Friday, August 24, 2012

Oh boy, it's a boy!

[continued from Tales of a teenaged mother] ...and in the month immediately following Teneya's first birthday, my cycle failed to make an appearance.

This second pregnancy was a breeze.  No morning sickness, high energy, a bit of experience under my belt already.  Teneya was always clingy and started walking late, so I carried her in a side sling halfway into my third trimester.

I planned for another home birth, and that's what I had.  Still did all the regular tests at the clinic to monitor iron levels, rule out diabetes in me or abnormalities in my baby's growing organs, etc.  Contractions started on a Thursday, a mere 3 days after my due date, but were rather irregular.

Towards sundown the midwife came.  A neighbor's teenaged daughter was interested in future career as a midwife and asked if she could attend the birth for more experience.  I had no objections, but there was a strong personality clash between her and my midwife.  Had to send her home in the middle of the night when my labor abruptly stopped, probably at least in part because of the negative "vibes." The midwife left in the early morning after several hours of inactivity, but had to come back before lunchtime.

It was a chilly day but clear and sunny, mid-February, between Tu B'Shvat and Purim.  We lived on a dusty hilltop facing the Judean Desert, in a run-down caravan like our seven neighbors, with majestic views in all directions.  The surrounding hills were still tinted green by the winter shrubbery and a sliver of the Dead Sea sparkled in the distance.  I slipped on shoes and a light coat before heading out the door and walked in circles around out little village on the rough, rocky road.  Stopped inside frequently for the a snack or the bathroom, not fully realizing what precious freedom of movement I had until birth #3.

A few hours before Shabbat, a dear friend brought us food and ended up staying for the rest of the birth--which came about an hour before candlelighting.  She held the baby before I even did, as the midwife quickly passed him off to stop the heavy bleeding that was causing me to shake and fade out of conciousness.  Orange slices helped bring me back to reality.  This little one weighed in at 3.9 kg.

It took us until the next Thursday to decide on a name for our son.  During the Hebrew month of Shvat, Moshe gave his farewell speech to people of Israel.  Therein came the command to divide the land they were about to enter by lots once it was conquered, according to tribe and family.  Today, most Jews aren't 100% sure of which tribe they come from and the ancestral inheritance is more of a collective sense of belonging to this land that G-d made a covenant over with our father Avraham.

The name Puriel means G-d is my lot, and I added a second name: Tuvya, G-d is good.  There have been so many struggles over this tiny strip of earth, its size growing and shrinking throughout both ancient and modern history.  In all the changes, exiles and returns, there has been only one constant: that G-d is watching out for us, keeping us together as a people even without a land at times.  Puriel Tuvya, in essence, means my lot is good and he is a content and easy-going kid with the biggest heart I've ever seen.

So I had my girl and my boy, two babies under two years and both in cloth diapers.  Their need for my attention was an incredible challenge and my heart hurt whenever they would both cry at once, forcing me to choose who to run to first.

We lived a simple, old-fashioned life out there and managed to feed, clothe, house, etc. our family of four on NIS 1500-2000 per month.  Bought bulk, organic raw food materials and grew a large garden.  Bartered raisins and rice for milk and yogurt from one neighbor's cow.  Traded kale leaves and calendula flowers for another neighbor's cucumbers.  Harvested wild mustard and milk thistle for spring salads, baked all of our bread from scratch, sewed clothes from second-hand bed linens, reused and recycled everything possible.

I had multiplied.  Maybe that was enough.

But a few years later, the baby itch got to me again...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tales of a teenaged mother

I was 19 when my oldest was born; just a month after my first wedding anniversary.  Every pregnancy and birth is incredibly unique, though mine have all been in Israel. The final days of this one (my fourth) have inspired me to write about some of these experiences.

Ah, that first time...the "princess" pregnancy, as some refer to it.  If you're tired, you rest.  Your husband can fend for himself in the kitchen and will run out at 10 o'clock at night to fetch whatever you're craving.  No toddlers to run after, minimal laundry to keep up with.  You spend most of this pregnancy reading books on what to expect and making friends with new or other soon-to-be mothers.

When I came to Israel in 2003, I knew only one person in the entire country: my future husband.  I hoped for a companion, a little girl to drink tea with and sew dresses for.  In my mind, she had her father's blue eyes and the blond hair that was mine when I was a child.

Made it through the first three months without any signs of morning sickness and was enjoying ulpan, even with the hour-long bus ride each way.  The second trimester hit and I celebrated, thinking I had missed it completely...and then I started throwing up.  It only lasted for that entire fourth month, but that was the end of ulpan.

Had been a vegetarian for some years, but sudden cravings for chicken threw my eating habits in a new direction.  The second trimester had me craving pasta and corn.  What I desired most of all was watermelon and anything sour.

I registered at three different hospitals but didn't feel right about any of them.  Being a new immigrant, I was worried about communication with the staff, what could happen if there was sudden shift-switching in the middle of the birth, getting stuck with a grumpy midwife, babies getting mixed up in the nursery, and a million other things--realistic or not.  In my last trimester, a neighbor gave birth at home and when I went to bring her a meal we talked about this option.

Home births were not foreign to me; four of my mother's five were born at home.  The hospital was nearly an hour away, but this midwife only 15 minutes...and she was a native English-speaker.  I was sold.  In Israel, you get paid to give birth in a hospital.  Private midwives and home births are not really encouraged and must be paid for out of pocket.

On Shabbat afternoon, a full week after my due date, contractions started.  I had only been off crutches for three days after spraining my foot while walking over a rain gutter in the street, so I took some Tylenol for the growing pain in my foot about halfway through.  Discovered later that I had "back labor" and that it's not normal for your back to hurt more than the contractions.  Between the pains in my foot and back, the contractions didn't seem so bad.  At the break of dawn on Sunday, after 14 hours, 1.5 of which were pushing, I held my baby for the first time.

"It's a girl!" were my first words.  "It's not a watermelon!" were my husband's.

Her name was taken from Parashat Ki Tavo, which I had read about halfway through this pregnancy.  In a passage describing entry into the Promised Land, initial planting and settling, came a decree to take the first fruits and put them in a special basket to be taken to the priest in Jerusalem.  Normally the word for basket in Hebrew is sal, but here it was called tene.  Teneya was our first after coming to Israel and her birth was less than two week before Shavuot, the feast of first fruits.  Her middle name, Havatzelet is in memory of my grandmother, Lillian (Bernstein) Margolin.

Large heads run in both sides of the family and I needed stitches.  My recovery was slow, having inherited poor circulation and in general taking forever to heal from even the smallest of scratches or bruises.  I asked G-d for a year.  A year to enjoy just this little one, a year to regain my strength.  This sweet girl of mine was just lovely.  I hoped for a boy next...