Thursday, April 21, 2011

left leaning

This post is not about politics.

I know you'd assume it would be, since we are about to have an election in Canada (in which I cannot vote, because I am not a Canadian citizen) and because there has been a lot of political news in the USA lately. Neither of these is particularly relevant to this blog post.*

I will, of course, refer to religion, health, and wealth in this post, so you can feel I've violated the "taboo in polite company" subjects. This makes up for the lack of photos! (Photos would be way too much information here...you'll see!)

On Passover, at the Passover seder, some people have the custom of leaning to the left as they drink the four cups of wine. Don't worry, I had grape juice this year. If you're curious as to why, I've included information from this website below to explain.**

Anyhow, at the seders I attended this year, nobody did this, but I was reminded of the custom.

Why? Well, when you're pregnant, you're supposed to be sleeping on your left side. This is because you can't physically sleep on your stomach...that would be seriously uncomfortable for everybody involved. If you sleep on your right side, you can apparently cut off circulation because as the uterus gets larger, it can cut off blood flow. Apparently sleeping on your back isn't ideal either. You should only, if possible, lean to your left as you sleep. (I am usually a stomach or side sleeper, but well, everything changes when pregnant with twins, apparently.)

I'd like to point out here that before the days of medicalized advice, many pregnant women managed to sleep through the night without any instructions at all. Apparently, humanity survived this lack of sleeping instructions....but now women must rely on medical intervention to enjoy poor sleep and miserable nights during pregnancy.

Now, I can't speak for anybody else, but for the last few months, the only way I managed to sleep at all was in a sort of boosted up reclining position, on my back. This cut down on my heartburn, shortness of breath, and numbness in my arms and hands while I slept...until recently, when my legs and feet started to get seriously swollen, too. I have had low or normal blood pressure all along, and my doctor assures me all my symptoms are entirely normal for a twin pregnancy.

Last night in the dark, while pondering the notion of leaning left on Passover (and going to the bathroom about 500 times), I tried rebuilding my pillow fort in bed and trying sleeping on my left side again. The ligaments in my abdomen didn't like this added pressure. The fetus in the lower part of my abdomen didn't like it. However, when morning finally arrived, I discovered that the swelling in my legs and feet had subsided. It worked.

Leaning left was a good (if totally uncomfortable) idea. It only takes about 5 pillows, a duvet, a wool blanket, a bed entirely to oneself and a very long night of discomfort. It does, however, really reduce swelling in my legs.

When the professor got up this AM, he saw my frustration and asked if he could make me more comfortable. First, I offered a string of suggestions, none of which can be described in polite company here...I was grouchier than Oscar the Grouch. Second, I sprung out of bed at 6:30 in the morning, giving up entirely on sleep.

Stay tuned--the pillow fort research approach to circulation, swelling and numbness is likely to continue over here.

Now, don't you wish this WERE about politics?!

*Except for this quirky story: When I was a kid, I had a book about Native American/Indian/First Nations/Aboriginal culture. (Choose the category that people use in your area--this terminology varies in the US and Canada.) I loved this book and my parents read it to me over and over. In particular, I was enthralled with the notion of the Potlatch. I especially loved the idea of giving away presents to other people at a big party--and the effort to equalize status through redistribution. I still love throwing dinner parties today and giving people presents when I have just the right thing for someone. When we decided to move to Winnipeg, my father concluded--as a joke-- that I'd fit right in as I was always leaning "left" towards socialism anyway. Further, he figured I just wanted to move farther west --"left" when looking at a map--in order to really participate in all those potlatches. :)

**The Talmudic Sages created a rabbinic injunction that a Jewish person was obligated to drink 4 Cups of Wine during the Seder in a way (leaning or reclining to the left) that expresses their freedom (Babylonian Talmud, Gemara, Pesachim 108b, 117b). The drinking of Four Cups of Wine represents the most prominent rabbinical injunction or obligation or mitzvah to be performed during the Seder. Furthermore, each of the 4 Cups of Wine symbolizes a commandment or mitzvah I.E. an obligation to perform, unto itself (Babylonian Talmud, Gemara, Pesachim 109b-110a).

Why Must One Recline or Lean to the Left When Drinking The Four Cups of Wine? Why Not Recline or Lean to the Right or Not At All?

The Talmudic rabbis cautioned against reclining or leaning to the right when drinking the Four Cups of Wine or when drinking any other beverage or when eating because there was and is a greater danger of accidentally consuming the liquid or food down the windpipe or trachea when one is reclining or leaning toward the right. In addition, the custom of the Greeks and then Romans during the time of the Talmudic rabbis (the latter about 10 B.C.E. until 500 C.E.) was to drink and eat while reclining or leaning to the left, which symbolically indicated that the rulers of Judea - the Romans, who were preceded by the Greeks - were the only free people in Judea and so they were the only ones who were able to do that.

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4 Comments:

Blogger k.thedoula said...

and here I was thinking "woooo an American point of view on Canadian politics!!!".
Not that I was sorely disappointed. I always appreciate religious knowledge and pregnancy related things.

And not to worry about not getting to vote in this election, give us another year or so... there will be another one!
Yes, I'm apathetic, but I can't grump about it if I don't vote, so I shall be voting!
:-)

April 22, 2011 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Good luck and may it become more comfortable. I was only allowed to sleep on the left, and for good reason: my blood pressure sank too dangerously low while I was pregnant if in any other position. It took pillows and props for a little while but it became what felt right--and still does, 23 years later.

April 22, 2011 at 6:07 PM  
Blogger Cloverleaf Art and Fibre said...

You described the whole scene so clearly photos would have been redundant. I'm glad you got a bit of relief in one area, anyway. Hang in there!

April 23, 2011 at 1:01 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

It's funny that you should talk about the "leaning left." I still sleep on my left side after my kids, also (and the youngest is now 26!).

April 23, 2011 at 4:21 PM  

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