Archive for February, 2009

What we REALLY need for baby

Around the time I gave birth to Beans (our first child), we began receiving a magazine in the mail called Parents.  We were in such a daze, so utterly sleep-deprived, blue (I was, anyway), and psychotic, that we actually thought this was a serious magazine.  But after a couple of months, it became clear to us that the articles were much more about products parents should buy than about mapping the choppy waters of first-time parenting.  (Parenting, it should be noted, is the name of another magazine, and one longer on substance than on product-pushing.)

We have come to the conclusion that first-time parents in America must be one of the most sought-after market shares in the commercial world.  They’re ignorant, vulnerable, stressed out, and looking for help wherever they can.  (At least we were.)  In short, First-time Parents = Suckers.

Seven years and three kids later, the Cap’n and I consider ourselves a little older and a little wiser.  In that time, we’ve moved twice, given away most of our baby things, and now only have a handful of odds and ends with which to furnish Bill’s babyhood.

We don’t miss all that stuff, and looking back now, realize how little of it we ever needed in the first place.  Here is a catalog of the stuff we had then, followed by what we actually think we need now:

Had then:
Carseat. Gotta have one of these.  It should meet minimum standards of safety, and that’s it.  Fancy brand names, upholstery, or other whistles-and-bells don’t matter.  For the forward-facing kind, we can probably get one without the cup-holders next time.
Crib. Tried to get the kids to sleep in it, with no luck.  There was no substitute for that warm piece of mattress next to Ima.  Besides, Dave Barry accurately states that cribs are for crying and going to the bathroom (and vomiting).  The car is where baby sleeps.
Bassinet. Borrowed one of these and returned it a few months later, practically unused.  Beans outgrew it before we could ever get her to sleep in it.
Baby-carriers. I wore our newborns in a sling, which made them feel squeezed together in the dark—a familiar feeling to a newborn.  But the Cap’n never got the knack and preferred the Baby Björn.  Once baby could hold her head up by herself and face out, she usually preferred it too.  From the time baby could sit up by herself, the backpack was the preferred mode of transportation for baby, with a sun/rain cover (very important in Massachusetts) and under-seat storage for diapers and wipes.
Stroller. Anyone with back problems is going to want one of these.  Ours was a fancy Italian one with pram option and a warm snap-on boot for winter.  As luxurious as it was supposed to be, it snagged on every blade of grass or crack in the sidewalk.  Something a little simpler and sturdier would have been better.
Play mat. This is a mat with arches over it from which to hang toys.  For a first child, or a second child whose elder sibling is not a good entertainer, this can keep baby occupied for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour (if baby manages to fall asleep playing).  It’s not necessary for Bill, who has three elder sisters to coo and dangle toys in his face.
Bouncy-seat. This was a good investment for us and was used by all three girls.  It was a metal frame with cloth covering holding a baby in a reclining position. It came with a toy bar and a vibrating feature to lull a fussy baby.  It took Beans and the others a while to get used to it, but it was usually good to plunk them into while we did dishes or a load of laundry.
Nursing pillow. This is a back-saver for the nursing mom (and probably of use to bottle-feeding parents too).  The more popular nursing pillow in my early nursing days was the C-shaped polyester-stuffed kind, but mine has loose filling which can be shaken to fill one end or the other of the pillow, elevating baby’s head on the side on which he’s nursing.
Changing table. I got one of these for free from another family in the States.  At the time I liked the formality of a place to change baby where baby was just the right height and I had storage space reserved for diapers, wipes, etc.  But we passed it on when we moved to Israel and wouldn’t have had room for it anyway, since there is barely enough room in a typical apartment here for closets (which are not built in as separate “rooms” as they are in the States, and therefore take up entire walls) and necessary furniture.
Baby bath tub. The kind that fasten onto the kitchen counter top with suction cups.  We used this once.  I found it more efficient to sponge bathe baby on the changing table until she was old enough to sit up in the bathtub.  This thing took up space and worse yet, it’s one of those things one really can’t pass on in the hygienically sensitive Western world.
Portable crib. As infants, the kids never had any interest in cribs, but when they were toddlers, the portable crib took on a whole new cache, and each in turn enjoyed sleeping in one either when we were on the road or when we had house guests and the child would give up her bed for someone else.
High chair. The Cap’n and I invested in what my parents called the Cadillac of high chairs when Beans was a baby.  It adjusts height-wise, tilts back for when baby falls asleep at the table (a breach of manners which happened with shocking frequency), and collapses to fit in a narrow space, out of the way.  But it also takes up about a square yard of floor space, is easily tripped over, and needs to be almost completely disassembled to be cleaned well.  If we had it to do over again, we would have bought a much simpler model, easier to clean.  Or even just a booster seat.
Baby swing. We borrowed one of these with a hand-crank for use on Shabbat.  It was great for a few minutes of entertainment, and sometimes for getting a fussy Beans to sleep, but when we returned it after she was done, we never borrowed it again for the other girls.  It took up too much space in our small condo, and we didn’t really miss it.
Booster seat. This is a great invention.  We got the kind that comes completely apart, straps and all, and when I want to clean it well, I disassemble it and throw the pieces in a warm, soapy bathtub for a good soak.  They come completely clean, reassemble in minutes, and it’s also extremely portable.  The tray isn’t as big as that of the high chair for playing with toys or crayons and paper, but it’s very serviceable nonetheless.
Diaper disposal system. We had one that took any garbage bag that fit.

Need now:
Carseat. This time around, we bought a rear-facing infant seat/carrier that clips into a stroller.  I’m not sure when we’ll use them together, but they were good-quality, second-hand and cheap.
Nursing pillow. I still have my faded-but-trusty one.
Baby rocking seat. Our old bouncy seat is long gone, but the Cap’n insisted we get something similar for Bill.  There are a couple of chain stores in Israel for baby things, one of which is called Doctor Baby.  The two baby chairs we had to choose from were the typical rectangular-shaped seat that reclines (separate adjustments for back and feet), or an oval-shaped seat that was displayed with the back upright and the footrest lowered, looking eerily similar to Dr. Evil’s chair in the Austin Powers movies.  We chose the rectangular chair, but the Cap’n has still dubbed it the Dr. (Evil) Baby seat.
Booster seat. We hung on to this and are glad we did.  A friend who had twins fed the babies in booster seats on the kitchen floor rather than investing in two high chairs.  Easy clean-up, easy on the budget.  (We still have the fancy high chair, too–not because we need it, but because it was so expensive.  I’ll eventually bring myself around to getting rid of it.)
Stroller. This is more so the Crunch girls can take Bill for walks and give me some relief.  The Cap’n and I wear Bill in the Björn when we take him anywhere, but the stroller will also be nice to have when he’s too heavy for the Björn.
Portable crib. This remains in storage for the time being (see my post on co-sleeping), but at some point perhaps I may transition him into it, then into the kids’ room to sleep.

For us, that was 15 items reduced to six.  (Clothing and diapers are non-negotiable, though the Cap’n likes to hold our newborns over the toilet several times a day.  He thinks it gets them used to the idea of using the toilet and saves the occasional diaper.  Infant potty training is big with him.)

There is very little that parents need to invest in, and some things on the market can be improvised with common household items.  We’ve created a bassinet by folding a blanket and putting it in the bottom of a rectangular laundry basket.  We’ve replaced the baby bath tub with a plastic laundry tub.  We’ve placed diaper changing kits on two of our four floors, containing diapers, wipes, and changing pads.  (Changing can take place on a bed, couch, or floor.)  Diapers can be thrown in a covered garbage bin which should be emptied frequently.  (Solid diaper waste can be dumped in the toilet before throwing away soiled diapers to spare the rest of the family from lingering noxious fumes.)

My overall message here is for parents to be conservative about what they spend on baby equipment.  It’s astounding the number of products invented and marketed to befuddled parents.  Rather than running out and buying the most elaborate equipment available, think about what you really need in a high chair, for example: What is it for?  What features are really necessary?  Where will it be used and stored (i.e. how much space does it take up?)  How easy is it to clean?  Is there anything simpler that could do the job just as well?  What do you think is a reasonable amount of money to spend on it?  Do you know anyone who has one to lend or sell for less money?  Ask a skilled veteran parent what they think of the model you’re considering and see what he or she says.

Children are expensive enough.  Better to put the money away for day school and college than to blow it on unnecessary baby equipment.

This post is based only on my experience and what I’ve seen other parents do.  Do you have any suggestions to help simplify the early child-equipping years?


Read Full Post »

English rant #11: Possession

In my post entitled “Thank you,” I made an annoying grammatical error.  Did anyone catch it?  I wrote, “[T]hank the person for their gift and don’t mention what you did with it.”  See it?

The word their is a plural possessive pronoun, as in belonging to them.  The word person is singular, and calls for a singular possessive pronoun, i.e. his or hers.  Now do you see it?

I was once a barmaid in a pub in England (a long story for another time.)  I had a gay manager who would sometimes confide in me his romantic woes.  Since he wasn’t “out” to everyone in the pub, he would talk about his relationship partner using they and their rather than the person’s name.  Since this was to protect his privacy, I consider it an excusable grammatical infraction.

But under normal circumstances, one should choose a side of the gender divide and stick with it when using possessive pronouns for an unknown person.  I understand that gender in English is limited to masculine and feminine, and that there is no neutral ground.  This being the case, I recommend to all speakers of English to come up with a plan for possessive pronouns and stick to it.  Here are two suggestions:
1. Stick with (sexist) tradition and treat masculine as neutral (using his for all unknown persons) and feminine only for known females.
2. Let the sexes sort themselves, with men using him and his for all unknown persons, and women using her and hers.

One person remains one person and needs the singular.  Work it out, people.

Read Full Post »

Sleeping with…Baby

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m not a terribly crunchy person.  I stand by this, though I recognize that there are certain choices I make in regard to mothering that might give one a different impression.

I have chosen to stay home as long as I had babies and toddlers in the house.  This has put me out of the work force for nearly a decade, but since I’m not in a fast-paced career field, I’m not worried.  Baruch Hashem, the Cap’n’s salary is enough to keep us fed, housed, and clothed, they’re panting for English teachers in Israel whenever I choose to go back, and my children are more important to me than other people’s.  Call me selfish.

I nurse my children exclusively.  While this means no formula, it doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally make a desperate effort to get an infant to take pumped breastmilk in a bottle, always with zero success.  I also nurse discreetly in public.  Women in the modesty-obsessed Orthodox world go off to other rooms, drape blankets over their shoulders, and turn their backs to company when they nurse.  While this is okay, I think it calls unnecessary attention to the fact that one is breastfeeding.  With appropriate clothing, one can nurse a baby without looking like one is nursing a baby, and keep right on living without interruption.  I was once holding baby Beans in the cloakroom at our shul in America when a man came up to talk to me.  We chatted for a moment, then he looked down and started to stroke Beans’s head gently.  “Is she sleeping?” he asked.  “No, she’s nursing,” I answered.  The man’s smile disappeared, he colored slightly, then excused himself.  (Note to self: When someone asks if your nursing baby is sleeping, you say YES.)

And my babies sleep in my bed.

This last one is a controversial issue.  In America, I was scolded by Beans’s pediatrician for doing Beans a “disservice” and not sleep-training (aka Ferberizing) her.  Here in Israel, too, co-sleeping seems to be rare.  The children’s health clinic nurse asked at what temperature “his room” is kept, making the assumption that Bill sleeps in a different room.  She gave us a SIDS talk in which she stated firmly that he should sleep on his back on a hard mattress, NOT with his mother.

In my opinion, the people who should sleep on their backs on hard mattresses far away from any comfort are convicted murderers.

Given my experience of nighttime parenting, I’ve never understood having baby sleep in a crib in another room.  My newborns wake up every two hours to eat, and somehow the room in which I sleep is always the coldest room in the house (great if I’m in bed, not great if I’m having to get out of bed multiple times per night).  If the baby is in the bed with me, I don’t have to get up at all; I simply plunk the little runt on the breast and go back to sleep.  Baby’s fed, warm, comfortable, and happy, and I’m not making regular trips in the cold to a crib somewhere to fetch a hungry little malcontent every few hours.

People ask all the time, “But don’t you worry about rolling over onto the baby and crushing it?”  No.  I’ve slept beside another human being for nearly nine years, and the Cap’n can attest that I have yet to roll over and crush him.  Don’t most adults know where the edge of the bed is, and successfully avoid falling out at night?  A baby is the same.  My friends who co-sleep with their babies agree with me that our awareness of the baby in the bed compromises the quality of our sleep to a degree, but isn’t that part of the experience of being a parent of a newborn?  Show me a mother who has crushed her baby in bed and I’ll show you a mother who went to bed inebriated.

This post is not intended to persuade people who are sold on cribs to give them up, but there are certain advantages to co-sleeping that are worth noting.  Babies breathe better when sleeping next to someone else who is breathing.  (This can help babies with apnea jump-start their own breathing.)  They settle down and go back to sleep faster.  They sleep on their backs and sides more often than babies who sleep in cribs and can roll over onto their stomachs.  And for mothers who work and are away from their babies for much of the day, co-sleeping can be a way to share closeness with their babies during the time they’re together.  (These ideas are articulated on the website of my own parenting gurus, the Sears family.  The article about co-sleeping is here.  Google “co sleeping baby advantages” for more information about the benefits of sleeping together for mother and baby.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I never planned to co-sleep with my babies.  When my in-laws came to visit before Beans was born, they took us out and bought a lovely cherry crib.  But the night Beans was born in the hospital, the Cap’n and I watched her, swaddled but wide awake, gazing at us with her large navy-blue eyes through the glass side of the bassinet, and couldn’t bear to have her sleep alone in a hospital-issue Pope-box.  The Cap’n lifted her out and gave her to me to cuddle in my capacious hospital bed, and the rest was history.

Whenever I encounter someone who tries to tell me that I’ve done something seriously wrong as a parent, that I’ve screwed up or was irresponsible (and believe me, co-sleeping has earned me lots of raised eyebrows and scoldings), I remember my American OB-GYN who gave me heaps of good advice in the years he cared for my health.  Perhaps the greatest thing he told me was that “The best parenting book you can read is the one you write yourself.”

Read Full Post »

Mashiach now?

The Jewish people know that the long wait for the Mashiach is full of hopes and disappointments.

There was Shabtai Tzvi, about a dozen just like him.  But he wasn’t the one.

There was the year Oreos became kosher.  No Mashiach.

For those of us from Newton, Mass., there was Julie’s Kitchen, a restaurant/takeout joint with scrumptious, gourmet-quality meat, dairy, and fish options.  Still no Mashiach.

All of these heralded new hope that our redeemer was nigh.  Yet he continues to tarry.

My latest hope comes with the Israeli deli meat brand Tirat 123: beef prosciutto.  Most Jews, especially those who eat only traditional Jewish cuisine, probably don’t fully appreciate the import of this.  Allow me to explain.

My earliest acquaintance with prosciutto was purely rhetorical.  My father, who had done a stint in the U.S. Navy, had had an Italian American friend who shared with him all kinds of Italian culinary wisdom, such as the fact that pasta e fagioli should be made thick enough for a spoon to stand in upright, a colander was called a macaroni-stay-water-go (according to his grandmother), and prosciutto should be sliced “so thin it’s only gotta one side.”

The first time I tasted prosciutto was at a Monterey, Calif., restaurant called the Whaling Station Inn.  The restaurant’s Italian menu had a number of appetizers, but my favorite was the wedge of cantaloupe melon served with a slice of prosciutto on top.  The combination of sweet and salty flavor was irresistible.

The problem, of course, is that prosciutto is ordinarily made from ham, and thus off limits for the last quarter of my life.  I cannot count the number of recipes I’ve purged from my pre-kosher days, or ruefully passed over, because prosciutto was an essential ingredient.

But no more.  Melon and prosciutto is back on the menu for summer Shabbat appetizers, Italian pasta salad (with basil and cherry tomatoes) now has a new ingredient, and deli sandwiches will never be hum-drum again.  I can’t wait to see what the latest edition of The Joy of Cooking suggests for prosciutto recipes.

Makes me want to burn a candle in the window.  Mashiach’s gotta be out there somewhere.

Read Full Post »

Inspired by the recent report of a spousal beheading in Buffalo, NY, I hereby present a double-post on a related theme:

I’ve only written a handful of letters to the editor in my life.  Something has to really bug me to get me to sit down at the computer and set out to prove someone else wrong.

One time when I actually sat down and went to town was after the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl z”lThe Boston Globe had crassly referred to his “decapitated head.”  I and everyone else know what they meant—the head without the body.  But it’s not only grisly, it’s wrong.  You can’t take the head off someone’s head.

When the head and body are separated from one another, the head becomes disembodied and the body is decapitated.  Thus, the fiery head that appears to Dorothy and her friends in the film The Wizard of Oz is disembodied, while the Headless Horseman that haunts the pages of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is decapitated.

I haven’t found an expression that describes the unhappy situation of Nearly Headless Nick in the Harry Potter series.  If anyone else knows one, please chime in.

Read Full Post »

A tough job

The Cap’n called my attention to a recent news item about a Muslim television executive who set out to combat negative images of Muslims in the media through programming on his Buffalo, NY, station.  It seems that since 9/11, Muzzammil Hassan was distressed at the stereotypes and bad press Muslims were getting in the West.  Supported by his wife Aasiya Hassan, this couple hoped to pave the way to a kinder, gentler image of Islam in the United States and Canada.

That is, until the other day, when he reported to the police that his wife was dead at the TV station.  Police arrived at the station to find his wife’s body on the floor, with its head nearby.

So much for THAT project.

In the restrained early press releases, no one is pinning this murder on culture or religion.  Law enforcement is limiting itself to calling this an extreme case of domestic violence.  One Muslim interviewed says that this sort of behavior is strictly forbidden by Islam.  The fact that Mrs. Hassan had recently filed for divorce and a protective order against her husband is being seen in a Western light (he was upset) rather than an Oriental one (he was pissed off and wanted to save face).

That this was very likely an honor killing was ignored or denied by everyone mentioned in the articles except Marcia Pappas, New York president of the National Organization for Women.  Plenty of people will look at Pappas’s statement and think, “She’s a Westerner.  She doesn’t understand Pakistani culture.  She’s a hysterical feminist.”

But one doesn’t have to be a hysterical feminist to point the finger at barbarism practiced by Muslim men against women.  From where do female suicide bombers come?  Out of the midrasas?  There are no women studying in midrasas.  What would inspire a woman to strap explosives to her body and blow herself up?  Two possibilities that come up in recent articles about women suicide bombers include depression and rape.  The BBC and the Huffington Post report on a woman arrested recently for her work cooperating with Islamic militants in Iraq, recruiting young women to act as suicide bombers.  Seeking out women suffering from depression, or counseling women who had been raped and then sent to her for “matronly advice,” she would try to persuade all of them to become suicide bombers—to give their lives deaths meaning, or to reclaim their lost honor.

These stories, combined with the abuse of civilians by Hamas in the recent Gaza War (i.e. booby trapping their homes, using them as human shields, dragging screaming children to the front with them in the hope of producing “collateral damage” at the hands of the IDF), show that it ain’t easy to make Muslims look good in the press.  But it would be a lot easier if they actually WERE good.

Read Full Post »

Babies: The universal language

The Cap’n and I had some shopping to do in Jerusalem today, so we packed up Bill, a few baby supplies (roughly equivalent to the volume of Bill himself) and drove off to the Big City.  In the course of the morning, we had four interactions centering around our newborn that are both universal and uniquely Israeli.

We had browsed for about twenty minutes in a lighting store, and by the time we left, the heat of all the lights was starting to get to Bill and me.  (I felt as though I had a roasting turkey strapped to my front.)  We were both relieved to get out into the fresh air on this pleasant, not-so-wintry (mid-50s Fahrenheit) day.  It took all of 30 seconds for an Israeli woman to approach me with a solicitous look on her face.  “Do you speak Hebrew?” she asked.  I answered yes.  She asked, “Don’t you think he needs a hat on his head?  It’s so cold out…”  (People often catalog this among a handful of quintessential Israeli conversations.)

Trolling down the frozen food aisle, an elderly woman came up to the Cap’n (who had assumed his turn carrying the turkey) and said, “I’m sorry, it’s just too much.”  Prepared for another tongue-lashing for dressing my newborn inappropriately, I asked, “What is just too much?”  She beamed, reached out, and gently grasped Bill’s hand.  She asked how old he is, if we were Jews (so she could wish us mazal tov), and told us she has great-grandchildren.  She wished us a long life of nachas from him.  (We don’t ordinarily like to encourage strangers to touch our baby’s hands without washing theirs first, but she got to him first.)

Waiting in line, there was a young man who asked how old Bill was.  Once we had corrected him on Bill’s sex (like most people, he took Bill’s supposedly gender-neutral purple fleece and his sisters’ hand-me-down hot pink hat as evidence of Bill’s femininity), we went through the usual baby conversation.  He told us he has a five-month-old, asked where we’d given birth, was interested to hear Bill had been born at home, etc. etc.

Also waiting in line were a half dozen Arab women, one of whom was holding a baby perhaps six months old.  Smiles were exchanged, I nodded approvingly to their very cute boy and said, “HE has a hat!”  They cooed and murmured in Arabic, indicating Bill.  It drove home the point that I often sense living here: that on an individual basis, most people co-exist fairly amicably here, with Jews and Arabs working and shopping in the same places.  It’s just the big picture that gets troublesome.  I looked at these two little boys, only a couple of months apart in age, and the thought occurred to me that they could someday end up on opposite ends of a battlefield.  (One of my first thoughts when Bill was born was, “We have a soldier.”)

But for now, at least, we can ooh and aah over them, and relish the small things like standing in line together at the grocery store.

Read Full Post »

A rainy day


The Cap’n and I are suffering from allergies and Bill snuffled and kvetched for much of the night.  Today is cold, windy, and rainy. (Thank God for the last of those.) And the Cap’n and I spent most of the morning out in the wind and rain at a road safety class. (More on that in another post.)

When I sat down at the computer after that, I just couldn’t think of anything to write that anyone (including I myself) would want to read. With every idea I came up with, I found myself channeling J. Jonah Jameson, the editor of the Daily Bugle from the Spiderman movies: “Crap! Crap! Mega-crap!”

So, as usual when I have a nasty day, I try to think of good things. Here are a few:

1. Bill. It’s been a while since Banana was born, and I’d forgotten how liquidy-soft newborn cheeks are. Or how sweet is the sneak-preview of a newborn’s sleep smiles and laughs. Or how like movie popcorn a breast-fed baby’s diaper smells. (’Nuff information for ya?) And the fact that as difficult as the early months are with a new baby, they go by much faster when there are older children around to help and keep me busy. At 40, I was a little reluctant to push “reset” and start afresh with a new baby, but this baby is much easier than any of the previous ones. And while I miss sleeping through the night, it won’t be long before Bill will be old enough for both of us to enjoy that great luxury (again).

2. A warm bath with the Sudoku page from the newspaper. I don’t know if I’ll get one of these in today, but soon. Almost as good as a massage.

3. Books. The Cap’n and I read all the Harry Potters aloud to each other, and we’ve recently gone back to the seventh book to reread it together. (This is a really nice thing for couples to do. I love his Dobby voice, and he likes my Rita Skeeter imitation.) Cheaper By the Dozen, which was recommended by a friend in Beit Shemesh, was one of the funniest, most interesting things I’ve ever read; I can’t wait to read the sequel, Belles on Their Toes.  And I am taking forever to plow through a weighty biography of John Marshall, fourth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Its author, Jean Edward Smith, does not have the folksy flavor of David McCullough, but Marshall himself was such an engaging figure that despite the molasses-slow pace of my reading right now, I still don’t want to put it down.

4. Sweets. My friend Ilana Epstein had one of her monthly “Food for Thought” features in the Jerusalem Post last Friday. This month she writes about words and their meanings, and includes a mouth-watering candy recipe. The column is available on the Post’s website here, but the recipe was inexplicably not included. With Ilana’s permission, here it is:

Makes 30 candy cups

200 g bittersweet chocolate, broken up
140 g milk chocolate, broken up
115 g white chocolate, broken up
½ cup smooth peanut butter

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine bittersweet and milk chocolate.  Melt on high in microwave for 1½ minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir.  Stir until smooth.
In a second microwave-safe bowl, combine white chocolate and peanut butter.  Melt together in microwave 1 minute, stopping every 30 seconds to stir.  Stir until smooth.
In very small (size 1.5) baking or bonbon cups, layer a little dark chocolate, followed by a little of the peanut butter mixture, and top with dark chocolate.  Allow to set in refrigerator about 30 minutes.  Serve at room temperature.

Ahhh, I feel better already.

Read Full Post »

Whose Israel?

I read in last Friday’s Jerusalem Post that liberal Jews in the United States are concerned at the gains right-wing parties made in the recent national elections in Israel.

I can understand this.  Some of the interests of Diaspora Jews lie in making conversion easier, relaxing the standard of “Who is a Jew?” in Israel, gaining recognition for their movements, and expanding their presence in typically Orthodox Jewish territory.  In most cases, the right-wing parties (that are in some—but not all—cases more traditionally Orthodox in identity) do not represent those interests.

I remember the first time I came to Israel as a Reform-identified Jew (and not a halachic one) how annoying it was to have less identified (but born-) Jews whispering behind my back, obsessed with my non-halachic status, and to know that I could not marry here, be buried Jewishly here, and that my children (IY”H) couldn’t either.  When I would speak about the importance of making Israel accessible to all Jews (even ones like me), I was usually told by others that if liberal Jews want to change Israel’s laws and make things more accessible for themselves, they should make aliyah and change things from within rather than try to do so from without.  I found this attitude unfair and annoying, not least because the people who would say such things did not themselves make aliyah.  Israel, I thought, was supposed to be here for me and for all Jews, no matter how secular or liberal.

I’ve spent more than a decade thinking about this issue, trying to sort it out, and I have come up with the following: While I find it regrettable that so many Jews feel shut out of Israel’s inner workings, I have come to see another side of the issue from living here.  Here are some of the points that have become clearer to me over the years:
1) Americans and, in many cases, American Jews, do not always understand the complex nature of Middle Eastern society, and as such, often overlook the painful reality that the vast majority of Arabs (inside and outside Israel) do not want Jews living here.  Period.  This misunderstanding of the reality of life here can lead to liberal Jews in America (and other places) taking a left-wing position in Israeli politics that is completely contrary to Israel’s security requirements, which are much better represented by the right-wing parties here.
2) Israel represents many things to Jews around the world: it is our long-awaited return to our land, our triumph over those who would like to destroy us, and a wellspring of Jewish inspiration with its revival of Hebrew, its learning institutions, and its archeological discoveries of our past.  Being all of these things, though, I fear sometimes that Israel is viewed by liberal Jews as a gigantic Museum of Judaism, to be funded and visited at intervals, but not to be lived in.  But those of us who live here feel differently.  We have renounced our residence in other lands, and have thrown in our lot with the fate of this tiny country.  For us it’s a real place we’ve made our home, not a museum.  As such, it makes sense to us that those who would like to influence the country to meet their own needs should commit themselves wholeheartedly to the country by making aliyah.

I am disturbed to find myself adopting the attitude of people I found so insensitive and hypocritical all those years ago.  I do not mean to suggest that Jews in the Diaspora have no business here or should not concern themselves with what happens here.  On the other hand, when all is said and done, protecting the lives of Israelis is more important than chipping away at the rabbinate’s power over conversions or trading land for peace (things which many Israelis would also like to see achieved).  When liberal attitudes motivated by self-interest lead to calls for divestment from companies that do business with Israel, accusations of war crimes as a result of defensive wars, and calls for arms embargoes to Israel (while Israel’s enemies continue to be outfitted by Russia), I have to wonder whose side such people are really taking.  In the end, I still believe that the people best qualified to decide what is best for Israel and Israelis are Israelis.

Our lunch host yesterday told us that he had read Rav Hershel Schachter’s criteria for voting in Israel: a) those who live here; b) those who keep Shabbat; and c) those who are married to Jews.  While one can take issue with any of these for a variety of reasons, the overall message is that only those who are truly committed to Israel and the Jewish people are in a position to steer its fate.

I don’t blame Diaspora Jews for being concerned about decisions made in Israel that affect them; that is certainly their right.  But they should also recognize that the power to influence Israeli politics is in their hands, if they want to seize it.

Read Full Post »

Thank you

Among the many chores that get added to a new mom’s already lengthy list is that of writing thank-you notes for gifts and meals from friends, neighbors, and family.

Many people are put off by writing thank-you notes, as attested to by the dearth of thank-you notes the Cap’n and I have received since buying all the baby, bnei mitzvah, and wedding gifts we have given others.  I try to be modern and do not take offense at this lapse in etiquette, since I suspect the handwritten note has gone the way of the Surrey (with a fringe on top) in the era of computers.  I readily accept an email or a phone call in lieu of a handwritten thank-you.  One thing I hate, though, is a pre-printed thank-you note.  (I received one of these after writing a heartfelt note to a man I hardly knew who had lost his father.  I would rather have waited five years for two hand-scrawled lines on the back of a shopping list than received the pre-fab card that arrived.)

But not to acknowledge a gift or a gesture of kindness in any form is just bad manners.  According to Haragamam (HaRav HaGaon Miss Manners), even a hangover is not an excuse.  (In her Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, she writes, “Actually, during a hangover is an excellent time for a nice, quiet activity such as writing thank-you notes, if one can stand the sound of the pen’s scratching on the paper.”)  I once worked with a man who admitted to me that he and his wife still hadn’t written their wedding thank-yous, and they had just passed their third anniversary.  To this I say, It’s never too late.  If he and his wife were finally to write those thank-yous and mail them out, their recipients might be baffled or even amused, but I can guarantee that their belated gratitude would be accepted.

Excuses abound for not expressing gratitude in writing: “I don’t know what to say,” “I don’t even know this person,” “I returned/exchanged/gave away the gift,” “I don’t have her/his address.”  The resourceful recipient can always find a solution to these problems: say “Thank you for the lovely [name of gift]”; write “Dear [name of person]”; thank the person for their gift and don’t mention what you did with it; get the person’s address from someone who knows it.  It’s not that complicated!

The most important thing to remember when planning a simcha is that time must be factored in afterwards to write notes of thanks.  It takes some time and effort (not to mention money) to choose a gift for someone.  It takes less than five minutes to write a thank-you note.  I’m not a mathematician, but by my calculations the recipient still comes out on top time-wise.  If someone who cares about you (or has known your mother since the third grade) takes the time to select and buy a gift, it’s appropriate to spend a few minutes thanking them for their kindness.

I hope the thank-you note will come back into fashion soon, if for no other reason than to wipe the shocked look off people’s faces when I hand them a thank-you note and get them to stop coming over to my house and saying silly things like, “Thank you for that sweet note.”  I saw a neighbor in the pharmacy yesterday who made me a delicious tuna noodle casserole last week (the first I’ve had since my mother made them for me) who said, “You really didn’t have to write me that sweet thank-you note.”  I replied, in my broadest Southern drawl, “Actually, I did.  My mama told me I do.”

Everyone does.

Read Full Post »

English rant #9: Feeling bad

Speakers and writers of English often commit the error of expressing remorse by saying they feel badly about something.  I suspect this is an overcompensation of some sort, though I’m hard-pressed to figure out how. (Perhaps to distinguish themselves from people who actually are bad.)

To those who learned and remember their English grammar, there are two types of verbs: action and linking.  Action verbs express an action, are modified by adverbs (many of which end in –ly), and sometimes take a direct object, sometimes not.  “I feel the sun’s heat” is an example of how an action verb works.  Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence with a descriptor: “I feel hot in the sun” is an example.  The group of verbs which can be action or linking verbs is as follows:












Think about what role the word feel plays in the sentence, “I feel badly.”  The adverb suggests that this use of feel is as an action verb, and suggests that one’s nervous system is experiencing a malfunction.  (Badly is an adverb and modifies feel rather than I in this sentence.)  To say I am experiencing remorse requires that I say I feel bad.

Adverbs should be used only to describe the quality of the sensation or action in these verbs; use adjectives to describe a person or thing described using them.  I feel happy is self-explanatory; I feel happily sounds bizarre.

The message in all this is that sometimes it’s okay just to feel bad.

Read Full Post »

Almost Sunday

As followers of Israel know, today was election day. Unlike in the United States, election days at the national level are also national semi-holidays.  This means there is no school, most people don’t go to work, and the malls are packed.  While I have never heard the reason why the country takes the day off, I suspect Israel has higher voter turnout than America.  (Once you’ve removed school and work, where’s the excuse not to vote?)

Today friends from Beit Shemesh drove up to Efrat to visit us.  We had a gorgeous spread of pancakes, French toast, bourekas (mashed potato in puff pastry), vegetarian sausage patties, fruit, and a pastry with vanilla custard and chocolate chips for dessert (as if our brunch wasn’t sweet enough).  We caught up on the last six months since the Crunch family moved, Peach enjoyed a reunion with her former best friend, and a good time was had by all.

Israel doesn’t have Sunday, so this type of social interaction is rare.  Here in Israel, wistful immigrants call Sunday “Shabbat sheni she’ba’galut” (second Sabbath in the Diaspora).  Sabbath-observant Jews in the Diaspora have a great luxury of having Saturday sacred, but Sunday free to see movies, visit with friends, go on outings, travel, shop–all of the things Israelis can’t do.  In Israel, Friday is a day when people generally don’t work, but spend the day shopping, cooking, cleaning, and preparing for Shabbat.  Shabbat is, well, Shabbat.  And on Sunday, bright and early, we’re up and out of the house for the new week.

A columnist made the observation a couple of years ago (I believe it was Daniel Gordis) that Israel needs a Sunday to improve relations between religious and non-religious Israelis.  Without a neutral day, there is almost no opportunity for them to socialize.  I know this to be true, since I have secular friends in Tel Aviv whom I haven’t seen since we made aliyah.  I suppose we could if we all took the day off work, kept our kids out of school, and met up at the beach where they and we could all get the food we wanted (they their not-necessarily-kosher salads and sandwiches, and our kids their ice cream from the ubiquitous Strauss dairy freezers).  But so far, that hasn’t happened.

I’d take a Sunday anytime for seeing our religious friends, too.  Families could get together without cutting into Shabbat preparation time on Friday mornings.  We could take our children to the dozens of amazing touristy things which are a short drive from our house without taking them out of school to do it.  We could hold simchas (like weddings and bnei mitzvah parties) sometime other than weekday nights.  Chol haMoed (the days between the bracketing holidays of Sukkot and Pesach) is a time when many working parents take time off and travel with their families, but Shabbat usually cuts into that, and given that there were 18 festive meals to prepare for the Tishrei holidays this past year, there ain’t a lotta time for seeing the sights even then.

Peach told me tonight how she misses America.  While I’m much happier living here in Israel than I ever was living in the United States, I do love our visits there and look forward to our next one.  Ahh, Sunday.

Read Full Post »

The vanishing Kinneret

While North Americans are having trouble finding places to store all their frozen precipitation (i.e. snow), Israel is experiencing its lowest annual rainfall in recorded history.

This wouldn’t be so bad if Israel were the type of place where politicians pay attention to trends and engage in advance planning.  If it were, the plans for desalination plants would have been completed on schedule well in advance of this drought year.  But instead, after a single rainy winter, Israel’s “leaders” scrapped the spendy plans in favor of putting all their trust in continued generous rainfall.

Someone on the Efrat chat list recently posted a website he has created called “Save the Kinneret dot com.”  (Kinneret is Hebrew for the Sea of Galilee.)  It includes a very worrisome chart of falling water level in the Kinneret, as well as concrete suggestions for how to reduce household water consumption.  While campaigns to encourage householders to conserve water have been successful in the past, Israel’s citizenry should not wait until the government asks them to conserve water; we live in a desert and should use water sparingly as a general practice. Although Israelis often complain that agriculture and industry use too much water, household water use accounts for half of the water consumption in Israel.  Israel needs to conserve its water not only for its own use, but for the peace with Jordan, which costs Israel an annual 10 million cubic meters of water.

Israelis and anyone else living in a drought area can benefit from the water-saving tips on this website.  Kol hakavod to its creator!

Read Full Post »

A vote for the Left

Last week, signs were put up around Efrat bearing the slogan, “Didn’t vote?  You voted for the Left!”

While America is watching with mingled hope and despair as President Obama assembles his team for the next four years, Israel is on the countdown to national elections which take place this Tuesday.

Those of us living over the Green Line have some difficult choices.  While Likud was the party that traditionally supported settlement in territories conquered in the 1967 Six Day War, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader, has said he would consider forming a coalition government with Kadima and Labor.  For those who have been asleep or unaware of Israeli politics for the last ten years, Labor was responsible for the unilateral withdrawal from the security zone in Southern Lebanon in 2000, leading directly to Hizbullah’s armament and eventually, the Second Lebanon War in 2006.  Kadima was responsible for the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, leading to the half-executed operation (i.e. Gaza War) which recently took place there.

We in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) have no reason to expect anything other than an attempt at unilateral withdrawal from our towns and neighborhoods if Labor and Kadima find their way into power.  Confucius’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  By this definition, Kadima and Labor need to be committed, and any promise of Likud forming a government with them (including giving their members portfolios and taking into account their political views in pursuing the country’s agenda) ought to be viewed with the gravest suspicion.

What are the alternatives?  Several Right-wing parties have joined to form a party called National Union (Ichud Leumi) whose goals are much more in line with the goals of people living in the settlements.  Their priorities are security, resuming the issuing of building permits, and funding of educational institutions (including many religious Zionist yeshivas).  I have heard it said that in order to keep Netanyahu honest and true to Likud’s stated platform, he must ally himself with the Right rather than the Left.  A vote for them, if one were to give it, could give better voice to our needs if it were to join a Likud coalition government.

And yet.  While a vote for the smaller Right parties gives support to parties which in many cases are much more responsive to their constituents, a vote for them instead of for Likud could leave the settler out in the cold.  At the moment, while Likud is predicted to win the election, it is by a small margin, and the smaller the margin, the more Likud will be forced to compromise its platform by forming a coalition with the Left.  If Kadima were to win because of a split of voting between Likud and the other Right parties, Tzipi Livni could end up as prime minister, guaranteeing Israel another five years of incompetence, unilateral withdrawals, wars, disastrous cease-fire agreements, and a possible nuclear Iran.  There would then be no voice for settlers in that government, since Kadima would likely form a government with Labor and the more Left-leaning parties and start looking for a way to turn us out.

I should point out that settler needs are not “special needs.”  The role settlers play in Israel’s security cannot be ignored.  Our presence here helps to keep the Israeli government’s eye on Palestinian activities by keeping the IDF out here, and means that any terrorist activity in the region (that could threaten Jerusalem and other populated areas inside the Green Line) goes on in plain view of the Israeli authorities.  Without the settlers and IDF presence in the West Bank, Israel will have another Gaza on its eastern border, and then targets will not be limited to Sderot, Ashkelon, and the kibbutzim bordering Gaza, but Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Tiberias, Beer Sheva, and Dimona.

I should also admit here that I once believed in the concept of land for peace.  I have heard that a number of prominent rabbis have proclaimed that if peace can be reliably bought by Jews vacating lands, even lands of Biblical and historical significance to Jews, it is incumbent upon the Jews to give up those lands.  We and most of our neighbors would pack up and clear out in a matter of days if we could be certain that a true peace could be bought by our vacating our homes.  But in the 14 years that I have paid close attention to Israel, its history, and its problem, I have seen that such an exchange is always uneven.  In just the past nine years, we have seen gifts of land to Arabs result in temporary cease-fires, but only as long as it takes them to stockpile their weapons and begin firing them on Israeli towns.  The talk now of “peace for peace” is much more realistic, though there is no sign that even that will have a lasting effect as long as the other side has no interest in peace.

So where are we left on Election Day 2009?  Practically speaking, it looks as though we have to vote for Likud.  It may not suit our ideals perfectly, and we may still not get everything we want in the end, but the thought of the country being steered by the same cast of characters who brought us the incompetence, corruption, and awful leadership of the past 5 years is unimaginable.

May we merit to deserve better government.

Read Full Post »

No hope for peace

I read shortly after President Obama took office that getting the Middle East peace process back on track was a top priority. I appreciate the concern he and other Western leaders feel about seeing that calm heads prevail in this part of the world, but I have some sad news. It ain’t gonna happen.

I’m not pessimistic by nature. In the early 1990s, when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands, I believed there was every reason to hope for a turnaround in the long-standing struggle for peaceful coexistence in Israel. The course history took through the rest of the 1990s and the first decade of this millennium changed my mind. The more I learned, the more hope faded.

And the final nail in the coffin has been the increasing legitimacy Hamas has gained over the past two years. Since their political coup in Gaza, Hamas has succeeded in running Fatah out of town on a rail (or, more accurately, in a coffin), and now Fatah is left with a tenuous hold on the West Bank, while Hamas makes its war on Israel unchecked in the Judenrein Gaza Strip.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t trust Fatah any further than I trust Hamas. They have exactly the same goal—the conquest of Israel for Muslims—but only adopt slightly subtler means to try to achieve it. Where Hamas lobs missiles and rockets on Israeli towns with increasing range, Fatah was responsible for roadside shootings, infiltrations and suicide bombings in Israeli cities in the early part of this decade. Mahmoud Abbas maintains that he can only corral legitimacy through generous donations of cash from the West, continued meetings with high-profile Western leaders, and the release of hundreds of Fatah terrorists from Israeli prisons. Following in the steps of his mentor Arafat, he will only accept a peace proposal that allows unlimited “right of return” to Arabs who fled what is now Israel in 1948, without guaranteeing anything reciprocal to the Jews who were forced to flee their homes in what would become the new Palestinian state. This would guarantee the Arabs a country and a half, at least until they could out-populate the Jewish State and make it an Arab one. With Abbas and Fatah’s hold on the West Bank weakening, especially in the wake of the street cred Hamas earned for itself in challenging the IDF and losing spectacularly, it is only a matter of time before he is forced to take refuge in exile (if he’s lucky enough to outrun Hamas). And then Israel will have Iranian sponsored terrorists to fight on three fronts.

Clinging to the old agreements made by leaders dead or gone, that have failed, and are honored by no one now is not the way to go. Legitimizing Hamas (as Jimmy Carter would have us do), which cannot be defined as other than a terrorist organization, is also not going to bring peace. Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan for building an economic peace to precede a political one sounds practical, but will not do anything to alter the Jew-hating, land-coveting indoctrination to which all Palestinians are subjected during the course of their “educations.” (See Andrea Levin’s January 17 Boston Globe editorial entitled, “The truth about Hamas’s mission.”)

Diplomacy is talk. I’m all for diplomacy, but for it to work, both sides have to be willing to talk, and solve their problems through talk. Hamas doesn’t talk much. They’d rather shoot. Israel and the West can expect to get about as far through talk with Hamas as one can talk one’s way past a rabid Doberman pinscher.

I don’t like to see states meddling in one another’s affairs. Successful peace brokers are welcome, of course, if invited. But no one will broker peace successfully in these parts until Iran’s economic influence over terror is completely eradicated, Hamas is delegitimized, Fatah forced to go straight or suffer similar delegitimization, and at least a full generation or two of Palestinian Arabs pass through a modern educational system that focuses on academic subjects and abandons its hatred of Jews.

Then, perhaps, we can talk peace.

Read Full Post »


I skipped posting yesterday to attend to my son, family, and guests at Bill’s brit milah.

Some mothers get teary at their boys’ britot, either because of the import of the mitzvah (circumcision is a defining characteristic of a Jewish male and a mitzvah on every Jewish father to see that his son is ritually circumcised) or because of concern for the baby’s discomfort.  Either way, it seems a rather odd reason to throw a party if taken out of context.  I’m not interested in getting into the issues surrounding circumcision, or the movement by adults (primarily males) to discourage it.  What fascinates me is that Jews never miss an opportunity to celebrate.

Years ago, my father told me about a friend’s funeral he had attended.  It was a gathering of friends of the deceased, and was billed not as a funeral or a memorial service, but as a “celebration of So-and-so’s life.”  It was clearly not meant to have a feeling of mourning attached to it, and everyone was expected to show up joyous with fond memories of the loved one to share.

In Judaism, that’s not a funeral; that’s a birthday party or anniversary.  Kohelet (Ecclesiastes 3:4, King James version) says that there is “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  It is important to set aside time for each of these expressions of feelings.  It seems psychologically wrong to me to try to introduce joy into the marking of someone’s death, just as no sadness should be allowed to intrude on a happy occasion (like the time when the bride at a wedding told me the news of the suicide of a child I had once worked with closely).  When Jews announce happy occasions such as births and engagements, the announcement is frequently followed by the expression, “May we know only good news.”  We separate the bitter from the sweet so we can feel each of them more deeply.

I once asked my father why he didn’t discuss his father’s parents more.  (The other side of his family had introduced plenty of colorful stories into the family’s history.)  He said it was because many of his memories of his father’s family were of funerals.  (His grandmother had the unhappy experience of surviving not only her husband, but four of her six children.)  When he said he wished more funerals were like those of his friend, which “celebrated” the person’s life, I pointed out that his grandmother—a devout woman of plumbless devotion to her family—had done just that every day of her life, and didn’t need to wait for a loved one to die to thank God for every day she had with them.  A death for her was not only the loss of a person, but also the loss of a portion of her joy in life.

My eldest daughter this year was very preoccupied with celebrating her half-birthday.  Part of the reason was that she was feeling older, and knew that more responsibility would probably fall on her once the baby was born.  But I suspect it was also that she was in the mood to celebrate something besides the monumental event looming in the form of the baby’s birth.  So the Shabbat before I gave birth to Bill, I baked a cake, frosted it, and decorated it for all three girls’ half-birthdays (which fall within a month of each other).

Bill’s birth has been accompanied by a week-long whirlwind of celebrating—announcing to family and friends, arranging a shalom zachar, planning the brit milah, and announcing the name afterward.  It’s a gigantic horse-pill of joy, sometimes a bit much to swallow in such a short time period, but far be it from me to turn down a chance to gather friends and neighbors together, gladden family members, and begin Bill’s life with a heavy dose of love.

May we know only good news.

Read Full Post »

After making aliyah, I heard from many women what a wonderful experience it was having a baby in Israel after having their others in the U.S.  I still had this in mind when I became pregnant with Bill.

However, my experience of pregnancy here was at least as stressful as in the U.S., and in many ways more so.  Because of the intense heat last summer, I was dehydrated several times and had to be treated twice.  I have a doctor here who is less than warm and fuzzy.  The ultrasounds and procedures were all done by strangers in locations spread across Jerusalem (not convenient to Beit Shemesh when I lived there).  And when it came time to register at hospitals, I was unimpressed with what I saw.

In the United States, giving birth in a hospital was a standard procedure.  Most women would go in, get anesthetized, and eventually give birth on their backs, either in the operating theater or in a labor/delivery/recovery room.  They would then be shown to a comfortable room with its own bathroom, food on demand, and the only great inconvenience the bi-hourly vitals checks and vendors wheeling their carts of layette, nursing supplies, and newborn photography up and down the halls.

Here in Israel, hospital midwives oversee all straightforward births, and doctors are only called in if a medical procedure is needed.  Rooms are generally shared, and rooming-in with the baby is much rarer here than in the U.S.  Most hospitals keep the baby in the nursery for hours a day and all night, and mothers are expected “to rest.”  But rest here is even more elusive than in the U.S.  Rooms are nearly always shared, food is served on a schedule, and nursing mothers must be vigilant to make sure their babies are not fed bottles in the nursery.  Moms concerned about being able to eat between meals are advised which hospitals are near malls or commercial areas, so the newly post-partum woman can check her baby into a nursery, get dressed, grab her purse, and leave the ward to get some nosh.

Call me fussy, but I found these conditions appalling.  (And this is completely aside from the horror stories of Arab women screaming in unmedicated childbirth, their families ululating in the hallway during labor, and Jewish women’s families descending in the tens to visit the new mother in her cramped, shared room, sitting on the roommate’s bed, and making a barbeque on the floor.)  When I shared my concerns with a doula I was planning to hire, she suggested that given my concerns, and my trouble-free birthing history, perhaps I should consider a home birth.

I only knew of a few home birth situations.  One woman had had many successful births at home, but the other two had had to be transported to a hospital due to unforeseen circumstances.

I called the midwife who does them, and was surprised when she suggested I might be a good candidate.  She came to my house one evening, looked at my test results, asked me a few questions, answered mine, and we agreed to proceed with plans for me to give birth at home.  She loaned me several books (one for me, two for the children who were deciding whether they wanted to be around or make themselves scarce during my labor) and called to check up on me every few days.

When the day finally came, she called in the morning, and we arranged a time for her to arrive.  I helped my husband get the children off to school, the midwife came, we took a walk around the neighborhood, returned to my house, I climbed into a warm bath, and an hour later, Bill joined us.

I’m not a particularly crunchy person.  I don’t hate modern medicine (though I have a strong dislike of hospitals) but I do recognize that liability and lawsuits are a powerful motivator for interventions and medicalized births.  I would not have chosen to give birth at home to a baby who appeared to be breach, multiples, or for a first birth (though there are women who birth at home successfully under these circumstances).  My requirements were for a quiet place, no fights with hospital staff about how I wanted to labor, no IV lock automatically put into my arm, no fetal heart monitor belts, no bi-hourly vitals checks or roommates (except Bill and the Cap’n), and the comforts of my own bed, clothes, refrigerator, and family around me.

Thank God, Bill is a healthy baby, and my recovery from the experience has been quicker than ever in the past.  I have been delighted to have experienced a much more natural childbirth than I ever did before.  And we have the pleasure of knowing that our son can look at his childhood home in Efrat and say, with greater truth than most can, “That is the house where I was born.”

Read Full Post »