New baby: One month.

There is nothing like those first few days with your newly born baby. It’s a gray zone; they were just inside you, an extension of your body, but not yet uncurled, open, an entity apart from you.

One of my favorite parts is the smell. Before they’ve been cleaned, had a bath, smell like laundry detergent. That’s a baby smell. It’s not the swooning… it’s just… the smell of fresh, pure chance at life. Life itself. Before it gets interfered with.

It’s been a month, and for the first few weeks there, I have to admit – it was tough to bond with my new girl. I think that’s partly due to all the distractions I had: Pesach, family visiting, unfinished business at work and, well, my other kid. It’s also partly due to the fact that I didn’t experience the first-time overwhelmingly powerful sensation of becoming a mother; of pushing a baby into the world for the first time; the adrenaline rush that comes with it all. I kinda… did what I had to do to meet my baby. And then get back to life. And that life is having two kids, a husband, long distance relationship with extended family, a job in transition, a newly-bought apartment, etc.

Secretly, maybe it runs deeper than that. Maybe it’s that I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable around other girls. Maybe because I never had a sister. Maybe I feel awkward about how much love I already have for one kid, and where to start with a second.

But now that she’s a month old, me and baby girl are down to business, getting to know each other. There is a lot of eye-catching, eye contact. Mothering smiles, babylicious nearly-smiles. The mother-baby dance. Nose-to-nose, fingers wrapped around fingers, lips brush forehead.

We’re going to figure this out together.

Guess I’m old, then.

“Hi, I’d like to order my high school transcript signed and sealed, sent to my address in Israel.”

“May I ask, for what purpose?”

“Proof of my residence in the United States; I have to register my daughter’s birth with the US consulate in Jerusalem.”

“Right. What class were you?”

“Class of 2000.”

“No problem, though it may take a few extra days to get sent out; we’re going to have to go down deep into the basement to dig that one out.”

“Wow, you’re making me feel pretty old.”

“Ha, well… it was the year after yours that we started keeping them computerized.”


Home birth and the PKU test.

Because it doesn’t seem that many people know about this, and it’s unnecessary for more home birthers than just us to have that millisecond of freak-out when receiving the phone call, I’m sharing this information with the Israeli home birthing masses:

If you’ve birthed in a hospital, you know that before you are discharged, your baby receives that torturous PKU test. That’s the one where they prick his foot (or feet, in both my cases) and draw blood to fill out a card which is submitted for a universal PKU test. By the way, PKU stands for phenylketonuria, which is: A genetic disorder in which the body lacks the enzyme necessary to metabolize phenylalanine to tyrosine. Left untreated, the disorder can cause brain damage and progressive mental retardation as a result of the accumulation of phenylalanine and its breakdown products.


Anyway, after a hospital birth, before discharge, your newborn would get the test and you’d be told if there’s a problem, you’ll be called within a week, and if there is no problem, no phone call.

In my home birth three weeks ago, our midwife Joyce did the PKU test when she came to check up on the baby and me on day 3 (same day the hospital would have). Then we mailed the card to the Tel Hashomer hospital, same as Ein Kerem hospital would have done. That’s where all the PKU checks in the country get tested, and from there, reported back to your local area.

So when my husband got a phone call a week later, there was a definite millisecond of, um, what? But we were told the test was clear – they just needed to follow up on some details.

After double-checking to make sure we understood the phone call correctly, we now know the process:  after a home birth, because there was no automatic recording of the birth or its details, they need to check up with the parents to get it all clearly.

So if you do it at home, mail the PKU test, and get a phone call even though it came out clean – yeah, breath, that’s about right.

Registering your newborn after home birth.

In Israel, when you give birth in the hospital, the hospital takes care of the bureaucratic paperwork fun-time, otherwise known as getting a teudat zehut number for your newborn. They submit the papers which go to Misrad Hapnim to get processed for a birth certificate and ID number.

But when you do a leidat bayit – home birth – unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Both parents and the newborn have to shlep to Misrad Hapnim to get processed. We wanted to get this out of the way before Pesach starts because you can’t register your baby at a kupat holim until you have an ID number.

In the Jerusalem area, only the Misrad Hapnim in the center of town can do this processing; Gilo does not (even though the phone help line claims it does). Apparently Beit Shemesh can too.

The good news is, you don’t have to wait on the long lines that everyone else does. There is a separate office for registering newborns, which you can go directly to.

So, as someone who shlepped out to get it done on day 5 of newborn life, here’s what you need to bring so you don’t have to come back:

  • A copy of your midwife’s license
  • The midwife’s תצהיר מיילדת form, which she has stamped by a lawyer
  • The midwife’s טופס תיעוד לידת בית
  • Both parents’ teudot zehut
  • Proof you were pregnant; a printed ma’akav herayon will do (though he didn’t look at it)
  • The write-up from your visiting pediatrician/family doctor (though he didn’t look at it)

I made copies of everything and handed over the copies (but brought the originals). I also brought the טופס אומדן גופני של הילוד but I don’t think you need to.

A catch: You have to provide a name for the child. We happened to already have decided on the name, so we gave it, even though we haven’t officially named her at the Torah yet. But I suppose you could give a temporary one and change it if need be…

All in all, the whole thing took under an hour, including parking in Mamilla and walking to and from the office.

The only creepy thing was the large stack of תעודות פטירה – death certificates – sitting in a pile on the office windowsill next to me.

Rude awakening.

Ventured outside today for the first time since Bebe was born. I hated having to get in the car with my five-day-old daughter to drive into the center of Jerusalem and visit, of all places, Misrad Hapnim (ahem) (and here’s why). The idea of city-center air up her nostrils alone makes me sad.

But really, the biggest and most unfortunate shock is leaving the comfort and safety of your home after a healing house arrest and… risking your lives by car.

How many times in a 30-minute drive can carelessness happen around you? Cars crossing over you to turn, rocks hitting your window from a construction site, U-turn in the middle of a highway, a driver stopped in the middle of the road to chat with another driver…

And that’s just when my eyes weren’t down to avoid facing it all.

Well, it was a nice five-day vacation. Now back to my mommy-newborn cocoon.

Just want to shout it from the rooftops…


Why, I could… I could run a marathon! Cook a Thanksgiving meal! Do a Phd!

There is nothing in this world – at least in the newborn world – like going to sleep when it’s dark and waking up when it’s light. Nothing.

(And this kid’s started smiling.)

(Ok, fine, the smiling is waaay better.)

A lesson from newborns and Coney Island.

Today was the most bizarre day I’ve experienced in a really long time. The same day consisted of me holding the newborn boy of a girl I consider a cousin as well as punching myself in the face on Coney Island’s Cyclone.

This pseudo cousin gave birth to her first child deep into Saturday night. This afternoon I was on the Southern State to see and hold the closest thing I have to a blood nephew (I say that with all due respect to my nephews-in-law).

This was the first newborn in my adult life that I actually cared about before meeting it. I walked in the room to find my pseudo family wiped out with exhaustion, and my friend handed me the baby boy, a tiny package of 6 pounds and some ounces. He was absolutely beautiful, and if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, well, I had a lot to behold. New(!) mother also looked amazing; as her sister – the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister – told me about the birth, I couldn’t stop being so utterly proud of this little girl I used to play mattress-stairs with.

This experience just totally winded me; I didn’t know what to expect but felt so comfortable with it each second I was steeped in it. Family; new members of family. I’ve never witnessed it – or been a part of it to that degree – firsthand.

After I tore myself away from the family, I headed towards Coney Island to meet two college friends of mine. We strolled along the boardwalk and then figured, we’re already here, why not take a spin on the Cyclone? The Cyclone is a rickety decades-old roller coaster that is a rite of passage for New Yorkers born and bred. I’ve ridden the Cyclone; my father has ridden the Cyclone, my father’s father… that’s the kind of legend it is. It stands (and dips and dives) for the youth of the Brooklyn-bred.

The experience was everything the baby-beholding was not. Adrenaline pumping as we climbed into the car, profanities flying as we ricketed up the first curve. Somewhere around the second drop, my glasses came off. I realized it and quickly grabbed for them, getting myself stuck in a position of holding the seat bar instead of sitting back. Somewhere in that mess, I managed to punch myself in the nose, smell my own blood, hit my head and severely strain my neck. When the ride ended, I found myself speckled in red with my nose pulling a Pinocchio.

How had I gotten from holding a one-day old baby and being so moved I could barely talk, to icing my nose and not being able to move my head sideways? Or maybe the question should be reversed – when does this youth ride come to an end? When do you realize you’re pathetic for trying?

I feel young, and I know from family history I will feel young for a long time to come. But this is a different kind of young – it’s a youth based on a different kind of curiosity, not the kind pumped by adrenaline and profanities. This youth is not as bold, not as daring, not as stupid, but it is a journey of satisfying many of the questions I’ve held and learning the new questions to be asking. This youthfulness might not be any smarter than the past one, but it’s definitely not stupider.

Or maybe I have it all wrong; maybe I’ve been out of New York for too long and missed the message altogether. Maybe New York was asking me if I really feel up to being here. Maybe she has something to say for those of us who leave her.

Maybe Brooklyn was giving me a beating, showing me what it really means to come back.