An unlikely metaphor.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine something you’ve never done before. I imagine this impending adventure… to be similar to a bad trip I had many years ago. 

A friend and I were spending a few days in Amsterdam. These were college years, so you can imagine what we were doing. The evening before we were departing back to the States we experimented with a ‘pastry’ that turned out to not be whatever easygoing vegetation we had expected, leading to what was the worst – and I guess only – bad trip I’d ever had.

I don’t remember a lot of it; it went on all night and into the morning and then remnants of the experience continued into the flight home. What I do remember is this: At some point, I was curled up in a ball on a lobby couch of a hostel, holding myself in perhaps a fetal situation, in and out of pseudo-clarity, thinking to myself: ok, ok, body, you need to do what you need to do to end this… Only my body and time can end this… 

All in all, it was a very physical experience. I don’t really have many physical experiences in general, outside the obvious daily routines. I’m not a very physically-oriented person.

There wasn’t much my mind could do but hallucinate and wait for my body to work itself out. Mind-me had this subconscious or lower-layer trust in body-me.

And that’s what I keep hearing in birthing class, birthing books, from friends with positive birth experiences: trust the body; the body is built for this; it will work itself out the way it was designed to. Mind-me will give way to body-me and all of us will experience something we’ve never known but have always been prepared for, somehow.

Ok, so I don’t know that any of that is actually true. And comparing labor to a bad trip might be kind of mean and insensitive. And at the end of the former, you get a baby… not a hangover.

But for the sake of trying to imagine something I’ve never done before… that’s what I’m thinking.

Birthing at Shaarei Tzedek.

Shaarei Tzedek has quite a different reputation to Hadassah Ein Kerem; offhand I can say that it is more of a hospital’s hospital, procedural, stiff. It’s very religiously-oriented in staff and patients. Less concerned with natural birth, more concerned with working with Hashem to get the baby out and move on (as summed up by the tour guide-midwife). There is no rooming-in option but it’s a better hospital for complications and premature births that require NICU.

Here are the notes I took from the hospital tour we did a while back and also the quick version of the hospital’s specs.

  • You would open a tik in the main hallway of Floor 9. The kabala is at the end of the hall. If you’re concerned about privacy and modesty, the beds here are curtained and hidden from others.
  • You’ll go into a labor room when available/necessary (4-5 centimeters).
  • Heparin lock is given and you don’t need to be connected to an IV if you don’t need it. Fetal monitor is used on and off if it’s a normal labor.
  • Pain relief: There are three methods offered. Laughing gas (nitrous) is available in every room and can be used as much as you want at your own discretion. A low form of pain relief but won’t effect the baby. The second is demerol (narcotic), which is heavier and does carry through to the baby. You’re essentially drugged and out of control. Lastly there is the lovable, huggable epidural – the localized numbness from waist-down. You are fully aware and can still feel pressure.
  • If you are going for a natural birth, tell them at the kabala so they can try and match you with a midwife who ‘jives’ with that.
  • There are 9 labor rooms and two more coming soon.
  • On any given shift there are 7-9 midwives (including at the kabala). There is usually one midwife per two women. There are English-speaking midwives. Doctors are always on staff for more complex situations.
  • Guests must leave the room while epidurals are given or vacuums are used.
  •  You can birth in any position on the bed.
  • They will put the baby on mother right away for skin-to-skin contact. Mother and baby hang out for about an hour before baby goes off to nursery. They suggest breastfeeding right away, in the labor room.
  • During the day the baby can be with you most of the time if you choose, but there is no rooming-in option.
  • There are up to three women in a recovery room in the maternity ward.
  • You are discharged at 48 hours after a normal birth.

As I said, it definitely gave me the feeling they are more procedural and rigid but in a way that if you’re into that sort of hospital experience, it can be very positive. I liked the labor rooms there much better than the ones in Hadassah, though the restrictions regarding rooming-in and the general attitude did not impress me. The staff seemed friendly; but I’m not sure it’s in my taste.

To register at Shaareit Tzedek, click here.

Disclaimer: I posted my notes to share with others who are also looking for info about birthing in Jerusalem. I know some people think Shaarei Tzedek is the devil and others think it’s amazing. At this point, all I can do is hope that I’ll have a successful birth wherever I choose for it to be.

Birthing at Hadassah Ein Kerem.

I have heard the horror stories: laboring in a janitor’s closet, giving birth in the elevator, no epidural available, recovering in the hallway. I have heard the beautiful stories:  sweet, caring midwives, a tendancy towards leniency, rooming in available,  wonderful aftercare.

While I cannot say for sure what it’s like to birth at Hadassah Ein Kerem (or as I like to cynically refer to it, the cozy lil hospital nestled in the woods) I can tell you what I was told on the hospital tour we did a while back. Continue on for a more in-depth version. This is as much as I could read from my feverish note-taking.

  • Philosophy: Mom and baby should be together and can be for at least 1-2 hours after the birth.
  • There are mostly women doctors.
  • You will be placed on a monitor (in intervals) which allows for a two meter radius to move around.
  • Epidurals are available; gas is too but one unit is shared across the floor.
  • You can be creative with birthing positions if they are working – as long as you are on the bed.
  • They are not fans of episiotomy.
  • You may have skin-to-skin contact with baby right away but it’s probably something you need to ask for.
  • They will cut the umbilical cord right away unless you ask beforehand that they don’t.
  • They claim they can’t do anything without asking; everything must be an agreement with the parents.
  • About 1-2 hours after birth, baby is taken to nursery for the approximatley 4-hour warming and checks (Hep B and vitamin K, etc., which you can disagree to). You and/or partner can join baby at this point.
  • Hopefully you will get into a room afterwards; the wait for getting into a room could be 12-18 hours.
  • At around 10:30/11 pm, babies are returned to tenokiyah (I love that word; otherwise known as a nursery). You can request to breast feed and refuse formula for your baby. You would then go to the tenokiyah to feed unless you have opted for rooming in, which they do provide if available. Also, you’ll be woken whenever the baby cries so you can go feed.
  • There are checkups every morning done next to you.
  • Two women to a room and no partners sleeping in with you.
  • Visiting hours for Dads are 7 am to 10 pm.
  • They have on staff two breastfeeding consultants, five days a week for three hours a shift. All nurses are certified in breastfeeding counseling as well.
  • You are released in 48 hours if all is well. After 24 hours you can move to the Hadassah Baby Hotel. After 36 hours you can sign yourself out with doctor’s permission. C-sections are released after four days.
  • On Shabbat, everything is the same – staff, service, etc. The Dads can be sorted out for staying over Shabbat.
  • Moms can go into the tenokiyah and sit with the baby whenever they want, at any time of day or night.
  • They could not stress enough that this – and all other info relayed – is applied to a regular, healthy birth.

I did get the feeling that there is more of a promotion towards the natural here; the midwives giving the tour mentioned it and compared to other hospitals, it seems to be better at that.

Something that everyone – mothers, midwives, doctors – have said to me is that it all largely depends on luck. Time of day or night, which midwife is on shift, how busy it happens to be. Hence the disparity between amazing stories and the traumatic ones.

Disclaimer: I posted my notes to share with others who are also looking for info about birthing in Jerusalem. I know some people think Hadassah is the devil and others think it’s amazing. At this point, all I can do is hope that I’ll have a successful birth wherever I choose for it to be.

To register at Hadassah Ein Kerem, click here.

Babies need stuff.

Tada! In a feat I could never have pulled off on my own, we have managed to choose and order and place a deposit on a baby package consisting of furniture/stuff/things. That, about a week after we first became traumitized when taking a commerical peek at what we were in for. 

To answer a few questions: 

What is a baby package?

Instead of ordering everything separately and possibly spending more than you’d need to – and also (possibly) to make it waaay less overwhelming – they bundle a standard package which you can add on to and choose from within. It includes a crib, dresser/changing surface, stroller, infant car seat, bath, and a whole bunch of little things to get you started (and, yes, to get you hooked on baby-scented name brands). 

What is Motzizim?

Well, for starters, motzetz (מוֹצֵץ) is the Hebrew word for pacifier (or dummy as my husband says it, or binky as my family referred to it, or sucker as the store owners probably call it).

Motzitzim (מוצצים) is a big baby store chain that probably resembles the closest we’d get to an American baby superstore. They have branches across the country. I can’t speak for other branches, but the one in Talpiot, Jerusalem was probably the finest customer service I have ever had in this country. And really, no wonder: the baby business is big business, especially in such a family-friendly country as Israel.

While I’m at it, shout out to Ruti, who totally rocks and didn’t play on the first-time parents stereotype too  much. 

There are other baby stores around Jerusalem, and some of the others we visited in Talpiot were Dr. Baby, Shilav and the back of Bizaar Strauss, but the prices weren’t any lower really and the selections were lame. Others would agree. 

How do we get the goods?

After I easily and wonderfully and painlessly deliver the child, tired husband calls the store and let’s them know we are ready for the – second – delivery (ok, fine, only one of those action items actually take place). Within 48 hours they are meant to come to our apartment and set up the furniture. 

So… that was definitely easier than I thought. And it didn’t hurt our budget too badly. On to birthing class!

Homebirth in Israel.

UPDATE (April 2011): After this post was written, down the road, for my second child, we did a home birth in our apartment in Tzur Hadassah. I’ve got more info on the subject now from firsthand experience and am happy to share:

At this point, I’ve dipped my toes into the third trimester and thus far have read a lot of too much research, visited two Jerusalem hospitals and met with one home birth midwife.

Needless to say, the water’s cold.

I’m caught in this tiring cycle of not knowing whether I should do the home birth thing or not. I mean, I do know I should, but between all the reservations of the people around me and the looming status of ‘first pregnancy’, my birthing confidence is crushed.

I figure, maybe if I can hear from women who have done it/do it, as opposed to just midwives and people who are anti, I could feel better about making a confident decision. Because either way, I feel confidence is key and I need to find it in myself within the next 10-12 weeks.

So… if you’ve been there, done that, labored through it at home, feel free to chime in with a comment about the following (or you can email me if you’d rather):

  • Where did you do it? Where did you live? House, apartment?
  • Did you use a midwife and doula?
  • Was your husband/partner into it? What kind of a role did they play at home?
  • What did you do about pain relief?
  • Did you check into a hospital after?

I’d love to hear thoughts from women who have given birth in Jerusalem hospitals, too. I realize it’s a very realistic situation that I could end up choosing to be in a hospital or end up needing to be in a hospital. Talking to women who are satisfied with their experiences either way and are willing to share can really help me at this point. Unfortunately, there aren’t many Israeli birthing stories on the web, at least that I could find.

I guess the problem is right now I’m so open minded, I don’t have any direction.

    On preparing, inside and out.

    It’s amazing how the female body prepares itself for birth during pregnancy. 

    There’s the obvious: the beefing up on body mass, the need for sleep, the extending belly. 

    There’s the less obvious: the slowed metabolism, the hyper hormone production, the  nesting habits.

    There are bi-products: the heartburn, the gallstones, the stocking up on vitamin E. 

    Then there’s the subconsious: all the ways your mind repairs and heals itself in anticipation for serving as a role model for a new life. A magnificent function of the human brain.

    It manifests itself in different ways. Spontaneously you might spring into a completion conversation with someone you hold dear; perhaps your own mother. Or you find yourself waking up from dreams about past life figures who left you scarred; dreams realistic in vision and healing in purpose.   

    I’ve been lucky in that this pregnancy hasn’t been an emotional, hormonal roller coaster on which I can’t control the speed or depth of the drops. I’m happy to acknowledge that I’ve been able to take this experience day by day, at a pace I can be comfortable with… observing my outside body and my inside mind, changing and forming the person who will become role model – and mother – to a new life.

    Birthing in Jerusalem hospitals.

    As my third trimester quickly approaches, I’ve been getting serious about touring and registering at hospitals, considering alternative birthing options and doing the doula dance.

    Yep, this is the ‘bureaucratic’ and technical aspect of being pregnant.

    In the last month we’ve done hospital tours in two popular Jerusalem hospitals: Hadassah Ein Karem and Shaarei Tzedek. Truth is, all Jerusalem hospitals are popular; all four (including Hadassah Mount Scopus and Bikur Holim) are busy and at times over-populated. It’s just how it seems to be in Jerusalem, a crowded and baby-happy city.

    Unfortunately, there are no longer any proper birthing centers in the immediate Jerusalem area, as Misgav Ledach shut down years ago. If you don’t want to birth in a hospital and you don’t want to travel, it seems your options are limited to home birth.

    Here are my impressions of Hadassah Ein Kerem and Shaarei Tzedek after getting the inside view; I keep in mind that both tours were done on relatively quiet days.