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


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.

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: