My second and third births were at Hadassah Ein Kerem, 20 months apart. Both were amazing and special, but completely different in experience.
I wanted to labor at home with freedom to move, take a shower, and be comfortable in my own space. I was also concerned that once I went to the hospital, I’d be stuck there and unable to leave, even if I wasn’t so far along in labor. So when I felt contractions at 4:00am, when I was 39 weeks pregnant with my second child, I changed into yoga clothes and made a space next to the couch to get comfortable. I found that child’s pose was best. About an hour later, I woke up my husband, and an hour after that we called my doula all while continuing to do yoga and practice deep breathing through the contractions. When my two year old son woke up, my husband got him ready for gan, but didn’t want to leave me until my doula came to take over. When she arrived at around 8:00am, I was still handling the contractions great on my own even when they were getting closer together and more intense.
My husband left with my son and as soon as they closed the front door my contractions jumped from five minutes apart to three minutes apart. My doula suspected that my body was holding back while my son was home, but now that they left, I was progressing and fast! My doula got me into the car immediately and I sat next to her, bucked into the passenger seat. We called my husband and told him to get into a cab and meet us at the hospital. My doula did her best to help me labor in the car while stuck with my seatbelt on. I went through transition in the car, which was extremely painful, and since I couldn’t move my body into a more comfortable position, all I could do was scream to manage the pain. I felt out of control and that things were happening faster than I could process.
We arrived at the hospital at 9:00am and I was offered a wheelchair at the entrance, but I couldn’t sit because the baby’s head was so low. My doula helped me walk inside stopping against every wall and table and sometimes on the ground for the contractions as they were getting closer and closer together. She urged me to continue moving as best as I could. Finally, we barged into the maternity ward triage where a midwife asked me to get onto the bed. At this point I could feel the baby’s head descending so my doula ripped off my yoga pants as I was hoisted up for the midwife to check how I was progressing. She felt the baby’s head between my legs and at that moment my water broke. She then screamed “Henry!” who we later learned was the doctor on call. Dr. Henry wheeled me across the hall into an empty equipment room as I was crying to the nurses, “I don’t want to push!” because my body had taken over and I couldn’t stop the birth from happening even though I didn’t feel “ready.” I felt like I didn’t have the words or the strength to speak and just felt stuck as a passive participant in the birth happening outside my control.
I had planned to give birth kneeling over the bed. I had planned to breathe the baby out to lower my chance of tearing. I had planned to be in control. But there I was on my back with my body pushing against my will. There was nothing my husband or my doula could do for me because there was no time. My beautiful baby girl was born at 9:12am, 12 minutes after we had arrived at the hospital. Aside from being ecstatic over my baby girl, I kept saying “That was fast, too fast,” as I tried to process what had happened in that short amount of time. Dr. Henry informed me that I had torn similar to the tear from when I gave birth to my son. The OB who delivered me in New York was not very kind and didn’t let the numbing agent set in before starting to give me stitches. The trauma of that memory became overwhelming and I pleaded with Dr. Henry to be gentle and please let the medication set in before starting. He told me that he’d give plenty of time to let the medication set in and if I was uncomfortable when he was giving me the stitches that he would stop and give me more medication. He was true to his word and extremely gentle. I enjoyed my stay at Hadassa and found the nurses to be very supportive. I especially enjoyed staying at Hadassa Baby and appreciated the privacy there. We named our baby girl Ashira, meaning ‘I will sing’ and she truly is a blessing worthy of praise to Hashem.
A year and a half later I was due a week after Pesach and really didn’t want a Pesach baby, so I was taking all the pre-Pesach preparations easy. At 37 weeks pregnant, I watched my husband kasher the house and we went to bed at 1:00am as I remarked that I was feeling kind of funny. At 3:00am I woke up with contractions. Thinking it was Braxton Hicks, I got into the shower to make them stop. Instead, they got more intense and my husband realized first that this was the real thing and started to get dressed, get my bag packed and called the doula. I didn’t quite believe that I was in labor, after all, I was only 37 weeks. But at about 4:30am, with the coaxing of my doula who reminded me that we didn’t want a repeat of how rushed the birth with Ashira was and getting to the hospital too late, we left for the hospital. This time, I got into the back seat with my husband. Instead of putting on my seatbelt, I turned around and lay my head on the headrest with my knees on the seat. In this position, I found the contractions to be much more manageable than sitting. We went straight into the maternity ward triage and a midwife asked me to lay on a bed to be monitored and checked. It was extremely uncomfortable to be on my back and I was feeling intense pressure. The midwife finished examining me and she told us I was already 8cm dilated. We were quickly brought into a delivery room. This time, I said from the outset that I didn’t want to labor or deliver on my back. The midwives were very accommodating and one held the monitor on my abdomen as I kneeled over the head of the upright bed, while the other opened a port in my arm in case I needed an IV. My doula whispered encouraging words through the contractions and I stayed calm and in control through transition. I opted to breathe the baby out and stayed present in the moment, calm and focused. My doula told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head as it emerged between my legs. The look on the midwives’ faces was of shock when they heard a baby cry, not realizing how much the birth was progressing. They immediately ran to the foot of the bed where they found the baby’s umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. They unwrapped it and the body slid out right after at 5:21am. I picked up the baby from between my legs and brought the baby up to my chest. Another beautiful baby girl. Because she was born early, the hospital staff wanted her to stay in the Nursery to be monitored, so I never asked to be transferred to Hadassa Baby. After the mandatory two days, I asked that we be discharged so that I could go home to be with my family for the Pesach seder. I find it ironic that I was concerned about giving birth over Yom Tov, but instead had my newborn in my arms seder night. We named her Livia, meaning ‘lioness’, who exemplifies the alacrity of a lion as she was born early, exactly at sunrise. Her birth was the most perfect I could have imagined.