A Purim Gift: My Birth Story
Now 2.5 years later, I am 37 weeks pregnant and am writing my birth story for the purpose of healing and closure.
Aug. 5, 2012—I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to sit down and write my birth story. I usually get a few words on the page before pushing delete and shutting down my computer. At first I wanted to write it out so that I could pursue a case against the hospital in which I delivered, but it was just too difficult to “relive” the trauma by writing down my story. So now 2.5 years later, I am 37 weeks pregnant and am writing my birth story for the purposes of healing and closure.
So the story begins: It was Friday, February 26, 2010 and we were in the middle of a Friday night (Shabbat) dinner at a good friend’s house in Jerusalem when I started to feel contractions coming on. I was two weeks late and was told by doctors that my baby was getting really big and at this point; it was looking like a “10 pounder” (according to the ultrasound). For the past two weeks I went to the doctors every other day to get checked and monitored. The doctors I met with stressed me out and scared me about this “too big of a baby” that wasn’t coming out. I refused to be medically induced or have my membranes stripped because my goal was to have a natural birth and there seemed to be no reason for it.
Instead, I spent hundreds of dollars on natural pregnancy inducing procedures, such as reflexology, massage and acupuncture. My husband and I researched every labor inducing technique out there and were doing them all as if our life depended on it. Yosef and I even ate “labor inducing cookies” together in one sitting (I found the recipe on the internet: it uses a lot of cayenne pepper). I was finally told that I would “only be allowed to go one more day” and that is when I went, out of desperation, to a well known naturopathic doctor/guru in Jerusalem to be naturally induced.
I left his office with such a feeling of relief and the satisfaction that I was doing the right thing by listening to my body.
I walked into the doctor’s office and he looked at me and said, “Do you know what you are having?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Good, so you know it is a boy.” I was so happy he was right. Otherwise, I probably would have turned around and walked out! After examining me he said he couldn’t help induce me because I wasn’t two weeks overdue. He said that the ultrasound was incorrect. (I later found out that ultrasounds can have a 7-10 day margin of error, but of course no doctor tells you that.) I left his office with such a feeling of relief and the satisfaction that I was doing the right thing by listening to my body. It was as if a weight was lifted off of me. That night was the Shabbat Friday night dinner that I went into labor.
The contractions were mild and not close together so we decided to walk home and go to bed. I knew that we were nowhere close and thought it would be best to get as much sleep as possible. Throughout the night (about every three hours) I would calmly get out of bed and walk around for a few minutes because a contraction woke me up, but it didn’t feel like a big deal and I was able to go back to bed. They were still mild and I was convinced that it was just braxton hicks and not the real thing. That Saturday morning we were planning on attending a brit (circumcision ceremony) of a friend’s newborn, who was using a Mohel (a person trained in ritual circumcision) we wanted to hire once our baby boy was born. Since I wanted to get my mind off of things we decided to walk the mile to the synagogue to watch the Brit take place. During the Brit the contractions came more frequently and I started to turn away from people so that they wouldn’t see my face during a contraction. The contractions began to get stronger and I felt we needed to leave so that I wouldn’t make a scene. On the way home it started to rain and at a bus stop is when I had to stop because I felt my first full on, “bend over and clinch my mouth” contraction. At this point the contractions were coming every 4 or 5 minutes. We got home and called our midwife to come over. The plan was that I would labor at home and then we would go to the hospital for delivery….yes, that was our hopeful plan.
At home I was in such a positive and good place. I felt empowered and knew that my body was meant to do this. I was breathing through my contractions and moving my hips in circles on my birthing ball. I even was belly dancing and smiling as I felt my contractions strengthen. My midwife checked me and saw that I was progressing a centimeter about every 45 min. At 4:30pm on Saturday, I was at 6 centimeters dilated and we felt it was time to get to the hospital (Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem). I was so excited as we got in her car, cranking up Alanis Morisette,I thought it was just a matter of time before I met my dear child.
We arrived at the hospital and right away we had to wait about 20-30 min. to get “checked in”. It seemed so crazy that we had to sit at a desk and answer questions, I felt like I was opening up a bank account or something. Next, they had me lay on a bed to monitor me and they kept telling me to keep still during my contractions. A nurse came up to me and said, “I am now going to put the Hepurn lock in your arm”. I started to explain to her that I didn’t want it since I have been drinking and eating and making sure that I was properly hydrated. She said it was hospital policy and before I knew it she was jabbing a needle harshly into me. It hurt so bad and that was the moment that I remember closing down inside. I felt invisible.
I suddenly felt like an animal trying to protect my unborn child in an unsafe environment.
We were moved to our room, where we dimmed the lights and put on music to try to create a sacred space through the beeps and machines all around me. I started to have strong lower back-pain during contractions and was so thankful that my good friend, who was a massage therapist, was able to apply pressure to my lower back during each contraction. After an hour a doctor came in to check me. I asked if she would not tell me how much I have dilated because I didn’t want to be stressed out with numbers. She checked me and said, “I won’t tell you the number, but I will tell you that you are having a dysfunctional labor”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She continued to explain that when you enter a hospital if you don’t dilate a centimeter every hour, it is considered a dysfunctioning labor. She suggested that she breaks my water. I told her that I would like some time to discuss it with my husband (and midwife). We all were surprised how fast they wanted to intervene, especially given that I came into the hospital at 6 cm dilated, was not complaining of any pain and there were no complications with me or the baby. When she came back in I told her I wanted to wait and her attitude really changed. She said she can only give me 45 more minutes and then she would have to break my water. It was if my opinion didn’t matter and she acted like she was doing me a favor by giving me 45 more minutes.
Forty-five minutes later she broke my water. One hour later I still didn’t dilate. The nurses/doctors seemed to become very hostile towards me and I suddenly felt like an animal trying to protect my unborn child in an unsafe environment. There was a constant storm of yelling and fighting about me not progressing and that I needed to get things going. Yosef asked to speak to the doctor privately because he could see I was “losing it” with all the fighting and she said, “I will not speak to you privately, your wife needs to hear this!” She then proceeded to tell Yosef that if I wanted a natural birth, I should’ve gone to a field! I felt deflated and trapped in a horrible place that I wish I could run away from. I felt I could remain in control of my contractions, but not with the constant bullying every 30-45 minutes from the doctor.
After a few more hours a man wearing orange pants who looked like he just got out of bed came barging into my room and said, “I am the head supervisor of this hospital and I have been called to come and speak to you. When you enter my hospital you follow our rules and you need to now make a decision-an epidural or C-section.” I started to panic and lose it and after fighting with him I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like I was being kicked while I was already on the ground and my contractions started to take hold of me, I was starting to drown. I said, “If I say epidural, will you leave me alone” and he said “yes” so I said, “fine, epidural.” Within 10 minutes someone was in to give me an epidural and as they did so, the supervisor comes over to me and says, “you have 60 minutes to get to 10 centimeters dilation or you WILL have a C-Section” and turns around and leaves the room. As angry as I was, the epidural gave me such a relief and I remember closing my eyes and for the first time feeling calm. Part of me felt so guilty and upset that my natural birth plan was stripped away from me but a part of me was so thankful for the relief. I woke up during contractions, but they weren’t as bad anymore and I was so exhausted that I was happy to fall asleep between the contractions. I was shaking and chattering my teeth uncontrollably, a side effect of the epidural.
After 60 minutes I got to 10 centimeters dilated and I was told I could start pushing. But I felt nothing and when my private midwife asked the hospital midwife to turn down the epidural, she refused to for whatever reason – still unknown to me. I pushed for a total of two hours. I was shouted at “push, push” and “We see the head” but I felt that I was going in for a C-Section because I couldn’t imagine this baby coming out. I was asked if I wanted to see a mirror so I can see the head and I said , “No!” I just wanted the baby out and I needed my eyes closed so that every bit of strength could be used for pushing.
I have never seen that kind of fear and pain in Yosef’s face as I did in that moment.
One final push and Eitan came out “sunny side up”, white, not breathing with a cord around his neck. The first thing that that they did was cut the cord (Big Mistake!) and started to rub him. A few doctors came running in, wearing Purim wigs because it was Purim (I was horrified and shocked!). My private midwife started staring at her watch, shouting out seconds to the doctors (30 seconds have gone by, 40…..50….60….) Finally she grabbed Eitan away from them and grabbed the oxygen mask (seeing that he was not breathing) and put it on him, and that’s when he finally started to gasp for air. I have never seen that kind of fear and pain in Yosef’s face as I did in that moment. I was numb. I felt that there is no way that G-d would have let me go through this horrific labor and deliver me a dead baby. I heard my midwife say to somebody, “no one else was timing this, after 70 seconds he would have been dead or brain damaged.”
Eitan was born on Feb. 28th at 4am, 8.8 pounds (nowhere near the 10 pounds the hospital scared me into believing). After they cleaned him up and handed him to me the tears started to flow. This is not how I imagined my birth being, but on the other side I was holding our precious little son for the first time. I know it is hard to imagine that this story could go even more down hill, but it does: After the birth, I was forced to go to “rooming out” where Eitan had to remain in the nursery for 1 hour since he couldn’t be in my room until 5 am. One of the only reasons we picked this hospital was because they had a rooming in option and we did not want to be separated from Etian after birth, but somehow rooming in was full. Yosef stayed with Eitan in the nursery as I laid in a room by myself, shocked and staring at a wall. I was forced to watch them give Eitan a bottle because he was a “big baby and needed it since I wasn’t producing any milk yet.” I later learned that this is normal and that a baby can do just fine with small amounts of colostrum. In fact, it takes a few days for a mother’s milk to come in.
Yosef was forced to leave me at 10 pm because that was their policy and Eitan had to be in the nursery from 10 pm-5 am. This was the first time since we were married that we spent a night away from each other-yep, the day our son was born! I couldn’t believe this! When I had to “turn Eitan in” at 10 pm, I told the nurses in the nursery that they are not to give Eitan a bottle or pacifier and are to wake me up the second he wakes up. At 2 am I woke up and no one had gotten me so I ran down to the nursery and there Eitan was peacefully sleeping. I asked if he woke up yet and they said, “Yes, we gave him a bottle, we wanted you to sleep” and next to him was a pacifier! I went NUTS and won’t begin to write down what I said to the nurse. Lets just say we left the hospital early, feeling completely disgusted and destroyed!
When it is all said and done we were given such a beautiful gift on Purim 2010, an amazing son who is now 2.5 years old and is perfect in every way. But the trauma and anger I felt at those doctors/midwives haunted me for a long time.I hated that they made me believe that my body wasn’t capable of birthing a “big baby” naturally. I hated that they did not listen to me and acted as if I didn’t have the understanding to make logical and sound decisions about my birth or the wellbeing of my baby.
I write this to close this chapter and to see that I have become a much stronger person because of this experience. For a long time I was afraid of getting pregnant again and reliving this trauma. But as my due date approaches I feel so much more empowered and ready to have a completely different experience. I truly feel that if it wasn’t for an amazing support system, I would’ve been forced into a C-section or worse yet, had a dead or brain damaged child (G-d forbid!).
For baby number two, I will not be in a hospital but in a birthing center. I will not have to follow a prescribed timetable or fight to have a natural birth. I will be encouraged to move around, eat, drink and am planning to labor in water and if so be it, have a water birth (G-d willing). I have full confidence in my husband, midwives and doula who will encourage me during this process. I am excited to embark on this journey and am excited about the belief I have in myself, my body, and my baby. I can’t wait to bring baby number two into this world… NATURALLY!
Today I sent my birthing story to our incredible birthing class teacher (in Jerusalem) and she just told me that this morning she has been a doula at a birth at Hadassah Ein Kerem that had almost the exact same experience as I did. That broke my heart! She also mentioned that a survey of thousands of women after birth looking at what determines a “positive birth experience” shows that it doesn’t depend on whether the woman had a natural birth, an epidural or a cesarean, despite her original intentions. It is determined by her feeling that she was a part of the decision-making process and if the mother felt she was “heard.” Isn’t that the truth??
Daniella Silver was raised in LA, met her husband in Israel and lived there for five years. She currently lives in Kansas City and is an educational consultant. Her and Yosef love to cook organic wholesome meals for their family and are big proponents of living a natural, healthy lifestyle. To read more about their focus on healthy meals please visit Yosef’s cooking blog, www.thisamericanbite.com.