Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Giving Birth

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 30 July 2005.

Probably the most nerve-wracking and wonderful adventure I've had to date in Israel was giving birth to my daughter Meital eight years ago today. That pregnancy, and her birth, were my most intimate contact with Israeli health care to date. Having already given birth once before, I knew what to expect from that aspect of things. But while much of the experience was (obviously) quite similar to Liat's birth in California, there were a number of differences that made giving birth in Israel a unique event.

My obstetrician was wonderful. An immigrant to Israel from Brazil, Dr. Malvina was everything one could want in a doctor. Many of my fears about giving birth in a strange place were assuaged by her skill, compassion, and calm manner. The hospital in which Meital was born is an excellent one, and everything I saw and experienced there was also reassuring. One of the biggest differences between Liat's birth in California and Meital's was that in the first instance, Liat and I were wheeled out of the hospital barely 24 hours after she was born. Here, I was kept in the hospital for two nights. I had the option of taking my meals privately in my room, or joining the other mothers in a small dining room nearby. Dinner that first night was almost like being in the dining hall of a small women's college, though the cause of the tired faces was much more wonderful than pulling an all-nighter.

Unlike with Liat's birth, I went through labor and delivery in the same room. Dr. Malvina put on a tape of soothing music, lowered the lights, massaged my feet, and in many other small ways tried to alleviate my labor pains as much as possible. Alot of the details of that time have faded, but I will never forget what happened immediately after Meital arrived in this world at 1:20 p.m.

A nurse came rushing into the room, announced that there had been a terrorist attack in the Mahane Yehuda open air market in Jersualem, and switched the peaceful music to a news report. From exhausted joy we were thrown into fear and anguish. These days, you can't really say that this was a typically Israeli event because of the attack - they are happening in cities around the world. What made this an only-in-Israel moment was that the nurse had no qualms about bursting into the room to make sure we heard the news.

Like the bus drivers who turn up the radio volume whenever the news comes on so that all the passengers can hear, this nurse was acting instictively. Something had happened, and she felt sure we would want to know about it. I confess that, selfishly, I would have preferred to remain in my private little bubble of happiness for awhile longer.

Life doesn't always give us what we want. I try to take a few moments each year, on this day, to remember the victims of the attack in Mahane Yehuda. Their lives were taken from them at the very moment when Meital was given hers.

(c)Amy Samin

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