Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gardening in December (the fertility issue)

I got to Jerusalem, learned a bit about planting a garden from scratch, dug (and dug), and weeded, and de-rocked, and fertilized a plot. Then we had some rain and a sandstorm right when I was about to plant. Then went the main line explosion right near the yard, and a cleaning guy chucked bleach all over my well-loved, well-waited for plot. I dutifully decided to dig a new plot, then found a pipe where I was digging, then got clearance that the pipe was from an old water line, nothing to worry about. And I was hoping the seeds would be in the ground by the time I posted this blog, but at press time we have another looming rain! I have considered calling in a local gardener. I can't help but think how I should have started my garden as soon as I arrived in Jerusalem in October. A nagging voice says "move fast the frost is gonna come any day!"

I know some of us feel the same about making babies. Maybe you think you're getting old. Maybe you've been warned that you'll take a long time conceiving because you've been on the pill for a while. Maybe you've tried for 6 months or a year and beyond and no luck. So this newsletter is dedicated to giving you some resources for "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" (please read at least the first few pages of this book). Most women I know, educated and saavy though they may be, have a few things mixed up about how it all works. It is empowering to understand your cycle, let alone that it can help you get pregnant. In fact if you start charting your fertile signs as an exercise in learning about your body before you even intend to conceive, it becomes fascinating and less obsessiveness-inducing. I am much more an expert in pregnancy, birth, and babies than in conception, but I can give you some basic info that I've gathered and resources for finding more on your own.

If your period has been a recurring issue for you, the pill can help sometimes, but sometimes it mask symptoms more than curing underlying problems. Likewise, if you're not getting pregnant, there are a number of things you can investigate about your cycle and your specific circumstances before undergoing pharmaceutical fertility treatment. You should know whether you have a short luteal phase, or are not producing many eggs, or if your cycle is longer or shorter than optimal, or if your womb is not holding the fertilized egg, or if you're not producing enough cervical fluid (evening primrose oil can help), of if your partner needs to be checked. If your doctor isn't asking about these things before recommending Chlomid, I recommend holistic practitioners not primarily for the spirit of it, but for the thorough scientific investigation of your individual needs.

As for the spirit of it, it is helpful to make space for "a" baby, your baby, in your life. Jonah and I both gave up drinking for 3 months before we intended to conceive. I'm not sure the lack of alcohol made a difference but it was important for creating kavanah (Hebrew for "intention"), a conscious conception practice. Some people have found taking a vacation or just loafing around for a few weeks helpful. I know this can be touchy advice for people who have tried to no avail for a long time - "just slow down" is definitely not always the answer! And plenty of people get pregnant without slowing their lives down. And plenty of people do end up needing outside help, be it holistic or allopathic. I also want to acknowledge that I don't know what it is to long for a child the way a number of dear friends do, so please forgive me if anything I say simplifies the complexity of what you have gone through in your journey to conceive. But if you're having a hard time, lightening your load and creating ritual to welcome your child couldn't hurt. Try picturing yourself pregnant... picture your baby's face... your baby in your arms... take quiet time to imagine why your baby chose you, what you have to teach your baby, and what your baby has to teach you.

It never hurts to increase wholesomeness in your life - drink plenty of water, eat food, break a sweat, find time for stillness, try also gaining a few pounds, letting the belly soften can help. The flip side to this advice is that birth and babies are messy undertakings - the rigidity of trying to follow any advice too perfectly can create energetic walls (or "watched pot never boils phenomenon"). Ditch the rules and be flexible, watch the moon and follow the moon cycles. Read Susan Weed "Healing Wise" (in general I love this book). She writes, "The Wise Woman tradition is the way of nourishment and sustenance, rather than of "fixing" and "curing."

If you're not having a hard time conceiving but just worried you will, the worry itself can take its toll on your attempts. It is true that we may be statistically more likely to be fertile at 20, but that doesn't mean anything about our individual fertility at 40. One client said she lied about her age while trying to conceive so that people didn't "lay their negativity all over you." You're not a ticking time bomb. The body performs better when it is trusted. We can seek to be our own healers, and the healers of our children to come, at least some of the time.

Before I outsource to the local gardener, I'm going to see what I can manage on my own. I've learned about plenty of veggies appropriate to plant at this time of year. If a big rain comes again and blows my beets to the bean plot, so be it. Maybe I'll have to dig up the carrots and replace them with onions, or maybe I'll need to be brave and start all over again (again) in the spring. And if my crop is less inspiring than what I find at the shuk, I can believe in the life-sustaining work I've done at least as process and not only end result.

Here are some NY practitioners I recommend highly. Please reply to this email if you need a recommendation closer to your home or of a different modality (US or Israel):

P (212) 777-1318
C (917) 882-0077
F (212) 993-6097

HELP WITH: PCOS, painful periods, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, low libido, PMS, irregular cycles, endometriosis, cystic ovaries or breasts, intimacy issues, HPV, and IBS (to name a few :)
Alisa Vitti

MAYAN ABDOMINAL MASSAGE (and more): Katinka Locascio

NUTRITION: Latham Thomas

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Last week Bina was in a BAD MOOD. She was a completely different baby, crying at everything, demanding, hitting me... I think she was going stir crazy, we were cooped up with the much-prayed-for Jerusalem rain and had very little outdoor time. In the interim a few people emailed me to ask if I have any suggestions for toddlers who are hitting, biting, throwing, etc. It helped me get out of my own wallowing and into thinking about what I'd recommend to a client--

As much as possible, if you try to seek connection and understand your child more than trying to control behaviors, you sometimes inadvertently get improved behaviors, and at least get a more emotionally-enriched child (which can spell out more ease down the line). Inbal Kashtan writes about non-violent communication (NVC) in parenting and there is a specific lingo/way of interacting that is meant to be especially empathetic. IE - can you think specifically about what your child may be feeling and try to help give words or expression to the feelings? Maybe she is exploring limits; maybe she is working on her sense of humor; maybe she is feeling frustrated that you have all the power; maybe she learned this from someone at day care and is acting out to express some other need. So, can you ask her, "do YOU need to have more power?" or "do you think that is funny?" and see what she does... the philosophy is that she may not know what the word "power" even means but she can hear you sympathizing/relating and she moves on. You may tell her that you DON'T find it funny but after validating what she thought. Likewise you also need an empathetic listener, and I was grateful for the help of supportive friends last week (skype is amazing)! You can read more here:

Truth is, Bina bites me while nursing a fair amount (I think she has a limit of how hard, though her limit is just a little harder than mine!) and I haven't worked through it with NVC yet - i'm going to try this week. But what has helped so far is when I'm pleasant and clear about my limits, and when I remember Bina does not have malicious intent, even when her behavior is intentional.

These links also address this topic: is a great website I just learned about, with 1-page articles written by a lot of authors I admire - so a quicker read than a whole book, and you can decide if you want the whole book if any of these authors pique your interest enough.

I've also been working on being more positive in my phrasing of things with Bina, focusing on what I want rather than what I don't want. No easy feat but with practice I find I've been improving. I'll start off saying "please don't hit, we need to be gentle with our hands," and then remember I can just use the second part of the phrase. "Don't touch the garbage" can become "let's keep our hands clean; we can wash them now that you've had your hands in the garbage."

I'm looking at these challenges as an opportunity to work on my own interpersonal skills (for example I've always wanted to work on phrasing things more positively; even in my yoga classes I try to suggest "do this," and leave out the "instead of"), and hope to model the behavior I wish to see in my toddler.

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I've received is this - if your baby is challenging you, put an X on the calendar - more often than not, the phase has passed within 2 weeks. Bina actually made a complete turn-around, which I was so thankful for and kind of shocked by (I was concerned we had prematurely and abruptly entered the T*&RB*@E TWOs). I know I won't always be so lucky. But I'll keep trying to support Bina's need for self-expression, even when it shakes me, and know it will pass, along with all the tiny giggles and major milestones.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Too many experts?

The old lady at the playground "doesn't want to butt in" but Bina really should be wearing shoes. and she shouldn't be wearing a necklace. and what's with Bina's pants? As I'm about to start explaining EC, she tells me about her 46 grandchildren and 20 greatgrandchildren and how her children always realize she's right about everything in the end. Then she tells me a little about her time in the holocaust, my inner voice starts, "oh gosh, I'm a snotnose first-time mother, I need to learn from my elders more often..." and at the same time, "HEY lady get that sugar cereal out of bina's face!"

We have authors, grandmas, doctors, lawyers, hippies, dancers, preachers, teachers... So how do we make sense of their conflicting expert advice? It would be nice if we could just say "go with your gut" but it can't be the full answer - our guts have been formed by slick ad campaigns, mass media, and status quo since the day we were born. I'd say just go with the wisdom passed down from generation to generation, but occasionally this wisdom skips a generation (as when our grandmothers lost valuable tips about breastfeeding because in their day doctors said formula feeding was best). Our guts tend to change a little once we become parents and start doing things we thought we'd never be the type to do... so sometimes it's worth learning a little before we go with our prejudiced gut.

Once we open to advice without putting it on a pedestal, we want to find our own organizing philosophy - for me that philosophy tends toward attachment parenting and for you it may be what your parents always taught you, or "what would Ghandi do?" or something else. If someone suggests you go to a sleep expert, find out whether that expert comes from the baby training camp or the nighttime parenting camp, so you can decide if it's consistent with your general way of doing things. If someone suggests a nutritionist, find out if they are calorie-counters or holistic health counselors (or just think what Dad/Gandhi/AP friends would say about this person's advice).

It can also be helpful to look at some research, or if we don't have access/time/interest, at least question whether our experts are keeping up with the research in their field. And ask your expert to tailor their opinion to you. Tell them where you are coming from to see if they have had any experience with people who share your preferences. We all know the feeling of clamming up because we think the person we're talking to will disagree - we can we work instead on sharing what we think in non-confrontational ways to both learn and share (and share the park space).

Different experts have different priorities, let alone that they are human just like the rest of us and sometimes are mistaken. Your physical therapist wants you to avoid carrying your baby around in the car seat for extended periods because they see too many flat-headed babies and mother's with wrist, shoulder and neck injuries - your babywearing advocate may focus more on the bonding that comes from frequently using a carrier. An animal rights activist has different reasons for being vegetarian than a nutritionist. A golfer and a landscaper are both experts in grass, but what they classify as perfect grass are probably very different.

"My parents did X, and I turned out ok..."
"We're all doomed anyway, last week they said butter is bad, now margarine is bad - everything we do turns out that it was wrong!"

We've all heard these and similar comments, and they're ok for avoiding "expert" advice that we don't want or need, but can also be very reductionist.
Did X help you in any way, or did you turn out ok in spite of it? If you did turn out ok, would someone else have been so lucky? And quite frankly, DID you really turn out ok? We live in a society where chronic physical and emotional stress is the norm. Some of the things we think are fine because they are common may actually deserve a second thought. It is ok to make peace with some questionable choices that were made in our own childhoods, or the choices we make with our children, because we live in a non-perfect world and because we are resilient.

You may switch teams on your journey, or find there are many right ways, but at least you don't loose confidence in the face of every conflicting opinion. Which is a way to return to our guts - once we have learned a bit, it becomes easier again to make fast judgments that are a little more in line with who we are, and who we want to be. That's my expert opinion anyway.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Check out my feature in "Best of Birth in NY" from WPIX evening news!


Check me out on the evening news!

Check out "Best Of Birth in NY" on WPIX (Channel 11)!
TONIGHT between 10:30 and 11 PM. I am featured and co-created the segment. Stay tuned next week for Part 2: "Best Of Babies in NY."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

You're ok!

"You're ok, you're ok!" - chances are you've heard it or said it, at the playground or somewhere else when a child fell down. Seems smart - let's not baby them or overdramatize... but is there a more thoughtful response?

This comes up for me now, as a new student to Hebrew, when I want to make observations in class, or ask a question, or scribble feverishly. It's not that I absolutely need this question answered now, or that I'll know everything if I write every word. It's probably because I feel anxious with what I don't know, and feel the need to just do something. Maybe for control. Maybe just because I never put too much thought into this. But I do better when I let the learning wash over me without so much active processing. And usually when I'm dying to say something in class, that thought looms so large in my mind for the next 5 minutes that I miss half of what the teacher was saying (and probably the answer to my question). Basically, when I'm talking, I'm not listening.

What does this have to do with "you're ok?" Same as in class - when we're talking, we're not listening. A moment of silence is golden. We have the chance to take in the scene before reacting. We may feel anxious to see our children fall, and have learned to replace our "oh no!" with "you're ok," but it is still a jumpy reaction. Maybe our babies will move right along even if we say nothing. Or maybe they need a little support. We don't want to dramatize our children's falls - but we do want to validate their experience of pain or fear. A moment for babies to be allowed to feel what they're feeling before moving on is also golden.

The name of my textbook is "Hebrew from Scratch." And our children are also learning about the world from scratch. I want Bina to know that when there is a hurt (big or small) it's ok to have reactions. I can model a "no big deal" attitude when something goes wrong for me. I don't have to tell her that something that went wrong for her is no big deal. So even in this tiny phrase, there's a decent amount of learning for our beginners.

It turns out we are the students as much as our children. We are learning to be present without controlling everything. And they are learning how to deal quickly with situations and move on. This can happen almost as quickly as sweeping emotions under the rug, but makes room for emotional growth.

What do you think? Post your comments below.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

food, glorious food

Which foods, when, and how is always a hot topic in the parent circles, so I'll share what we did with Bina and why.

There's strong evidence for the benefits of delaying solids until at least 6 months. Yet there may be strong interest on the part of your little one to eat your hummus sandwich; or you're nervous that it's post-6 months and the baby shows more interest in eating dirt than applesauce - what's a parent to do?

To delay solids, we started giving Bina a bamboo spoon or her own bowl at the table when we were eating... then we gave her non-digestable foods - ie whole uncooked carrot, kale, celery (also good for teething). Next we gave barely digestible foods like red pepper slices, cucumber sticks; at 7 months (sitting, had 2 teeth) we gave lightly steamed broccoli (big stalk with handle), artichokes (surprisingly successful - the leaves offer a lot of food!), sweet potato (not pureed), and avocado (a quarter of it, in its skin, so she had something to hold onto). Babies have a hard time reaching the food inside their fist so anything that they can hold but sticks up above the fist is ideal. This is known as "baby led introduction to solids" or "baby led weaning" which has been fabulous for us - no purees, no spoon feeding, letting babies explore with supervision.
and a fun blog about this:

I'm trying to get comfortable with giving Bina table foods now, at 9 months, so I let her stick her hand in most things i eat lately, and she at least gets the experience of joining in with me. But I have to admit salt and anything processed still leaves me cold - her palate is still so new; she can appreciate flavors of foods without additional seasonings... why devirginize her taste buds so quickly?? High fructose corn syrup and candy will be knocking down our door before I know it. Her diet is still almost exclusively breastmilk, veggies and fruits.

So why not fish or bread? In the first full year of life, the baby's primary nutrition is breastmilk or formula - any other eating plays an educational, explorative roll more than a nutritive one. So I figure I'm going to wait on processed foods or other animal products for a bit. And why not rice cereal, commonly touted as the first food because it is iron-fortified? This may make more sense for formula-fed babies than breastfed babies. So if your baby is showing no interest in food, take it as a gift from the heavens and wait to get yourself covered in muck until they loose the tongue thrust reflex and can sit upright.

What about allergies and food order? Or if you just can't shake the need to put your baby in a high chair and give them purees?
is a great website with suggestions for first foods, recipes, and allergen advice.

This is such a bigger issue than what your yoga teacher tells you to feed your baby (or yourself). Food is love. Food is politics. Food is culture, it is body image, it is joy, it is health, it is art. Babies may want food early, but some don't. Some just like sticking everything in their mouths. Some do want food early, but it's for the social interest to do what we are doing. So draw from your own traditions, interests, and your baby's unique cues.

What's your favorite unique first food for babies? Post below:

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Bina turned 9 months old last weekend - she is working on standing "no hands." And I turn 40 weeks postpartum this weekend - I've been working on my handstands. I've had as much time as it took to grow a baby inside to recover and grow from the process. It feels like a time to think about me individually - finally getting back into my "own" projects and practices - (starting this blog... shedding the last of the baby weight?) - while the last nine months have been focused on me as a mother.

It feels auspicious to be arriving at this milestone right at the time of my own birthday, giving more food for thought on the juxtaposition of me as individual and me as someone inextricably linked to another. Our birthdays are the start of our sun period, a time where our energy and creative capacity is heightened, so I want to use this momentum and make ritual of this time.

It makes me think of how many people come to the practice of yoga for the physical benefits, and only along the way find other benefits. The mind and body are inextricabIy connected, just as my place in the world is now inextricably connected to my role as mother.

The "becoming" of who we are and the work we still have to do is a process. It struck me how practicing yoga can bring us closer with our babies. It is so valuable for them to see that even as adults, we're not perfect - it's about process more than the end result. Having a practice of our own also helps us relate to how hard our babies are working when they try, again and again, to roll, crawl, or walk on their own two feet.

If you need a jump start on your practice, yogis implement a 40 day sadhana - you must do the new practice every day for 40 days and if you miss one day you must start again. It's a simple thing that anyone can do when we need a change. It takes about 40 days to cultivate a new habit (or 40 weeks to grow a baby... or 40 years to wander in the wilderness...) and a flood of water to mark the new phase:

Just as mind and body are inextricable in yoga, maybe your baby is inextricable from your practice. So do a little yoga with your baby around. Run to your baby from downward dog, and see if you can sneak in some sun salutes. Jump to seated in front of them and take a forward fold when you nestle their belly. Let them creep up on your chest while you have your legs up the wall. Let their persistence inspire your practice. And let them know you're still practicing too.

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