Monday, March 19, 2012

Pesach (Passover) with HG

This post is inspired by K., who is currently suffering from hyperemesis and recently got in touch with me to ask questions about how I handled Pesach while pregnant.  To those of you who are not religious Jews this may seem like gibberish.  I'm just hoping that some poor woman who doesn't know what to do with herself for the week-long holiday will find this post and feel just a teeny tiny bit better.

Unless you are Sephardic, and even depending what kind of Sephardic you are, chances are that you don't eat kitniyot (legumes and more) on Pesach in addition to the restrictions that everyone has on chametz (leavened bread).  If you are suffering from HG and your food intake is already severely limited, these additional restrictions can seem stifling and even problematic from a health perspective.

K. mentioned to me that she knows she could get a rabbi to give her a heter (permission) to eat kitniyot foods on Pesach, but that it just didn't feel right.  If it was medically necessary then she could understand it, but since she has improved a bit she didn't feel that it was really as medically necessary.

I think that women with HG have a skewed sense of health and sickness.  If you have gone a week without an IV or if you can now eat 800 calories a day then you're doing great, right?  Well yes, but only in comparison to how poorly you were doing before.  Try to look at yourself from an outside perspective, from a 'normal' perspective, before saying that you're well enough that you don't need to get permission to eat normally 'forbidden' foods (although these foods are only half-forbidden, in a way).

My point is, if you are suffering from hyperemesis around Pesach time - even if you aren't in your first trimester, even if you are doing miles better than you were - get the heter from the rabbi for kitniyot.  What's more, don't let even the slightest bit of guilt enter into your conscience.  Even if you feel pretty good your body is still not itself and you have to worry about the little one growing inside.  During an HG pregnancy there are so few foods that you can eat to begin with that you don't want to limit yourself unnecessarily.

If you are living in America, getting the heter might not actually provide a huge amount of relief simply because you can't find so many kitniyot items that are labeled as Kosher for Pesach.  In Israel, however, you'll find everything labeled as kitniyot, from cream cheese to chocolate to coffee to more obvious things like rice and beans and the like.  Buy them.  Have them in your house.  Even if you wind up not using them, at least you know that you have the option.

This is not a time to tell yourself that you're better just to avoid doing something that is outside your comfort zone religiously speaking.  Health comes above all else.  Take care of yourself and your little peanut.

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