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).
It’s been six months… do you know where your gall bladder is?
These days, I’m nostalgic for the time in my life when I didn’t think the gall bladder was a real organ, just a body part for use in a humorous rant.
Apparently not. It’s a real organ, like the rest of my organs which are getting tangled and squished inside my rib cage as the belly tenant continues to grow.
Ah, yes, the pain… from my mid-back around to just about my rib cage. Someone asked me if I’m taking medication for it. I’ve never been one to medicate pain. It’s always been something I thought was important to experience, to know its source, where it resides and when it’s there and when it’s not.
I guess that goes for physical ailments and emotional traumas, national woes and personal plight.
I’ve fallen back in love with reading. I’ve been a reading maniac lately. I went on hiatus the past two years, thinking that I didn’t have time because I was in school. Which is funny, because I wasn’t doing much reading for school, either.
But man, do I love it. Reading is my medicine. It soothes me. It helps me survive this insane society. I cope by reading.
I keep a book in my bag. I read on line at the bank instead of getting frustrated. I read waiting for the bus instead of getting impatient. I read at the checkout in the supermarket instead of getting restless.
If you’re saying to yourself that my coping mechanism is actually escapism, well – you are correct. But it’s better than being bitter or flustered or impatient… Like some other folks I can think of…