Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Giving Birth: Israel versus the U.S.

Last week, on December 17, Mr. T and I headed to St. Joseph's for a tour of the Center for Women and Infants. Oddly enough, exactly two years earlier, we visited Hadassah Ein Kerem for the first time because my water had broken and I was in labor with Asher. Two days later, he was born at 5:46 a.m. IST, and, if you recall, the entire labor and delivery and recovery experience was one of the most traumatic of my entire life ...

Part 1: The Labor
Part 2: The Recovery

So, imagine my nervousness and anxiety at visiting St. Joe's for the first time. So far, this pregnancy has been really difficult with endless bouts of nausea and exhaustion. Compare this with Asher, who was as chill as could be in the womb giving me no nausea and not killing my level of energy. I keep telling myself that a rough pregnancy will hopefully prove the opposite in the labor/delivery/recovery realm and I'll have a cakewalk experience. VBAC with no trouble, quick recovery, no drama, no trauma.

When we got to the hospital (and, mind you, my only hospital stay was with Asher and every other extended hospital visit I've ever experienced was visiting a family member or friend), I was blown away at how clean, bright, and warm the space was. At St. Joe's there's a completely separate elevator that takes you straight to the Center for Women and Infants ... to guarantee you go exactly where you need to go quickly.

On the fourth floor of the hospital, everything is done: labor, delivery, recovery, c-sections, you name it. They have separate spaces for any procedure or process involved in the birthing process, so you don't have to be shoved on an elevator and shipped somewhere else (*cough* HEK took me from wing to wing and floor to floor *cough*). The space is open, clean, airy, and the rooms are huge with lots of space, gigantic bathtubs ... you name it. But here, watch this video, it will provide a better explanation than I can:

Now before you go all "oh my gosh people gave birth standing in a wooden shanty for thousands of years, why do you need such a fancy space," let me tell you something ... after experiencing what I can only describe as third world care and attention and a commitment to mother/baby/family at HEK in Israel, I want all the bells and whistles the world has to offer because I think I've earned it. Beyond the nice space (not having to share it with another woman and her gigantic Moroccan family) and the fact that visiting hours are 24/7 so my husband doesn't have to be thrown into some cold, cavernous space without a blanket to sleep overnight, their attention to making sure mom and baby are together as much as possible as quickly as possible sings to me.

When I was in Israel, everywhere we were -- from hospital to the baby hotel -- nurses and caretakers treated me like I was insane because I wanted to have my baby in my room with me. They kept trying to take Ash away to put him in the nursery full of screaming babies, and I was flabbergasted. Telling this to our tour guide at St. Joe's, I was met with a response that they encourage and provide rooming in for baby as much as the mother wants. In the laboring suite, they even have the measuring equipment and all the initial testing stuff built into the room so that your baby doesn't have to leave the immediate vicinity. Also, in the laboring suite I was in at HEK, I had to walk down he hall to go to the bathroom ... no toilet in the room. Terrible.

Sigh of relief. And the food? It comes from the local kosher deli (where my husband works, where they know me, where they know how to produce gluten-free food that tastes good).

After being rolled into a general recovery area full of people vomiting and coughing in Israel and not getting to see my baby for the first six hours of his life, color me stoked at the chance to have this baby nearby immediately -- even in the case of a c-section, they do skin-to-skin contact immediately, and so much more.

I know I've only been on a tour, and what happens when I give birth will definitely provide a better compare/contrast situation when it comes to what I experienced in Israel versus what I'll experience in the U.S., but after meeting with the tour guide and seeing the facilities, I have no doubt in my mind which experience will be more mother/baby-centered and where the attention to family and wellness are emphasized.

As someone pointed out to me, in Israel, the process is routine, in America people want "fan fare." I don't want fan fare, I just want to see my baby immediately, be in a clean facility with privacy and the ability to bond with my child with my husband and other child at our side, with the ability to use my own bathroom and take a shower in private. This hospital saw 4,400 births last year. I'd say that they've got routine down pretty well.

I know it sounds like I'm complaining, but I can't begin to describe how anxiety-inducing the memories of being at HEK and giving birth were ... I spent months recovering from the c-section, months where doctors should have done things differently to move the healing process of my c-section scar along more efficiently, but the Israeli healthcare system, as good as it is, doesn't always do routine as well as it does trauma and life-threatening crises care. (In my humble opinion.)

So we'll see what happens. My little trauma-inducing baby is now two years old, and as beautiful as can be. He's lively, has an attitude only a mother can love, and he's creative beyond his years. He's obsessed with dinosaurs, loves cooking in his play kitchen (he frequently makes cake and challah), and he loves drawing and creating art. I love him more than words, and I can't wait for another little person to join the family. I just hope this time around, I feel like I'm a vital part of the experience, too.

Have you given birth in the U.S. + another country? What was the experience like?

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