A recent Kveller article by Cara Paiuk detailed the best things to do if trying to get pregnant. Cara recommended the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and I agree—that book changed my life and allowed me to have access to the intimate workings of the reproductive system easily, simply, and in the most effective way to achieve pregnancy. The book both helps you get pregnant and avoid pregnancy, since by learning your reliable and consistent patterns (which for the vast majority of women are universal), you truly can take charge of your fertility! This is not ‘the rhythm method;’ it’s just understanding biology.
But did you know that the wisdom, simplicity, elegance, and baby-planning contained in that book (and in our biological make up) has been tapped into for thousands of years by Jews? That’s right. Long before tomes of endocrinology literature charted the hypothalamic and pituitary secretions of the hormones that govern menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding’s effects on our cycles, the Torah detailed it for us. Mmm hmmm.
That’s right, ladies. The Torah. The Five Books of Moses, that some-3000-year-old tome. The Torah says to count “for yourself” seven days. Over time, an additional five days (according to most customs) were added to the mix . What happens 7+5 days after you start your cycle? As any OB-Gyn, endocrinologist, or person who has read TCOYF can tell you, for the majority of women, ovulation occurs around the 12th day after you start your cycle. Yup.
Get it? The most efficient way to get pregnant is to have sex on and around Day 12 of your cycle. And that’s literally what Jewish women have done for thousands of years. Traditionally, the night of ovulation (day 12 of your cycle), women immerse in a mikveh which is basically a glorified and very sanitary pretty hot tub with no bubbles involved and only one woman at a time allowed in.
The mikveh is a meditative space, an opportunity to experience the cleansing of water (Catholics liked this idea so much, they made Baptism a must-do ritual), and a signal that you are ready to engage again in the holy work of making babies. It’s actually quite profound and beautiful, I think. Many traditional women also refrain from other intimate acts from the first day of their period until they’ve immersed in the mikveh, such as kissing, cuddling, and even sleeping in the same bed. It may sound odd, but the potential excitement for reunion after so many separated days is pretty powerful, and generations and generations of women (and their content husbands) swear that this is what keeps their sex lives and marriages fresh and exciting.
I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, so Judaism just wants to make women into baby factories. My only purpose is to get pregnant? Thanks, but no thanks.” To this, I say two things.
1) Judaism values making babies but there is a place in even Orthodox Judaism for birth control. It is important to have children when your family is ready for more children. We want children to be born into families that want them, love them, and have the resources to care for them.
2) Judaism loves love. We love sex. We are told it is a mitzvah to make love and to especially make love on Shabbat, when God’s presence is close. A woman’s right to sexual satisfaction is detailed in her ketubah, her marriage contract, independent of pregnancy.
Sex really can be for fun and for free; thank you Judaism. And when you are not cycling, such as during pregnancy and after menopause, have as much sex as you want. Have it upside down and sideways and from the chandeliers. It’s all good, it’s all kosher, and it’s a wonderful reminder that Judaism is pleasantly focused on how we live, rather than what happens after we die.
We live for perpetuating the species, enjoying marriage through sex, and honoring our traditions.
And we can do it all. God willing, we can do it all.