welcome June

I’m sitting on my couch on what will hopefully be my last day alone for quite a long time. Josh and Samuel have gone off to Memphis for the day to check on the repairs made to the house we have under contract. The baby will be here by Thursday, no matter what. We are moving into our new house, our first house, at the beginning of July. My friend Julia has pledged to post 6 out of every 7 days for the next month, after more than a year’s break from blogging. I might try, too, but I feel so short of things to write about.

I had the weirdest thought the other day. I’m still suffering from the itching I mentioned in my last post. I have a diagnosis for it–PUPP. It’s petty torture, purely. Nothing’s working to give me relief. But I am resigning myself to discomfort at this level or worse for the next 6 days at most and then hopefully, improvement after the baby’s born. Why 6 days? Because if I don’t go into labor by myself beforehand, I’ll be induced on Wednesday. I was really hoping to avoid that, but my platelets aren’t responding quite as well to the prednisone this time as they did last time. My numbers are at 100,000 this week, after being at 120,000 last week. Doctors are mixed on the safety of having an epidural if your platelets are below 100,000. Epidurals are absolutely banned if they’re below 69,000. Bleeding becomes a risk at below 50,000. I’m not committed to an epidural for pain relief–but I’d like to not have to be knocked out if a c-section becomes necessary. I’d prefer not to have a c-section for the usual reasons, plus it’s more dangerous than vaginal birth for me if my platelets are low. Anyway, that’s why I’ll be induced within the week.

But stepping back to my last paragraph’s topic sentence–my weird thought. As I was driving back from one of my multitudinous doctor’s appointments, this one to check on the cause of my rash, the itching on my breasts suddenly became so acute my arms started to shake. I thought, “Oh my god, This is why that prayer–thank God for not making me a woman–exists.” And then I laughed at my own absurdity. I have spent more than two years of my life pregnant. I had a miscarriage by myself while Josh was out of the country. It hurt a lot. My body killed Natan–my body spent the week in the hospital. My hip dislocated; my tailbone broke. I spent months on bed rest with Samuel, and months on partial bed rest with this new baby. There’s probably more I’m missing, but THIS, THIS–itchy breasts makes me rue being a woman. Why? Why only that, and then?

When I was in an orthodox women’s seminary in Israel, one of my teachers explained away the prayer. Men have more mitzvot obligations because of women’s obligations to their family–pregnancy obviously but also child rearing duties falling more heavily upon mothers leaving them less time for the mitzvot. Men express their thankfulness for their extra mitzvot responsibilities in the prayer. I know enough single fathers and women without children and families with two fathers or two mothers to see the limits of this argument. Those of course are radically uncommon or impossible situations in orthodoxy. But even back then I found it a ridiculous prayer that simply showed that the male author of the prayer had little understanding of femininity and womanhood.

Throughout everything we’ve gone through in our hopes to become parents to living children, I have never regretted that my body is the vessel for pregnancy and childbirth. I’m sorry it’s kind of a crappy body, but otherwise I’m still glad to be a woman. Josh and I both lost a child, that’s inescapable. I feel lucky that I at least got to feel Natan, to sense his heart beat and tiny self inside me. I felt so connected to him as soon as I could feel him moving. Josh is a wonderful father, so good to and with Samuel. I am sorry Josh did not get to experience what I did with Natan.

On the long list of things I’ve gone through in my pursuit of motherhood, and with labor still ahead of me, the itching seems so minor. Yet I’m so pissed off about it. The other problems are big challenges, tests of my strength, something I can look back upon as feats of determination.

This itching feels like such an insult. Just an indignity heaped upon me because I’m a woman. And for some reason, that, of all things, really irks me.

3 responses to “welcome June

  1. I also had that prayer explained away to me as a child, but I couldn’t be any more thankful to be a woman. Still, it is hard to explain such things to my children (especially now that I have both a son and a daughter so I have to be exceedingly balanced).

    I hope the PUPP clears up soon! Mine took a few weeks after delivery to clear up, but there was definitely an improvement within a few days of delivering. The final straw for me was awful carpal tunnel at the end of my second pregnancy (I would wake up with my hands clenched and it could take up to an hour until I could type, etc.). Sometimes it is the little, pointless hassles which goad us the most.

  2. Awww… Thank you for mentioning my fledgling experiment in return of the prodigal blogger. I hope I stick with it. Would love to have you along for the ride. A friend did Insanity with me last summer, and that was very helpful in keeping us both committed. So….

    Anyway, the prayer. Did you see the stories about a medieval siddur that circulated this past winter? The siddur is from the 15th century, but the women’s prayer in it is altered to give thanks for making one a woman, and not a man. This is the first story on the subject that popped up in my search just now: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4177916,00.html, but I am pretty sure there’d been a ton and a half of these around the time. I think I even first heard about it on the radio. The story made me so happy– it’s nice to know Jewish religious feminism is not as new as we usually think it is. And especially nice to know at least two men participated in making that siddur happen, one of them of considerable religious stature.

    And eh, really sorry about the rash. Hope your relief is just about instantaneous. I think I also understand the indignity of pointless annoying physical discomforts. Mine came on earlier in this pregnancy than they have before, and they are a pretty big part of why I don’t expect to be particularly wistful about being done with reproduction (if this baby lives, of course).

  3. That’s how I feel about the extreme nausea and vomiting during my pregnancies – it just feels like a gratuitous extra level of misery. I hope the PUPP clears up really soon for you.

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