And on the sixth day, man… And on the seventh, they rested (sort of).
Our baby girl was born in our home this past Friday, just in time for Shabbat.
The labor took less than a third the time it took with Koala, and she beats her brother by 150 grams at 2.85 kilos – and way more hair (if that was possible). And baby girl shares her Jewish birthday with Zayde and cousin.
And so far, her utter chillness is making it really easy to write all this down…
Hey, littler one.
My midwife says you’re ready to roll. Or squeeze yourself out of my body, whatever. She also says I’m ready. So I guess that means this is it, huh?
Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to meeting you. So is your big brother, though I apologize in advance if things are a little bumpy at first on that front. It’s only natural, as I suppose we all find out having siblings.
Last time, after giving birth to Koala, the thing I missed the most about pregnancy was being so close to him all the time. Feeling him moving, doing his thing. I think I will miss that most about pregnancy with you, too.
This time has been so much easier in so many ways – and gone by faster. I actually feel a bit guilty about already not having the same kind of time and attention I had the first time around. But that’s the way it goes, right? One day I hope you’ll understand it. Better my kids should have siblings, I think.
So… thanks for being so calm and easy so far. I appreciate the support. And let’s make the exit strategy a simple one: get out in one piece, and leave me in one piece. Then we’ll really let the fun begin…
I’ll soon be coming on five years of Israelihood, and of course every day I’ve added new academic and obscure Hebrew to my arsenal. But expanding vocabulary is more than just learning new words; it’s about knowing what even the most familiar words mean in new contexts.
For instance: being a mom.
Here is part of a growing list:
לידה – birth: a new life is born, an older life is freakin exhausted.
טיטול – disposable diaper: the only carbon footprint you don’t give a crap about.
מטפלת – nanny: the ‘other’ woman.
פרות – fruits: what your nanny loves to feed your kid by the bucketful.
עצירות – constipation: what happens to your kid after a bucketful of fruit.
שלשול – diarrhea: what happens to your kid after a bucketful of fruit.
רוק – drool: nature’s toy disinfectant.
שיניים - teeth: cute little pearls of evil.
אמא – momma: a name by which I am automatically able to make tears dry, monsters disappear, and someday buy Rated R movie tickets for my 15-year-old.
In the end, we went to Hadassah Ein Kerem for the birth. It was an issue of confidence and although I think I still would have preferred a homebirth, I can say with 20/20 retrospective vision that I’m comfortable with our experience – it was positive, it was successful and… it was lucky, as these things are all about good timing. Weekend birth, slow night, calm staff, relatively empty maternity wards.
As I found when I was researching hospital vs homebirth, there isn’t much information about hospital experiences in Israel from mothers here. In short, here’s how I happened to find Hadassah that night:
- We left for the hospital as late as possible, as suggested by many. Laboring at home is just always going to be more comfortable and conducive to progressing as you’re not strapped to fetal monitors or constricted by IVs. When we were advised by our midwife/doula to go, we left, sneaking out of our building at around 5pm on Shabbat day. A neighbor was sitting outside and gave us a thumbs up.
- When we got to Hadassah, it was eerily silent in the labor ward. I was in and out of the kabala in about twenty minutes or so. There was no one else there.
- I got a really nice labor room in the back of the floor. It was a newer room than the one we were shown on the hospital tour. Wood-looking floors, dim lighting, decent bathroom.
- The midwife on duty was great and actually knew my doula (who is actually a homebirth midwife and used to work at Hadassah). The second midwife who came later as the shift changed (they change at 3pm, 11pm and 7am). was rougher around the edges but also knew my doula which helped a lot. She even consulted with her professionally, midwife to midwife, towards the end.
- The fetal monitoring was overkill, but you’re supposed to expect that from a hospital experience. It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but still, it got annoying. That was the biggest point of conflict.
- A student midwife was in attendance with my second shift midwife, and I was able to refuse her doing much to me. They tried to give me a hard time but in the end I was able to make my point.
- We expressed our desire to go as natural as possible, and they were great about respecting that. The baby was placed straight onto my stomach after a very short rub down. No cord was cut as requested, so the placenta came fairly easily. My husband was actually asked if he wanted to cut the cord, which we hadn’t even considered, so it was pretty cool he got to do that (though a little scary when the baby kicked his foot up right next to the scissors just before he was going to cut).
- We were very lucky with the rooming situation. I was worried about not getting rooming in – or a room at all, as I’ve heard happens – but after the birth the midwife came in and told me rooming in was ready for me. I was ecstatic, and even moreso when I discovered I wouldn’t be having a roommate – in fact, I didn’t have an overnight roommate the entire stay (two nights) and my husband was able to illegitmately stay over with me (kinda reminded me of college a bit).
- I don’t think the aftercare was that great. That might have been the most disappointing part. I was never checked except for a doc poking around my stomach for about five seconds before I was discharged.
- The nurses are trained to help you with breastfeeding, but they ‘did’ more than they ‘showed.’ I saw two different actual lactation consultants over the two days, who were great, but they have an hour in the morning each day and if you miss that, you miss it. I came home confused and frustrated, and ended up seeing a friend who is also a breastfeeding consultant.
Next time, who knows… Maybe I’ll get that homebirth.
The following are a few excerpts from an email I wrote to my birthing class instructor explaining how the birth went in my view. By the way, I highly recommend the class I took (or taking a class at all – it’s not all superficial breathing, but more about awareness). I also recommend having a doula there. It’s not just for you, but also your partner, who is generally not an experienced labor coach. If you’re interested in who I used for either of those, just be in touch.
I just wanted to be able to tell you that the birth was really a positive, wonderful experience for us… Everyone’s first questions – whether they have had kids or not – are “Was it painful? How long was your labor? Did you take the epidural?” and I am starting to realize they may not be comfortable with the answers I give…
Was it painful? I guess, but not nearly as bad as I would have thought… Aside from the fact that I barely remember the pain by now… And the midwives couldn’t believe I was in labor. They kept going back and forth about how relaxed we were. And we really did feel relaxed and organized. We had a system down and it just worked.
How long was the labor? Well, it was about 36 hours from start to finish, but the time flew, I barely realized… I really did take one contraction at a time, like you said. That break – the fact that there is always a break – really did keep me going.
Did I take an epidural? I didn’t even consider it… I didn’t even remember it was an option… My main methods of pain relief were: hot showers – amazing! Remembering to take one contraction at a time… Trying new things when one position wasn’t working… The education we got from your class was a huge help in understanding what was going on and what should be going on. My husband was an amazing source of support and ‘pain relief’… I have no idea how we could have done it without having a doula there. Sure, we would have done it, but it would not have been as smooth and relaxed.
So if anyone asks what made the birth successful (as opposed to, ‘was it painful,’ etc?) I would say:
- Taking a course!
- An amazing, supportive, informed partner.
- An experienced doula.
- Not expecting any one way going into it, but being prepared mentally for the general experience.
- Going to the hospital as late as possible!
- Hot showers. Water crisis be damned (though I did shut it off between contractions… we’re in Israel after all).
I always thought when it came to my childbirth experience here in Israel, I’d end up automatically speaking, pleading and moaning in my native tongue. Despite Israeli hospital staff. I figured they probably get that all the time, and who doesn’t speak English in the medical field?
Well… it didn’t happen that way. I birthed my little Israeli son in Hebrew. Somehow, I had that frame of mind turned on. Or maybe there was this other-person coming out of me. A person who could do anything, in any language.
39 weeks. 36 hours of labor. Unmedicated natural childbirth.
Careful midwives, wise doula, supportive husband.
Beautiful, red, hairy, 2.7 kilo baby boy.
Most amazing thing I’ve ever done.
Since I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been watching and waiting as pregnant peers around me finish up their terms, give birth and move on to parenthood. It’s been a sort of countdown of names, not numbers – first so-and-so, then so-and-so, next so-and-so. Happens to be there have been quite a few, especially within a six week radius of my own due date.
Well, I’m definitely getting there because there aren’t many other preggos to watch and wait for anymore.
Meanwhile, things have been pretty hectic recently. We’ve learned a lot about the difference between public health care and going private. We fall into the former category… And I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it again, but it can get you really riled up if you fall between the cracks. Thankfully we’ve been under the guidance of a midwife whose analysis and scrutiny has been a lot more than ‘just’ a supplement to the doctor’s… My advice to anyone else is to stay on top of yourself and keep plowing for second opinions if you need ‘em.
In the last week, as I’ve calmed into a sort of hibernation, my mind has frequently reflected back on what the last 9 or so months have been. I can say that pregnancy has been good to me – definitely better than I went in expecting. A collection of thoughts has pooled up in the back of my mind, which I know I’ll forget by the next time around unless I jot them down. So, in no particular order:
- Hormones are amazing creatures and should be respected for all their power… Especially the way they are just right on the ball. Unfortunately, it seems most folks don’t respect them as much as they deserve.
- It’s true what ‘they’ say: everyone and their mother (literally) has stories and advice for you. There is a very, very thin line between what is welcome and what is annoying. That line gets thinner every day.
- Pregnancy is about acknowledging the accomplishments, from the big to the small to the mundane… I’ve reminded myself of this constantly. You have to take credit for as much as you can to keep your spirits up. Feeling not as nauseous today? Got through a whole night’s sleep without waking up? Remembered to take your vitamins for two consecutive days? Managed to get to the bathroom once in three days? Managed to not go pee more than once in an hour? Pat yourself on the back (if you can reach it).
- Giving up things was not as painful as I thought it would be. I miss my jeans. I miss my nightly glass of wine. I miss sleeping on my back. I miss my body. I miss beer. I miss not having to take vitamins every day. I miss being able to spontaneously go wherever I want for the weekend (ha, did we ever really do that?). But… in the larger scheme of things, it’s not so bad. And I guess I can say that with slightly more ease since I wasn’t a smoker before anyway.
- Doctors here will not explain things unless you ask… At least, I’ve found that most of them won’t. The internet is a big help but will go overboard inevitably. Reading is interesting, but too much can destroy you. Nurses at the kupah check ups can be a great source of info, but won’t always have the whole picture and can’t commit to anything. Birth class instructors are wonderful but often not medical professionals. I’ve just had to carefully blend all kinds of resources and let the picture paint itself.
- It’s amazing how many people don’t have all the info while pregnant… It boils down to personality and life style I guess… But I’ve been shocked at how other girls can be shocked when they learn things about their bodies I thought was obvious. Sex and pregnancy education should just be mandatory for everyone.
- Speaking of sex… I can’t help but find it funny that my religious doctor loves to remind us about having plenty of it… Actually, he loves to mention it to my husband while I’m behind the curtain. Men, eh?
- Both sides of the birthing coin will make you feel inept, insecure and insane: the Western institutionalized side and the natural ‘alternative’ side. I’ve settled for taking what I can handle and finding my balance.
- There are some folks who just can’t handle pregnancy… They are awkward about it, around it, when faced with it. Those folks are mostly men but I’ve encountered it in women too.
- There is a big difference between raspberry tea and reaspberry leaf tea… And the latter, which is excellent to drink for working on uterine muscles, does not taste as refreshing as its cousin, whether hot, iced or frozen. But on that note, exploring homeopathic options has been really interesting. We’ll see if they pay off.