Meditation, procrastination, a hot cup of coffee: the birth of my third child

<The background on why we went to hospital instead of another home birth>

For me, the key to labor, much like – spoiler alert – the key to early parenting, is to take each minute at a time. That is probably my number one piece of unsolicited advice to all procreational people.

So I had assumed that last Friday and Saturday, in my 39th week of pregnancy, would be a lovely time as any to give birth since I’ve managed to do just that during the weekends of my last two 39th weeks. And I actually felt like things were moving, all throughout those two days – even though it would stop, and I’d sigh, and consider how frustrating it would be to have to face my obgyn for a post-term check.

By Saturday night nothing was doing so I waved my huz and potential babysitter brother goodbye as they left for drop-off at the train station. And not 15 minutes later, as Murphy would have it, I realized… oh. I called them back, we ate a pizza, I took a shower and figured I’d attempt a nap since I probably had a few hours.

Except I didn’t have a few hours, because after the shower it got quick. And my gut told me we should go before the contractions got worse – the horrendous car ride is one very clear memory I had of my first birth in a hospital. We gathered our stuff and headed to the car.

One thing I had prepared differently, in anticipation of a hectic hospital birth, was meditation material. A week or so before labor, I had expressed my concern and received advice related to hypnobirthing and mindful birthing. I read a lot about both and practiced my own little exercise, mainly breathing and clearing my mind, based on a color meditation I found online. So when we got in the car with a 20+ minute ride ahead of us and contractions 5 minutes apart, I took out the earphones and started “breathing in the color red.”

It helped. I wouldn’t say it was easy (extra pain radiating down your thighs because you’re sitting upright instead of moving, anyone?), but I felt focused and the pain was managed as we made our way down the windy Jerusalem hills.

As soon as we parked, I jumped out the car to be able to stand for the next one. And the next one, and next one on the way to elevator. We ran into a midwife coming back from a coffee run so she took us into the maternity reception area.

“How are you feeling?” they always ask you. I guess I didn’t seem that bad; I answered her. Next thing I know she’s looking up at me wide-eyed.

“You’re 9.5!”

First I heard 6.5 and then I heard… “What?!”

“You’re 9.5. Let’s go.”

So about 2.5+ hours after I called the huz back home, the two of us plus midwife were stunned as we rolled me into a labor room, seconds from pushing.

Yeah, too late for walking, so I was laying on a bed being wheeled into the next room. On the way out, another midwife called to us to stop.

“You forgot your coffee!”

My midwife called back that she couldn’t really take it right now. The very concerned coffee-holding midwife brought it over and looked from her colleague to my husband, who were both steering the bed.

Then she did something – that even then, in that moment, in my head, I was already laughing about – she looked at me.

And handed me a size-large, steaming, fresh cup of Hillel coffee.

And lord bless me, I’ve been here over nine years, and my first thought was: Only in Israel.

So I’m carrying my midwife’s coffee on the way to the labor room, distracted by a new meditation of ‘don’t start a contraction – don’t start a contraction…’ Maybe there’s a new childbirth method in this somewhere.

We get in and I shove the coffee back at the (now very decaffeinated) midwife as we begin the end.

Another midwife started fumbling to get the IV inside me – remember I needed antibiotics at least an hour before birth? – and cranked it on high drip.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough. They said I did get the whole unit. They said it might have been for a total of five minutes.

Whatever it was, minutes later, after a total of 3 hours in active labor, I gave birth to our daughter.

Just under 3 kilo, and 3 for 3 with a head full of dark black hair. Bless the midwife, who knew my deal, she put my newborn straight on my stomach, I wrapped my hands around her, and we locked eyes.

As the rest of the room whirred around to record details and whip out paperwork we hadn’t had time to deal with before (my bra hadn’t even been unhooked for feeding!), huz and I could not get over how quick it was. From when we left the house to when we met our daughter, in under an hour and a half.

In a way, each time I’ve done this, I’ve became more and more in awe of my body. In a way, you’re attached to it, and in another way, you’re two separate entities. Most of the time I think we hang back and watch it move, walk, talk… while we’re actually up here; thinking, feeling, being.

And then when it matters most, when everything else is brushed aside in the urgency of the moment, you are your body, and that’s how you know you’re made from something amazing.

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Israel home birth crackdown: Why we ended up in hospital instead of at home

It’s amazing how many people have asked about this. Why I gave birth at a hospital, which I assume they are assuming based on photos. Here’s the background to my next update, about the birth itself. I didn’t want to downplay or fill with negativity the telling of the birth of my newest daughter. So here is the hospital vs home background.

Though I didn’t write about it much before, the fact is I spent quite a few months of my third pregnancy concerned, angry, nervous and resentful. I didn’t discuss it publicly because I get a strong sense it’s not something most people I’m around understand or empathize with, which is ok.

In the time between my last birth – 3 years ago – and now, some rules were changed concerning home births in Israel. As any local home birth midwife will tell you, they are really squeezing the opportunities for having a safe, secure, normal home birth here.

Two rules I’m aware of that came into effect: 1. you must now move to hospital if 12 hours have passed since water broke, and 2. no midwife (or medical professional, apparently) can insert an IV outside a hospital. That means that if you need antibiotics during labor, you will have to go to a hospital to get the dose.

I was angry because the second rule is ridiculous, and why it even came into effect has nothing to do with home births. It’s dangerous because many girls are ignoring the tests or ignoring the treatment. But there I was, faced with the fact that I could not have my baby quietly at home this time, and I would have to accept the distraction and intrusion that is transferring to hospital mid-labor.

In the end, I did not receive the timely dose of antibiotics required; the labor was too quick and by the time they got the IV in, I was pushing her out minutes later. So the irony here is my preferred home birth with administered IV an hour or more before would have been safer for baby and calmer for both of us than what ended up happening after taking time deliberating when to leave and then transferring to the hospital.

Ok, enough venting. We eventually accepted the fact we had to do it (though maybe I never really did, for a few minutes at the beginning of the way down to Hadassah Ein Kerem I was staring at the clock seething that I had to be there, and I’m still a little shitty about it).

Fast forward to the fun part.

We’ll have to teach her to knock first.

Nothing like making a life-beginning entrance in 3 hours. Baby girl came busting through just 25 minutes shy of midnight last night (March 22nd). Maybe she was hungry? Maybe she suddenly really had something to tell me? Was there something in my teeth?

She weighed in at 2.98 kilograms – still waiting to crack the 3-kilo mark – with a now-predictable, trademark full head of dark black hair, to rival her older siblings.

 

I’m not ready. Here’s why. (Hint: it’s not the toilet paper)

  • © Budda | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free ImagesFinishing the kids’ Purim costumes.
  • Keeping the car clean.
  • Prepping mishloach manot in advance.
  • Writing a letter to my kids.
  • (Trying) to keep the sink empty.
  • Refilling toilet paper.

Just a few falsely empowering things I’ve been doing over the last week in case I have to leave everything behind to dash to the hospital. Like if there’s enough toilet paper in each bathroom, and contractions start, everything will be totally ok. No one will need for toilet paper. Giving birth will go 100% fine.

Welcome. This is an honest post.

I’ve spent the last few months in a constant battle with the fears and anxiety I feel related to the fact I have to give birth in the hospital this time. I don’t care to go into how stupid it is, how unfair it is, how ignorant it is. This is the situation. It’s happening.

And I’m not ready.

I keep half-joking but totally-seriously saying to my husband, ‘when I’m gone, know that the kids’ costumes are in that corner’ or ‘when I’m gone, make sure they take the mishloach manot for their ganenot on Friday’ or ‘when I’m gone, the gifts for the kids are in this bag, bring them to the hospital so the baby can ‘give’ it to them.’

Is that weird? A little controlling? A lotta crazy? I’m honestly asking, I’m new at this.

Last time my son was over at the neighbors for about an hour before we brought him into our bedroom to meet his sister. We all slept in our own beds a few hours later. I tossed my laundry in the basket and it didn’t matter it wouldn’t get done for a little while. I was there. I could take care of it whenever. The toilet paper figured itself out, too.

The thought of leaving your family home to give birth to your new family member is so bizarre to me. Is that weird? Talking to most other people, it certainly seems I’m the weird one. I don’t get how, if all things are aligned correctly, feeding off the empowerment bestowed on you within your safest place is a problem. Am I that anti-social? I just don’t get how spending all that time in a public place is the best idea for a newborn. Or mother. I don’t want people I don’t know or trust talking to me or looking at me while I’m getting it done. Is that really so crazy?

I’m not ready for that. I’m not ready to have to act on an establishment’s universal rulebook. I’m not ready to have to politely decline or frustratingly accept.

I’m not ready to clear my head of negativity and it’s holding me back.

The good news is I started dealing with it today. Maybe I can turn this around in time. Putting myself out there is the opposite of my nature. Maybe that’s the key.

Maybe the toilet paper will start refilling itself.

A letter for two.

Koala and Bebe,

You know, I have this memory from when my second brother (your local uncle) was born. I was six months younger than you, Koala. I don’t remember much about my mama being pregnant – I’m sure you will though – but I do remember the mixed feelings at having my grandparents over, my mom far away, the fact that it was a boy and I had wanted a girl…

The story goes like this: your uncle and I decided we would – in true Staten Island parlance – ‘take care of’ this baby when my parents would come home from the hospital. We were dressed in our ninja/warrior gear. I remember us hiding in the den, pacing along the top of the couch, waiting. Finally our grandmother called to us that mom and dad and baby were home, come see! I remember reluctantly jumping off the couch to greet them.

Needless to say, your younger uncle is still around and it’s definitely been worth nearly three decades of holding off on the weaponry.

Koala. When we first got pregnant this time, before we told anyone, you had this thing where you started feeling my belly and became more affectionate in general… After four years of squirming out of hugs or defining cuddles as, here, I sat in your arms for a sec, now let me go! it seemed like you couldn’t get enough.

It was weird and mysterious… like somehow you knew there was something up. Maybe you just wanted to have a baby like a lot of your friends. Maybe it was some feature of your age. Maybe kids really have a sixth sense about these things.

You’ve been an amazing big brother to Bebe – just the right mix of protective and annoying. You’re a teacher and a student to your sister. A comedian and a paramedic. A roommate and a conspirer. So when the new baby comes along, I know you’ll wiggle over and make room. Lovingly. Protectively. Curiously. And… unarmed (this week’s Purim costume-aside).

Bebe. You’ve grown a lot in the nine months I’ve had to consider how much you’re going to seem so grown the moment you become a big sister. In the days after you were born, you shared with me a habit of yours which I’ve assumed predates your birth. As you snuggled up on me that first day, you’d take your tiny fingers and lightly pinch my neck. It’s something you still do – to yourself, to me, to people with whom you feel safe.

We laugh about it a lot… but there’s just something so touching in the way you show your physical affection. You take my hand suddenly. Put your arm around my shoulder. Pat my belly and whisper to the baby.

Morning bed cuddles are your coffee. You’re generous with your kisses. You’ve always been armed with affection. It might get a little bit rough, B, but you’re going to grow into a wonderful big sister. You’ve had it in you since you were born.

It’s been a gift watching two siblings grow together, laugh together, love together. You guys have been, in some ways, a natural, inherent unit.

I’m happy we were able to give you this time together.

I’m happy that now we all get to start something new.

Fifty-Two Frames: Self Protrait

It’s a period when you’re never alone, your identity is not that of a single person. That makes it difficult to recognize yourself and be yourself – for a limited time. There is another soul inside you, and even your most intimate moments are shared. You’re not who you were and you’ll never be who you are again. When you split apart at childbirth, it’s both traumatic and miraculous.

Fifty-Two Frames, Week 1: Self Portrait

New year of our photography project, and the first theme is to introduce ourselves. I finally found words to describe a bit about how I feel. This is the photo I submitted, but afterwards realized with some feedback black & white would have worked much better.

New year, new learning.

Kids and reproductive biology 101: bellies, babies, birth and boobs.

belly handsBrought to you by the letter… Science.

I have an open policy on Q&A with my kids. If they’re aware enough to ask it, they’re aware enough to get a viable answer.

So now that the four B’s – belly, babies, birth, boobs – are major everyday topics around here, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to offer my knowledge and passion for kindergarten-through-high school level biology.

And the info is sticking!

On breastfeeding

Koala started telling me how his sister was feeding her ‘baby.’

“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. You know how? She lifts her shirt up like this. Then you put the baby on your belly and its mouth over here by the ציצי and there’s a hole in the ציצי and – wait – Ima, you know what is ציצים?”

On supposed vaginal birth

You may have a little more work to do with your daughter when she’s playing a game of opposite-chicken with your body:

Pointing to my crotch: ”Baby will come out here?”
“Yes.”
Pointing to my thigh: “Baby will come out here?”
“Huh?”
Pointing to my knee: “And then here?”
“What?! No!”
Pointing to my feet: ”And then here?”
“VAGINA! It comes out the VAGINA!”

On birth by Cesarean Section

Maybe I should have waited a lil longer to teach my kids about c-section birth.

Driving in Israel meets the belly card.

Driving to gan pickup last week, I officially became that person. The person who looks down for a split second and looks back up to realize you’re a microsecond from hitting the stopped car in front of you. The person who, despite braking, hits the car in front of you.

I’ve been here nearly nine years and pride myself on two driving-related things: never getting a speeding ticket and never hitting anyone. Driving in Israel has definitely worked to repair my former young, stupid, New York driver self. Not that I’m by any means perfect but I’d say the improvement is noticeable to me.

Anyway, I’m copping to this: I hit the back of this car. It wasn’t major by any means, it was a residential road to start with, but it shook me up. I stopped, got out, and watched the older crew-cut-clad, Israeli-dye job woman driver come out, all puffed up and ready to attack.

I guess I attacked first. “Are you ok? I’m so sorry!” I said, with the requisite body language to back up my claim.

I watched her mouth close back up. “Oh -”

“Yes, this is on me. Are you ok?” I stepped closer to her and put an arm out. I noticed her husband (?) had gotten out too and I looked at him and moved closer in his direction. “Are you ok?”

“Yes, we’re fine,” said the woman, kind of taken aback. They both bent over to look at their bumper.

“Is there anything there?” I asked.

“No, no. It’s fine. It’s just -”

“Yes, good. I’m sorry.”

“What about your car?” The man started to examine my front bumper.

“My car is fine, it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re ok.”

I think they were looking at me like I was some kind of alien. Could I have been from around these parts?

She asked me if I’m ok and I said yes, I’m fine. She said “ok, well be careful,” and they both got back in the car and drove off before I even sat in my driver’s seat.

I was totally dumbstruck.

Ownership, accountability – is that so rare that they’d be so caught off guard by an incident so obviously my fault?

I turned my car back on and drove off, trying to not look back at the line of cars waiting behind us. Maybe this type of thing just happens so often, people are used to it. Expect it once in a while. I’ve certainly watched my fair share of bumper bumping exchanges at traffic lights, intersections, and residential roads.

It was when I had arrived at my destination and started shifting out of my seat to get out of the car when it hit me.

The belly. 

Her face, when she had looked me up and down while I was apologizing. Yes, it made sense now.

The pregnancy card.

Being pregnant might have hit me, literally, on a new level that day.

Now I’m just surprised she didn’t go nuclear savta and say anything about that as she left.

Or maybe it really was the accountability that threw them off.

Either way… that’s a new one for me.