Those of you who recognize the address in the title will be surprised to learn that this post is actually subtitled: “Life on an Israeli Maternity Ward”.
Let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up…
First, two caveats:
Caveat #1: My American experiences obviously pre-date our aliyah, and even my Israeli experiences aren’t very recent. (After all, BA”H, our “baby” isn’t exactly a baby anymore…) However, I can’t imagine that there have been any significant changes in the interim.
Caveat #2: This post is not about giving birth; it’s only about the postpartum period. However, I should note that the medical care I received in both countries was excellent and equally advanced.
Basically, two main issues distinguish Israeli maternity wards from their American counterparts:
1) Ambulation: In the States, the objective seems to be to let the new mother get some much needed rest. In contrast, here in Israel, the message is: You’re not sick; get out of bed. Obviously, if chas v’shalom anything is wrong, the mothers stay in bed. But, assuming that everything is fine, the mothers are encouraged to get up and walk around. For instance, as long as the mother is up to it, she goes to get her baby from the nursery (rather than waiting for the nurse to bring the baby to her). Also, in some (most?) Israeli hospitals, the new mothers go to a small private dining room to eat their meals. Only mothers who are non-ambulatory (e.g. after a C-section or within the first six hours after giving birth, etc.) receive their meals in bed.
2) Socialization: Unlike in America, Israeli maternity wards serve as postpartum support groups. Except for at night and – perhaps – during the traditional 2-4 PM rest hour, the curtains separating the beds remain open. By the time I left the hospital after each birth, I knew all kinds of personal things about my roommates. In contrast, in America, I barely knew my roommates’ names!
The net result was that when each of my “sabras” were born, I felt like I was back in Stern College (hence the title!) – with two notable differences:
- Instead of staying up late studying and comparing dating stories, my roommates and I stayed up late nursing and comparing birthing stories.
- Instead of saying things like, “Oh? Are you going to eat? Then please save me a seat in the caf.,” we said things like, “Oh? Are you going to eat? Then please save me a seat in the chadar ochel (dining room).”