One single mother dispels the myths of the dos and don'ts of pregnancy

Note: This article should not be considered medical advice

THE WRITER with daughter Hanna, then three months old (photo credit: Courtesy)
THE WRITER with daughter Hanna, then three months old
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘Live your life as you’ve always lived it,” my fertility doctor, Prof. Shevach Friedler, told me as I prepared for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments as a single mom by choice (SMC).
“Are you sure?” I asked. “I can drink, smoke, party?”
“If that’s what you did before. Just stop when you start the medications.”
God bless my doctor. Had I not heard this advice, I might have been caught in the obsession of doing everything “right” to ensure a successful result. But what exactly is “right?”
Judging from advice liberally doled out on forums and groups for SMCs, I would have to abstain from alcohol, sex, and junk food as I prepared to shoot hormones up my abdomen to produce as many viable eggs as possible. I would also be well-advised to take up acupuncture.
To be safe, as I downed shots with friends after shooting up my stomach, I also booked acupuncture treatments, which I hated. Who actually enjoys lying down for at least ten minutes with needles inserted into their skin? Needles in my abs were enough. I stopped acupuncture after two sessions.
To relax myself through this odious process, I booked a hotel room with my best friend near the Herzliya Medical Center and decided to make an Israeli staycation out of the weekend-long process.
Right after the embryo transfer, I asked Friedler: “Is there anything I shouldn’t do during the two-week wait?” The two-week wait is the dreaded period of time that seems to last for two years during which aspiring mothers wait for the blood test to confirm a positive or negative result.
“Just live your life as you’ve always lived it,” he said again. Gee, did he not read Google, which dictated that you shouldn’t even pee right after the transfer?
“Can I go pee?”
“Did you do that before?
“You mean I could go to the sauna, take a hot bath, drink wine, fly a plane?”
“If that’s what you did before.”
Could I trust him, no matter that he is top in his field and former director of the Infertility and IVF Unit at Barzilai Medical Center? I read on a forum that taking a hot bath might boil the baby!
I listened to him, simply because I wanted to. I couldn’t deny myself these simple pleasures at a time when I needed them most. Then I thought rationally: When women get pregnant naturally, they usually don’t even know they’re pregnant until they miss a period. I’m sure the pot-smokers don’t stop getting high. The party animals don’t stop partying. The spa junkies don’t stop soaking. No drop of alcohol could penetrate that ball of cells, which is smaller than the tip of a needle!
Finally, on the last day of the two-week wait, I would find out if my wayward ways foiled the process. But the lab confirmed: I was pregnant!
I DRANK to that, of course.
Women are inundated with so many do’s and don’ts while trying to get pregnant and also during pregnancy. My doctor taught me – unbeknownst to him – that most of these prescriptions for a healthier, more successful pregnancy are probably nothing more than old wives’ tales (PC prefers saying wise tales), rules that – for no known reason – simply diminish our enjoyment of conception and pregnancy. Who knows if my relaxed attitude contributed to a positive result?
During pregnancy, when I’d tell some people that I’d eaten sushi (the doc said as long as I trusted the freshness, it’s a go), lounge in the steam room (for a limited time), and even enjoy an occasional glass of wine, it’s as if I told a hard-core climate-change believers that I don’t believe in global warming. It seems there is such a thing as a “politically correct” pregnancy. Often, with no conclusive scientific reason or evidence, people dictate what must be correct for a pregnancy lifestyle.
I have a friend who even told me that, on the secret approval of her experienced ob-gyn, that she even smoked an occasional cigarette – but never in public.
My baby Hanna came out perfectly healthy. Thank God, a million times tfu tfu.
My rebellion continued into childbirth, when I already began to mistrust the “rules.” Honestly, I’m not sure how women can enjoy motherhood when they are constantly instilled with the worst fear: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Can you get any scarier?
I was made to feel that just by leaving my baby unattended for a few moments in her crib, I might come back to, God forbid: a dead baby. This horrific phenomenon is called such because there is no exact reason for the sudden death; it is reasoned that babies might suffer from respiratory failure while sleeping on their stomach.
I know that SIDS is an unfathomable tragedy that should be taken very seriously. I’ve heard of cases personally; it affects about 1 in 2,000 babies – not a small number. However, since it’s unclear exactly what the cause is, mothers panic over every move they make with an infant. The Safe to Sleep campaign of the 1990s succeeded in making sleeping on the back the norm (so my mother and her mother never got the memo). The problem is, most babies hate sleeping on their back in what should be an empty crib, like mine.
For the first three months, my girl would last in her crib at most 10 minutes. She’d sleep in a baby carrier on me by day and next to me by night. And this is where it gets even more confusing: some experts argue that sleeping with the baby lessens chances of SIDS since the baby is curled up next to her protective mother. Some say it increases the risk of smothering. Well, which one is it? Is there global warming or not?
FORTUNATELY, I had a German midwife who also liked to break the rules. She recommended that we co-sleep. So my little one would fall asleep by my breast, both of us ensconced in a pregnancy pillow, rules be damned.
“But it’s okay if she sleeps on her side?” I asked the midwife.
“I think it’s fine. Mother’s have protective instincts not to smother their child. I’m sure many cases of SIDS came about because in the Western world babies have their own rooms and parents don’t oversee them. But we’re mammals. We need to be with our kin.”
I was comforted, thinking that I’d be a greater danger to my child if I couldn’t find a way for both of us to sleep properly. With this arrangement, I somehow got 7-8 hours of interrupted sleep. If I had to suffer sleepless nights making her sleep on her back or continually rocking her to sleep, I would have been a hazard to my daughter as a miserable, exhausted mother.
I’m sure more “mistakes” render me a “bad mom.” I still have that occasional glass of wine even though I’m nursing. I probably let my baby chill in the baby chair for longer than advised lately on some kids’ TV show. But I just can’t be “politically correct” as a mom, to do or don’t do things without being convinced of the reason why.
Now I find myself in the middle of another controversy: to let my child cry to sleep or not? After breaking the “rules” by letting her co-sleep, I realized that now, to get rest, I need my own bed. So, on the advice of a sleep consultant, I embarked on a program to “teach” her to sleep by developing a bath-book-boob night routine and then letting her lie in her bed until she falls asleep independently. I enter the room every few minutes to pat her, a method known as “controlled comforting.”
Mothers who chuck the rules often tell me to follow my instincts. That means, mothers could also have minds of their own. In such an uncertain world, it’s easy to understand why people want clear-cut rules, prescriptions and remedies. But the beauty of motherhood is that no mother and no baby are alike.
At a friend’s house recently, I noticed she covered her newborn with a blanket. I asked her: “Aren’t you afraid of SIDS”?
“No. I’m not even sure what that is.” She apparently didn’t get the memo either. A part of me wanted to rebuke and educate her, but I didn’t. My instincts told me that her second son will grow up just as healthy and happy as did her first.