My friend and colleague, Sarah Feinberg, became a first-time mother in May. We had spoken during the year about her decision to become a mother on her own and on her efforts to become pregnant. So, I was thrilled to meet 3-month-old Margalit (Gali) recently and welcome Sarah, director of operations in CJP’s planning department, to this new chapter in her life. I sat down with her (and her daughter!) in Brookline to find out more about her life as a single mom.
What was your process in deciding to become a parent on your own?
I was at a juncture in life when I had to consider my health, age and the status of my personal relationships and how all of that fit with becoming a mom. I ultimately decided that I would rather put my efforts into becoming a parent than to focus on dating. It was more important to me at that point. I do hope that one day I find the right relationship and get married, but in choosing this path I let go of the idea of creating a family in a “traditional” way.
I spoke with very close friends as I was deciding and they really helped me think through the decision. I also spoke with my parents, who were supportive but nervous. We all had to re-imagine what my life would look like and how it would change. I feel truly lucky and blessed that their primary dream is that I’m happy.
Additionally, my doctor connected me with a great fertility specialist at The Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who was supportive and sensitive about my choice to become a parent on my own. She was very helpful in thinking about the most affordable way to go through the process, which was no small thing for me.
An important step for me in the process was the mikveh (ritual immersion) ceremony I created before my first attempt to get pregnant. I was home in Washington, D.C., for Passover and went with my mom to the mikveh at Adas Israel Congregation. I created my own ceremony based on Mayyim Hayyim’s ceremony for fertility and augmented it with different online resources; that moment marked the beginning of my journey.
Who have been your greatest supports as a new mom?
It’s only been possible to do this because of the community I live in. I’ve been a member of Minyan Shaleym in Brookline for years, and other members have been a huge support, organizing meals for the first three months of my daughter’s life. Many nights people come over to help me with various things, from basic clean-up to taking out the trash to holding my daughter, Gali, so I can take a shower. People often asked when I was pregnant if I was going to move to D.C. to be near my immediate family, but there I only have three sets of hands to help, and here I have a whole community. Additionally, my employer, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, has been incredibly supportive with maternity leave, flexible scheduling and maintaining good boundaries around my leave.
Gali is only a few months old, but what have been your favorite parts of parenting so far? What has been the most challenging?
I’ve loved watching her develop and, recently, seeing her become more interactive. One thing I love about being her only parent is that I get to make every decision about her life, which is great since I am fiercely independent. On the other hand, it’s a lot to handle alone. While I get to raise her the way I want, it’s also overwhelming at times to make all of the decisions by myself. Even with the greatest supports, I am still doing this alone. Managing her growth and breastfeeding has been the hardest part for me. I never realized how hard that was going to be. Until a lactation consultant recently showed me the right way for Gali to latch, it was extremely challenging.
So much of the early months of parenting are about getting through the immediate needs of each day. Do you have any special rituals or traditions with Gali?
Growing up, my father blessed my siblings and me every Shabbat with the “Blessing of the Children.” My parents were in Brookline for our first Shabbat as a new family, and he blessed both Gali and me, and I’ve continued with the blessing for her every Shabbat since then. I love this moment because it’s a chance for me to pass on a special family tradition. It’s also a chance to connect and leave all the day-to-day concerns behind.
Are you a single Jewish parent by choice looking to hang out with other single parents by choice? Check out this social/support group starting in the fall at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline.