Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Days at home

A comment I received:

"This past week I have been home recovering from surgery; and truthfully, I thought I was going to go insane from being stuck at home this entire time. I was overjoyed to finally get out of the house and return to work tonight!

I do not know how women can find the sanity to stay at home all day but more power to you. I, for one, could not. If after just 4 days I am ready to bang my head against a wall, I can only imagine what doing that every day would do to me."

I certainly understand you; I would also go crazy after a few days without any fresh air and exercise. While I probably spend much more time at home than someone who works outside the home, being inside for days without seeing sunshine is an almost foolproof recipe for depression and frustration. However, I don't think that the only way not to be always stuck at home is to work full-time outside the home.

I doubt that in the past, women were locked up in their homes. Many more people than today lived in the country, and had large gardens that needed to be tended to. Many raised animals. Even in the city, having a house with a garden was much more common than today. Women weren't stuck in a tiny cubicle that is the typical modern apartment. I think that for at least a couple of hours a day, they were out there, pruning the rose bushes or feeding the chickens.

For me, today's morning included hanging the laundry in my back yard, working in the garden, and taking a slow walk to the grocery store and back with my baby. Of course, I'm blessed to live in a beautiful place with lovely scenery and fresh air, which calls for the enjoyment of being out of doors. We belong to a community which encourages spontaneous neighbourly visits. In crowded, polluted cities where people don't know their neighbours, the most common diversion might indeed be going to work and back, and friends are only found at work.

By the way, many employees, like my husband, hardly see the light of day because they work such long hours in polluted urban surroundings. I think that overall, I spend more time out of doors than my husband.

I understand that not all modern homemakers can live in remote rural places with small, close-knit communities. Not everyone can have a garden, however small. But there are always things one can do in order not to feel bored or isolated. Getting to know one's neighbours is a tradition that can and should be restored. Little things like a short trip to the library with your children can provide a pleasant and valuable break that will prevent the feeling of being cooped up.

We all need outlets - friendships, hobbies, activities. It helps to keep us sane. For some people, working outside the home becomes an "outlet" - usually for women, men normally look at their job as the means to earn money. My husband says that, if finances allowed, he would gladly stay home and dedicate most of his time to growing plants or home improvements.

To sum it up, there are more than just two options: either being stuck at home all day long, or working outside the home during most hours of the day. Valuable out of doors time for oursevles and our children includes a multitude of opportunities for learning, exercise, and fellowship.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The best job in the world

Being the mother of a new baby is anything but easy; it's probably one of the most demanding jobs in the world. But still, I believe my work is not half as stressful as my husband's.

Yes, I have to be available to attend to my baby's needs 24/7, but I don't have a mean-tempered boss and/or clients breathing down my neck. I don't have to compete with anyone, or worry that someone else might take my place.

My job as wife and Mom is largely unaffected by today's economical crisis. Yes, it might mean I pinch pennies, or go without new clothes for a while, but I don't have to worry I might lose my job because budget is low.

I nurse my baby, which means my daily routine includes frequent breaks of relaxing in an armchair with my little sweetheart in my arms, and a glass of water. It's a time of rest and often prayer. My husband, like most men, doesn't have this kind of luxury at his job.

If I'm very tired, or not feeling well, I can limit my activity to bare minimum. I don't have to always try to outperform myself. All that matters is that I'm here, with lots of love. My baby is delighted to see me even if it's noon and I'm still in my pajamas and my hair is a mess; which work place will give you that?

Taking care of my baby is fun. I get to spend every hour of the day with my daughter, which includes an unlimited amount of giggles, kisses and cuddles. Our husbands, more often than not, don't have a chance to spend so much time with their children.

How blessed we mothers are.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring

I know it's spring, by the amazing feeling of renewal that seems to be flowing through the very essence of my being. My mind is buzzing with so many ideas at once that it's difficult to settle down with just one, and I've been dancing around the house all morning.

There's no end to what I want to say, write, create, cook, plan, organize, do, and craft. There are so many places I would like to go to, and so many people - old and new friends - I can't wait to talk to.

My sweet baby is sleeping in her room. My house is starting to flourish, with diligent work. The furniture in our little living room was re-organized, and it seems so much more spacious now. I don't remember when life was so glorious already, and held so much promise for the future.

How thankful we must be, in these difficult times, to have not only all we need - food, clothes, a roof over our heads - and so much more, but to also be provided with hope, a cheerful spirit, the freedom to dream, and the knowledge in Whose hands we all rest.

Sunshine. Sweet, cool, fragrant wind. Good food, good books, good music. Family and friends. The many blessings of a sweet, simple, wonderful life.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pasta... lots of pasta

Months ago, my husband bought tons of pasta. There was a good deal on it, and we figured it's something that doesn't spoil fast. As it is, we still have a lot of pasta left, and since Pesach is just around the corner, it must be eaten before it's time to get rid of all the chametz.

So we have been eating lots and lots of pasta in the past few weeks. My husband discovered a good, very simple, very quick recipe for pasta sauce - recipe and illustration photo taken from here. We did make some modifications. See here:

Sweet and spicy pasta sauce (serves 4)

2 onions - chop and fry until golden
add 3 cloves of garlic
add 5 tbsps of tomato paste and
2 ripe tomatoes, thinly chopped
add 2 tbsps of sweet paprika
1 tbsp sugar
add a glass of boiling water and mix
salt and pepper to taste
(we also add a tbsp of chili sauce)

Cook your favorite pasta (approx. 2 cups dry) and mix.

It makes a quick and simple dinner. And with some luck, all that pasta will be gone before Pesach.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Musings of a sleepy Mom

Things have improved greatly, regarding my sanity, since Shira started sleeping through the night. All you Moms out there probably know how frustrating it is to try to fall asleep, knowing that in just 2-3 hours, you'll have to wake up again. Perhaps some people deal well with sleep deprivation, but a few weeks of it left me totally incapacitated and desperately trying to sneak a nap here and there whenever our little one slept during the day, or simply was willing to quietly be on her own.

These days, when Shira falls asleep at night, there's a fair chance I can look forward to 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. What a blessing. After a night of sound sleep, I can face almost anything. After a restless night, I'm discomposed and unproductive.

Still, at the end of a long day, I'm ready to crash when she does, and am extremely irritated if anyone or anything tries to keep me awake when I might be sleeping.

I can reason with myself about self-denial and tending to the needs of others, but a few restless days will quickly do me in, until I'm good for nothing. That's why, when I come to the midday dilemma of "housework or a nap?" I often choose the nap, and don't feel guilty about it.

Another important thing is to eat well. I used to be proud of myself because I didn't have time to sit down and eat a nutritious meal (yes, this is coming from someone with a degree in nutrition, if you can believe it), since I was so busy taking care of my baby and my home. Last week I looked in the mirror and was startled to see bones where I never saw them before. I didn't realize how rapidly I'm losing weight.

Then I caught myself and said, hey, adequate nutrition for a nursing mother has a double purpose – providing a good milk supply for the baby, and keeping Mom strong, cheerful and able to take care of herself and those she loves. Ever since, I have tried not to go hungry, and to eat wholesome, while often very simple, meals.

However selfless we might try to become, eating and sleeping is a priority.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A field trip 5 minutes from home

It poured yesterday, but I'm pretty sure it's the last truly rainy day we had in the season. Spring is here. Soon, the warm pajamas and sweaters will be put away to wait until next winter. Everything is covered in spring flowers, and the kitties are playfully curious. Before we know it, it will be stiflingly hot.
Last week, my husband took us to the nearest mountain top - the one which I see from my kitchen window every day. It was a slow and narrow climb. We saw some cyclamens growing by the roadside, some of them already wilted and plainly at the end of their season.
When we reached the mountain top, I was surprised to discover a tiny settlement - just a few caravans out there in the wilderness. Despite the humbleness of the dwellings, they were surprisingly well-cared for, and there were little patches of plants and flowers near each one. The people who lived there were taking a stroll and chatting with one another. There were many little ones, and much laughter.
We were immediately recognized as outsiders, and as we were standing on the edge of the settlement, some inquired what we are doing. We truthfully replied that we're just taking some photos of the sunset.

It was a gorgeous day. We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The love of home

The love of anything and everything connected with domesticity is common to women of all ages, generations, cultures, races, religions; characters, inclinations, hobbies and crucial life choices may differ. Women may spend almost all of their time, or just a few hours after work, at home. But rare is the woman who won't exchange recipes with her friends, who will resist taking a peek at a store that sells home decorations, who doesn't delight in new curtains, crisp linens or freshly washed floors.

Take a look at a typical women's magazine. Right next to interviews with high-ranked, power-centered career women, you'll see articles about how to decorate a table for the holidays, how to discipline your children, and of course, recipes, recipes and more recipes.

How about the ever-blooming interest in various crafts? Whenever I board a bus, I can notice at least one woman knitting or crocheting something. They make kippas for their husbands or sweethearts, tiny baby items, scarves, and more.

Sure, some women will claim that they never had any interest in the domestic arts. Some will go as far as saying that the interest in home and everything that has to do with it, is an oppressive patriarchal scheme designed to occupy women and keep them busy with trifles, so they won't have time or energy to enter the truly influential, high-paying, high-powered spheres. But no scheme could bring this satisfied glow onto a woman's face, when after a long, productive day, she observes her realm and sees clean floors, fresh linens, and a hot home-cooked meal on the table.

Some men, on the other hand, will be more domestically inclined. My husband loves cooking, baking, shopping, and dedicated much thought to home comforts. But the typical man, while he likes good meals and ironed shirts, does not have the "nesting" instinct which is so common with women.

There's a true, these days often lost, freedom in a woman who cheerfully delights in her home and dedicates her best efforts to it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fleeting moments

Shira's newborn-sized little outfits are now all packed away and waiting for the next addition to our family to be used again.

She's growing and changing so fast. Before I know it, I will look at her and not recognize the precious tiny soft bundle I held for the first time.

Cherish those moments. They go by so quickly.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Show and Tell Friday: crocheted baby blanket

It has been ages since I last participated in a Show and Tell on Kelli's blog, mainly because I seldom have any computer time on Fridays. But today I got up early, so I have an opportunity to share with you this baby blanket, which I started making before Shira was born. I finally finished it a few days ago, and I'm so happy with it.

I originally planned to make it in the blue-ish yarn only, but soon realized I don't have enough, and if you believe it, they ran out of it in my usual yarn supplies store too. So I was forced to introduce the second color; it turned out better than I expected. I used a pattern out of an old Russian knitting&crocheting magazine which used to belong to my Mom but found a home here with me when I got married. It has beautiful step-by-step guides to different stitches, and delightful illustrations. Hmm, here's an idea for another Show and Tell... if I ever have time on another Friday.

I can't wait to start my next project. Last time, I bought some beautiful wool and mohair yarn. It was on sale and I just couldn't pass it. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with it, but whatever it is, I know it will be wonderfully soft and warm.

Naturally, with a two-month-old around here, I have less time for crafts, but I don't think I could ever entirely give up crochet. Even a few stitches every day are so very relaxing and satisfying.

For more Show and Tells, visit Kelli.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Awakening

The little garden is overgrown with grass and wildflowers, but I know it will all dry up too soon, now that the rains are nearly over.
The pomegranate is already sprouting fresh new leaves.

So is one of the grape vines. In a couple of months, there will be grapes to harvest and eat, and if we have a rich bounty, perhaps we'll try our hand at making wine. The pear is presenting its first blossoms, too.

Spring is well under way.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Daddy


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I grew up without ever knowing my father. I'm so happy my daughter will have a better fate. She will never have to wonder who her father was; she has the amazing privilege of a loving Dad.
Our generation was most severely deprived when fatherhood, in too many families, was reduced to next to nothingness. So many children missed the security of being held in their father's arms; so many didn't have the model of good, solid, balanced family structure, with Mommy and Daddy united.
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It has never been so easy to file for divorce. It has never been so easy to flippantly break a family apart; yes, sometimes there are valid reasons for divorce, but in so many cases it's a temporary crisis that can be overcome. I've often heard the argument that in the past, many married couples felt they ought to stick together because of social pressure. You know what, it wouldn't hurt to have just a bit of pressure to stay together. If it can get a married couple through the tide and make them work on their marriage, then maybe it's worth it.
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I love this photo. Shira rests so securely. It's precious isn't it?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Our great potential at home

These days, I don't have much time to read blogs, but it's always such a treat when I can sneak a few minutes to visit Rhonda Jean. Rhonda, the way I got to know her through her writings, is such a wonderful example of an older, yet young in spirit, woman. She's intelligent, resourceful, full of energy, ever-growing, and an avid learner. Yesterday, I read the following encouraging lines on her blog:

"If I were a young wife now, with children to raise, I would be learning everything I could about how to do the work in my home without modern appliances... I would start mending clothes, I'd recycle and reuse everything I could. I'd start cooking from scratch with the intention of learning how to produce the most delicious and nutritious meals for the lowest cost.

If I were a young wife and mother now, I would take it upon myself to save every penny I could to pay off our debt. I would encourage my husband and children to economise, make do and learn to go without. My focus would be on the long-term health and prosperity of my family and I would hope to teach myself enough to give us the best chance in this tough economic climate.

There has never been a better time to know how to run a home efficiently. There has never been a more pressing need to know the skills of the homemaker. If you still need to learn a few things, you'd better get cracking, because what you learn soon and what you know now might mean make or break for your family."

Like Rhonda rightly noted, in the current economic crisis (which seems to be sweeping mercilessly all over the world) the value of a wise steward at home is rapidly rising. It's time for us wives and mothers to brush up all our skills, resources and education, and perfect our knowledge of homemaking.

Previously, it might have been cheaper to throw away a shirt and buy a new one because you never learned how to mend a button, or to throw away a good sturdy chair because it's scratched and you can't be bothered to repaint it; but if your husband is currently unemployed, or facing possible unemployment, or his salary was reduced, pinching pennies might be what enables your family to survive and thrive in the tough times.

A few days ago, one of you ladies asked me in the comments:

"Anna, did you get the guilt trip about wasting your education? I feel this one coming from my father, who doesn't yet know of my intentions of staying home after marriage. Might you have any advice for those of us who are single and might have to deal with that backlash in the near-ish future?"

There will always be those who criticize our life choices, and it's often difficult to deal with it when the discouragement flows from people near and dear to us, but as long as the value of our work at home is acknowledged by our husbands, and we work as a unit, anything else should matter very little.

Yes, eyebrows might be raised when a young, college-educated woman spends her days caring for children and running a household - and sees this not as some depressing transitional stage, but as her long-term vocation. But in these times, when our market is crashing and finding stable employment seems like a fickle prospect, it's more important than ever to channel our time and energy towards home, so we can become good stewards of our resources. It's especially important for young wives like me, who still have a lot to learn.

I can't afford to be disorganized. I can't afford to forget what I have in my home, what can and must be used, and which supplies must be replenished. I can't afford to be wasteful; a 4-year degree would certainly be a painful waste, but I'm far from looking at things that way just because I don't get a paycheck for my employment at home.

My knowledge of nutrition enables me to take better care of my family, and to be confident about the health choices we make. When food resources might become scarce, what I have learned will be priceless. Many degrees might be directly useful to the homemaker, and if not, the self-study and research skills you hopefully developed will be very useful too.

It's time to get going. There is still at least one room to be tidied, dinner to be started, and husband's lunch to be packed for tomorrow. There are ongoing projects of Pesach cleaning, organization, and sorting through a myriad of items. There's a sleeping baby who will soon wake up calling for Mommy's milk; to sum it up, there's a home that needs me. I wish you a wonderfully productive day!

Mrs. T

Monday, March 16, 2009

I want her to dream

As a child, I learned best not in a crowded classroom, where lessons were constantly disrupted by someone asking questions about something I understood long ago, but through reading and self-study. I was a book worm. At the beginning of each school year, I devoured all my new books, and there was no power on earth that could pull me off. During summer vacations, I ran to the library to exchange books every day, and the librarians looked at me incredulously. They couldn't believe I read so fast.

I was a shy child, constantly teased, and cannot say that being locked up with many other children for extended periods of time every day did me much good. I'm the type of child for whom, I believe, homeschooling would have been the best option. At least until I was over the age when children are often so cruel to one another when collected in large groups. For me, life began when I was out of the school gates, alone or with one or two good friends. I wasn't enrolled in too many after school activities, and this gave me quiet, leisurely time which is so important for the development of an independent mind.

I'm not sure whether Shira's personality will be anything like mine, but in case it is, I want her to have all the freedom in the world to read good books, to dream, to create, to watch the miniature, slow deatails of life, build imaginary worlds, and just stare into space - an activity which is seen as a terrible waste of time, when the child could be hurrying off to a ballet class, piano lesson, or basketball practice. But children need their own pace.

Today, people start suffering from burntout earlier and earlier. Those who don't feel capable of running the race, especially children, may sink into feelings of inadequacy and depression. Some children are very vibrant, very active, and love the school environment, or otherwise require constant stimulation. I loved the quiet.

Every morning, I stare into a pair of curious little eyes, open wide. Children are natural observers and learners. Yet I have met children, as young as 8 or 9, whose natural curiousity was stifled by an over-active presentation of grades, exams, and dry schoolbook facts. At an age when I explored my surroundings, climbed trees and rocks, and wrote my first fiction stories, they are content to idly sit and watch television or play computer games all day long.

I look forward to the opportunity, together with my little girl, to watch the world through child's eyes, and discover the many wonders I am perhaps oblivious to. To learn and grow together. I know it will be so much fun.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Our first anniversary

We celebrated our first anniversary last night - we thought that since we got married in Adar, that's when we should celebrate, even though technically a year hasn't quite passed yet. Anyway, we reached this very special mark of our first anniversary, and what a year it was! So much to look back on: getting to know each other, adjusting to life as a couple, moving (twice!), settling in our new home, and of course, pregnancy and the birth of our precious Shira.

Many say that the first year of marriage is the hardest one, and that's one of the reasons why Jewish men are commanded to spend as much time as possible with their new wives during the first year, to talk and get to know each other. I am deeply thankful for meeting and marrying my dear beloved husband, but it doesn't lessen the enormity of the adjustment I had to make in becoming a wife. And may I add, I'm not even anywhere near the end of the road to becoming the wife I believe my husband deserves.

As an anniversary gift, my husband - by my request - fixed up a bathroom cabinet for us. It might sound very un-glamorous, but after a year without a bathroom cabinet, you can imagine how happy I am to finally have one! He repaired and fixed it up all on his own, which makes it extra special. What about my gift? I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but I... cleaned the kitchen. Very thoroughly. It has been ages since I last did this, and it was what my husband wanted. If you have reached the limit of your budget for gift-giving, household projects that have been put off for a very long time can be a welcomed and practical gift.
I thought I would post a few photos of us, our wedding, and our sweet baby girl, but after discussing it with my husband we decided not to. We're currently in the process of re-evaluating where this blog is going, in the sense of publishing family pictures. The blog is more public than I ever imagined it would be when I first started it, two years ago. Every week, I notice an increase in the number of subscribers and visitors. Sweet people, from whom I've never heard before, write to me and tell me they have been following the blog for many months and praying for our family. A few times, the correspondence blossomed into true, precious friendship. It's so wonderful to finally meet in person and chat face-to-face, after months of writing to each other.

Can I find words to express my gratitude for such attention, kindness and generosity? To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what it is that makes this blog so much more popular than I thought it was going to be. I imagined it would be an almost private journal, with perhaps a few friends and relatives following. But as it is, I only know the identity of a minority of my readers. And even though I'm certain that most of my anonymous readers are silent friends who simply don't have the time to comment - just as I read many lovely blogs, and rarely have time to leave a note - recently I have had reason to suspect that some of the unidentified visitors aren't exactly well-wishers, to put it mildly.

At one point, I thought of making the blog private, like my dear friend Jewels had once done. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. Also, my pictures have been around ever since I started the blog, so I thought it would be pretty much pointless to take them off right now. You'll notice, however, that there's not even one picture of my husband. It's so lovely to share one's life through pictures. It feels almost like visiting with one another. But it's also important, so very important, to keep safe.

This explanation isn't precisely in tune with the happy headline of today's post, but I felt I ought to write a few words on the subject, after so many of you requested pictures of us and Shira. I wish everyone the loveliest week, and look forward to catching up with you.

Love,

Mrs. T

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quiet nights, colicky mornings

Recently, Shira started sleeping through the night. I didn't expect it at such an early age, and most certainly didn't push it. I think Shira's extended sleep might have something to do with the fact that usually, her poor tummy is bothering her throughout the evening, until she falls asleep absolutely exhausted. I tried all sorts of experiments with my diet, but so far, nothing helped.

I enjoy getting better sleep, of course, but the downside of it is that I wake up bursting with milk, and most often with milk already all over my pajamas and sheets. Shira, of course, is very hungry when she wakes, and I'm only too happy to feed her… and then, she immediately starts having symptoms of colic again!

Previously, she used to be very calm during most of the day, but now she's fussy nearly all day long. I think that perhaps she gets too much milk at once in the morning, when she drains my overflowing breasts.

I used to think that it's better not to wake her if she's sleeping, but now I'm not so sure. Perhaps it will be better for both of us if I wake her at least once at night and feed her, rather than wait until she wakes up on her own.

What do you, the more experienced nursing mommies, think?

Let me add that I just love, love, love nursing her. I really want it to work for us in the best way possible. Normally it's such a sweet time with my baby. Makes me hope I'll always have a little one to nurse for the next twenty years or so!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

College or marriage?

I received an email from a young lady who is facing a choice: should she marry the man who has been courting her these past two years, or should she first get a degree that would take another couple of years? To give you a bit of background, the two young people are committedly religious, practice a chaste courtship, and will be open to children from the point of marriage.

Here is my reply:

Congratulations to you on finding a good, responsible man who is serious about starting a family. Not an easy task these days! Congratulations also on your commitment to chastity - your future marriage will be so blessed later on. I will now get to answering your question, but I think you can already read the answer between the lines of your letter.

You wrote,

"He wants to know exactly how much longer I could see us courting, and how much longer we should wait for an engagement, and marriage. We both believe it may be sinful and frustrating to delay our vocation if we know it is what we are called for."

I heartily agree! If you and your young man have decided that you are heading in the direction of marriage - and this is something that should be talked through, and settled, between the two of you - I believe that waiting for a longer period of time than absolutely necessary is inadvisable. It's frustrating, it can lead to temptation and sin. Why take that risk?

You wrote, "I am going to Physician Assistant school in June, and it is a 2 1/2 year degree..." but also, "he [the intended future husband] envisions the same life I do: simple home life perhaps on a farm, I would stay at home and raise our children..."

I recommend that you ask yourself, and think about it thoroughly: why do you plan to spend several years of your life, and a considerable amount of money, pursuing a degree and profession that is seemingly incompatible with the way of life you and your intended husband envision for your future family?

You ask, "Should I go to school, knowing what I really want to do is get married and be a mother?.. Should I go to school, come out $80,000 in debt, only to then try to raise a family with a degree that took time and money to earn that I'll most likely never use?"

Again, I believe that if you re-read your question, you'll see that the answer is already there! Personally, I already had a degree when I met my husband. But if I met him before I started my degree, I would marry him without a second thought. I found a rare gem of a man who was (among his other excellent qualities) steady, responsible, and willing to provide for his wife and future children. I wouldn't risk the chance of losing him by putting off our marriage for a couple of years!

Fortunately for both of us, I was debt-free at the end of my years in university. Is it advisable to get in debt for a degree you say you'll most likely never use? I seriously doubt it. Even if you decide, or are forced by circumstances, to start earning money at some point of your life, the usefulness of a degree that would by then be more than several years old is, at best, doubtful if you have no experience in the profession you studied.

One woman who went to university with me was many years older than all of us. Her children were grown and she decided to get back, part-time, to the field she never worked at when she finished her degree twenty-something years ago. Nominally, she had a degree; but practically, to start working, she had to re-learn some things, and this took at least two years. Practically, it's almost as if she did the same degree twice!

The choice is yours, but I think you are already inclined to the decision I personally believe to be the wisest and most practical in your case. Good luck, and many blessings to you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Being open to life

[Not for very young readers]

Bethany, from "The Apple Cider Mill" blog, is doing a series of posts on Openness to Life. So far, I have greatly enjoyed reading both the posts and the comments, even though they, obviously, weren't written from a Jewish perspective (Bethany is Catholic). It has been a while since I read something so intelligent, graceful, and eloquent on the subject.

To read the first post, about abortion, click here. To read the second post, about contraception, click here.

Bethany most certainly ruffled some people's feathers, by saying that "The use of artificial contraception makes a mockery of the marital act. It poisons marriages. It hardens our hearts against being truly pro-life. It is taking a precious, beautiful gift from God, wresting it from His hands into our own power and desecrating that very gift."

However, I think that even those who were offended by Bethany's words, sense more truth in what she said than they would like to admit. I believe that few things can taint the beauty of married love like having to worry about its most natural, God-ordained consequence. And few sensations are more liberating than letting go of fear and giving it all up to Him.

The Jewish religion is not opposed to contraception for valid reasons. But what should be considered valid? A woman who needs to undergo chemotherapy in order to save her life? A family who went bankrupt? Not having a spare bedroom?.. Different rabbis could present a variety of opinions on this subject, and many Jews - even Orthodox - will use contraception without seeking a rabbi's counsel at all.

Which form of contraception can be considered acceptable is also a matter of discussion. Ironically, most rabbis are inclined to authorize, of all options available, the Pill and other methods of hormonal contraception. That is because barrier methods (such as the condom) lead to waste of seed - the sin of Onan - while with hormonal contraception, intercourse itself takes place in a non-hindered, natural way.

Personally, I see a very, very, very grave problem with that. The Pill is potentially abortifacient. It carries serious risks to women's health and future fertility. If a woman becomes pregnant while using the Pill, it carries a danger to the unborn baby. If she uses hormonal contraception while breastfeeding, it can affect her baby through milk, and it could also cause her milk supply to dwindle. I believe that eventually, Orthodox rabbis will be forced to see the many dangers of hormonal contraception, and will collectively rule against it.

Not long ago, I had a dream where I became the mother of another little girl. In the dream, Shira was only eleven months old. While this scenario is not very likely, it isn't at all unrealistic. It would be hypocritical to claim that I'm completely unconcerned by the possibility of having another child so soon. While my pregnancy and Shira's birth were wonderfully easy compared to what some women may experience, two pregnancies very close together do put a strain on a woman's body. Also, I love and cherish every day spent with my little darling, and each child born to us will be equally welcome and treasured, but will I be able to adequately care for two babies?

I know many new mothers, not just me, have thoughts such as these. But in the first month of Shira's life, I worried excessively about all the What Ifs of future, of marriage, of motherhood. I ended up feeling trapped, and when I realized I'm not even looking forward to being back together with my husband, I knew something was very seriously flawed in my way of thinking.

After talking about it, we decided to let go. Just let go, and trust in Him. And I wish I had words to express how wonderfully freeing it is to offer myself, my very life and every cell of my body, to His glory. No other resolution could have felt so natural and right.

Interestingly, in Hebrew, the words "rechem" (womb), and "rachamim" (mercy), have a common root. Somewhere I heard that those who close the womb, also close the door to God's mercy. While I don't know who is the author of this analogy, and therefore can't stand completely behind it, it sure gives matherial for thought.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Purim!

I wish a very happy Purim to all of us who will be celebrating this week. Prepared your mishloach manot yet?

Read this great, informative, well-written article about Purim.

Thanks so much for all the sweet comments and emails you left for me during the weekend. I so enjoyed and appreciated reading them all. I wish I had words to express just how I would love to have more time to reply sooner, and more extensively, to all the dears who have sent questions, and to participate more actively in the discussions here. But right now, with Shira so little, and with Pesach in view soon, my hands are literally full.

Yes, I can see all you Moms-to-many out there smiling and thinking, "Anna, just wait until more little ones come along!" - but for now, I'm still adjusting.

Speaking of, Shira slept through the night for the first time yesterday. So nice - the only drawback was that I woke up in the morning painfully engorged, with milk dripping all over my pajamas, just like when it first came in.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A few thoughts on ecological breastfeeding

I had never heard of ecological breastfeeding until one or two ladies commented here suggesting that I'm doing it. To tell you the truth, I didn't think about following a system or a certain parenting philosophy - I just did what seemed most natural, right, and workable with our baby.

The term "ecological", however, awoke my curiosity. Up until now, I associated the word "ecological" only with carbon output, water conservation, etc. So I did some reading about ecological breastfeeding, and it turns out that much of what we do - nursing on demand, no use of bottles or pacifiers, staying close to baby - is indeed part of the ecological breastfeeding approach.

Some of the "Seven Standards" of ecological breastfeeding, however, simply wouldn't work for me. For example, co-sleeping with my baby during the night. I'm not a light sleeper, and I might roll over in my sleep, which would make co-sleeping simply unsafe. Nursing during a daily nap sounds great, but my baby usually takes her long nap so early in the day that I'm not tired enough yet to fall asleep.

As for avoiding schedules, I think a more accurate guideline would be to avoid setting rigid, arbitrary schedules. I didn't dream of setting one so early, but Shira kind of put herself on a loose schedule on her own. And I think we all benefit, and everyone's needs are much better and easier met, thanks to having a simple daily rhythm.

From what I've read so far, it is implied that a baby will want to nurse, and should be nursed, very, very often to meet her emotional needs. However, my baby truly doesn't seem to want the breast for anything but food. I almost never unlatch her. I'm perfectly content to prolong this quiet time with her, and remain in my comfortable armchair or bed. But when she is done, she pushes the nipple out and won't take it again. She can be fussy because of various reasons, and if she isn't hungry, the breast will not comfort her - holding, walking, talking and singing will, though.

I do believe she is nursing just enough - she seems calm and happy throughout most of the day, and has normal, regular stools. So, either I'm missing something, or I didn't get a very ecological baby...

And finally, and I really, really hope this doesn't offend anyone, ecological breastfeeding seems - to my inexperienced, untrained eye - to be very focused on prolonging the period of postpartum infertility. It just seems a bit unnatural to me to think of breastfeeding mostly as birth control. Breastfeeding will naturally space births in most cases, but I don't believe this is supposed to be our primary consideration.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spring cleaning, Jewish style

In Jewish homes, spring cleaning - better known as Pesach or Passover cleaning - has an extra spin, because it focuses on locating and getting rid of chametz. Chametz, any products that may not be consumed during Pesach, and even traces of them, must be removed from one's house and car. This means Jewish housewives spend a considerable amount of time during spring hunting for that lone breadcrumb from six months ago.

These days, I can reasonably catch up on day-to-day tasks, such as dishes, laundry, garbage, watering the plants, fixing up simple meals, and changing the bedding. The challenge begins when we're talking about doing more than that. I am optimistic, however, and believe that with careful planning and organization, a bit done every day, and some help from my husband, our home can be kosher for Passover in due time.

Today, I sat down to write a cleaning to-do list for the different areas in our house. Cleaning-wise, I'm happy our house is so very small - we only have two bedrooms - though it does require lots and lots of creativity with our storage space. I'm pretty sure that as I begin, I will find more to do, and perhaps my husband will suggest things I forgot, but here is my initial list:

Our bedroom

- re-arrange closet and look for chametz in pockets, wipe shelves and drawers.
- re-arrange bedside tables and clean drawers.
- get bedside tables out of the room and clean behind them.
- wash floor.
- clean all surfaces.

Second bedroom

- check the food drawers and concentrate all chametz in one place. (Clarification - due to limited storage space in my kitchen, I store some of our stockpile in the second bedroom)
- clean drawers.
- clean shoes. (there might easily be traces of chametz on the soles)
- wash floor.
- clean all surfaces.

Living room

- vacuum all furniture, wash covers.
- move furniture and clean behind them.
- clean all drawers and surfaces.
- wash floor.
- prepare new tablecloth.

Kitchen (the biggest purging-for-Pesach challenge!)

- clean and re-arrange refrigerator and freezer, concentrate chametz in one place.
- re-arrange kitchen cabinets.
- clean behind and under the stove, microwave, and oven.
- clean under Shabbat hot plate.
- clean all surfaces and sink.
- wash trash can with boiling water and detergent.

Bathroom, toilet and utility room

- clean bathtub.
- clean bathroom sink.
- clean toilet.
- re-arrange utility room.

There's more!

- sweep and vacuum.
- wash floors.
- wash windows and mirrors.
- clean lamps and remove cobwebs. (For some reason spiders love our home, I clean out cobwebs every week or so)
- clean out the inside of our car.
- buy new toothbrushes. (There's traces of chametz too, you know)
- prepare clean bedding.
- get rid of clutter, junk and old papers!

So there... if I spread this over the next few weeks, it looks like a realistic plan for a busy new Mom, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Breastfeeding during pregnancy

Since Shira was born, several people urged me to start using birth control. The reasons suggested were various: my body needs time to recover after a pregnancy; having a baby and a child under two is nearly impossible to manage (I wonder, what about people who have twins then?) and finally, if I fall pregnant while breastfeeding, I will either run out of milk on my own, or must wean immediately.

Now, I'm not under an illusion that it's impossible to fall pregnant again while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding may reduce the chances of another pregnancy, but I have heard of more than enough women who became pregnant while breastfeeding, even exclusively, when their baby was still very small. I might find out I'm one of those very fertile women. And of course it would be very sad to wean my little Shira too soon, or to switch to formula. But is it true that breastfeeding during pregnancy is impossible?

From the La Leche League website:

"Relatives, friends and health care professionals may express doubts about breastfeeding while pregnant. Their concerns might include that you would be risking the health of your unborn baby. It may be reassuring to know that in a normal pregnancy there is no evidence that continuing to breastfeed will deprive your unborn child of necessary nutrients."

"Women who breastfeed while pregnant often find their milk supply decreases around the fourth or fifth month. If your breastfeeding baby is less than a year old, watch his weight gain to be sure he is getting enough to eat. It's also not uncommon for the flavor of your milk to change. These changes may prompt some older toddlers to nurse less often or to wean entirely."

My mother told me that when she got her period again (I was 7 months old), I immediately sensed the change in flavor of her milk, and liked it far less than before, and then gradually self-weaned. I'm not sure I can have any control over the flavor of my milk in case I get my period again, and/or become pregnant, but I heard there are some supplements that can boost milk supply. I plan to research this if need arises - I'm still very new to breastfeeding, as you know.

Obviously, being pregnant and nursing would put a strain on a woman's body, which is why adequate nutrition and proper rest become even more important. If I become pregnant when Shira isn't at all close to reasonable weaning age, I plan to make every effort to continue breastfeeding her during and even after pregnancy.

Once again, I will pass a question to you ladies: do any of you have experience of nursing an older baby while pregnant again? Did any of you nurse a newborn and an older sibling/s? How did it work out for you, and what recommendations can you give?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Back from an unexpected break


Hi ladies! I hope everyone's weekend was wonderful. My usual weekend blogging pause stretched a bit longer than usual this time, because of the fickleness of our internet connection. In retrospect, I can say this was a blessing - it's amazing how much more you can catch up on without the delightful distraction of internet.

All is well around here. We were blessed by a few very stormy, rainy days, which is such a blessing, considering how dry this winter has been. The water resources in Israel have dwindled to such extent that local agriculture is under threat.

We are preparing to celebrate Purim next week. To all my Jewish readers, I hope that the Fast of Esther goes easily for you. This year, I am released from it as a breastfeeding mother. After Purim is over, Pesach is not far off! I should be cleaning, but so far, I haven't managed even to compose a to-do list. Oh well.

Another event we are preparing to celebrate is our anniversary - yes, our very first anniversary of marriage! So very exciting. We were a bit doubtful as to when we should celebrate. You see, we got married in Adar Bet, which is an "extra" month added to the calendar every four years. This year, there is no Adar Bet. So should we celebrate in Adar? Or Nissan?.. If you're confused about the Hebrew calendar, consider a couple that got married on February the 29-th. Should they celebrate on February 28-th, March 1-st, or perhaps only every four years? Eventually we are probably going to mark our anniversary this month, even though technically, only 11 months have passed. We are not making any grand plans because Shira is so young, but I hope we can still do something sweet and special.

In the picture above, you can see a new addition to our living room - an aquarium, which holds some Rosy Barb fishies. So fun to watch them swim. I'm sure Shira will be delighted with them when she grows up a bit.

I will finish now, before the connection is gone again. So lovely to stop by and catch up with you all, and read all your lovely comments and emails. My apologies to all who wrote a while ago and haven't received a reply yet. I hope to have the chance to write soon, and in the meantime I remain,

Your friend,

Mrs. T