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...