Dec 13 2013
You are coming soon. And when you arrive, we will bless you. But for whom is this blessing? Is it for you? Or is it for us?
I can already feel the moment. It’s January, and the wind is leaking through the window. Your mother will be spent, and in the drafty night, crankily demand that I try to soothe you.
You will be at my shoulder, both of us stuck between sleep and alertness, barely able to see.
And then will come my blessing for you, remembering how my father and I recited the Shema together before bed. We would name each aunt, each uncle, each cousin, and then finish with a patriotic flourish that invited God to look after “all the Jewish people, the United States, and all Earth.”
Jacob to Manasseh and Ephraim. All the way down, from me to you. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 12 2013
I was raised by my secular, humanist Jewish family in the woods of central Maine. We were surrounded by lakes and maples, heard loons at night and occasionally, a moose and her calf wandered into our backyard, much to the consternation of our golden retriever. There were no sidewalks in our town, no traffic lights. My sisters and I played Laura Ingalls Wilder in the backyard until dark. It was isolated and idyllic.
That same isolation became disruptive once we entered the small public elementary school in the next town. We were raised to be proud and outspoken about our heritage, to speak up when teachers talked about Hanukkah in the context of “Christmas Around the World,” to bring in our brass menorahs and wooden dreidels and explain our customs to our classmates.
You may already know how this story goes. Sixth grade boys drew swastikas on their notebooks and showed them to me. “Do you know what this means?” they asked, feigning innocence. My sister’s classroom teacher referred to Judaism as a branch of Christianity, and her classmates called her a “stupid Jew” when she corrected her. A small blonde girl in my class kicked me as I walked up the stairs to the bus, hissing “Jew” in my ear as I fell. In middle school, well-meaning friends urged me to become a Jew for Jesus, to avoid my inevitable damnation. Our bus route took us past hand-painted signs nailed to a grove of trees that read “Jews = Sinners” and “Sinners Damned to Hell.” Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 10 2013
I kneeled by my mom’s side as she lay at home in her bed under the care of hospice. “Bittersweet,” she said as she smiled through tears and put one hand on my small belly. That moment together would be one of our last. She died just two days later. I was eight weeks pregnant.
Prior to the very end of the year in which my mother battled cancer and then battled the side effects of the chemotherapy intended to attack that cancer, she was an active and involved nana to my niece and nephew–the kind of nana who got down on the floor to play, who sang and danced the hokey pokey, who listened on the phone with endless delight to impromptu cello rehearsals, and who worried, like any good Jewish grandmother, whether or not they brought a sweater.
My son has no other grandmothers. My husband’s mother has been quite ill for many years. Even if she was told she has grandchildren, we are not sure she would understand or remember. My husband’s stepmother, a lovely woman, has seen our son only twice.
As a child psychologist, I’ve spent time thinking about how to talk to children about death. I’ve read the literature. I’ve talked to my young clients about death and dying. I’ve advised parents. When and how do you tell them? How much do you share? What age is too young? Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 4 2013
So with Jordana birthing her absolutely beautiful baby girl last week, somebody has to keep the Kveller baby boom alive so it might as well be me. I’m just finishing up the longest, most tiring first trimester of my life but we’re thrilled to welcome another little one in May. In case you had any questions,
….nope not an accident
….nope not just trying for a girl
…..yes we will need a bigger car
…yes we are staying in our two-bedroom apartment
….no I have not been feeling well
….yes I’ve lost weight, dry heaving day and night will do that but don’t worry I’ll get fat soon enough Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 31 2013
“I’m a word person, but for this I have no words.” That’s how I started an e-mail to a good friend the day I found out she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. It took me a full hour to process the news, and I spent the next several in tears. That was four weeks ago. Three weeks ago she told me what caused the cancer: her second pregnancy.
Today I’ve found my words again. Chalk it up to going through the steps of grieving–grieving over her diagnosis–but ever since she told me that because she created life, she’s now fighting for her own, I have been angry. Not angry at my friend, who wishes to remain nameless–“The message is the most important aspect,” she said–but angry that after having two kids myself and knowing a very fair share of other moms and having an OB/GYN in my family, I had never heard of pregnancy-induced breast cancer.
My friend never heard about it either, so when she noticed a lump in her left breast, she figured it was a clogged milk duct. She had no genetic history of breast cancer and felt fine. In September, when her second child was 10 months old, she sought treatment for a cough and pain in her chest, back, and shoulders. The doctor diagnosed pneumonia. At a recheck a week later, he found the antibiotics had done nothing. He sent her for further testing, and on September 27th, she was diagnosed with stage four (metastatic) breast cancer.
About 1 in 3,000 pregnant women will get it, according to the American Cancer Society, and it’s the most common type of cancer found during pregnancy or within the year after delivery. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 30 2013
Jordana Horn recently wrote about nesting before the birth of her fifth child. We are also awaiting our fifth child, and this nesting period is different from our previous ones for several reasons. Most significantly, our fifth child is already born. He’s waiting for us in an orphanage on the other side of the world.
After our fourth child was born, darling husband and I were fairly sure that we were done procreating. We were less sure that our family was complete. Since my husband was adopted, adoption seemed to be a natural way to grow our family. A small part of me also hoped that by choosing adoption I might avoid some of the worry that I experienced during each of my pregnancies.
Parents in the adoptive community sometimes talk about the similarities between pregnancy and waiting to adopt. Personally, I have definitely experienced moodiness, anxiety, and weight gain again as I wait for this fifth child. I have also, once again, felt the impact of generations of superstition. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 24 2013
When I was pregnant with my son, I knew he was going to have blond hair and blue grey eyes like my father. I knew he would take after my American side–rather than his Israeli father–because all the time I was pregnant, I craved pizza, hamburgers, and Coca-Cola.
I was not surprised when he was brought to me: a skinny old man with blue eyes and strawberry blond hair. I gave him a name my Israeli-Jewish husband approved of: Eitan. In America we would call him Ethan, a Puritan name, to reflect my own American Protestant roots. I called him Eitan ha katan because it rhymed. Ethan the little. When my son was 2 years old, we moved, for six months, to Israel.
Conversion to Judaism had never really been a question. My husband and I married just seven months after meeting and I knew I had no chance at an Orthodox conversion. According to Israeli law, I would never be Jewish, nor would our son. And anyway, my husband had grown up on a kibbutz. His childhood was largely secular. His own father had been rumored to eat sausage on Yom Kippur. When we’d lived on the kibbutz for those few months, my father-in-law took great pleasure in bringing me wrapped deli ham from the Russian butcher as a Friday night treat. Read the rest of this entry →
It was, as they say, a dark and stormy night. The power had gone out hours ago, and we’d put the kids to bed on the early side with flashlights and tiny battery-powered votive candles. That was when it was just a heavy rain.
But just a few hours later, the noise outside was cacophonous. Rain slapped the windows with a fury. Trees snapped like twigs, as gusts of wind pounded our old house and sent broken telephone poles like toothpicks scattered into the street. The dark sky lit up over and over with jagged lines of lightning, and an odd green luminosity that we later learned was produced by exploding electrical generators.
Among the many miracles of that Superstorm Sandy night a year ago: our old house remained standing and intact, and our children, including our week and a half old baby, O, slept through the night unperturbed. I, on the other hand, huddled under my husband’s arm as though he could protect me if a tree fell into our house. Submerged in exhaustion, fear and postpartum stress, I cried. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 16 2013
Anyone who’s had a baby knows what “nesting” is. It’s the urge that kicks in shortly before the baby will be born–the one that inspires you to actually organize and prepare your home for the impending new arrival. Nesting evokes a doting mother bird, preparing the hunk of twigs and detritus that will become a cozy home for a family. It’s a lovely idea.
It becomes somewhat less poetic with the imminent arrival of your fifth child.
With the fifth kid, nesting now incorporates:
*Ample profanity: “Where the f*ck did we put that big Tupperware bin full of the newborn onesies?”
*Grunting: If you are not supposed to do any heavy lifting at the end of your pregnancy, how are you supposed to get the bassinet out of the basement while making sure the current baby doesn’t tumble down the stairs? Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 30 2013
Back in May, I interviewed Cory Silverberg, a sexuality educator and author of What Makes a Baby, a picture book “about where babies come from.” Below, Cory has taken the time to answer some more questions, this time from Kveller parents and readers.
“How do you talk to your 3-year-old about where and when it’s ok to touch her vagina? And what’s the best way to explain why she can’t just touch it all day long?”
This is a great question! I know that we all have different relationships with our bodies but I hope most of us can appreciate that it’s perfectly reasonable for a 3-year-old to not only want to touch her vagina, but to do so all day. It’s not tenable, of course, but I think starting from a place of understanding instead of outrage or embarrassment goes a long way.
You may be feeling stuck because you are imagining one conversation to deal with this. But this needs much more than one conversation. You need to share with your 3-year-old your ideas about privacy, about bodies and touch, and about pleasure. I can’t tell you what to say because I’m not sure how you feel about any of these things, but I’ll offer you an example of how some parents I know talk about it. Read the rest of this entry →