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


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.