, which of course better suits families a bit older than mine: 1-month-old Shira can only "help" me by taking a nice long nap, and my husband, realistically, has so little time off work that I use his help for more urgent matters (for example, holding the baby while I shower, so I won't feel guilty if she starts crying when I already have shampoo in my hair.)

The book is very well-organized, which makes it pleasant and easy to read. Each chapter is divided into smaller bits of well-definded ideas, which are presented in a clear and straightforward way.

Other important subjects covered are budgeting, promoting our spiritual well-being, and the ever-important issue of married love. There's also an appendix devoted to homeschooling families. I'm certain I will re-read this book as our family expands and we embark on new adventures in parenting.

I found it very helpful that at the end of each chapter, there's a short section encouraging the reader to think in-depth about what had just been discussed. This reminds me a bit of a school book, and I mean it in a good way.

I will be honest with you: the book is written from a thoroughly Christian perspective, so as an Orthodox Jew, I often found myself skipping paragraphs. Still, I think it contains a good bit of practical wisdom a busy wife and mother can benefit from.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Homebirthing in Israel

An interesting article on home birthing in Israel was published in the Israeli newspaper "7 days" last Friday. Planned home births used to be extremely rare to nonexistent in the past decades, but apparently, there is a new wave of mothers who feel that giving birth at home, for various reasons, is better for them and their babies.

Women describe feelings of helplessness, loneliness and frustration as they find themselves face-to-face with an uncaring establishment which routinely messes up perfectly normal births simply because they "ought" to progress faster, or because giving drugs for pain relief is more convenient for the delivery room staff.

In 2006, around 350 Israeli women chose to give birth at home. In 2007, this number nearly doubled. A research of the trend was recently published - the first of its kind in Israel which focuses not only on the risks attributed to home births, but on why mature, educated women would choose such a seemingly risky option.

"Epidrual is very convenient for the staff," - says one of the women who participated in the research, - "When one midwife is in charge of three rooms, she doesn't have the time, energy or desire to face women who scream, curse and lose control. It's easier and more pleasant to deal with a calm woman who pushes when being told." (translation mine)

Another reason for the many unnecessary interventions is rooted in doctors' fear of lawsuits. "They take a healthy woman, who arrives at the hospital to give birth, and tell her 'let's induce and give an epidural', and in ten minutes turn her into an intensive care patient with an i.v. and a needle in her back and a catheter for urine and blood pressure checks and monitoring."

That is precisely the attitude I experienced in the first hospital where I arrived, the day before I had Shira. The number of invasive checks and pressure to have various interventions were simply unbelievable - especially considering that the doctor himself admitted, when pressed, that I will most likely have a natural, straightforward birth within the next 24 hours if simply left alone. But they were in such a hurry to get it over and done with, that they got me in the delivery room without even saying anything, and then told me matter-of-factly "we're going to give you pitocin." We grabbed our belongings and made a narrow escape, but think of all the women in a similar situation who didn't.

When we refused pitocin, the doctor raised an eyebrow and asked, "why?"; can you see how backwards this is? There should be a better reason to mess up with a normal and natural birth process than why not!

Hospital authorities and Ministry of Health officials don't tire of warning against home births, and insist that hospital is the safest environment for mother and baby.

"Do we pressure women to get things going and don't allow natural processes to take place? In a way, yes. That's the price Western society pays in the effort to have a minimal number of complications and deaths."'


In order to register for the financial benefits she deserves by Israeli law, a woman who gave birth at home must present herself and her baby in a hospital within 24 hours after giving birth. Hospitals receive thousands of dollars from the government for each birth, even if it actually took place at home - while women don't get any refund for the expenses of home birth. Thus, a home birth is something not any Israeli woman can afford.

"The establishment is simply against home births," - comments one mother, - "that's why it tries to financially reinforce hospital births. We saved money to have a birth at home. It was an amazing, warm and loving experience. Many women think that home births are primitive. I believe that a hospital birth, with the methods they use, is truly primitive."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Falling in love through the blessing of children

I received a note from a young wife expecting her first baby; she told me that people say to her having a child has led many couples to divorce, because of the hardships of life with a little one. I wrote about this when I was pregnant with Shira, and I feel even more strongly now about what I said back then.

Please don't let anyone discourage you while you anticipate such a wonderful, beautiful, precious blessing. As a new mother I can tell you that yes, bringing a child into this world and adjusting to a new little one in your home is a challenge, but it's so worth it.

I think it's all about one's attitude towards marriage and family. In a marriage where each spouse only thinks of personal gain, and what they can get from the other, any circumstance that requires to put one's needs aside might easily result in unbearable strain on the marriage relationship. I believe it applies not only to welcoming a child, but also to changes such as illness, loss of employment, moving and so on.

To put it simply, children don't ruin marriages - but they definitely test our capability to stick together through thick and thin, which is impossible without a giving heart and a great deal of sacrificial love.

My husband's generous heart shone beautifully throughout my pregnancy. He displayed love, patience and devotion, constantly. When I struggled with morning sickness, he told me to let go of everything and just rest. When I fainted one Friday, he took care of all the preparations for Shabbat. He accompanied me to all the important check-ups, often having to make complicated arrangements at work for that. He was there throughout my labor, supporting and loving me every minute.

Now that we have a baby, I get to see and appreciate my husband's caring and giving heart even more. Every day when he goes to work, he tells me to rest and sleep; he never complains about lack of proper dinner, or about the floors not being mopped for weeks. He works hard, long hours, but instead of grumbling or bickering about who has the heavier load, he only thinks about how he can help.

Our little one started having colic recently, and sometimes she cries for hours, day and night. When my husband comes home, he doesn't say, "my shift is done"; he holds and soothes and comforts her, sometimes until late at night, so I can get some rest - even though he is the one who has to get up and go to work the next day. It warms my heart to see the patience and love flowing from him to our baby girl.

All this makes me feel even stronger that we are a team. The way my husband takes upon the joys and responsibilities of fatherhood makes me see him in a new angle, and love him deeply in the way of a new and very special bond. I thought I was in love with my husband when I married him, but it's nothing compared to how I love him now.

Having a child has blessed our marriage; I'm certain it will bless any marriage built on strong foundations of giving, caring, generous love. I hope you, too, fall even deeper in love with your dear husband in the upcoming months of your pregnancy and the birth of your precious baby.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Little Shira is one month old!

The first month of her life passed in a blink of an eye. It seems as though only yesterday, I stared at the tiny, beautiful baby girl that was placed in my arms, and exclaimed in delightful disbelief - how can it be? Did she really come out of me?! At the same time, it seems as though she has been here with us forever.

How much joy our little Miss brought into our lives; truly, I don't know what we did to be deserving of such a sweet, beautiful, precious gift.

How my life has been enriched - beyond measure! So many more reasons to smile; so many tiny little hugs, kisses and cuddles. So many lovely moments with my baby in my arms, at all times of day and night.

Our child is a whole, new, separate human being - not our property, and not an extension of us, but indeed a dear, cherished gift, given to us to treasure and guard for a limited period of time. And even now, as I look at the little baby cradled in my arms, I already anticipate the bittersweet moment of having, one day, to let go.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blessed times


Becoming a mother sent me on a path of sweet, quiet, gentle-paced days; the world may be bustling, but here, in my little corner of the word, I give in to the comforting rhythm of nursing my child, eating simple meals, doing laundry, washing the dishes, and tidying up just a little bit.

In the little snippets of time I have here and there throughout the day, I'm re-reading some of Laine's Letters. So inspiring. I encourage all you ladies to take a look at this one, Why I Love Homemaking:

"... I love homemaking because my time is my own. I dictate how my day will go and that is an awesome thing in this world. Many high paid executives do not have the freedom that I have almost every day.

... I love homemaking because I get to hang out my clothes on the line just the way my mother did and smell the sweet air in them when they come back in the house.

... I love homemaking because I can take full advantage of all the seasons. Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring never get by me. I enjoy each immensely.

... I love homemaking because I can kiss my kids thirty times a day if I want.

... I love homemaking because I get to be HOME.
I love homemaking because God called me to this job and I love it!!!!"

Sidenote: I hope all my Jewish readers had a good time celebrating Tu B'Shvat. I wish you all a most wonderful weekend, and hope to "talk" to you again soon.

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The milky way

My interest in breastfeeding began a long time before I was even married, so I thought that now is a good time to write a follow-up post on how we are doing in this area.

The first three days of my baby's life, a time most important to establishing breastfeeding, were spent in the hospital. My baby remained with me most of the time, and I tried to nurse her as much as possible, We had some problems with latch at first, but a brief counseling with a lactation consultant helped a lot.

At first, it was difficult for me to tell whether the baby is actually getting something, but I knew that during the first couple of days, I only have colostrum - which is priceless in its health benefits but isn't supposed to come in large quantities. Then on the day of our discharge, we were on our way home and I felt my breasts becoming increasingly fuller with every minute. By the time we reached home, my shirt was soaked through and I hurried to feed the baby.

Ever since, I have continued to leak on myself, my clothes, my bed, the baby, and anything that gets in the way. I use nursing pads but sometimes they get out of place when I sleep. I also leak "on the other side" during feedings.

On average, little Shira will nurse every 2-3 hours, but she doesn't have a rigid schedule. Sometimes she'll have a "nursing marathon" of every 1-1,5 hours, usually during the day, and sometimes she'll sleep 4-5 hours straight - at night, I welcome this as you can imagine, but during the day sometimes I wake her to feed if I feel I'm about to burst with milk.

We got her weighed last week, and so far, she's growing beautifully. I hope we can keep this up and nurse for a long time. Did you know that in Judaism, a woman is considered "nursing" until the child is two years old? Most women these days wean much earlier, but I thought it's nice to remember.

I love nursing. It's convenient - no bottles to mix, heat and wash; baby's food is always readily available, perfectly fresh and at just the right temperature. And I feel I bond with my child in such a special way while feeding her like this.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Things you can do to help your husband with work

A stay-at-home wife has plenty of opportunities to be an asset to her husband. Often, a woman who puts her efforts into helping her husband with his work, makes a wiser move financially than the one who enhances her own career, with all the work-related expenses. And no, I don't mean only those who have a family business - though it might be a wonderful option to have the entire family working together.

The very fact of having a "keeper of the gates" at home is emotionally uplifting to a hard-working man. As trivial as it may sound, if he knows he's coming back to a clean, pretty home, a hot meal on the table, and a cheerful, relaxed wife who isn't frazzled from her own day at work, it's a huge boost.

It's important to be content with what your husband makes, even if it is little. What man won't be put off by a wife who constantly grumbles about not being able to afford this or that? It's also important to remain cheerful and optimistic, even if your husband is between jobs, or there is a chance he might lose his job. A wife who trusts her husband to provide for the family boosts his confidence.

The stay-at-home wife can make sure her husband goes off to work, especially if he has an important meeting or a job interview, looking neat and clean. Some men, if they are busy and work long hours, will hardly have time to find a pair of matching socks, not to mention iron a shirt.

How about packing lunch for him? Packed lunches seem to have gone out of fashion, but doing this will usually mean your husband eats better and healthier than if he ate out every day. And it will save money. You can also include a little note of encouragement in his lunchbox, which will make him smile during the day.

If you are a stay-at-home wife, you can save your husband time and stress by doing all sorts of errands for him during the day, such as sending his mail or calling to schedule a doctor's appointment for him.

If your husband is currently looking for a job, you can help him search for employment options. Perhaps there are also things you can do that will directly help your husband, such as calling clients or looking up material online. I sometimes do translations for my husband - it's something I can do even though I don't understand much about his work.

And last but certainly not least, the stay-at-home wife can pray for her husband to have a successful day at work, or to find better employment options. I have taken upon myself to do so daily. These days, when so many people are losing their jobs, remaining prayerful is probably the most important thing you can do.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Beauty in late winter

Spring is not quite here yet, but the almond trees are already in blossom, and our little yard is covered with wild flowers. Today, I saw a tortoise creep out of hiding and feast on fresh leaves.

I remember this time last year, my sweetheart and I were planning our wedding. What a busy season it was, full of so much joyful anticipation. During one of those days, we came here, to look at the little house that would eventually become our home.

We didn't know that within a year from then, we would already have our little love, Shira, in our arms. What a precious blessing.

In two days, we'll have elections here. Everyone will have a day off work, and I look forward to having my dear husband here at home. Rest and relaxation in the middle of the week are a rare treat.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"There were no gas chambers", says Catholic Bishop

Furthermore, Bishop Richard Williamson claims that historical "evidence" points against six millions of Jews being murdered by Nazis, and instead offers the estimate of "only" 300,000.

As you can imagine, after reading this I'm sitting here with steam pouring out of my ears. Don't get me wrong - I know there's a body of Holocaust deniers and what I call, for lack of a better term, "Holocaust diminishers"; I have encountered them, debated with them - and dropped it.

Bishop Williamson denies being prejudiced against Jews, but it's clear that this is no little innocent historical discussion. Of course, the Holocaust isn't just about numbers, but about the cold-blooded, organized, well-established murder which was supposed to be The Final Solution. However, Williamson's interview was not about historical accuracy. It was an obvious attempt to downplay the magnitude of Holocaust - the latest, though not the first (and probably not the last) deliberate attempt to wipe Jews off the face of the earth.

I'm not sure what sort of "evidence" he is talking about, but if it has a degree of credibility similar to the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" - which Mr. Williamson believes to be authentic - what more can I say?

Can you do math?

There are approximately 5.5 millions of Jews currently living in Israel, of which 2.2 millions are Ashkenazi (of European descent). We're talking about hundreds of thousands of families. I don't know a single Ashkenazi family in Israel which had not sustained losses during the Holocaust. The majority of my extended family, for instance, was murdered - in gas chambers (we have eye witnesses). The simple logic of even a very rough estimate - without reading any documentation - will tell you that we're at a scale of millions here.

And that's just Israel. Worldwide, there are approximately 13 millions of Jews, about 80% of whom are Ashkenazi. To my knowledge, there are over 5 millions of Jews in the USA, the majority of them Ashkenazi. Many of them lost family members during the Holocaust as well, and can tell about it.

This, not counting the families which were wiped out entirely, with no one left to live and tell the truth.

From another article: "The Pope has twice visited synagogues, in the US and his native Germany, and sought to make amends with the Islamic world after a speech at Regensburg two years ago in which he appeared to suggest that Islam was inherently violent and irrational. However, he recently declared that inter-religious dialogue "in the strict sense of the word" between Christians, Jews and Muslims was "not possible".

To tell you the truth, I'm not so sure what precisely is meant here by "inter-religious dialogue". The most optimistic scenario I personally can come up with is "live and let live", and even that seems far too hopeful. I don't know why some of my fellow Jews naively expect the world, and especially institutions of other religions, to side with us and protect us - or even like us. We are supposed to be self-reliant. After all, "In every generation one rises up against us to destroy us, and the Holy One saves us from their hand".

We outlived Haman. We outlived the Inquisition. We outlived Hitler, and in every generation, we will continue to outlive the latest offspring of Amalek who attempts to eliminate us. We aren't supposed to grovel, and should stand up straight and proud. Until the true Final Solution - the coming of the Messiah.

Life after childbirth: getting back together as husband and wife

Several comments made lately here on the blog, and some emails I received, made me approach the delicate topic of intimacy after childbirth. Obviously, the intimate relationship between husband and wife is something very private, something that cannot be fully comprehended by anyone outside the relationship.

Everything changes for a woman after having a child. Her body, her mindset, her entire outlook - and also her relationship with her husband. All of a sudden, my husband and I are no longer just a couple - we're also parents to our little girl, which adds depth and meaning to our relationship. I feel I'm falling even deeper in love with my husband, in the new aspect of him being the father of my child.

Despite the many demands of new parenthood, it's important to reserve a space and time where it's just the two of us, as a couple. That's how we started out, and that is the core of our family. That is also what will remain once the children grow up and move on to have their own lives. Physical affection is an important part of the closest, most sacred relationship of marriage.

I know that the "conventional" advice is to wait six weeks after childbirth before becoming intimate again. I know it may happen much sooner for some couples. Orthodox Jews, however, wait until any trace of bleeding stops completely, and then another seven days. During that period, not only being together as husband and wife is forbidden, but any touch at all is out of the question, along with a number of other prohibitions such as sleeping in the same bed, eating from the same plate and passing objects from hand to hand.

Last time I mentioned these restrictions, I received a number of comments along the lines of "how horrible" and "I'm so glad I'm not Jewish". That was totally beside the point. I certainly don't advocate our practices for anyone who isn't Jewish. My post was purely informative.

Anyway, while an extended period of abstinence from all physical contact is certainly a challenge, and can even become frustrating, I believe it also has its benefits. Health reasons is perhaps the most obvious one. The restrictions on physical contact until some time after bleeding stops will allow full recovery with a good degree of certainty, and prevent an over-enthusiastic couple from inflicting accidental damage by being intimate again too soon.

There is also the issue of new demands a young mother faces. In the first few weeks after a baby is born, Mom barely has time for anything but caring for her little one. Sleep, food and showers are somehow squeezed in, but I can imagine it would be difficult to find time for romance. A young mother does need some time in which she focuses on bonding with her baby. A period of a few weeks when intimacy is unambiguously delayed goes a long way, I believe, in preventing unrealistic expectations and demands on the new parents. If there's a clear guideline on when to get back together as husband and wife, it saves a couple from confusion and wondering about whether they are "on schedule".

The prohibition of all physical contact may seem "radical", but when the husband and wife know there will be none, it spares the pressure of feeling obligated to try to find "other ways" of being intimate. I think we are all familiar with statements such as, "you know there are also other ways to have fun, right?" - well, it's only my opinion, but it seems to me there's something much more exciting in just waiting, and then getting "back together" with a sense of renewal and no restrictions.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An interesting view of contemporary feminism

Not long ago, I received via email the text of a lecture, which I found quite interesting. It was called, "What's Wrong and What's Right with Contemporary Feminism?", by Christina Hoff Sommers. The fascinating part about it was that the author is a feminist, yet she found the integrity to point out that the modern "women's movement" has taken - the way she put it - "a wrong turn".

"First, today's movement takes a very dim view of men; second, it wildly overstates the victim status of American women; and third, it is dogmatically attached to the view that men and women are essentially the same."

Personally, I wouldn't waste my time thinking how to "fix" feminism. The entire movement was wrong from the beginning, heavily leaning on Marxism, a recipe for social disaster. The only way, in my eyes, to truly ensure women are treated the way they deserve, is to fight for fair treatment of women the way God commanded. Because what counters His Word, cannot possibly be right.

Obviously, I'm speaking from a Jewish point of view. If we lived in a community ruled by Jewish Law, women would be protected the way our Law commands. I would much rather live under this protection, rooted in eternal, God-given commandments, than under those who try to make up arbitrary rules that may very quickly spin out of control. But obviously, if women shun the obligations of the Law, they cannot demand to be protected by it.

I understand that feminism probably didn't grow out of nowhere. There must have been men who abused their power and their role of leadership, and mistreated their wives and daughters. There are still such men out there. The right answer, in my eyes, would have been to make those men behave the way they should. If each Jewish men was reminded that he is supposed to love his wife as himself, and respect her more than himself, there would be no need to "protect" women. But feminists preferred to cast off masculine leadership altogether - with the disastrous consequences of broken society, ruined homes and marriages, and children who don't know their fathers.

I fail to see why the fair treatment of women - indeed, of any human being - should be necessarily associated with trying to erase the differences between men and women, disregard traditional femininity, and downplay the importance of wifehood and motherhood as a vocation.

Today, the talk about "oppression" of women in the Western world seems quite ridiculous to me. Women can study whatever they want, work at whatever field they choose, and generally, do whatever they like. But somehow, "women's movements" continue to complain, complain, complain.

"The dominant philosophy of today's women's movement is not equity feminism - but victim feminism. Victim feminists don't want to hear about the ways in which women have succeeded. They want to focus on and often invent new ways and perspectives in which women can be regarded as oppressed and subordinated to men."

Why? That way, it's much easier to get all sorts of special treatment that is attempted to be passed off as "equal rights".

"In doing research for my books, I looked carefully at some standard feminist claims about women and violence, depression, eating disorders, pay equity and education. What I found is that most - not all - but most of the victim statistics are, at best, misleading - at worst, completely inaccurate."

It's much easier to bully employers into funding extended maternity leave, than to address real abuse and mistreatment of women around the world. I'm not sure if any of my readers live in a country which silently hosts barbaric practices, such as female genital mutilation and murder of women who refuse to marry the men their family chose for them. Such things, unfortunately, happen in certain Muslim communities in Israel - and the authorities, which are normally quick to deny a man the right to see his children if his ex-wife so much as hints at the possibility of mistreatment, more often than not remain twiddling their thumbs.

"The plight of women is not improved by sexual politics and exaggeration - no matter how well-intentioned. Misrepresentation almost always clouds the true causes of suffering and provides obstacles to genuine ways of preventing it."

"To sum up so far: Contemporary feminism can be faulted for its irrational hostility to men, its recklessness with facts and statistics, and its inability to take seriously the possibility that the sexes are equal - but different."


If you are interested, you can read the original text here. It took me a couple of days to get through it, but I think it was worth the time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I won a giveaway!

... From a new (to me) recent blog find: Sheila's To Love, Honor and Vacuum. Sheila is the author of several books, and a couple of days ago, she emailed me with the gracious offer of sending me any book of hers I choose.

I chose To Love, Honor and Vacuum, which looks promising: "Do you feel harried? Taken for granted? Like you never have enough time in the day to get everything done that needs to get done, let alone anything that you actually want to do?"

I look forward to receiving and reading it, and once I'm finished, I hope to write a review, as time allows. In the meantime, I encourage you to stop by Sheila's blog, which has become one of my favorite online corners. Sheila writes about a variety of topics, from intimacy in marriage to sewing cloth sanitary pads for girls in Kenya.

It seems that I do a lot more reading than usual these days - I spend a considerable part of my time in a comfortable armchair, a nursing baby in one arm and my other hand flipping through a book. I'm now halfway through my third book in two weeks!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Don't want to be a pajama mama


This is a picture of me holding little Shira, on the day she was born. Now you all know how I look after two sleepless nights of contractions and labor, just a couple of hours after having given birth, and wearing a hospital nightdress :o)

I felt a dramatic difference on the day of my release, when I changed back into my own clothes, combed my hair, and put on some make-up. All of a sudden, I was a different person.

These days, when schedules are temporarily cast away as I care for my newborn around the clock, it can be sometimes tempting to remain lounging in my pajamas all day long - especially if I'm waiting for an opportunity to take a much needed nap. Still, I make it a priority to get dressed, wash my face and comb my hair first thing in the morning. It makes me feel so much more productive and put together. Before my husband comes home, I usually try to put on a touch of light make-up.

I feel that making an effort to look, at the very least, presentable, is a way to honor my husband, my little girl, myself, and any visitors that might stop by. I realize it might be easier for me now, with just one baby, but I do think that looking decent helps to preserve a sense of dignity.

... Days pass, like other moms here testified, in a blur, and nights, mornings and evenings blend together. I know each moment is precious and won't return, so I try to forget the unwashed floors and unfolded laundry.

At least we don't live off sandwiches or store-bought pizza - our wonderful neighbours brought enough food for a small army. With just the two of us, I think it will last at least a couple of weeks, until I hopefully settle into some sort of routine of simple cooking.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rooming in with my baby

This post is dedicated to my postpartum hospital stay, and the first few days of Shira's life. It does seem as though I mostly write about baby-related topics these days... which is, of course, understandable.

I think I have already mentioned that I was highly satisfied with how the birth process was handled at the hospital; the midwives were wonderful, and I was able to have the active, natural birth I wanted. I even had a volunteer doula who helped me with massage and breathing techniques.

However, I believe hospitals in general, and the one I chose in particular, still have a long way to go before they are anywhere near their "baby-friendly" and "breastfeeding-friendly" claims.

The hospital was supposed to encourage "rooming in", but our initial wishes to have the baby with me at all times were ignored at first, and our daughter was whisked off to nursery. That was early in the morning. After a couple of hours of recovery, I did get my baby back, but at night I was requested to leave her at the nursery again. The nurse, who just started her shift, promised someone would wake me up during the night to feed the baby. So I left my little one at her charge, and went off to try and get some sleep.

And let me tell you, it was in vain. I kept waking up, with a horrible feeling that something is missing. I felt a terrible emptiness without my baby. I tossed and turned until I fell into an uneasy sleep late at night.

Of course, when I woke, it was already morning. Despite the arrangement that was made earlier, no one called for me when it was time to feed the baby, and instead they had given her formula. When I confronted the nurse (the same one from the night before, as the shift didn't change yet), she mumbled something about me "not being clear" about what I had wanted. After I pointed out that there's a label on my baby's crib saying "breastfeeding ONLY - at night as well!", she said something along the lines of, "oh, but it's just one bottle, and you do need your sleep!"

(Now is a good time to mention that formula advertisments were plastered all over the nursery. I think it's actually illegal, but I didn't inquire further.)

Even worse, my baby was simply miserable when I finally took her to my room. She was restless. She looked as though she cried and cried for hours, and was neglected - which she probably was. I went to the reception and insisted to be transferred to another room, where my baby could stay with me during the night as well.

Turns out it isn't a very popular choice, and since there are three women in each room, they had to make a "match" between me and two other moms who wanted their babies to "room in" with them as well. Luckily for us, it was done, and for the next two days and two nights, I remained with my baby the entire time.

It was so much better. I could nurse her whenever she woke during the night; sure, there were two other babies in the room, but I didn't mind. I slept much better with my baby next to me than without her. I carried her in my womb for nine months, and nothing in the world makes more sense than remaining as close as possible during the first days and weeks after birth.

I'm so very happy I insisted on having my baby in the same room - despite the assertions of some well-meaning relatives that I'd better leave her at the nursery at night, because I "need my rest", and "it's not too bad if she gets formula a couple of times". When I said that early breastfeeding is highly important if I want to nurse exclusively, and that no one will care for my baby the way I do, I was told - "Oh, just wait. You might want to do this now, but I'll bet you won't feel the same way next time, when you already have a child at home. You'll be ready to do anything in order to get a break from caring for babies, even for a few days."

Well, one of the women who stayed in the room with me just gave birth to her sixth child, and she felt exactly the same way I did: how can you rest, when you know your baby might be crying in the nursery, all alone, and no one cares?

The routine of separating a newborn baby from his or her Mommy is one of the most illogical I ever knew, and in my opinion, it actually borders on cruelty. Next time, God willing, I will do anything in my power to avoid that. Remember: it's your baby, and despite various hospital regulations, no one has the legal right to take him or her away from you against your wishes. I wish I had been bold enough to say this from the start.