Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is the work force supposed to accommodate feminist whims?

The other day, I read an article in a financial section of an Israeli newspaper directed at religious readers. The article talked about the "glass ceiling", and some religious businesswomen told about their experiences and perceptions. I take a real issue with a few things that they said, such as (translation from Hebrew – mine):

"The work force must understand the unique potential of women, and create a cultural change within it that will allow women to advance and fulfill their personal potential."

The truth is that no one out there owes you anything; no one has to "understand your uniqueness". As an employee in a competitive world, it's up to you to prove your value.

"The feminine sand clock is running out and cannot be turned back; a woman who misses out on the years when her children are young can never bring them back again." (So far, I completely agree) "The work force, though, must make a change of attitude, which must allow the turning back of that sand clock, and let women start anew at the age of 40. Then, when most of this woman's children are not so little anymore, and she can work the same hours as men, the job market must open the way for her, in contrast to the situation today."

So, basically, the attitude is as following: I will spend my 20 or so years of utmost vitality dedicating all or most of my time to my children (so far, so good), and then, at the age of 40 and beyond, the work force must be waiting to embrace me with open arms, despite the fact that there are many younger, ambitious candidates with fresher educations. Does that make sense? Not in a competitive world.

Sorry, ladies, but it doesn't work like that. As an employer, I probably wouldn't favor a 40-something woman with little to no work experience. Sure, if I interviewed her and thought she can be a valuable employee, I would hire her (though if I opted for someone with little experience, I probably would at least want them to be young and eager). But I certainly wouldn't see myself obligated to cater to her wishes and life goals, or to adjust myself to her biological clock. And if someone passed a legislation trying to force me to do just that, I would see it as extremely unfair and hindering the productivity of my business. Equality means everybody has a chance to prove themselves; what you ladies are talking about is mollycoddling.

Today, women have equality of opportunities. No one will deny them access to higher education, even in traditionally masculine fields; no one is supposed to refuse to interview them for jobs because they are women. But beyond that, ladies, you have to prove yourselves. And if you realize you are missing out on things along the way (like the precious years at home with your babies), then it's you who must reevaluate your priorities, not the rest of the world.

It goes without saying that I think it's extremely unfair a woman in her forties must feel pressured to go out and compete with fresh college graduates. I also believe the notion that a woman isn't needed at home after her children are out of babyhood is a completely false one. If home is the right place for mothers, it's beyond a doubt the best place for grandmothers as well. The logical next step of life for a mother of grown children wouldn't be to dive into full-time work in a competitive corporate world, but rather, to pursue creative outlets in her home, things she was unable to dedicate her time to when her children were younger. She will also have more time to open up the doors of her home to others, spend time with her older children, and serve in her community. If her husband is a few years older than her, he might be approaching retirement, or at least able to slow down at work, which will enable them to spend time and do various projects together as a couple. A mother of older children certainly isn't idle – she is simply beginning a less frenzied but equally exciting period in her life.

Of course, if you happen to be homeschooling and had your last baby at 40 years old, you will be kept very busy until retirement age anyway!

An even more "brilliant" feminist notion mentioned was that men should be mandatorily sent home early, so that they won't be able to pull longer hours, therefore favorably competing with mothers who hurry home to their children. Ladies, you are certainly determined to make logic and reason bend to your plans, rather than the other way around, aren't you? "I don't want to put in long hours, but I don't want anyone competing with me either; therefore, those who are able to do more work shouldn't be allowed to because it just wouldn't be fair!"

My mother is an engineer. She spent most of her working years in the USSR, a country that is no longer on the map. In the USSR, salaries for engineers (indeed, almost for everyone) were very low, and it virtually didn't matter whether you worked harder or for longer hours than your peers. Of course, this didn't make people want to work hard. It made them want to slack off. Did this principle of "equality" provide a better economical model? No. It simply didn't work. Healthy, real-life competition is a cornerstone of good economics.

Finally, let's not forget those hard-working men who put in long hours without complaining. Some do that because they are competitive by nature and want to be on top of things. Others do it because it's simply the only way to survive in the field they happen to be in. Does it come at an expense of time they could have been spending at home with their wife and children? Certainly. But they do what needs to be done to provide for their families, without demanding that everyone else do back flips in order to accommodate their preferences. They also don't get all that hype about "fulfilling your potential"; most men work because they have to work and that's it. Working has always been hard, ever since it was defined in the Bible as a curse of "toiling by the sweat of your brow". It's only the feminists that want to try and make us forget it. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Guarding our marriages

If you believe in being under the leadership of your husband, in humbly honoring his requests and accepting his authority, your point of view and the way you conduct yourself in marriage will inevitably come under attack.

The source of negativity might be found in unmarried friends (in particular if you are a young woman), divorced people, older people who have never been married due to character issues and refuse to acknowledge they might have made mistakes, married people who are envious of the harmony in your marriage and at the same time contemptuous of the effort you put into it. To put it simply, it's everywhere. Marriage and family are those precious values we must be so careful to guard.

The poisonous message will imply that you ought to always have your way, and that your husband should always go out of his way to do things for you. And I don't mean the normal, natural, kind things that husbands do for their wives. I mean all sorts of extravagant ideas. I have had people tell me that my husband must always drive me for errands and medical check-ups, even though he works 12-15 hours a day and I am perfectly capable of going by bus (even though, admittedly, it takes more time). I have heard stay-at-home moms boasting of how they "always hand the kids to the husband the moment he comes home", because they "can't stand being with them anymore after a whole day" – even though the husband, of course, spent the day working hard outside the home and needs to relax.

There will be people looking with disdain on small things you do for your husband, such as ironing his shirts and packing his lunch. They will try to make you feel like a drudge because you are trying to humbly serve your husband. They will try to claim he ought to step in and do an equal share of the housework, even though he hardly spends any time at home.

It particularly annoys me when young or older unmarried people try to give me (entirely unsolicited) advice about how I should treat my husband, which ever and always consists of confronting him about every little thing, of "standing my ground", regardless the consequences. I do want to think that the people handing out such advice have my best interests in heart, but sometimes it's just hard to believe.

Unfortunately, women have the tendency to talk about various situations in their marriages either with people who have difficulty to evaluate the situation objectively – such as parents and friends, who out of sympathy with you might ignite a conflict over something that isn't even worth speaking of – or even idle people who might try to set you against your husband just because they want to watch some action. Personally I believe conflict should be resolved either discreetly between spouses, or with the help of a neutral counselor who won't automatically take sides. 

There are people who believe pride has higher value than the most precious human relationship you will have on this earth – your marriage. They might butt in unwanted, saying things such as "what do you mean, you can't go and hang out right now because you must wash the dishes? Make your husband do this, he can wash the dishes once in a while!"

Of course it's true that a husband can do the dishes once in a while, but that's entirely beside the point. Family dynamics are different in each case. Perhaps we're talking about a husband who despises doing the dishes, and the wife was OK with it until she was goaded by someone who "didn't want to see her taken advantage of". It's not a question of justice, of it being "fair" that he should do the dishes sometimes. It just isn't anybody else's business. The wife's job is to set out and protect the family harmony from intruders.  

Before you take such advice to heart, look at the well-wishers who spread it. Are they married? Are their marriages harmonious and happy? Does the husband take a proper place of leadership and honor? Are they raising, or have they raised good children? Do the children respect their father? In many cases, the answer to at least one of these questions will be negative.

Aside from our relationship with God, our marriage is the most important relationship we will have. It comes before our personal ambitions, our pride, our wish to look good in the eyes of other people. Before friends, siblings, parents, even before our children. Zealously guarding your marriage and the privacy of your relationship with your husband might annoy some people at first, but it will bring respect, stability and trust into your home, and ultimately, it will be for the best of everyone involved. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Unassisted childbirth

I think hardly any discussion about giving birth can be complete without mentioning at least a couple of anecdotes about unassisted births – "parking lot births", "traffic jam births", "cleaning-the-floor-thinking-there's-still-time births". Those are usually mentioned in humorous context, complete with panicky husbands vowing to tear off to the hospital next time as soon as there is a first sign of contractions. There are also, however, women for whom unassisted birth is a conscious choice.

When I first heard about women opting to have their babies at home, unattended by either doctor or midwife, the whole concept sounded awfully risky to me. Also, as someone who had never given birth before, I was highly doubtful of my own capability to give birth naturally. Only later, after my daughter was born, I told myself "yes, I probably could have done this on my own"; although I must say the midwives who attended my delivery were sincerely kind, caring, motherly older women who were very attentive to my wishes, and having them there was very comforting and reassuring. Once the baby was in my arms I was hugged and kissed by them and told how great I did and how amazing I was (although, I must say, I believe it's them who were amazing). They told me it's rare to attend a drug-free, active and peaceful birth, because most women opt to have an epidural without even considering another option. The excitement for us clearly shone in their faces, even though they, of course, deliver babies every day and clearly had many years of experience under their belts. I can only hope I fall under the care of such fantastic midwives this time, too.

I do support midwifery; midwives were present in all traditional cultures. They were usually familiar with the expectant mother, and assisted her in her own home. That's the downside of hospital births here: unless you pay for a private midwife, the ones attending your birth will be strangers. You never know who will happen to be on duty on that particular shift. You may get lucky, like I did last time – or, sadly, you might have to fight to give birth peacefully and naturally in spite of unnecessary interference. I have read some horror stories on the internet (I must say that's not a very wise move for an expectant mother) about really traumatic interference which prompted women to seek unassisted birth in the future, because of the insensitive way they were treated during birth, regardless of how safe or unsafe they believe it might be.

Anyway, I do believe that women ought to educate themselves on the matter of unassisted childbirth, even if they, like me, think they will probably never attempt one. The simple knowledge that most likely, if you are healthy and your pregnancy proceeded as usual, you are capable of giving birth all on your own with no complications, eliminates a lot of the fear and worry associated with birth, increases your awareness of the reactions of your own body, and boosts your confidence. The medical staff are there to assist you, not to deliver your baby for you.

Every year, many women have unplanned unassisted births, because they don't make it to hospital on time, or because the midwife doesn't turn up on time in their home. The fear of such a scenario, in particular for women who plan to have a hospital birth, prompts them to go to the hospital way too soon, when the labor is just beginning and can easily be stalled in a strange, unfriendly environment where the woman is constantly poked and prodded – thus the "need" for so many artificial inductions and the resulting snowball of interventions which would have been wholly unnecessary if only the doctors had enough patience to step back, allow the woman time and space to be, and wait for things to progress at their own pace. Women have been having babies since the beginning of time; what an arrogant misconception it is to believe that only  the use of artificial hormones can help things roll!

Just an example we discussed this very morning during a neighborly chat: one woman told of her experience three months ago with her son. Labor started at home and she felt fine, contractions were entirely manageable while she was busy packing up the children's things. She went to the hospital when she believed it was time to go. In the hospital, she was forced to lie down for a prolonged session of monitoring. She was not allowed to change positions, which of course led to excruciating pain during contractions. Instead of allowing her to move, they insisted the only solution for her was to take an epidural (she was very surprised when I told her I was monitored while sitting on the birthing ball), which made her cease progressing and her labor had to be artificially sped up with pitocin. A perfect case of a normal birth process turned into a medical emergency for no reason at all. To add insult to injury, during the final stage of delivery the doctor mocked her for not being able to get the baby out fast enough: "what's your problem, you only have a 2,5 kilo baby there!" Her son arrived weighing 3,6 kilos. So much for professional accuracy. 

Not long ago, there appeared a short story in one of the Israeli newspapers about a woman who had her baby during a bus trip. She realized the baby was coming, asked the driver to stop, came off the bus, had the baby then and there, then got up, boarded the bus again and asked to be driven to a hospital for her check-ups. Not surprisingly, this woman recently arrived to Israel from Ethiopia, where the culture was so much more accepting of natural birth as an integral part of life, not an emergency. Had she panicked when she realized she won't make it to the hospital, I'm sure she and her baby would have been much worse off. She followed the natural leads of her body, relaxed, and let her baby arrive, while fear might have caused a fight or flight reaction which could lead to the birth process being stuck at a crucial stage.

I do believe it's probably better to be attended by a professional, at least during the final stages of delivery when help might be needed to safely guide the baby out. Emergencies do happen, and however few they are, it's worthwhile to minimize risks. However, it is comforting to know that most likely, even if you are stuck somewhere without reach of a hospital, birthing center or midwife, you can manage on your own and you and your baby will be fine. Today, the prevalent attitude is that if a woman doesn't arrive at the hospital on time something terrible will probably happen, which is not true in most of the cases.

My doctor recently told me that in Israel, there is now a shortage of medical students who are willing to specialize in obstetrics, which is considered less prestigious than other fields of expertise. The result is that there are less OB/GYNs. I actually think it's not such a bad thing. If there are fewer doctors, maybe the entire system will have to be re-evaluated, in a way that normal, straightforward births are given over to midwifery care and doctors only stand by for emergencies. If there simply aren't enough doctors to hover over every healthy woman who comes to have a baby and push unnecessary inductions and epidurals, I think ultimately it will be for the best of everyone involved.

A good place to start reading about unassisted childbirth is this website. Obviously I disagree with some things she says, such as the case against circumcision (as Orthodox Jews, we will never question the "necessity" of circumcision), but some of the stories are quite amazing. The main concept is something I agree with: in the vast majority of cases, birth will go most smoothly and peacefully when the laboring woman is left well alone, and the attendants, such as midwives and doctors, should take the position of gentle observance rather than pushy interference. During birth, a woman needs all that is comforting and reassuring.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer vacation

Now that the summer vacation is upon us, the parenting columns and magazines everywhere are full of advice on "getting through it", with titles such as "The Full Guide to Having a Kid in Your House, Something You Forgot How to Deal With During the School Year."

One article stated that, "while during most the year, we transfer the main responsibility of training our children to the school, during the summer vacation the ball is suddenly back in our field." Not a slightest hint was expressed regarding that maybe, just maybe, something is wrong with this picture. 

Soon, parents will be moaning how they "wish it was over already"; others are taking active campaigns for the shortening of the school holidays. After all, they claim, the holidays are tough on working parents – kindergartens and schools are suddenly on vacation, while those who aren't school workers must continue with their usual work schedule. Sure, there are summer camps, but they are usually only active during the day and only for a couple of weeks, which means that over a month remains to be filled. Perhaps a week or two of family vacation is reasonable; then parents are starting to become desperate, looking for alternatives such as grandparents, aunties, another summer camp, summer schools (which are usually very expensive), etc.

A neighbor of mine proudly told of her fantastic plan for the summer – she isn't going to send her younger children (ages 4-8) anywhere, but instead, she will leave them under the supervision of the older children while she's at work. For this, her older children will each get a hefty sum of money at the end of the summer which will still be "much less than she would have paid for a summer camp." Now, I don't want to offend anyone. Perhaps there is something I just don't understand, having grown up as an only child. But why should siblings have to be paid in order to spend time with each other?
(Sidenote: we happen to be talking about a very poor family in real financial trouble, I do think in their case the teenagers just ought to step up to the plate and help without expecting a reward in money.)

Another argument is that the summer vacation contributes to laziness. Articles and online discussions are heaping concern over the hearts of parents, talking about how destructive unsupervised leisure time can be, about teen crime, drinking, etc. I think, however, that this so-called laziness might have something to do with the kids' simply having their brains totally sponged out at school, where they are told what to do and not to do, when to talk and when to be silent, what to think and what not to think, for many hours every day while they sit through boring lessons. After school they have homework, private lessons, and various extracurricular activities. Many working parents are afraid, often rightly so, of leaving their children unsupervised, thus the encouragement to fill up their time with various activities; however, this way something very important is lost – the simply being and daydreaming, which leads to thought and creativity.

When I was a child, I was always under the supervision of my grandma, who lived with us. I'm not saying such a situation is ideal – it wouldn't work for many, perhaps most families, and of course children are better off raised by their parents. But the point is, I wasn't shipped off to a different activity every day. During the summers, from early childhood, I would often curl up for hours, make up stories and write them down – a favorite pastime I carried with me throughout the years, which now enriches my life and the life of my family. I made up imaginary countries and worlds and shared them with friends (some of whom are probably reading this right now and smiling while they remember!!). I read every book in the library. I explored the neighborhood. I climbed trees. The "doing nothing" was actually very important, though I didn't realize it then but just enjoyed the process, and I find it sad to see this being taken away from children. Constantly occupying every moment of their time leads them to being used to passive entertainment!

I'm just at the beginning of my parenting journey, and surely, I'm far, far, far from being perfect; however, I have a different vision for my family and my children. I want my children to be comfortable both with doing a lot and doing nothing; I want them to love both activity and quiet time; I would dearly love them to have the flexibility of mind which means they will never be bored. I'm not sure how to achieve this yet, but it's pretty obvious to me that the school system does not have the answer either.   

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Natural birth: not just a romantic ideal

While I was anticipating the birth of my first baby, I was repeatedly told by several people that not only it's nearly impossible to give birth without the aid of pain-relieving drugs, but that there was absolutely no reason to withstand such torture, apart from some vague irrational hippie back-to-earth ideals.

After doing a bit of research, together with my husband, I became firmly convinced that such beliefs, however common, are a dangerous illusion. Even simple common sense will tell that labor pains, however difficult to endure, are a natural part of the birth process and most likely won't lead to complications - while unnecessary medical interventions can and do.

I remember when we were studying human anatomy and physiology, one of the girls stated that when she has a baby, she will opt for a c-section because it looks much "safer" to her to have a fully controlled medical procedure than a normal birth where things can go unexpected. Obviously, she has not researched the statistics of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity associated with c-sections vs. regular births. Our teacher, who was an older, very experienced doctor and biochemist, gave her a stern look and said, "never opt for medical intervention when there's any way at all you can have a natural process." This is what I believe every decent doctor should tell his patients.

Every woman makes individual choices about how to give birth - and I'm a firm believer that said choices ought to be informed, made with no pressure, and truly weighing all the pros and cons.

Last week, I received a comment praising modern medical intervention and saying that, "giving birth with or without drugs honestly is a matter of romantic choice for a lot of women; it simply doesn't make any difference to a child's long-term, or even short-term, health."

To which I replied,

No one denies modern medicine has saved many, many lives of mothers and babies, and for that, we should be ever thankful. My first birth wasn't attended by a doctor, only midwives, but I was glad to know that should anything happen, I'm in a hospital and within quick reach of good doctors and any necessary help.

I think the key here is to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary interventions.

Giving birth without drugs isn't simply a romantic back-to-nature choice. It's a matter or keeping the mother alert and actively participating in the birth, which is statistically (and logically) associated with shorter labors, fewer cases of needing inductions and c-sections, more successful nursing and quicker postpartum recovery.

Inductions are seen as very routine practice around here. I was offered an induction simply because I was a few days "overdue" (a miscalculation that repeats itself this time, as my cycle isn't average) and my contractions slowed down. When I said I prefer to go home, wait (since I wasn't given any obvious medical reason against waiting), and let nature take its course, I encountered raised eyebrows. "Don't you want it to be over already?" I was asked. For me that was entirely missing the point - but not for the doctor, who had many more women to attend and wanted the delivery room free. He tried to act in his best interests, not mine.

Epidurals, inductions and c-sections are very staff-friendly. Doctors feel much more in control when they have the laboring woman hooked to pitocin and strapped to the bed with constant fetal monitoring, than to have her monitored while she's hopping on the birthing ball and the monitor keeps sliding off her belly. Of course if the woman can't freely move around and do things that make it easier for her, most likely the pain will become unbearable.

The doctors are emotionally detached from their patient, whom (at least here in Israel) they most likely don't know, have never seen before and will never see again. They don't care if their induction will lead to a rougher labor, tougher time nursing, more painful recovery, and possibly a c-section which might put the mother in higher risk during subsequent pregnancies. Doctors, generally, don't care about your future, they care about not getting a lawsuit.

Epidural and other forms of pain-relieving medication do carry risks. There are a few women who remain forever crippled because of badly performed epidurals, and there is a vast number of women who complain about back pains for months after an epidural. Inductions carry risks, and most certainly so do c-sections. All of the interventions above should be used sparingly, carefully, thoughtfully, and for purely medical reasons but that is not the case.

Doctors allow elective c-sections for no medical reasons. I'm not sure what the case is where you live, but here in Israel, hospitals are all government-funded and all get a hefty sum for each woman who delivers her baby there. Of course they are interested in a large number of deliveries in their hospital, which means abuse of inductions and c-sections. Personally I don't think c-sections for no medical reason should be allowed, just like no decent doctor would allow me to have my appendix take out just because I feel like it.

To read a great, informative post on the subject of natural birth, go here

What about home births? Theoretically, I think home births, when handled by an experienced midwife, are as safe as hospital births for the majority of women, with the caveat that I do believe a hospital should be readily accessible in case of unexpected complications. Home birth provides the advantage of safe, familiar environment, without the pressure of having to go somewhere, wondering whether you might be too early or too late. The safe environment of home might even lead to shorter duration of labor - the emotional factor plays a huge role in the process, and progress may simply be stalled in an unfamiliar, detached place with lots of strangers and many invasive checks. That was what happened to me, and I can't thank God enough for the good sense that prompted us to grab our things, insist on being checked out, go to a safe place (my in-laws' home) and wait for things to pick up on their own, rather than opt for chemical induction. 

Practically, a home birth isn't an option for us - hospital births are government-funded here and thus free, while hiring a private midwife and having a home birth would cost thousands of dollars. I truly can't think of a case when we would feel justified to go out of our way and pay so much money without being fully convinced it's necessary for my health. A natural birth is possible in a hospital too, though undoubtedly when you go there you have to firmly stand your ground, be informed, and question every "harmless" and "routine" intervention that is being offered to you. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Story of a bagel

Three years ago (amazing! Have I really been blogging for that long?) I shared a story about a woman who approached me at a bus station and gave me a fresh warm bagel when I was sad, tired and a bit desperate. You can read the story here.

The memory is still vivid in my mind. In those few short minutes, I felt as though someone bestowed the precious gift of friendship upon me – something to keep me going at the darkest moments. It's amazing how such little things can have such a tremendous impact on our soul. Especially the words she said have resounded in my ears during many times of fear, despair and humiliation:

"You look like such a wonderful person. Don't let anyone put you down."

I know her words were a message from God, because He ever and always wishes to strengthen, encourage and uplift us. I'm not saying the messages we get are always meant to make us feel good. But they always carry a positive, not a negative force. They are always made of hope, possibility, insistence, improvement. They might painfully shake us, but they remind us He never gives up on us.

Thus, it's easy enough to recognize the messages that are not from Him, usually spoken by people who surround us. If anyone in your life, anyone at all, deliberately makes you feel, and/or explicitly tells you that you are worthless; wicked; stupid; hopeless; crazy – that you are a terrible person, that you will never be able to make a difference, that you will never get up, shake off the dust and walk on – know that their message is not from God, and therefore not true, because He never wants us to drown in despair. He wants us to know there is always hope.

Speaking in Jewish terms, those negative messages are from yetzer ha-ra, the evil inclination. A rabbi I highly admire wrote in one of his books that the evil inclination first and foremost wants us to believe we are incapable of doing good, because then we will become prone to do evil.

We are all wonderful. Not perfect, certainly, but wondrously made in His image. We must treasure ourselves, not out of arrogance, but because we know He treasures us. Isn't that a precious gift?  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pregnancy ramblings

As the pregnancy ticker ticks further along, I suppose it's no wonder so many of my thoughts these days are swirling around the pregnancy and upcoming birth.

Overall it's such a perfect summer. Slow, lazy days, all the children on vacation, playing together. Me making so many wondrous discoveries along with my daughter, watching her grow, make her first steps, and learn to talk. It's so fascinating to watch her personality unfold more and more with every day that goes by. We're having such a wonderful time it's hard to imagine things are about to get even more wonderful through the addition of this new little one who is due to join us in a couple of months!

* I love my maternity clothes. By the way, most of my maternity clothes aren't officially labeled as such. I try to save up as much closet space as possible, so a lot of my clothes can be and have been comfortably worn during pregnancy, postpartum, while nursing, and beyond. I look for femininely draped styles which are loose at the tummy, stretchy items or wraps. I have skirts with wide elastic waistbands which fit equally well when I'm pregnant or not.

* This time around, I hope to prepare some meals to freeze before the baby arrives. Last time, I was blessed to receive the thoughtful gift of many homemade meals from practically everyone who lives on our street – but only a few of them were meatless. I plan to make items which freeze well and don't lose their taste after freezing, such as quiches, lasagna, and pizza. I'll look for more ideas in a month or so. Now that I know I tend to lose weight while nursing, I plan to eat well – really well, and as much nutritious healthy foods as possible. I started this pregnancy weighing less than first time around, and only recently stopped seeing all my ribs. I'd like to keep it that way.

* I so look forward to going through all the tiny baby things, washing them, and making space for them in the children's closet. We'll also need to air out the infant car seat, the pram, the bouncer and the mobiles. I already put in some extra stuffing into my nursing pillow as it got a bit deflated from extra use.

* This time, when I pack my hospital bag, I intend to take at least one nursing cover or little blanket with me. Last time around, I didn't think of that, which wasn't very convenient when visitors (some of them men) came by.

* So far, the baby has not turned – unlike last time when baby remained head down pretty much constantly since around 25 weeks. I realize I still have time, but I've been thinking about breech births a bit ever since my sister-in-law had one 7 months ago. I was so happy and proud of her that she avoided a c-section, despite the doctors' pressure. There was only one hospital in Israel that was ready to admit her for a regular birth, because she was a first-time Mom. I think another hospital or two do that for Moms who have already had one baby or more. But most hospitals will push for an automatic c-section. I don't know yet what the policy is in the hospital that would be my first choice. It's a religious hospital and most religious women try very hard to avoid c-sections because they think about future pregnancies, so I have hope. We'll find out if there's need to, and decide accordingly. I know it's also possible to help the baby turn by outside intervention. We have not yet looked at how safe this option is. Again, I do realize there's still plenty of time for the baby to turn and some babies do it at the very last moment.

* Speaking of time, my doctor refused to update the gestational age despite the medical evidence stating it should be updated, because it "would mess up the records". I'd be more worried about wrong records messing up the policy in the hospital where I eventually go to give birth, but hey, that's just me. Officially I'm 31 weeks along but I estimate I'm at least a week and most probably two weeks less, which means we won't even be expecting this baby to turn up before I'm at least 41 weeks along officially – and quite possibly more. Of course we might always be surprised. :o)

* I can't help but hope for a birth experience similar to my first one – beautiful, natural, magical, full of God's presence through and through… and healthy and uncomplicated. At the beginning of my first pregnancy, I was fully convinced it's impossible to give birth without the aid of epidural or other pain-relieving drugs. Or if you attempt it, I reasoned, you'd die of pain. I didn't pause to think how is it that humanity hasn't died out in all the generations preceding epidurals. :o) Thankfully, I have a thinker and a researcher for a husband – after the data we went through together, I wasn't just convinced I ought to at least try to go natural – I ended up doing the "impossible" natural birth and loving it. Believe it or not, it wasn't even the most painful experience I ever went through. Yes, labor was hard work, but all along, I didn't feel as though something wrong is happening to my body. It all felt natural and right. It's a bit hard to explain.

I also loved staying at the hospital during Shabbat. The staff and just about all the new mothers were religious (at least I didn't notice even one woman without a hair covering), and there was a beautiful Shabbat atmosphere. We had delicious meals, people shut off their cell phones, and there were no swarms of visitors – just the few who were within walking distance. Of course my husband was within walking distance, otherwise I might not have liked the arrangement quite so much. :o)  

* My goal is to constantly be with the baby from the moment of birth onward, and especially during the night – despite the well-wishers' advice that I should leave the baby with the nurses at night so I can "rest" (you know, it's really hard work when you have your baby in a bassinet by your bed – so you can constantly keep an eye and don't have to wonder whether the baby needs you right now - and all you have to do is relax,  nurse, change the occasional diaper, and sleep when your baby sleeps. Yes, having that tiny newborn by your side is really overtaxing). Last time, leaving my daughter with the nurses at night resulted in my right to exclusively breastfeed my baby being undermined – and after I learned this bitter lesson, I didn't separate from my baby for another moment. I do hope we can be adamant even in the blurry postpartum state, and remember that our baby is ours, not the hospital's, and no one can legally separate us against our will.

So, these are just some rambling thoughts from this expectant Mom. Expect another ramble sometime within the next two months!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marriage, communication and conflict

One of my readers sent me the following questions about marriage, and you can see my answers below. I'm posting this not to instruct anyone, as indeed I'm a young and not very experienced wife, but I thought sharing my perspective - and encouraging all you ladies to share yours - is a good idea.

What is the most challenging part of being married?

Marriage is a tremendous change, and so many things can be challenging for a young wife about this transition, both in the practical realm (homemaking) and in the spiritual. I personally believe that the most challenging part is leaving "me" behind and embracing "us". Adjusting to the needs of another person and accepting a husband's leadership. 

So much is now said about the crucial need to preserve one's individuality in marriage, to go on practicing your hobbies, seeing your friends, attaining your goals. Nothing is wrong with having friends or hobbies of course, but for a marriage to work the focus must shift entirely from "me" to "us". It may take a while and it may be difficult. Right now when I talk to my single friends I see an enormous difference in perspective. They don't understand why I must always consider the needs of my husband while making plans, while I don't understand how I could do otherwise. 

How do you keep the communication line open in your marriage since most men do not like to talk? 

Now, I'll make a confession. My husband and I don't fit the generalization of a silent husband and a chatty wife. My husband is very communicative, in fact more than me. It doesn't matter, however - in almost every couple there's someone less and someone more communicative, be it the husband or wife. I think it's highly important that both spouses accept communication is essential if you want to live together without tearing out your hair by fistfuls every day. If you are the one communicatively challenged, do make an effort to let your thoughts and feelings be known - at least about the important things (and even trivial little things can be important in marriage!).

If you are the more communicative side, do try to be forgiving of the other side's shortcomings in this area. It's wonderful to encourage the other side to express their feelings, but if it comes to pestering it might become extremely off-putting. Important conversations should be held one on one, in a pleasant atmosphere and when there's a leisure of time to talk, for example over a relaxed late dinner, or before your bedtime when the children are asleep - not when your husband is late for work, or when one or both of you are stressed out or extremely tired. Tiny little things can be easily blown out of proportions when you're bleary eyed with tiredness at 2 A.M. and talk them over and over, but if you just let go until morning you might see they were not that important after all. 

I believe the reason it is said most men "don't like to talk" is that men focus on the big picture, while women deal more with details - as a generalization. Even though my husband is a great talker, when he wants to he can have a very summarized, short conversation that covers all the basics in one minute - the typical, efficient manly communication. Many men believe you should only talk about what's truly important, instead of going chatty or delving into the secret depths of feelings. Personally I don't believe we must talk about everything. It's possible to just let go and forget about some things and it's alright.   

How do you handle conflict in a marriage?

Talk, and talk some more. When you are in conflict you must communicate openly and honestly, so that each one of you can express his or her views. Obviously it depends on the scale of the conflict, but if it's something you feel you can't just gloss over, then don't, or it will continue to eat at your heart and will come back to haunt you. Talk and reach compromise, and honor your husband's leadership. This can be challenging, it is challenging for me as much as it is for anyone else but it's a part of marriage - and life. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Jewish family: cultural context of birth control and divorce

Today I would like to jot down some thoughts on a contemporary phenomenon in the Jewish community, the soaring rates of divorce and artificial birth control, which are wrecking havoc in our homes.

Both divorce and birth control have always been the two "allowed undesirables", tolerated when there was no other choice. Birth control was practiced, generally, to avoid harm to the woman's health, and divorce was resorted to when all attempts to make peace failed. Because there are certain grey areas concerning both divorce and birth control and when those two are allowed, today we see a rising tide of both ruining marriages and preventing conception, even though the religious laws have remained largely unchanged.

For example there are people who say divorce rates are higher in the Jewish community because couples marry young, completely ignoring the fact that when marriage age was traditionally younger, divorce rates were actually much lower. People simply did all in their power to avoid divorce, instead of ruining their families for reasons such as "incompatibility" and "not feeling fulfilled".

Preventing conception, too, was practiced in certain circumstances, but it was never prevalent to deliberately, purposefully and continuously detach the intimate act in marriage from the possibility to create life. Today, most Orthodox rabbis are adamant that the first pregnancy, at least, should not be prevented for any but serious health reasons, yet many young couples clamor they must "get to know each other" and achieve certain financial goals. Marriage is thus turned into an arrangement of personal gratification. The knowledge that if you get married you must be ready to raise a family is in the process of being lost.

There's also a rising tide of people who no longer bother to find out where they stand according to halacha (Jewish Law), and no longer seek rabbinical advice, which might easily lead to practices that are strictly forbidden.

It also leads to situations when, if there's a young couple married for some time with no children, people gossip about them surely not wanting to have a baby instead of thinking that perhaps there might be a problem (after all, fertility is not to be taken for granted, even for young people), and praying for them to be blessed with children.

There's the letter of the law, which may say something is not strictly forbidden, and there's the Jewish spirit that has always seen family as one of the highest values and children as a blessing. In the past, no one was much interested in the letter of the law and in how far they can push it, but today, it seems people are very eager to do just that: to see how close they can come to being Westernized and secularized in their values, while still being considered Orthodox by the letter of the law.

It doesn't help that many modern Orthodox Jews go to secular universities where they are brainwashed that large families are bad for the economy, especially if the mother stays home and doesn't "contribute" by having a job. By all manners of twisted reasoning, they make us forget that we need more Jews, not less.

It always seemed so reckless to me when people talk about how many children they want, compared to how many rooms they have in the house and depending on when they want to complete their PhD. To me, it always seemed like tempting God's wrath. Don't get me wrong, I realize that the perspective of having a baby can be daunting, especially if you've just been introduced to the joys and burdens of motherhood in the first place and now have to think of letting another little one in your life. However the thought of rejecting a blessing should be daunting, too. We can't think we will be able to have another baby "later" whenever we want.

I've read a story about the rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zts"l, one of the greatest rabbis of Israel who sadly passed away recently. It said that one day, two couples came to see him for counseling on the matter of birth control. One was a woman who already had fourteen children and wanted more, but her husband felt it was too much. The other was a woman who had two children and had burst out crying, saying she can't possibly handle more. Before talking to the second woman, the rabbi in his wisdom let her meet the first one.  I can imagine they had quite a conversation. That surely gives a matter of perspective, doesn't it?   

Thursday, June 10, 2010

No, breastfeeding is not the real problem

Following my latest post on breastfeeding, where I commented on an article written by rabbi Shmuley Boteach regarding breastfeeding as a potential ruining factor for intimacy in marriage, several of you have sent me a link to this article. Thank you – I haven't seen it before, and it's good to read additional perspective from rabbi Boteach.

In the second article, rabbi Shmuley claims to be pro-breastfeeding and states that his wife has breastfed each of their nine children; however, he maintains that for some couples, breastfeeding is a source of tension and should be given up. If I may quote Michelle, who said it so well in the comments to my last post,  "I just
 have a difficult time understanding -- assuming there weren't undisclosed breastfeeding problems causing extra stress -- how the simple difference between feeding a baby from the breast, and feeding him from a bottle, really caused that much trouble in an otherwise healthy marriage." If we're talking about a healthy marriage, breastfeeding shouldn't be a hindrance. If the marriage has unresolved issues, bottle-feeding won't be the solution.

Once again, I take issue with some of the points the rabbi makes. For example, he lumps together breastfeeding and co-sleeping, pointing to a case where a one-year-old was sleeping with his mother and constantly waking during the night to nurse. Of course the mother was exhausted the next day. But why should the solution be weaning the baby altogether? If we're talking about a one-year-old, he probably eats a variety of solids already, and wakes up to nurse not because he's hungry. Perhaps there's a certain emotional need that needs to be resolved, and the frequency of night feedings can be reduced.

It's also understandable that the husband didn't appreciate always having to share the matrimonial bed with a baby. But co-sleeping is a parenting attitude which sometimes has nothing to do with breastfeeding, and obviously both husband and wife must agree on it. Personally I must say I'm very happy to have our bedroom just for the two of us, and none of us, including baby, could ever get a decent night's sleep on the rare occasions when the three of us had to share a bed (for example when we were away from home and there was no crib available). I know some families love co-sleeping, though. But in any case, co-sleeping can be given up without giving up breastfeeding.

Rabbi Boteach says that 
"many families are absolutely dependent on a wife’s income for their basic sustenance. So a few weeks after having a baby, a mom will often be forced to return to work." I think that's where our points of view radically differ. While the rabbi may not see it as abnormal that a mother must be separated from her baby just a few weeks after birth, I do. I can't imagine anything that would contribute more to postpartum depression and create a strain on marriage and the whole family than leaving your baby in the care of others when he or she is only a few weeks old. Breastfeeding is not the major issue here. Breastfeeding or not, the new mother must rest, recuperate, and just be with her baby. In many, many, many of the cases where the mother "must work", arrangements could actually be made for her to stay home. I believe any decent husband should go out of his way to allow the possibility for his wife to stay home with a new baby.

He goes further and says, 
"She will feel extremely guilty at not being able to breastfeed during the day. Should we dig in the knife by telling her that she is harming her children?" 

I think that for a mother who must leave her young baby against her will, the inability to breastfeed is just a part of her grief, a part that perhaps is defined most easily among all the joys she and her baby are missing out on, and which should have rightfully been theirs. I can only imagine the pain of a mother who so badly wants to breastfeed and just be with her baby, as she feels her milk dry up in her breasts because she is away from home during most of the day, and pumping just isn't enough to keep her supply going. I don't think I would have been able to breastfeed without my baby having a full, unrestricted access to the breast at any time of the day or night.

No, surely we aren't after the blood of mothers who weren't able to breastfeed, for whatever reason. Whenever I hear of a mother whose breastfeeding experience didn't go well, I feel nothing but sympathy. But I don't see how this comes into this discussion in the first place. I thought we were talking about mothers who can and do breastfeed, but it is somehow "detrimental" for their marriages.

Breastfeeding was always seen as something of exceeding importance in the Jewish tradition. Just an example from the Talmud: a widowed woman with a baby was not to get married until the child was two years or at least close to two years old (during which time she was presumably breastfeeding). The reason for this was that with marriage, there was a chance for a new pregnancy, which could diminish the woman's milk supply – and there was concern that the new husband won't provide alternative nourishing foods for a child that isn't his. A restriction on personal choices and freedom? Perhaps, but in that day people weren't expected to be so self-centered.

I also feel that the rabbi's advice to get a weekly babysitter, get away alone together at least once a year, etc, is very… how shall I put it? Not exactly applicable to every family. Not all of us can afford babysitters, and not all of us live close to their parents or to friends they could count on. Some of us have a very limited entertainment budget, and even have to account for the cost of gas. And I can imagine it gets more complicated as the family grows. Perhaps right now we could, theoretically, leave our little one with her grandma for a weekend gateway. But what do you do when you have nine children? Sometimes you must find alternative ways to recharge and connect. For some of us, watching a movie while eating popcorn in bed, or just taking a stroll around the block, is as close to a real date as we can get. We all must make the best of what we have and nurture our marriages the best we can. On this, I fully agree. It's vitally important to keep married love going.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Does breastfeeding ruin marriages?

I already read this article a year or two ago, but when I was sent the link again I had so many comments swirling in my head at once that I felt I'd better put them into writing.

The title is "Moms, Don't Forget to Feed Your Marriages", by rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an Orthodox Jewish author, television host, and father of nine children. Normally I have a lot of respect for rabbi Boteach; this time, however, I was seriously miffed by his presentation of breastfeeding as a factor that ruins marriages.


It's a known phenomenon that many married couples find it difficult to spend time alone after the birth of a child, and of course, this is true in any case, whether the baby is breastfed or not. I no longer breastfeed but it doesn't mean we can just go out on the spur of the moment – we still need to arrange for someone to watch the little one.


Rabbi Boteach describes a situation where "The baby was attached to his mother like a limb, and he even slept with her every night, consigning her husband to a different bedroom." Obviously, the issue in this case was co-sleeping, not breastfeeding. It's entirely possible to breastfeed without co-sleeping if one of the spouses is uncomfortable with it.


"I said, her obsession had turned one of her most attractive body parts into a feeding station, an attractive cafeteria rather than a scintillating piece of flesh."


Breasts were made to feed babies. To delight husbands, yes, but also to feed babies. Rabbi Boteach entirely ignores the many biblical references to breastfeeding, and the fact that in the Jewish tradition, it is considered normal to breastfeed a baby for two full years. Is breastfeeding unattractive? It's a matter of perspective, I suppose. My husband at least always found it endearing.


Breastfeeding is even compared to having an affair:


"Obviously, breast-feeding is not the same as carrying on an extramarital affair. But when a mother gives her breasts to her son and takes them away from her husband, the effect on the marriage can feel the same."


Again, renewing intimacy after the birth of a child is largely unrelated to breastfeeding. The very presence of an enormous new responsibility is what causes the tension. It's not the breasts that are "taken away" (I personally feel this is an immature distortion of the situation), it's the attention that could previously be devoted to the husband alone, and that's where we must look for a solution to the problem.


"If breast-feeding gets in the way of the marriage—if it means that a husband and wife never go out on dates, or that the mother is so tired from always waking up with the baby that she has no energy to ever be intimate with her husband—the child will probably end up worse off, however many colds or bouts with diarrhea he now avoids."


Again, I no longer breastfeed, but do we go out to dates more often? Not significantly. When you have children, some of the spontaneity is lost, and that's a part of life. You must find a way around it, not blame a natural physiological function such as breastfeeding. Oh and by the way, do you think there would be no sleepless nights without breastfeeding? I find such a misconception amazing when it comes from a father of nine. There's a period of time when baby must be fed during the night. When we were going through that period, I would wake up at night to a crying baby, take her out of her bassinet which was standing next to my bed, put her to my breast, kick back, relax, doze for twenty minutes or so, then put her down again and go back to sleep. I didn't need to stagger up in the middle of the night and prepare bottles. I never needed to wash and sterilize bottles.


And perhaps we couldn't go out spontaneously as a couple, but we could always pick up baby and be on the go, without worrying about bringing formula and how fast it would spoil – baby's food was always available. When she was hungry, we'd just stop the car and I'd nurse her. And I got many hours of relaxation during the day, simply because I could put up my feet and nurse my baby while sipping a glass of water, snacking and/or reading a book (something I don't imagine I could do while holding a bottle). I could nurse lying down. I could even doze off while nursing. The more I look at my entire breastfeeding experience (once the initial difficulties with latch-on were overcome), I see nothing but convenience and saving my energy. It would have been so much more of a hassle to bottle-feed.


By the way, I believe the author grossly underestimates the health benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding may do a lot more for a baby than "only" diminish chances for colds and diarrhea. Not that infant diarrhea is to be taken lightly, indeed it may lead to serious complications. And speaking of colds, the first time my baby got a cold/virus was shortly after she completely weaned from the breast. Coincidence? I don't think so. And by the way, would you like to take a guess as to when a mom is less frazzled, more energetic, and more in the mood for fun with her husband – when the little one is healthy, eats well and sleeps soundly, or when she is sick, constantly needs to be tended to, and wakes up multiple times at night with an ear infection or tummy aches? You can't exactly drop your baby off at the babysitter and go off on a date at a time of sickness! If breastfeeding means better health for baby, it means more relaxed time the couple can spend together, too.


"The crisis we have in America is not undernourished children, it is undernourished marriages."


I find this statement puzzling, considering how much junk the average kid consumes. But yes, many marriages are under a strain. Will giving the baby a bottle solve the problem? I find the concept frankly ridiculous.


"I believe that wives should cover up, even when they nurse their babies in their husband's presence.
I believe this same problem comes up when men witness childbirth up close. There are certain poses in which a husband should not see his wife."
Watching a baby nurse is not like watching childbirth. The actual process of childbirth is not very long and one can easily avoid watching it; breastfeeding takes hours in a day for many months, sometimes years. It's true that our sages said the husband should not look at the actual delivery. I agree with that (it's possible to be there for the entire labor without watching the delivery). Our sages never said such a thing about breastfeeding. I would never think to cover up in front of my husband.
Many parts of our body can serve both a utilitarian and romantic purpose. Think of our hands chopping up onions versus holding hands with our husband or performing a romantic massage in a candlelit room. Are we going to say our husbands should never see us chopping onions or mopping the floor? Is that off-putting, too?
Of course there should be time for romance. It's essential, it's often lacking, many of us are guilty for not finding the time. But it doesn't mean real-life functions should be banned – things like doing the laundry, washing the floors, and yes, nursing babies. We can't always see each other in a purely romantic light when we're living real life and raising a family. And when it comes to breastfeeding, I can think of no situation when breastfeeding per se would come between a husband and wife. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pursuits in the single years

"Anna, I love what you say, and am so inspired by much of it. But what would you think of wise, feminine (maternal, perhaps?) authority, for the benefit of both sexes--such as you could provide? No one would ask a talented young man to simply keep his opinions and his abilities within the family sphere, and I hate to see that asked of a young woman. My family is the most important thing in the world to me, second only to G-D, but it does seem a sorrowful thing not to make some genuine use of the strengths and talents He has given us, in order to help others in this afflicted and suffering world--in a way that creates real change. Yours from an admiring sister, Jenn"

I got this comment the other day and thought I would reply to it in a separate post, since it was made in reply to older post and I didn't want it to be lost in the thread.

I must admit I'm not sure I understand what precisely is meant here by feminine or maternal authority. Surely in a family both the father and mother are meant to be figures of authority, though the father is ultimately the leader. I have seen families where the father's authority was pushed aside and the mother dominated the scene, and on the contrary, families where the husband and father was so aggressively authoritative that his wife had practically no voice of her own. In both cases I didn't see a healthy family environment. A key factor that was lacking was that of both parents demonstrating respect to each other's authority, particularly in front of the children.

As to the difference in the application of talent between young men and young women, I have never said that young women must be confined in a way that would make them sorry for their lack of opportunities. It's true that the single years provide a leisure of time and possibilities which probably won't be repeated at any other stage of life. But this precious time must be used wisely.

The vast majority of young men and women will be eventually married and will become parents, and for many, it will happen sooner than they realize. That's why I'm puzzled by the modern attitude of not thinking about the prospect of marriage and children until it actually comes knocking at our door. When I talk to my single friends about their future as wives and mothers, I often get statements such as "I'm not even seeing anyone yet", or "I can't think about this right now, I have more pressing matters". I don't think such an attitude is right, because eventually, the highest ambition of these girls is to start a family, yet right now they are wasting years and years focusing entirely on things which will have nothing to do with wifehood and motherhood. They spend far too much time and money pursuing college educations and careers, and get emotionally involved with men who are clearly unfit for marriage. Somehow thinking ahead looks inappropriate and prudish, while it is in fact the most logical thing in the world.

So, what is it that I'm trying to say? Since both men and women ideally aspire to become husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, they must adequately prepare for such important tasks. For men, the preparation will include setting the foundation for providing for one's family – acquiring a profession, possibly accumulating some property and savings. I'm not saying a man must be rich when he marries. He might not even be well-off. But he must be prepared to provide for all the necessities of a wife and possibly, very soon future children. The practical side is far from being everything. A man must learn his duties as a husband, father and leader in a family, and his responsibility towards a wife and children.

For a woman, the tasks are mainly centered on supporting her husband, raising children and running the home. Therefore, her preparation is different – practically, she learns all that is concerned with household tasks and what it takes to keep a good home. She learns how to be wise with finances, how to stretch what she has and be content with what is available, and make the most of it. She learns how to provide adequate nutrition for her family and especially for herself, as a future mother. Here, again, I have seen opposite cases – of women who were so self-centered that they didn't think they ought to contribute anything at all to a household and wasted a lot of the hard-earned family money on trifles, and women who were so devoted that it came to self-denial and they didn't see fit to point out to the husband that skimping on food is inappropriate when there is an expectant or nursing mother in the picture. This ultimately resulted in harm done to herself and the child.

Spiritually, the aspiring wife learns what it means to be a help mate to her husband and a mother to children. For some lucky girls who come from good, stable families this spiritual preparation is almost soaked in by seeing the example of their parents. Some are misfortunately unprepared for marriage when they enter this sacred covenant. I consider myself among the latter – I did grasp the importance of being a wife, mother and homemaker before I was married, but I only started learning in my early twenties what I believe girls should be taught from their early teens. And still, you won't believe how helpful even those crumbs of knowledge had been. Everything I had to learn after marriage, was so much more difficult than it could have been for a single.

Not all the talents of a woman are directly related to being a wife and mother. Many of us have talents and interests which are apparently unrelated (though many of them may eventually come in handy while raising a family). Some women are artistic, others have particular interest in health and medicine, there are also those who are entrepreneurial and want to try a hand in running their own business. If they have time to actively pursue these talents at any point of their lives, it will most likely be during the single years. But even then, these pursuits must be seen in the light of her highest, most important calling of a wife and mother.

Let's say we have a woman who has always had a particular interest in physiology and in the human body. She also happens to be especially talented, and is prompted by all who know her to try to get accepted into medical school, without thinking what being a doctor, practically, means. By the way, I don't know about where you live, but here in Israel getting accepted into medical school is so difficult and so prestigious that many people try out for it just because they can. It's a sort of challenge which can be highly destructive for a person who undertakes it without proper consideration. Myself, I was told I ought to try out for medical school just because my grades were high enough to get me accepted. I never had any particular interest in becoming a doctor, but that sure seems like such a petty consideration, doesn't it?

But then, suppose this young woman goes to medical school, which takes her fast forward to ten years of exhausting studies (including specializing in a certain field), during which she has hardly a spare moment to think about anything but exams and internship, and during which, possibly, several young men who would make a great husband are denied because she "can't think of marriage at the moment", or perhaps she never even had the time to meet them. She must also pay a hefty sum for school, rent and possibly keeping a car, so she is very lucky if she avoided student debt. Let's assume she is fortunate, and when her studies are over and she is nearing her 30-th birthday one of those good men is still around. He wants to start a family, while she is just beginning her career. However she is already tired from the race, and realizes that she, too, wants a family – and then she sees that the profession she chose is largely incompatible with family life as she envisioned it.

What happened to this woman? Her intentions were good, she had it all thought out, she just wanted to do some "real change" out there in the world while she had the time as a single. Generally speaking, she got bogged down in pursuing something that was interesting, socially acceptable and gratifying to her sense of self-worth, while forgetting that in the long run, what would make her truly fulfilled is something entirely different. Many women come to this sobering realization after they have already invested their single years in something that only drove them farther away from marriage and motherhood. They are either on the verge of being done with their studies, with heaps of debt upon their shoulders and realizing that now they have to work in order to pay off that debt, or they already launched a successful career, which means they are powerfully propelled forward and getting off the track is considered a "terrible waste".

I truly cannot and will not give instructions on what it is that a young woman should do, specifically, in that period as a single adult, be it a short time or many years. However, I believe any woman aspiring to be a wife would be wise to ask herself the following questions: am I investing my true vitality in something that will eventually be incompatible with being a wife and mother? Am I, under the pretext of being productive and doing good in my single years, putting my time in pursuits that might actually cause me to deny or postpone the prospect of marriage? Are my heart and mind free to lay aside anything I might be doing, and focus on the highest calling of wifehood and motherhood as soon as the Lord blesses me with such an opportunity?

Of course, both men and women should be prudent. For men, too, there are certain professions which are not exactly compatible with peaceful family life, and they must take it into consideration when choosing their path. Both men and women must be responsible with their money and avoid debt. However each should focus on the future demands which will be made of him or her as a husband or wife, and prepare accordingly..