Last Friday I came home from a fairly good teaching day in Tel Aviv utterly exhausted. Overtired, I couldn't nap but watched the movie Ghost World sprawled out (on my side of course) on the couch. By evening for dinner at my in-laws, I was still exhausted and dreaded the windy drive to their house. I kvetched and Adi told me to stop kvetching and come or stay home if I wanted to. I should have stayed, but that made me want to stop kvetching and go. Exhaustion is often tied to puking and tonight was no exception.
My father-in-law has discovered a new talent as sushi chef (learned from my brother-in-law ;-)and he thoughtfully made some fish-free sushi for me. Alas, moments after eating some I felt that familiar twinge of dizziness that I know by now is the tip off that puking is sure to follow. I excused myself, whispering my destination to Adi. I went down the two flights of stairs to puke my guts out, then curled up in an empty bedroom with one of Adi's favorite books from childhood, "The Indian in the Cupboard" and promptly fell asleep until after midnight.
I woke up the next day with a wretched cold and stayed home from work Sunday and Monday. Sunday of course was also the all-important visit with Dr. Shapiro. I actually gathered my forces for that pretty well. The hardest part of that visit ended up being finding parking when I got home.
Am I happy, people kept asking, that I do not have to go for the planned C-section? Well, yes, and no. Yes, because I suppose it is always better NOT to have a medical need to do something invasive. But no because I'd psyched myself up for the C-section and convinced myself that it's not without it's merits. You know the date, for one thing. And you don't have to worry about the pain of the birth itself, only afterwards. That part didn't really scare me, since I've recovered from operations before. Plus you can take drugs.
Suddenly I felt like people must feel who have that recurring nightmare about being unprepared for an exam. You know the one: you wake up, you're sitting in an exam and you realize you never went to a single class. [Actually I never had that dream. It is no doubt telling that instead I dream before every major trip or move that the travel\moving day has arrived and I haven't packed. This dream usually comes at a good time to cause me to wake up and start packing.]
Sure, we went to the birth class. But we both just went through the motions during the breathing and didn't really pay attention to the parts about the birth itself, thinking it wasn't relevant for us.
I guess the good thing is that I missed out on several months worth of worrying about it. But now I'm making up for it, big time.
Talking to people really helps. Examples:
I put in a call to our birth class instructor. She was thrilled by the news and invited us to join her current group for a relevant makeup class. Adi and I both kind of felt "enough already" with the class by the time it ended, but maybe we'll go, or I'll go.
Girlfriends suggested we hire another coach (a woman who was their lactation consultant too) for a one-off private lesson. "She'll give you lots of tips," they encouraged.
I was also encouraged by Yael's birthing story. Her second daughter was born in the hallway of the hospital. Locked in place by a contraction, the nurse was trying to get her to the delivery room but Yael couldn't move. She bent down to inspect the situation and rather than force the move, called for sheets to be laid on the floor. A screen was produced to create some privacy and a beautiful little girl was born just like that.
A co-worker told his wife's birth story. She was scheduled for a C-section but the baby had other plans and decided to come early. Suddenly a calm, planned procedure became an emergency event. But all was fine there too.
Charles gave excellent advise, paraphrasing from the sage Alex from Hungary: "It will be easy for you. You will put on the makeup, you will go to the hospital, you will put on the gown, you will have the baby." Indeed. I just have to remember the makeup. And the story about Alex when he was working in the laundry.
Alex Does the Laundry
Jeremie tells this story about Alex, working in the kibbutz laundry when a little old lady came in with a delicate sweater.
Little Old Lady: Is Nomi here?
LOL: Do you know when she'll be back?
LOL: Do you understand me?
(* a bit of an overstatement, he didn't really know much Hebrew, he was just guessing the right answers by intonation).
LOL: Can I leave this with you? Will you take extra good care of it? It needs special washing...
LOL: Are you sure?
LOL leaves and Jeremie asks Alex: Alex, do you know what she said?
Jeremie: So why did you say you did?
Alex: (sighs loud, Hungarian sigh) Jeremie, what can it be? This is a laundry. In a laundry, you do the laundry. I see that her sweater is delicate, it must need special care. So I know what to do!
And so in life, when in the laundry, do the laundry.
This worked for me when I joined a swim club in Haifa. I had no idea what the names of the strokes were in Hebrew, or how many sets or whatever I was supposed to be doing. After a moment of panic, I channeled Alex and told myself: "This is a swimming pool. You are here to swim. Swim! What else can it be?"
So too for the baby. When I am in the hospital and I want to push and they tell me to push, what will there be to do but to push?
Doula or not Doula?
Talking to Abby was very helpful. She raised a question which I hadn't really thought of yet: who do I want there with me? Like so many other questions, this one simply wasn't relevant under the planned C-plan, because they ONLY let your partner in the room with you, and even that was a recent concession. With a regular birth, you can have up to two supporters with you in the room. They can tag team with other supporters. So it could be Adi, my mother, and or a doula or anyone else I want.
Indeed, what do I want? What role do I want my mother to play? What will Adi want? And do we need a doula?
The pros of the doula, or birth assistant, seem to me to be as follows.
Well, let me first back up and tell you how I understand the birthting thing to go here in Israel. When you think it's time, you show up at the hospital where you're admitted (quickly, one would hope) via the emergency room. You can show up at any hospital. Your doctor is not involved. If you pass the admissions requirements (sufficient labor readiness), you are ushered into the maternity ward. There, 1-2 midwives are on duty. There's a doctor around somewhere if needed. But basically you're on your own, with support of that midwife or two who is simultaneously responsible for all the births happening on her floor at the time. So you could have plenty of attention or very little. Both of which could be OK, who knows?
Meanwhile, if you are in labor for a long time (and, according to my reading, average labor for 1st time mothers is a leisurely 15 hours, give or take several more), you will inevitably experience a changing of the guard amongst the midwives. That could be fine too, if they are all good and nice. But it could also be a drag to re-explain stuff to new people and to be subjected to the luck of the draw as it were. (I thought about how annoyed I was when they switched sales girls on me during my recent bra shopping experience. Both were competent but I wanted the first one back so she could compare what she'd already seen.)
I am reasonably confident that the hospital midwives are good and have my best interests at heart. But they also may be driven by motives and priorities which may not match mine. For example, they may be in more of a hurry to get me out of there. That may not be a bad thing, but if it means pumping me with drugs to induce rather than giving me another hour or two, it's not necessarily the best thing for me and Cholent.
Hence, the desire for a doula. The doula would offer consistency, if nothing else. She'd also come with experience, and could be a useful, educated advocate when it comes to questions about drugs, say. And as Abby points out, while mothers and partners are useful, they do not have anything near the experience of a paid professional who has done it a million times.
It was helpful to explain all this to my father. He also offered to be there, though he thought he'd be "an obvious third" to Adi and my mother. I hadn't even thought about it but in fact I can imagine him being quite a comfort, especially if there's a lot of waiting.
Bottom line is I just don't know. And I realize that I can't know. If the whole thing proceeds very quickly then obviously the doula won't make much difference one way or the other. But who knows?
Talking to Jen was helpful. "I just wasn't very into the whole birth thing," she told me. "Some people are. They get really into it, and that's OK. But my attitude is that the kid has to come into this world one way or another. How she gets here really doesn't interest me as much as parenting does. Parenting really interests me."
Excellent point. It is like women who obsess about the wedding but give scant thought to the marriage that follows. I really enjoyed my wedding, and even had fun during the stress of planning it. But it came, it went, it was over pretty fast. Being married is much more fun and most days it's not as overwhelmingly intense.
Like Jen, I'm not a real "earth mother" type. When faced with the prospect of a planned C-section, I felt no loss (well, maybe 5 minutes worth) at the idea of "missing out" on a unique female experience. I have brutal menstrual cramps. I know from pain. And the miracle part of growing a baby is no less a miracle if she exits via a side door. But at the same time, I need to devise a strategy to soothe my concerns now.
So I'm at the "information gathering" stage. I though I'd interview doulas. But now that I'm feeling better I've decided to take a step back and first read the chapters in the books I already have on the birth itself. I'd skipped those before, focusing on the C-section sections. Now, I have to keep in mind that I could *still* end up with a C-section (some ~30% of births do!). Luckily, I'm WELL prepared for that scenario!
Meanwhile, back to my week. All this thinking and talking was going on as I got over my cold. I went back to work Tuesday and felt pretty uncomfortable all day.
Wednesday I worked from home. I worked hard, making up for lost work. It was a busy day: Jihad and the guys came and did beautiful work in Cholent's room. Jihad also sent two different window guys to take measurements and prepare bids. Lily came over for lunch (bringing falalfel, that rocked!) and went through her very professional fung shui analysis of my home. That was really cool, but I was tired and missed my nap.
The transition from sick to healthy is the worst for me. I pass through a depression. It peaked Friday morning when I woke up to find the kitchen full of dishes from the night before, when friends of Adi's came over for coffee and cake. He'd promised to clean up and I'd fallen alseep on the couch. Waking up involuntarily before 6 AM, I saw the mess and I lost it. I stood there fuming, wanting to smash the dishes, resisting the urge to clean them up.
I drove down to the beach for a walk, and I thought, to have breakfast. Nothing was open at 7 AM. Go figure!
I walked, I wrote in my journal, I calmed down some. Then I went to the Pelephone store to change my cellphone. This was a chi-improving move I'd wanted to do for a while, sice the phone I have is small and annoying, with horrible usability. I wanted to downgrade to something you flip open, with no camera, and with sensible navigation.
Going to the pelephone store is a bit like going to the airport. The agents wear stewardess-like uniforms. There's a lot of waiting, a lot of counters. You might think it would be only worse for my bad mood to go to the cellphone store. But I sort of felt that since my mood couldn't be worse, it was a good time to go since for once the store couldn't bring me down any more. Eventually I got what I wanted, more or less.
When I came home, Adi had cleaned up the dishes and put away his laundry, thank heavens. I collapsed into bed for a while. Later we acomplished a major, major task: hanging the internet wire that fell messily in a trip line across the threshold to the living room for more than a year. It wasn't easy, ivolving measuring and cutting plastic casings that affix to the wall. Worst part was that the wire ended up being really too long and neither of us could face the untangling at the end, leading to minor mutual breakdown. We got through it though, talked and made up and rested with a bit of movie.
Friday for dinner I kept things simple, defrosting a challah I'd already baked and heating up frozen shnitzel. But I also made a fabulous Quinoa dish. It is inspired, oddly enough, by a pasta recipe I picked up at the cellphone store. Someone came up with the bizzare but clever marketing idea of blending their current catalog offerings with sumptuous recipes and photos of food that somehow sort of hints at the phone. Rasberry soufle, say, on the page opposite the cute, light, pink phone. Or chocolate blocks across from the think slab of black phone. Or, well some of them weren't really connected but reading the recipes gives you something to do while you wait and makes you want to keep the catalogue.
Quinoa with Peppers and Cranberries
Ingredients: one onion, a couple of peppers (red & yellow), handfull of dried cranberries, oil, 1 c. quinoa.
Instructions: Sautee chopped onion in oil. Add pepper, cut in strips. Meanwhile, rince the quinoa. Strain it in a fine strainer (I didn't have one so I used a cheesecloth).
Check the pepper mixture, add some water if it starts to get sticky. Thow in cranberries. Add quinoa and 2 c. water. Cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, until the quinoa bursts and shows its funky little tail.
Just before serving, toss in a tsp. or two of sesame oil (tip from Sarah) to really bring out the nutty flavor. Big yum!
I even made it to shul (late) Friday night. It was nearly empty and really nice. Two English speaking women spoke to me and encouraged me to come to the fundraising party next Saturday. A kind elderly artist walked me home and we had a nice chat.
Saturday was already much, much better. I slept better (finally), I could breathe again, and Adi and I had the whole day to be together and do stuff.
I did major organizing of my craft supplies while he slept. Then we worked together on translating one of his school papers. Not easy, but interesting and fun.
At night we went to the theater. The play totally sucked but we were all the way in the back which meant I could put my head against the wall and nap.
After the play, Adi was in the mood for a fallafel.
"But you're too tired," he said.
"No, no, no," I insisted. "Let's go. Pretty soon we won't be able to be so spontaneous, let's go!"
Halfway downtown already, we swung downtown even farther, looking for something open at 10 PM. Above the wadi, my eagle eye (specially developed sensors help me identify rare and exciting food sources) spotted a little place, brightly lit, tucked away in an alley. It proved to be awesome. The fallafel monger was "old school" as Adi said: generous, patient. An old Egyptian movie was playing on a TV inside, but we happily found seats under a tree outside. A cat played with a glass doorknob. A man chain-smoked cigarettes near the kitchen. Another, in a disposable apron, seemed to be on an endless bucket moving mission between the kitchen and yard around the side. A pair of Jewish women finished a plate of humus and chatted. A barrel-bellied policeman showed up for a meal and to discuss the recent escape of a rapist in Tel Aviv. Haifa had sent police officers to help. The big fear was that the guy would somehow skip the country - not an easy feat! A pair of Russian security guards came for their nightly meal. And the fallafel man called Adi "Achi," my brother, when our order was ready. As in, "You want oil on that humus, Achi? Tehina, Achi?". The fallafel balls were perfect. Hot but not dangerously so. Crispy brown on the outside. Just the right color green on the inside.
"Smell," Adi said. Perfect aroma.
I even ate some delicious hot sauce with mine, to hell with heartburn! But amazingly, I suffered no heartburn!
Final note on doulas: everyone I know who hired one was glad they did. Some people who didn't hire one wish they had. What's your doula deal?