Today is a fast day.
And I'm currently drinking coffee.
Not only am I not infertile enough, but I'm also not Jewish enough.
But I actually think drinking coffee today is a good thing. It shows a measure of growth. And I came to this decision last night after reading Serenity's post yesterday.
For those of you who aren't Jewish, today is a fast day, though it isn't one of the original four (yes, you guys thought we only stopped eating for Yom Kippur, but there are three more days where you can't eat) fast days. Therefore, you are not supposed to eat from sunrise to sundown.
The fast is called Taanit Esther or the Fast of Esther and it is the only day on the Jewish calendar commemorating the intelligence and power of a woman. I started fasting on this day when I got to college and was involved in feminist groups on campus. One year, the focus of Taanit Esther was to bring attention to violence against women and it included a Take Back the Night rally. On another year, it was a focus on the plight of Agunot (women who can't get a divorce) in Israel. Every year, I fasted because it felt like the right thing to do as a woman--to show solidarity with my fellow chickies.
Why do Jews fast? Well, fasting is supposed to turn one inward. To give a person a spiritual space where she can gain emotional strength rather than physical strength. Jews always fast before going into battle with the message being that physical strength doesn't win the race--it is your spiritual focus.
Infertility is a battle where emotional strength is needed over physical strength. The physical aspects of conception--that is entirely out of my hands. At one point in the month, it is hypothetically in the hands of my RE (at least I am paying him a shitload of money and believing that he has control over the situation) and at another point in the cycle, it is in the hands of my wonky hoohaahooterus. But at the end of the day, all I can do is sit back and wait to find out my beta results.
It seems more useful to focus on gaining emotional strength, which was the point of Serenity's post yesterday. For a while now, the Fast of Esther has been a remembrance day for me. One year, I miscarried the night before the fast. Therefore, the fast became a true cleansing. And it became my remembrance day for all the shit associated with infertility. The wiping of the emotional slate. I actually looked forward to the Fast of Esther because it was the private commemoration I created to honour my own journey. It felt right until I started thinking about fasting last night.
Serenity was concerned about the hope she feels at this point in the cycle--the Lupron days--and imagining the happy pregnancy after the positive beta. The nursery. And her future work schedule. And replacing leaky storm windows. All for the baby. And I started thinking about hunger. And how you can't talk your body out of feeling hungry. Either you feed it and you control that hunger or you try to ignore those pangs and still feel them. With hunger, you can feed your body healthy food and feel well afterwards. Or you can feed your body the brownies that you baked for the mishloach manot baskets and feel like crap afterwards. It's your choice.
But in the end, addressing that hunger is important to me. Ignoring it doesn't work. I've tried that. I've tried to tell myself on a fast day that I'm not hungry and I end up spending more time focusing on the fact that my stomach is rumbling rather than drawing spiritual strength. Fasting doesn't really work for me. It just makes me feel a bit ill. But years ago, I looked forward to using this day for remembrance, therefore, I barely paid attention to the fact that I felt hungry. I was simply happy that it was Taanit Esther and I could do something that felt proactive when it came to infertility.
This year, we already lit a candle to mark our journey. We didn't need to use Taanit Esther for this purpose. And if I was fasting in order to gain strength before heading into "battle," I had already determined that fasting doesn't work for me in that sense. I think hope, like food, comes into your life--into your mind or mouth--when you need it. Maybe hope is what you need to feel to balance out the gloomier aspects of your day. Maybe if you removed hope, all you would have facing you are injections and speculums and transvaginal ultrasounds. Maybe hope is the food that sustains you so you can enter battle. Because not everyone can enter battle with a grumbling stomach.
Thank you, Serenity, for making me think. For stopping me from going through motions without considering the meaning behind them. Taanit Esther has been through so many incarnations for me--from feminist holiday to spiritual powerhouse to infertility commemoration--that I have no doubt that a new meaning will slip over it by next year. I'm looking forward to discovering its new meaning.