It was clear from the outset that we would be giving birth in a non-hospital setting – with a private midwife skilled in the art and with as little intervention of doctors as possible, B”H. Our first five children were born with midwives at Misgav Ledach hospital in Jerusalem, but it was recently was closed down so there were not too many options open to us. Ilana was clearly an excellent choice since we had a wonderful experience with Ilana at our last birth in Misgav Ledach.
We finally went to visit Ilana at Moshav Yashresh, about 35 minutes from our home, when my wife was in her 38th week! We loved the quiet, peaceful atmosphere, the big green lawn, flowers, trees, and the cozy house she built. We discussed the various things that could go wrong (Chas ve Shalom) that would mean moving the birth to the hospital in the middle of the labor and putting our baby’s life in the hands of a doctor that we didn’t know. Since my wife had a history of five healthy births, Baruch HaSh-m, and no problems were apparent in this pregnancy, there were very few scenarios that we could come up with that would necessitate calling an ambulance.
We also weighed the possibility of giving birth at home, just to see if this was a consideration, but Ilana was not so pleased about the fact that we live on the third floor with no elevator, so evacuating my wife if necessary would be difficult at best. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be so easy to find a place for our other children to be at short notice during the birth. All in all, the best option was clearly Ilana’s place.
During the last 1-1/2 months of this pregnancy, my wife took homeopathic pills to ease the labor when it came time. This was based both on a previous positive experience using the homeopathic treatment with our fourth child, as well as a very high recommendation from a gynecologist my wife trusts.
One sunny afternoon, in the middle of the 42nd week, my wife came to me and said she was ready to give birth. During the day, she had taken the appropriate homeopathic medication, and at about 6:30pm the contractions that would lead to the birth had begun. The contractions started about 10 minutes apart, and within an hour they were about 7-8 minutes apart. Sometime during the afternoon, my wife told Ilana to be on call, and Ilana said she was ready!
We stayed at home for as long as possible. Whenever my wife had a contraction, I would come into the room, lock the door, and help her through it. She asked me to pick a song to sing to her, and I chose something that I felt would bring us together, as well as bring us closer to HaSh-m. The song states our love and trust in HaSh-m, and how much we want to feel His presence. In a sense, the song is a prayer that He will intervene on our behalf and make sure everything goes smoothly.
I continued to sing it to her over and over with different variations through every contraction, even during the drive to Ilana’s, and it brought a special closeness between my wife and I. The birth is the climax of our ability to come as close as possible to being a creator of life. It is the beginning of a new, infinite potential being brought into the world. It is a time to strengthen the ties between a man and his wife and HaSh-m, who together brought the baby into being.
In between contractions I packed a couple of bags and we made arrangements for someone to take care of the kids. At about 8:00pm, my wife said I should take the bags down to the car. We drove away at 8:10pm with a feeling of excitement, and I felt more relaxed than I did in any of the previous births. The drive to Ilana’s brought us closer together, as I sang to her, and we discussed how much we owe thanks to HaSh-m for all the goodness he brought to our life. It took about 40 minutes from door to door. We were both very relieved to have arrived safely, Baruch HaSh-m, and Ilana was there with a smile to greet us and make us feel at home.
At Ilana’s everything was calm and natural, as we anticipated. Ilana checked the baby and the baby’s heart rate, and we discussed how the best way to deliver would be. After Ilana left us alone, my wife went into the shower for about 45 minutes since the warm water eased the contractions and helped her relax, which also increases the Peticha (opening). Since she was standing up, it also helped move the process along.
We really hoped that the birth would happen relatively quickly this time since in the past, from this point on it sometimes took 10 hours of frequent contractions before she gave birth! We both prayed hard that the labor would proceed rapidly, and when Ilana came back to see how things were going, we were happy to hear that the situation had progressed. The contractions were about every 2-1/2 minutes, and they were very strong. Ilana massaged my wife’s back, and she probably helped through this massage to move the baby into the proper position.
At about 9:55, my wife said that she was ready to have the baby. She laid down on the bed, and Ilana said that the birth was close at hand. I was confident in HaSh-m and in Ilana’s special talent to be a good messenger of HaSh-m to deliver the baby. Of course, this didn’t prevent me from praying as strong as I know how. In between, I asked how much the “opening” was, meaning: “Is my wife really ready to give birth?” She replied ironically: “I’ll have to check later because the baby’s head is coming out!” meaning: “She’s not only ready, she IS GIVING BIRTH!!”
The calm voice of Ilana guiding my wife through the final stage of labor increased my confidence in her even more: Breathe, push, breathe, push, here is the head, wait, the head is coming out, wait, here’s your baby girl!! The excitement and emotion was tremendous. It all happened so fast that it seemed like the 15 minutes of the actual labor itself flew by. The whole labor experience took 3-1/2 hours from the first contraction, and my baby girl was in my hands at 10:15pm, only about 10 minutes old.
Only later did Ilana tell us that during those crucial last 15 minutes the baby was about 90 degrees turned. HaSh-m helped: Ilana was very patient, and the baby turned spontaneously just at the right time and slid out cleanly. The placenta slid out cleanly a couple of minutes later. An hour after the birth, my wife told Ilana that she was ready to come back tomorrow to give birth again! What a difference between that and the traumatic stories we hear all the time from hospital births! And now, two weeks after the birth, she reports that she has significantly less post-partum bleeding than she experienced in past births, Baruch HaSh-m.
We wish that we could have the combined enjoyment of Ilana with the security of a hospital as a back up in case of emergency (she lives only about 10 minutes away from one major hospital and 15 minutes away from another). We will do our best to help her achieve her dream of establishing a real birthing center in Israel as it is clear to us that natural childbirth is the best way for most women to give birth.
There is nothing that can compare to the uplifting spiritual experience that a woman and her husband can go through during the labor. Natural childbirth provides a special opportunity for a man and his wife to bond with each other and increase their closeness to HaSh-m. This bonding and closeness is especially enhanced as the husband helps his wife through each contraction with caring and giving, making sure that she has everything she needs to get through it as comfortably as possible. There is no single concentrated event in life that carries with it so much depth of emotion. For us, and many others, the best place in Israel to maximize this experience is at Ilana’s. In fact, it was such a positive experience that only one hour after the birth my wife told me and Ilana that she would be happy to come back the next day to give birth again!