Hopefully a happy יום המשפחה (Family Day).

Five years in Israel, and this is the first one where “יום המשפחה” or “Family Day” has caught my attention. Well, it figures.

What used to be Mother’s Day here in Israel evolved into Family Day, including celebration of mother, father, grandparents, or whoever is taking care of you. It’s not a Hallmark holiday; there are no commercial gifts given. Children experience the most significant portion of the day at school, where they create paintings or art projects reflecting their families and in some cases, share photos of their families.

From what I gather after reading up, Family Day has actually turned into an inevitable problem. Israel is a place where getting married – even to a member of the opposite gender – can get very political very fast. Civil marriage is a sore topic and even two born-Jews trying to get married can run into issues.  Plenty of Israeli couples opt to not marry at all but remain ‘domestic partners’ with their own marriage contracts. Others are same-sex couples raising their families, born from a buffet of alternative methods. The divorce rate in Israel is sky-high, so single-parent families could arguably be ‘the norm’ in many communities.

So the inevitable problem of Family Day in Israel is when kids pay for not belonging to a ‘normal’ family. The most unfortunate thing is when kids are the ones who pay the price of ignorance, intolerance or insensitivity by being singled out, made to feel like less and mocked. Where is the education of children in tolerance and diversity? The concept of diversity being ok is so lacking across the societal board here, despite being such a multicultural society with a rainbow of histories and backgrounds… Why not start teaching children about it with Family Day?

Kids were only born; they didn’t commit to their same-sex lover or divorce their incompatible spouse. They didn’t feel like victims of the Israeli marriage laws and settle for living together unmarried. So why make the kids feel ashamed? Why leave children to defend societal non-norms and marital evolution?

Way to turn a happy occasion into a depressing State of family affairs.

Here’s a little piece of trivia, then. Israeli Family Day is held on ל’ שבט every year; random, no. It’s the yirzheit of Henrietta Szold, the American woman who founded Hadassah and started the first Youth Aliyah projects. She was known as ‘the mother of children’ for her work in starting the Zionist organization in Palestine that saved 22,000 Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Of course, Henrietta Szold had no children of her own, but hopefully she felt fulfilled, connected, loved and cherished by the thousands of children she touched with her work.

I wonder what she’d have to say about alternative families.

The Hadassah birthing experience.

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.

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.

Giving blood for Yom Hazicaron + woman who needs platelets.

I figured I’d share this email I just sent to friends in the Jerusalem area, since the more people who can, the better:

Hey guys –

I meant to write this email to like two people and then I figured, why not let everyone know… I was thinking of donating blood in honor of Yom Hazicaron (thanks, Shira) and then my boss told me about a woman in Efrat who desperately needs a platelets donation from the right type (to battle her cancer)… Basically, at Hadassah Ein Karem in Jerusalem at the blood bank in the main building, they are collecting blood for testing for her; they will donate the blood anyway to those who need it, and then if you are the match, they will call you to take your platelets…

Her name is Paula Goldblum. You give her name so they know it’s for her testing (blood will be donated anyway, so you’re killing all kinds of birds with one stone). I want to go tomorrow or Wednesday, don’t necessarily need to go with someone, but I just thought if that sounds like something you’d want to do, go for it.

Have a wonderful Yom Haatzmaut.