Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Night and Day: Giving Birth in Israel vs. the USA

With my newest little one approaching her four-week birthday and my five-week maternity leave about to end, I suppose it's time to sit down and put fingers to keys to share what the labor and birthing process was like with Little T. So here goes!

You can read the first and second part series of what it was like giving birth to Asher in Israel at Hadassah Ein Kerem here on the blog for some perspective, as well. Also, here's a look at the place where I gave birth.

I was really nervous about what labor and delivery were going to look like with Little T. After the nightmare horror show I experienced with Asher in Israel, I reiterated a million times to Mr. T what I was and was not willing to deal with. I had limits, and I was setting those limits with the nurses and doctors. I wasn't going to pursue 45 hours of labor only to have a painful c-section again. It wasn't going to happen. I was down for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian), and I was committed to it because I didn't want to deal with the recovery of a c-section again, even knowing that the months-long recovery I had with Asher was a fluke caused by an infection that wouldn't heal.

Starting on Monday, June 6, I got concerned that I was leaking amniotic fluid, so the nurse sent me to the hospital. After a checkup and Asher being super concerned with mommy in the hospital bed, we were sent on our way with everything looking fine. On Tuesday, with my inlaws on their way into the country, I started having mild contractions. They were steady, but mild, so I didn't think I was heading into active labor. I was waiting for the magical moment my water would break like it did with Asher, which is what sent me into active labor. So I pushed through the contractions and life went on.

Then, on Wednesday, the contractions got more severe and closer together while Mr. T and I were out to lunch with my inlaws. After lunch, we made the executive decision to head to the hospital, because it felt like this was the real deal. We got there and after a few hours of tests, they decided to admit me around 6 p.m. I got a very large labor and delivery room complete with a super-amazing jacuzzi tub and actual chairs and a fold-out bed so Mr. T could stick around (in Israel, husbands aren't allowed to stay over at the hospital), and we settled in for the night. I was on constant monitoring, but unlike my experience in Israel, the two devices attached to my mid-section (one for the baby's heart rate and one for contractions) stayed in place magically instead of slipping and falling all over the place every time I moved. I couldn't handle laying down in the bed, so I was up on my feet the whole of the laboring process.

Nurses came in and out, constantly assessing how I was feeling and how the baby was feeling. They asked me at every step of the process what I wanted to do, and when Mr. T and I needed to discuss, they left us to it. The giant privacy curtain at the door gave us a sense of, well, privacy, and we felt in control of the entire process every step of the way. I made it clear that I wasn't going to go through two days of labor, and we created a plan.

Late in the evening, when it came time to choose "yes" or "no" to the epidural, I opted to give the jacuzzi tub a try to see if it would calm the painful contractions. Although it was an awesome tub, it didn't ease anything. I did, however, think it was amazing that the monitors they had attached to me allowed me to move freely wherever I wanted to go -- including into the tub.

After the tub failure, we went for the epidural around 12:30 a.m. The woman who did the epidural was ... I can't even describe her ... amazing. She was quick, it was about 2 minutes of pain, and then I was at ease. I slept for a few hours and they gave me petocin, so I slept a few more hours. In order to not bother me throughout those few hours, they put a cuff on my arm to monitor my blood pressure every 15 minutes, which I thought was pretty thoughtful. Yes, it was annoying to have something inflating and deflating on my arm, but less annoying than a nurse coming in to constantly wake me up and take my blood pressure.

Early in the morning, the doctors and nurses starting coming in more regularly to check and see how far I was dilated. We were all amazed at the process because by the morning I was at 9 cm, which is a measurement I never even got to with Asher. As the shifts changed, doctors came and introduced themselves and nurses did the same. Everyone was incredibly pleasant, coming in and doing what they needed and leaving promptly to give us space and privacy. There was no screaming, no arguing, no miscommunications, no confusion.

Around 8 a.m., I was at 9.5 cm and the epidural had all but ceased working. I felt like I was being launched to the ceiling every time I had a contraction, and I couldn't speak or move afterward. I kind of felt like I was dying, and I was screaming pretty loudly, so they called to have the epidural topped off. After that, the nurses and doctor on call and I decided it was time to start pushing.

Now, with the epidural topped off, I was on cloud 9. I couldn't feel a darn thing, so I asked the nurse about how long pushing normally takes, since this whole vaginal birth thing was novel to me. She said it can take one to two hours, to which I replied "how about 15 minutes?" and she laughed. Challenge accepted!

At 8:48 a.m., I began pushing. The doctors and nurses were shocked at how quickly it was going. Now, because I couldn't feel anything, I had no clue how hard I was pushing, so I just went for it. After a mere 14 minutes, there she was.

They held her up for me, and my response was shock. "It's a baby! A little baby!"

They all laughed, saying "What did you expect?"

The cord was cut and she was placed on my chest, the perfect little blob that had caused me so much grief for so many months. After a few hours of bonding and measurements with an amazing nurse who crafted Little T a hat with a bow, we were off to our recovery room. A bit smaller than the labor and delivery room, the recovery room was quiet, private, and had a huge bathroom that made moving around nice and easy. We could see the mountains from our window, and there was another pull-out bed for Tuvia to sleep in. The fridge down the hall was stocked with milk, juice, soda, and pudding (all kosher), and every room and hallway had a Keurig coffee machine for making tea and coffee. We ordered some kosher food from the deli through the hospital (they have a deal with the kosher deli) and spent the next 24 hours bonding, recovering, and trying to get some rest.

The next day, we were back at home, I was on my feet, and all of my expectations for labor and birth had been turned on their heads.

Now, I'm sure that language had something to do with the terrible experience I had giving birth in Israel, but considering I had a Hebrew-speaking doula and a husband whose Hebrew is pretty fluent, I can't attribute much of the terrifying ordeal in Israel to language. I just think that it's a country that misunderstands its people and the needs of its patients. Having Mr. T there with me throughout the whole process was unbelievably vital. Although we were only in the hospital one night after the baby's birth, having him there in the middle of the night so he could hold the baby so I could move around or go to the bathroom was life-changing. In Israel, he had to leave every night and go sleep wherever he could find space. I think in Israel the assumption is that people have so many kids that dads just don't need to be there because they're taking care of the kids, or maybe even that they don't want to be there. Also the cooperation of the doctors and nurses with what I wanted was clutch. I felt understood, respected, and like the focus of the experience. In Israel, I felt like I was a body on a bed that wasn't allowed to have opinions. The midwives and doctors fought and argued for what the correct plan of action was; I was merely a passive attendee at the birth of Asher. When it came to recovery, in the U.S. it was all about bonding and making sure that baby and I were comfortable, and most importantly, together immediately -- even with a c-section. Although there is a nursery at the hospital, they put the baby with the mother and practically insist on that bonding time. You can ask for the nursery if you want, but it's small and you won't find many babies in there. In Israel, they insisted on the baby being in the nursery. Even when we moved to the baby hotel, they just assumed we'd want to ditch our baby and go take a nap. What's up with that?

I could go on and on and on, but the experiences were night and day. They really couldn't have been more different. Will I have more children? Who knows. Will I have more children in Israel? Definitely not. I couldn't fathom or stomach going through what I went through with Asher ever again.