Thoughtful ThursdayBurrito and Tamale are really into a few songs right now. One of them happens to mention the word “pray.”

This has led Burrito to keep asking me about prayer. I’ve been telling him:

“Some people pray as a way of talking to G-d or Jesus.”

(Even though he is Jewish, he has heard of Jesus from the aforementioned song as well as random other places, such as medieval art and an ichthys on his preschool teacher’s car.)

“Other people pray as a way of talking to their own minds. In Hebrew, the word for pray is a reflexive verb.”

(Linguistics are clearly way beyond him, but this point is highly relevant to my own conception of prayer, so I mentioned it.)

“Whether or not people believe that anyone else can hear their prayer, they know that they can hear it. Some people are praying to talk to someone else, and some people are just talking to themselves. Just by saying it, you make it more likely that it will become real. In yoga we call this an intention.”

(I know he’s done a bit of mediation in yoga classes, but I’m not sure if there have been any intentions. Very relevant for me, though.)

“There are different kinds of prayers. A lot of prayers are wishes. You could wish that someone sick could become healthy, or you could wish that someone who is having a hard time will get better, or you could wish that something scary will be okay. Other prayers say thank you. When we say ‘Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam Borei Pri Hagafen’ we are being thankful for fruits.”

(Technically this blessing on “the fruit of the vine” is for wine, and there’s actually a different Hebrew blessing for fruits, but he knows the wine blessing from synagogue.)

“When we say ‘Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam Hamotzi Lechem Min Haaretz” we are being thankful for bread. We could be thankful for food, or people we love, or being healthy, or friends, or anything.”

Then Burrito said, “I am thankful for honeydew and cantaloupe and pineapple and cookies. And Mommy and Daddy and Tamale.”

What does prayer mean to you?

Show and TellMy Blogoversary Contest is over! We have two winners! Congrats to the winners, and thanks to everyone who entered!

The first one came easily, but it required an extra round of guessing to get the second winner — I think the title of the second winning song scared some people off. I’ll reveal their prizes at next week’s Show and Tell. In the meantime, here are the identities of the winners as well as the winning selections.

First, honorable mentions to S for pointing out a lyric I never noticed in Neon Bible:

A vial of hope and a vial of pain,
In the light they both looked the same.

…and to Kristen for guessing My Body Is A Cage. Yeah, that would seem like a logical choice for my IF anthem (as Rebecca pointed out in her comment, too obvious?), but not as much as the winning songs. It is a damn fine song, though. Haunting and evocative; the organ really amplifies the chord structure. Good stuff.

Second prize goes to Lori from Weebles Wobblog. I swear, it’s not fixed. It’s not some conspiracy to make her the #1 collector of my pottery. Yes, she won a little vase in my very first contest and I also brought her a little dish when I visited her house. But Lori won because she wasn’t afraid to guess (Antichrist Television Blues). Most of the song is not infertility-related — in fact, apparently the song is about Jessica Simpson’s father — but one part literally screams IF to me:

Dear G-d, would you send me a child?
Oh! G-d, would you send me a child?

Lord, would you send me a sign?
’cause i just gotta know if I’m wastin’ my time!

Take a listen — that section is at the 3-minute mark (cued up if you click through rather than watching the embedded video below).

I think that many infertiles have asked the universe to send us a sign because we just want to know if we’re wasting our time.

First prize goes to Birdless, who delurked just for the contest. Through her careful reading of the lyrics, she correctly guessed that the Arcade Fire song which most speaks to my infertile heart is Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles).

I am waitin’ ’til I don’t know when,
cause I’m sure it’s gonna happen then.

The ideas of waiting (and waiting and waiting) and of not knowing when is very familiar to those of us who have struggled with family-building. There’s also an explicit reference to unborn children in the song:

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids,
but my heart keeps watchin’ through the skin of my eyelids.

Here is my very favorite section of the song, both lyrically and musically. More than anything else I’ve ever seen, it truly sums up my seven years of infertility. Waiting, then not paying attention to waiting, then waiting more, then showing patience, only to see that patience get me nowhere:

They say a watched pot won’t ever boil,
well I closed my eyes and nothin’ changed,
just some water getting hotter in the flames.
[interspersed with marvelous swelling orchestration]

Oh, the orchestration. You really need the album version to hear the orchestration. Go to 1 minute 55 seconds.

And finally, a call for true patience. Not patience as in pretending that you’re not paying attention but really you’re peeking with one eye open, but truly believing in the good things to come.

Just like a seed down in the soil you gotta give it time.

Partly I wanted to hold this Blogoversary Contest because it’s fun to hold contests and give out pottery, but I also wanted to share these songs with all of you. When you’ve finished shoveling your car out of the snow and you’re driving to the RE at the crack of dawn for the 5th time that week, these songs make the trip a little easier. Trust me.

See what the rest of the class has to Show and Tell.

Thoughtful ThursdayAlthough the weather around here doesn’t feel like July, it is indeed July. This means it’s time for another batch of Intelligentsia (people who have commented on every Thoughtful Thursday post for the month of June). Hooray for everyone!

Rounding out a full half-year membership is Wiseguy from Woman Anyone?. Wow.

Not only did Ernessa from Fierce and Nerdy join the Intelligentsia for a consecutive fifth time, but she gave birth this month and still managed to submit a comment in a timely manner. Special prize for Ernessa: honorary Intelligentsia membership for baby Betty.

Next we have four-timer Kristen from Dragondreamer’s Lair.

Three-peaters include Photogrl from Not the Path I Chose and Beautiful Mess from Life induces thoughts, mostly random.

Returning for a second time is Jill from All Aboard the Pity Boat.

Our new Intelligentia member, all the way from France, is Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV. She’s currently more than 41 weeks pregnant, and hopefully will go into labor any minute. Good luck!

Thoughtful ThursdayThis week’s Thoughtful Thursday theme is something that Wiseguy raised this week. It’s also a topic that Lollipop Goldstein and I discussed last week when we met in person, and which I’ve thought about many times in the past year.

Deal breakers.

Specifically, deal breakers when it comes to reading blogs.

Wiseguy talked about the frustration that can come from commenting regularly on someone’s blog yet never hearing back from them via comment or email. After a while, she gives up and stops reading, as do many others who are accustomed to the give-and-take that our community encourages. In most blog circles, someone who didn’t return a blog comment would be the norm, but in the ALI community, reciprocal communication is the default.

(Side note: It’s a default that I don’t always manage, for reasons that I describe in Wiseguy’s comment section. I’m a very good commenter in some ways, but not so good in others. So, sorry if I don’t comment on your blog as much as you wish I did. And, sorry if I comment on your blog more than you wish I did!)

Lollipop and I talked about… actually I won’t tell you, because I didn’t ask her if I could. She can comment if she likes.

I have my own (fairly long) list of deal breakers. Some apply when I read a blog for the first time, such as through ICLW, Lost and Found, or a link from another blog, and are enough to keep me from coming back. My tolerance for each of these waxes and wanes:

  • Poor writing. I have mentioned a few times what a stickler I am for precision in language. I am also a member of the grammar police… and the spelling police… and the coherence police… It requires mental effort for me to get past errors and glean the real message. My mental effort is in short supply these days. I also tend to make the (sometimes but not always untrue) assumption that the quality of the writing corresponds to the quality of the thoughts. You’re/your? It’s/its? Extraneous apostrophe in a plural noun? One instance I can tolerate, but repeated errors (especially in the blog name!) and I run screaming in the other direction.
  • Misinformation. Say something cockamamie (“Going on vacation cures infertility”), and I’m gone. This doesn’t happen that often in the ALI blogosphere.
  • Nothing but cycle updates. I actually have really appreciated such blogs when I’ve been dealing with my own cycle and am filling the sleepless nights trying to find out how early post-transfer people have gotten positive pregnancy tests, but when reading in real time, I prefer blogs that sometimes address bigger picture issues, even if they also include cycle updates. On that note…
  • Uninteresting content. I don’t think that anybody sticks around for boring content, but what’s interesting to one person isn’t interesting to another. We all have our preferences. At this point I happen to find the emotions around infertility quite fascinating, but details about breastfeeding quite boring. I’m sure that will change in a few months.
  • Different places in life. Related to the last point, some people are in a very different place than I am. That’s fine, but it makes me less likely to read their blog. In your mid-20s and starting to think you might be infertile? I was there once too, but that was 7 years ago, and the veterans tend to resonate more for me now. Raising twin teenagers? Not there yet, but I’ll be back to your archives in 15 years. Someone who’s in quite a different life space has to be a great writer for me to read their blog regularly. Conversely, those who are in a very similar life space are easy to revisit. I currently read just about every pregnant-with-twins blog I can find. I won’t seek that category out forever, but for now, those are my peeps.
  • Stuff that is hard to look at. This depends on where I’m at. Prior to my getting pregnant, belly shots, pregnancy tickers, and sometimes photos of kids were hard to look at. This is why I do not post belly shots or pregnancy tickers on this blog, even though people have asked. I don’t mind them now, and actually enjoy the progressive belly shots sometimes, but this blog is infertility-themed above all else.
  • Very different values systems. Some people espouse beliefs that I just can’t get behind, and which I don’t really want to read about. Nothing personal. I’m actually pretty non-judgmental, but certain things push my buttons. For example, a heavy focus on Christianity is one that tends to turn me off, even though I know it draws many other readers in. I don’t object to people’s religious beliefs or expressions, of course, but it’s not something that I happen to want to read about very often (so says the blogger with a dozen religion-themed posts in her archives).

Then there are the deal breakers that cause me to stop reading blogs that I’ve followed regularly. The bar is set much higher for these — once you’re on my Reader list, it’s pretty hard to get yourself off. Including my Clicker duties, I have over 100 blogs on my Reader. Aside from the Clicker blogs, my blogroll is a pretty static list.

  • Nonstop negativity. Some negativity is fine, but too much gets to be… too much. Unless it’s funny.
  • Statements or beliefs that go against everything I believe. Recently I stopped reading a blog that I’d followed for over a year — longer than I’ve been blogging myself. It bothered me a lot to do this, because I’ve developed an attachment to the blogger and her family, but I couldn’t bear to keep reading. After hundreds of posts (including some that I didn’t agree with, but for which I respected her beliefs), she came out with a deal breaker. It wasn’t even the main point of the post, and I doubt that she imagined that it would bother anyone. She said that she’s a fan of someone whose beliefs are so damaging, so counter to everything that I know in my heart and in my head, that I feared she might start to enact those teachings and do something horrible. It’s only a matter of time, really, if she truly follows what that person preaches. Sorry if I’m being obtuse — I can go into it in a different post if people are desperate to know. It happens to overlap with one of my professional areas of expertise, and I try to keep my work far away from my blog. I will say that if one of my real-life friends were a fan of that person, I would try hard to convince them in the other direction. If I were unsuccessful, I would probably stop being friends with them — it’s that much of a deal breaker. Satan worshipper? Drug dealer? Someone who kills animals for a living? Not deal breakers! In fact, I have a friend who does kill animals for a living, and another who used to be a drug dealer. As I said, I’m not that judgmental, except when it comes to certain beliefs. Or grammar.

What are your deal breakers? What keeps you from going back to a blog? What makes you abandon a blog you’ve been following?

Thoughtful Thursday

This weekend I sat down at the breakfast table and noticed an article in the newspaper.

I find this extremely fascinating. Of course, I’m interested in modifications to the IVF process from an IF point of view, and I’m pleased to see the process becoming possible for some who were previously unable to use it. Depending on whom you ask, certain sects of Judaism have firm restrictions on reproductive technologies as well as adoption (which the above newspaper article doesn’t address).

I am also especially interested in the article because I know far more observant Jews than the average person does — friends (primarily from DH’s Orthodox upbringing) as well as some members of DH’s family. I even know observant Jews who have dealt (or are currently dealing) with infertility, though I haven’t talked to any of them about the topic.

However, if I did have such discussions, I’m guessing that some of them would say that they’ve made reproductive choices based on prohibitions and mandates that come from their religion.

I, on the other hand, would not let religion (or anything else) limit my quest. We’re not remotely as observant as the people I mentioned (and I’m not actually even Jewish), but we are still fairly observant compared to most people. Over the past 7 years we’ve had enough roadblocks caused by biology, economics, limits of technology… almost more than I have been able to handle, without the added limitations of something like religion. Plus, DH and I are both governed by logic, and we both see a lack of logic in many religious beliefs as they apply to our modern world and our own lives.

Someone from my now-defunct IRL support group was limited in the reproductive technologies she could pursue due to her husband’s (Catholic) religious beliefs. Last I heard, she has been pursing the same low-level intervention for almost a year now, and to be frank, based on my knowledge of her situation, I don’t know if she’ll ever succeed at conceiving without escalating the level of intervention. She doesn’t share his beliefs, but her actions are confined by his beliefs. I hope it’s not the case, but I’m afraid that ultimately his beliefs will prevent her from ever having a child.

Have religious (or other concerns such as ethical or moral) concerns caused you to make certain choices in your reproductive journey? Have concerns for others’ concerns, such as your partner or family members, caused you to pause or change your own mind?

9w0d: Dayenu

April 14, 2009

We’re in the midst of Passover. Well, more accurately, I guess you could say everyone else is in the midst of Passover. After being extremely observant of the holiday over the past 11 years of marriage (cooking up a storm for seders that we’ve hosted every year, keeping separate plates and silver just for Passover, refraining from all chametz — grains — and even many years without kitniyot — pseudo-grains like beans and peanuts, which turns out to be extremely difficult for a vegetarian), we made the decision to skip Passover this year. I had to work on the evening of the first seder; DH is out of town half of the week; I can’t stand up long enough to cook a single dish, much less 8 or 10; the Passover diet leads to notorious constipation, which would be one more symptom on top of the others already rendering me useless for most of each day; I am struggling to maintain my recommended nutritional intake even with the full complement of grain options. In so many ways, observing Passover this year just didn’t make sense.

In many ways, it’s not a big loss. I’ve acquired a taste for certain Passover foods (in particular, I make a fine charoset), but few are good enough for me to make them outside of Passover. I do miss my special Passover plates, but I don’t miss the trouble involved in switching out all of the regular dishes for the special ones. (Plus, this year for the first time, I have enough pottery made to be eating off of my own dishes instead of store-bought dishes the rest of the year.) I do miss the seder, but we didn’t have anyone indispensable lined up for this year’s guest list anyway.

One thing I definitely miss is Dayenu. It’s a traditional poem/song that’s part of the standard seder, but some families pay it more attention than others. One of our guests years ago, a dear Christian friend full of spirituality and grace (and one of the three IRL friends I’ve told about this pregnancy so far), was really taken with the idea. For weeks after our seder, she’d keep bringing it up to me, saying how much it resonated with her. Now many years later, she still brings it up almost every year around Passover.

“Dayenu” means “it would have been enough.” The song lists many blessings that came to the Israelites, saying that each on its own would have sufficed, but that taken all together, G-d’s blessings are overwhelming and incredible.

Because I didn’t grow up Jewish, I learned the song from my husband who, for all of his amazing qualities, is not very musical. In fact, he can’t really carry a tune. As a result, I learned a completely wrong melody. In case you’d like to hear the real tune (and see someone’s adorable baby dancing)

As my only form of Passover observance this year, I’d like to give you my own version of Dayenu. Infertility is a period of wanting, of emptiness, but it’s good sometimes to remember all that we do have.

  • If I had my health without education or a career, it would have been enough, dayenu.
  • If I had the gifts of education and career but no husband, dayenu.
  • If I had the best husband in the world but no means or will for children, dayenu.
  • If I had the means and will for children but no ability to seek help to create them, dayenu.
  • If I’d had the means to pay for years of infertility treatments but no one to discuss them with, dayenu.
  • If I had an entire blogosphere to talk to but nowhere else to go, dayenu.
  • If I had the ability to travel around the world but no treatments to come home to, dayenu.
  • If my first IVF initially worked but resulted in another miscarriage, suggesting ways to improve future IVF cycles, dayenu.
  • If I’d secured New Job which provided health insurance that paid for my post-miscarriage hysteroscopy, dayenu.
  • If while waiting between the hysteroscopy and the next IVF cycle I started attending an infertility support group but got nothing tangible out of it, dayenu.
  • If through my support group I learned about the Trick Up My Sleeve (which I will explain to you soon, really I will) enabling insurance to pay for future IVF cycles, but I still had to fail one more IUI before IVF would be covered, dayenu.
  • If New Job insurance would pay for that one more perfunctory IUI cycle before getting the Trick Up My Sleeve to pay for IVF, dayenu.
  • If Perfunctory IUI actually worked before getting around to the covered IVF cycle, dayenu.
  • If Perfunctory IUI resulted in not one but two embryos implanting, dayenu.
  • If those two embryos have now graduated to fetuses, dayenu!

Another mini-Dayenu that I keep forgetting to mention:

  • If my sister-in-law with whom I have been in a race to have children trusted my husband’s counsel above all others and listened to his advice to postpone her wedding (which is objectively the correct advice, my ulterior motives aside), dayenu.
  • If, rather than getting lapped by her, there’s now a real possibility that I may have two babies to dress up and bring to her wedding, dayenu!

Even in the face of plenty of bad things, the good things keep coming too. I am well aware that many of the blessings I’ve received are not available to many of my bloggy friends, and I am very grateful for all that I’ve had. As I’ve struggled through various treatments, I’ve been cognizant that there are bloggers who go through many more than 11 treatment cycles before seeing a heartbeat; bloggers waiting years to save up enough money for their first IVF; bloggers for whom treatments will forever be out of reach, et al. Passover is a nice opportunity to think about the ways in which the glass is half-full (or, sometimes, 3/4 full and getting fuller).

The conclusion of each seder is, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Every year when we’ve said that, we’ve really meant it — Israel is always at the top of our list of places to go, but each year for different reasons it never quite happens. We actually had tentative plans to go this summer, probably whether or not IVF #3 worked. My international wanderlust has been quashed by the limitations on safely flying past mid-summer, and so our trip to Israel is postponed yet again. Maybe next year I’ll finally make it to Israel, accompanied by my babies.

Next year in Jerusalem!

Thoughtful Thursday: Jinx

January 29, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayFor last week’s Thoughtful Thursday, we explored the topic of luck — specifically, whether you can improve your luck. In the comments, some people thought that you can change your luck through lucky charms, positive thoughts, actions, etc. Many other commenters agreed with me that lucky charms don’t actually work, but it’s still nice to try to believe. A couple of commenters have come to abandon luck, since no lucky charm has ever helped to bring the good fortune of children.

This week, we’ll explore the flip side: bad luck, also known as jinxes.

In her comment last week, N from Two Hot Mamas said:

It’s funny, because I don’t believe in luck, but I’m still superstitious. I guess I believe in bad luck, if it’s possible only to believe in that.

It’s human nature when bad things happen to look at the preceding events and work backwards, trying to figure out possible causes. In the future, we then avoid whatever we think might have made the difference last time. Those of us who have experienced infertility or loss often make concerted efforts to avoid jinxing pregnancies (potential or actual). In some cases, it’s a concrete action — for example, in the case of one person I know, an airplane flight closely preceded a stillbirth; this has led to her refusal to fly at all during subsequent pregnancies, even though the doctors don’t think that flying would make a difference. At other times, we can’t pinpoint what we’re avoiding. In An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, after her first pregnancy ended in stillbirth, Elizabeth McCracken describes deliberately doing everything exactly the opposite with her second pregnancy.

Some cultures have fashioned entire lifestyles around avoiding bad luck. For example, many cultures fear the “evil eye.” In her comment for last week’s Thoughtful Thursday on luck, Mel mentioned her hamsa, a common charm in both Judaism and Islam. The purpose of a hamsa, though, is not to bring good luck… but to fend off bad luck. Many hamsas actually have an eye on them, representing the evil eye that they hope to ward off.

Here is one of the hamsas in my house. Like all hamsas, it is shaped like a hand — supposedly the “hand of G-d.” This one does not have the eye in the middle. I display it prominently in my house because it is pretty and because it belonged to DH’s late grandmother. I do not believe that it wards off bad luck; I just like to have it around.


There are numerous cultural traditions associated with avoiding jinxes for pregnancies and babies. For example, some cultures, including stricter sects of Judaism, prefer not to have a baby shower or buy anything before a baby is born. Many cultures have specific rules about when pregnancies should be announced, often with much fanfare and ceremony.

In North America, not announcing a pregnancy until a certain point (often, the end of the first trimester) is common practice among all women, not only those who have experienced infertility or loss. There are plenty of women who blab to everyone before the pee has dried on the stick, but most people are more cautious. But I would argue that the true purpose is less about avoiding a jinx, and more about not wanting to untell the news if something bad does happen.

Other than people following specific cultural customs, it seems very rare in North America to put off purchases and arrangements until after the baby is born. At minimum, almost everyone obtains a car seat so that the baby can come home from the hospital. In actuality, most people buy (or receive as gifts) everything they could possibly need in advance, expecting that shopping will become near-impossible with a newborn as well as satisfying the nesting instinct. But for those who do observe the custom of waiting to make most purchases and refusing a baby shower (which in my own life I’ve seen in people of Jewish and Indian backgrounds, but I know there are other cultures that do this), I again wonder about the true purpose. The cultural explanations are focused on tempting fate. But many of us who have dealt with infertility and loss also hold off on preparations — not because of jinxing, but because we are afraid of ending up with a nursery that’s fully furnished but is missing the baby. We are afraid of the Babies R Us equivalent of untelling, of getting stuck between not being able to get rid of the baby items but not bearing to see them around the house.

Let’s change gears for a moment and talk about baseball (maybe it will bring in some male readers!). In baseball, when a pitcher is several innings into a no-hitter, people start to realize what’s going on, but they’re not supposed to say anything. Anyone who mentions the burgeoning no-hitter is immediately shushed by friends and strangers alike. My husband is unflinchingly logical, yet he joins this superstition. His explanation is that he doesn’t actually believe in jinxing the no-hitter, but he enjoys participating in the tradition, and it’s fun for a stadium full of people to collectively cheer the pitcher on.

How does this baseball analogy relate to infertility and loss? Like my husband does with no-hitters, I have seen pregnant women go through the motions of respecting the tradition. They acknowledge that they’re not supposed to tell people too early, then in the same breath they do it anyway. Through the acknowledgment, they evoke the don’t-tell tradition enough to avoid the jinx, and they also invoke a collective wish for the pregnancy to go well. Usually, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone this early, but I just can’t keep it a secret anymore!” is answered with, “Oh, I’m sure everything will be fine, you have nothing to worry about.” In its own way, those reassurances are a form of avoiding the jinx, as if saying everything will be fine can make it so.

Personally, I have toyed with the idea of refusing a baby shower when the time comes, to be consistent with observant Jewish practice (for new readers, I am not Jewish but in our home we practice many elements of Judaism consistent with my husband’s Orthodox upbringing). Instead of the charade of being a normal oblivious pregnant woman, which I don’t know that I could pull off at a baby shower or anywhere else, I would instead don the persona of being anxious, superstitious, and culturally respectful.

Let’s get real. The Real Me wishes that I could have lived a life where obliviousness at my own baby shower was possible. The Real Me anticipates that when the time comes, nobody will throw me a shower — definitely not in the city where I live now, and probably not in any of the cities where I used to live; the only possibility for a shower is in one city where many of DH’s friends and family cluster. But if that hypothetical baby shower does happen, the Real Me doesn’t want to field questions like “What took you so long?” or tolerate innuendo about the sex that created the baby. In addition to giving the impression of religious observance, refusing a shower would be a defense against the anxiety that none of my friends care enough to hold a shower and an avoidance of “normal” bullshit. Refusing a shower would also be a passive-aggressive act to withhold my joy from the people in my life: I haven’t deemed most of them worthy to share in all of the pain that it will have taken to get to that point, so maybe they don’t get the good stuff either. Would I really let them off so easy, letting them eat sheet cake without ever having fielded a sobbing phone call about a BFN? Would I give them the satisfaction of letting them coo at onesies when they never earned it by sending a miscarriage condolence card? Yes, refusing a baby shower would have its purposes, but for me none of them having anything to do with avoiding a jinx.

And so, as you must have guessed by now, I do not believe in jinxes. I go through the motions of avoiding jinxes, not to hedge my bets in case they do exist (as I do for good luck charms), but because the jinx traditions have real functions. I will insist on waiting longer than usual to announce a pregnancy, having made the opposite mistake with my first miscarriage and told too many people too early. The bad “luck” I am avoiding is not some nebulous evil eye, spirit, or will of G-d, but the pain of sharing my past and potential future heartache with others. I am also avoiding the bad “luck” of most people behaving in a way that is totally unhelpful if something bad does happen. Similarly, with purchases, I will probably put off pregnancy and baby purchases longer than most. The dozens of children’s books and toys in my house already raise eyebrows; when people have to trip over a stroller to get past your foyer, fake explanations become progressively more difficult. What is this jinx that we imagine we are avoiding by refraining from making purchases? Part of it, I think, comes from doing anything we can not to make a potential loss even more real, even more painful. I know that there are people who truly believe in bad luck, in tempting fate, in drawing the anger of the gods (and I’d love to hear from you in the comments); for me, the jinxes I’m trying to avoid are the ones in my head.

Your Thoughtful Thursday question for today:
Do you believe that you can do or say things to jinx an outcome?

Happy Birthday to Me

November 3, 2008

I’ve never ever minded getting older before. I might not tell you my weight, but I will tell you my age happily. My mother, on the other hand, actually used to tell me to lie about my age around her friends to make her seem younger.

DH and most of our friends are a year or two older than I am, and some of my friends are several to many years older, so I’m usually one of the youngest people around. Throughout different stages of my career I have been the youngest or one of the youngest people around. I am almost always the one to ask the Four Questions at the Passover Seder, even in my 30s.

Now, I have made the transition from early 30s to mid 30s, and for the first time, I’m not 100% happy about that number. Not because of mortality, or what it means for my career, but entirely because of the fertility implications. I wonder at what point the RE stops saying, “You’re still young.” This year? Next year?

In other news, I’ve had two pieces of birthday cake so far over the weekend and haven’t been satisfied with either. I’ll keep seeking out new pieces of cake until I am satisfied.

Joy and Trouble

October 15, 2008

Today I will finish off my Jewish New Year train of thought.

The most common Rosh Hashanah greeting I’ve heard is something along the lines of, “May the new year be sweet.” There is a definite focus on sweet foods as a metaphor for good things to come. Apples dipped in honey and honey cake in particular.

The other common greeting that I’ve heard is a wish for nachas. No, not nachos. No chips and salsa in Judaism. Nachas. Pronounced with the gutteral ch sound. Sort of like knock-us, but instead of ck, you sort of clear your throat.

Nachas is yiddish for pride and joy. The opposite is tsuris, meaning trouble, worry, heartache.

Both words can have broad meanings, but typically nachas refers to joy specifically from children or grandchildren.

The entire holiday therefore feels exclusionary, inadvertent though it may be. The well-intentioned e-cards and mass emails mock my infertility.

During the almost 7 years I have been trying to conceive, I have had exactly 8 days of nachas, the 8 days before my first miscarriage. That works out to 0.3% nachas and 99.7% tsuris.

If I conceived during the next IVF cycle, by the time my hypothetical child started kindergarten, my nachas:tsuris ratio wouldn’t even be 50:50. By the time the child graduated from high school, it would be up to 75% nachas and 25% tsuris, assuming that throughout adolescence the child did not give me a single day of tsuris. Fat chance of that, but bear with me. And assuming that the child continues to offer nothing but joy every day thereafter, my nachas:tsuris ratio won’t exceed 90:10 until the child is almost ready to retire. Perhaps the child would be a grandparent by then, and I will have become a great-grandmother. Did I mention that 7 years is a really long time?

I don’t mind the wishes for a sweet year, but maybe people can lay off the nachas wishes for the infertiles and others without children. Instead, next year’s Rosh Hashanah greeting cards can declare:

May the new year be filled with nachos.

Happy New Year

October 10, 2008

First, I would like to wish a slightly belated L’Shana Tova to my Jewish readers.

Mel at Stirrup Queens has described the holiday wonderfully, and a couple of years ago she wrote a fantastic post about the fertility-related traditions around the holiday.

Last month I wrote a post about my own ketubah and Judaism’s history of ostracising infertile women. As a result of that post, many readers got the idea that I am Jewish. Of course they did, it’s only logical.

But now that we have just experienced the Days of Awe (the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time for reflection and forgiveness, at the end of which time your fate will be inscribed in the Book of Life), I must offer a clarification.

I am not Jewish.

I married a Jew from a pretty observant Orthodox family. There was enormous pressure on me from the family (never from DH) to convert to Judaism before our wedding. I held firm, believing, as I still do, that you should not change your religion because someone tells you to.

Instead, after much heartache and reflection and work, we were married by a Conservative rabbi who conducts interfaith weddings. I researched the components of a Jewish wedding extensively. I ditched the parts that I objected to. We incorporated the parts that resonated with us. Some of these components have been barely noticable at other Jewish weddings I have since attended, which often run quickly through many of the compulsory elements. Because it was my first exposure to Jewish matrimonial traditions, I tried to embrace each aspect mindfully.

Our beautiful Jewish wedding was attended by a small number of friends and family. It was not attended by key members of DH’s family, who had a problem with my non-Jewishness.

Eventually, everyone came around. They grew to see me on my own merits, not just as a member of an out-group. DH’s very observant grandfather declared before he died that although I had not converted in the Orthodox sense, I had converted in the Reform sense. (In fact, I have not converted at all, but that was his interpretation of my actions.) DH’s grandmother and I used to discuss techniques for cooking certain holiday foods, and a couple of times I surprised her with my “creativity.” For example, I added chocolates to desserts that don’t normally have chocolate. When you don’t grow up with specific ways of preparing foods, you are perhaps more flexible. I used to grate the potatoes for potato kugel by hand until one of the Lubovitch relatives declared, “Oh, no, I use a machine. Grating by hand is too much work.” So much for my attempts to do things the “right” way.

So yes, I never converted, but in practice our home is more observant than the homes of many of DH’s lifelong friends, who all grew up either Orthodox or Conservative. I have Kosher dishes (in fact, all of the pottery that I have made is designated Kosher dairy in our house). A couple of hours ago I completed my annual fast on Yom Kippur. I observe Passover restrictions to a T. I learned to read Hebrew. I make perfect latkes, fantastic challah, and deliciously “creative” hamentashen. Every door of our home has a beautiful mezuzah, many of them inherited from his grandparents or purchased all over the world at different synagogues. There are many other things that I would be willing to do but don’t, such as lighting candles on the Sabbath, because DH isn’t into them. But I try, I really really do.

Since I first was pressured to convert over a decade ago, I actually have been considering conversion, for reasons that I won’t get into today. But for now, I remain a non-Jew who sort of practices Judaism.

And what about children? My plan all along has been to convert our children and raise them in a way that would make their namesake great-grandparents proud. They will observe all of the holidays and traditions. They will not eat non-kosher food. They will speak Hebrew.

Strangely for someone who was the victim of so much judgment years ago, I can be judgmental of other mixed couples sometimes. My oft-mentioned sister-in-law is marrying a guy who isn’t Jewish. Yeah, I know, I’m not Jewish, but this guy is really not Jewish. Their children, who obviously will be coming soon because that is the Murphy’s Law of Infertility, will likely be raised never walking into a synagogue, never speaking a word of Hebrew. My SIL has always been a bit less observant than DH and much of the rest of the family, but her fiance seems to spell the end of Judaism for her emerging little branch of the family.

One of DH’s friends is married to a woman who, again, is really really not Jewish. Once I made a comment about attending their young daughter’s bat mitzvah someday. They laughed. I didn’t mean it as a joke.

At a recent wedding at an Orthodox synagogue, that same really really not Jewish wife wore a sleeveless dress. I silently judged her for not having the sense to cover her shoulders in an Orthodox synagogue. Throughout our marriage I have constantly tried to prove that I am not “that kind” of shiksa. I am not the kind who steals a Jewish man away from his faith and singlehandedly reduces the Jewish population by one. If anything, DH is more observant because of me than he would be on his own.

DH has a complicated relationship with Judaism, as do many Jews that we know. I seem to walk a fine line between participation and disdain. Disdain, either at their exclusion of me as a non-Jew (an exclusion that would still continue in some ways even if I choose to convert, although generally the religion is very welcoming to converts), or at their systematic “separate but equal” treatment of women. For example, I have been to several Orthodox synagogues, but I refuse to worship at one. On the years when DH has attended an Orthodox synagogue for the High Holidays, I have stayed home. I refuse to sit by myself, tucked away on a balcony or the other side of a wall with the other women — if they would even let me in.

Just as I did with my wedding, ultimately I will pick and choose the elements of the religion that speak to me, and conveniently ignore the rest. Although I have observed many Jewish traditions over the past decade, this week marks my first Tashlich and my first real, self-imposed Shabbat. I don’t know if this marks a turning point in my relationship to Judaism, or if it just means that we’ll be taking a day off once in a while.

Lori from Weebles Wobblog has inspired me in many ways. Today, she has inspired me to write my first Perfect Moment Monday post.

My husband and I have both been working a lot of 7-day weeks lately. His natural tendency is to work every day, with some days heavier than others based on the ebb and flow of his workload. My normal routine was to work 5 or maybe 6 days (with only a few hours on the 6th day). Since I got the 2nd full-time job, working 7 days a week has become necessary. (I used to take a day off during the week occasionally to go to the pottery studio — unimaginable now!) It’s not just a bit of work on the weekends like I used to do. It’s been more like 10-hour work days on the weekends, on top of the 12-hour weekdays. Yuck.

So this weekend, I declared a no-work zone.

In Judaism, the period from Friday evening to Saturday evening is the sabbath. In over a decade of observing various aspects of Judaism (more on that in my next post), I have never observed a real sabbath, or Shabbat in Hebrew. Shabbat includes some Do’s and some Don’ts. The biggest Do is that some sort of religious study and reflection should occur. Most families engage in a lot of extra family togetherness. Depending on how observant a person is, Shabbat’s Don’ts can range from not going to the office to full prohibition of all things considered “work.” To religious Jews (including some of my husband’s family), “work” includes things that the rest of us wouldn’t consider to be work, such as using electricity, driving a car, touching money, and carrying objects (unless you are within a special boundary called an eruv). DH has never gone along with those strict definitions, and in fact as a teen, he would seize Shabbat as an opportunity to borrow relatives’ cars since they weren’t going to drive anyway.

At several points early in our marriage, I asked DH if he wanted to observe Shabbat. He always said no. Since I have followed his lead when it comes to religion (though I may never have followed his lead on anything else!), unless we were with his family we have always treated Shabbat like any other day. The extent of my own acknowledgement of the day has been to wish my Israeli friends “Shabbat Shalom” when we would say goodbye at the end of the work day on Fridays.

But this week, after so many weeks of working 7 days a week all day, plus DH having two business trips in one week and barely seeing each other, I put my foot down. I declared a real Shabbat, free from work and filled with togetherness.

That is exactly what we had.

Friday night, we went out to dinner. Then we went to a bookstore.

That evening, I actually did some reading of the Torah and research into all of the mitzvot (Hebrew plural of mitvah).

Saturday morning, we enjoyed some, uh, intimacy. I won’t give any details, but I will gleefully mention that because of the timing of my cycle, it had nothing to do with making babies. For people who’ve been TTC for almost 7 years, that’s a very good thing sometimes.

Then we went out for brunch.

Then we engaged in a belated Tashlich for Rosh Hashanah. My first, in fact. Also my husband’s first, in fact. Despite coming from a religious upbringing, Tashlich was never something they did.

Lollipop Goldstein has already described Tashlich fabulously. Since it was my first time but she has done it many times, I’ll just let you read her explanation.

DH and I each declared some things that we wanted to let go of for the coming year, either sins, regrets, or things we just don’t want anymore. Instead of writing them on paper, which I consider littering, nor tossing bread crumbs into the river, which is forbidden because it interferes with the ecosystem, I wrote each of our castaways on a leaf. I figured that throwing a leaf into a river wasn’t really pollution, even if it has a little ink on it.

We went to one of our favorite local riverbanks and threw our leaves into the water.

We spent the rest of the day talking, hanging out, and laughing — more than we have done cumulatively in the previous 2 weeks. I followed up on the previous night’s religious study with questions such as, “What’s up with the mitzvah about the guy who can’t eat raisins?” and discussion of the ancient Israelites’ wisdom concerning crop rotation.

When Shabbat was over, at nightfall, I shook our Havdalah spice box. We have a beautiful antique silver Havdalah spice box that DH’s late grandmother owned. For the first time since it came into our house, I shook the box and filled the room with the scent of cloves to indicate that Shabbat was over.

Then, DH asked if we could continue our work moratorium for the rest of the evening. He said that if we didn’t prohibit work, he’d feel obligated to spend the rest of the night working. We agreed to take the rest of the night off.

We both worked all day on Sunday, but it was fantastic to have a real Shabbat. It was also amazing to connect so intensely with my sweetheart. We may just continue the tradition in the weeks to come.

Head over to Weebles Wobblog if you want to see other people’s perfect moments.