Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Return to 34th and Lex

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).”



  1. This post made me laugh in recognition.
    I had my first two children in New York, and my third in a small hospital in Bnei Brak (I forgot the name of the hospital). What a different experience! As you said, American hospitals treat new mothers as if they are sick. I felt much happier in the Israeli maternity ward.

  2. SuperRaizy - It sounds like you're referring to Maayanei HaYeshuah Hospital. I've heard very positive things from women I know who've given birth there.

  3. I agree with you and SR--getting up and walking around is preferable to being treated like a queen. They do give you the first meal in bed.
    After one birth, I got a note warning me not to get up for five hours. But I had to urinate, and the nurse didn't answer my call. Having met another pp mom with a catheter b/c she didn't urinate after birth, and having had an easy delivery, I got up, made sure I was steady, and went to the b/r. Then I went to check on the baby.The nurse said to come back in a few minutes. In the meantime the maternity ward nurse had missed me and went looking for me in the nursery. When she heard I had been there she relaxed, but the nursery nurse then refuse to give me the baby--apparently as a punishment. Fortunately this was at the end of her shift.

  4. Mrs. S--I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Many babies get infections. Hopefully the new ward is better.

  5. I'm sure it depends on the hospital in the U.S. about ambulation. A friend said she had C-sections; she wanted to rest, but the nurses said walk.

    I didn't feel like I was treated as sick at RWJ in New Jersey.

  6. MII - but the nursery nurse then refused to give me the baby--apparently as a punishment.
    This is very disturbing! I hope that this wasn't your oldest and that you were able to handle the nurse. A first time mother would probably have had a very hard time dealing with such a situation...

    RE: Maayanei HaYeshuah - I wasn't aware of that. It sounds like they really needed that new ward.

  7. Leora - The truth is that things vary somewhat from hospital to hospital here in Israel as well. For instance, I've heard that in some hospitals, they've started to bring the new mothers all their meals in bed.

    But the mothers still have to go get their babies to nurse them. In fact, in the middle of the night, they don't let the babies out of the nursery. The mothers have to sit and nurse in special "nursing rooms", which are attached to the nursery - rather than bring the babies back to their rooms, as they do during the day. (It was these nursing rooms - more than anything else - that made me feel like I was back in Stern!)

  8. Mrs. S,
    I don't know how old your youngest is, but rooming in even at night is gradually becoming the norm here. Thank G-d!!

  9. MII - Then I guess things ARE changing. When my youngest was born, there were 1-2 rooming-in rooms, but even from those rooms, the babies had to go back to the nursery at night.

  10. There is just so much to say on this topic I am not sure where to begin. First I find it very amusing the changes in the same hospital with each child. The first born in the USA I never even saw the nursery as I was only in the hospital about 24 hours and could not easily get out of bed. (hurray for 9lb babies) The first Sabra I was told to come take the baby to nurse in my room. Sabra #2 I was told you cant go to your room as wheeling the baby will wake everyone up better to nurse here in the nursery in not so comfy chairs. Well by Sabra#3 everything changed. Just my luck they started their new rules. All rooms are rooming in during the day. You could send the baby to the nursery at night bet 1030pm and 5am. Great I say so much for getting any rest before going home. And nursing at night of course is only in the Cheder Hanaka a long way from the nursery. Well we managed to cope and I am sure things continue to change


  11. RCT -

    Well we managed to cope
    Good point.

    I am sure things continue to change
    You're probably right.

    BTW, speaking of your Sabra #3 - do you have a Pack N Play that you can bring with you for the bar mitzvah IY"H?

  12. yes no problem we have a pack n play.
    let us know what else we could need to bring besides the cookies which thanks to YAT are already in the freezer.


  13. At Shaarei Tzedek, last time I was there, (16 months ago) they gave me 6 hours before I had to get up and pee. The first meal, they told me I could have in bed, but it would be nicer in the hadar ochel.

    they let me have the baby most of the day, and at night, they mostly woke me up when she was awake... though they kept telling me to feed her when she was asleep and then I'd go to the nursery and find her awake and hungry... it's a bit annoying, and why I considered going elsewhere this time...

    I just couldn't find an elsewhere to go :(

  14. I have no experience giving birth here, but I would say that in America there's also no fixed rule. When I had the twins at NYU. they were understaffed and I had to get out of bed 2 days after a C-section to wheel two babies to my room if I wanted to see them (or back, when I'd had enough...). In contrast, YB was born at Holy Name hospital in the lap of luxury, but I wouldnt go there for a high risk pregnancy. On the other hand, they do have a great statue of well, you know who, in the lobby, or as one of my kids when they came to visit me then-"Abba, look at the funny man in a dress!" (this while two nuns were passing by)

  15. TriLcat - You would think they would understand by now that newborns make their own individual schedules and aren't there to accommodate the hospital's nursing schedule!

    B'sha'ah tovah!

  16. Malke:
    I also gave birth in a Catholic hospital in the States. The hospital's logo - which included a cross - appeared on the hospital gowns, and each room had a small wooden crucifix on the wall.

    Maybe I'll blog about this someday.

    See you on Shabbat IY"H...

  17. Mrs. S - That last part reminds me of when I asked a rav about saying birkat hamazon before class started in the classroom of the Catholic university where I attended grad school (I raced there from work for night classes and needed a quick sandwich - which I finally resolved to eat and bentch on in my car!)

    I was born in HaKirya in TA nearly 30 years ago - I think it's no longer around. It was a big difference for my mom from my older brothers, both born in Maimonides in Brooklyn, but it helped that at the Kirya, her sister-in-law was the meyaledet!

    My kids were all born at North Shore Hosp. on Long Island. Very comfortable place to have a baby, and I didn't mind the TLC from the nurses. My sister-in-law who had her first 4 at North Shore remarked that she didn't realize just how cushy it was until she had #5 in Israel, mostly born in the hospital lobby! Yikes. Her #6 was a cord prolapse-emergency C-section, so that would have been traumatic anywhere, but the care she received was very good. Clearly her birth experiences were atypical.

    We both tend to have low blood pressure, but unlike me, she was told at her prenatal visits in Israel to drink more coffee to combat it!

    My 3rd baby was in the NICU for a day longer than the duration of my hospital stay, so I did get plenty of movement going back and forth (for some reason it is quite far from the mothers' rooms). Since he was due to be released the day after I was, rather than go home without him (emotionally hard, and just one night) I opted to 'sleep' (ha!) on the chairs in the NICU lounge. The staff did try to make me comfortable during a trying time.

  18. RaggedyMom - Thanks for your comment.

    It's nice to hear that the staff understood how stressful - and uncomfortable - that must have been for you! How did your older kids cope - or did they just think you hadn't yet come home from the hospital with the new baby?

    her sister-in-law was the meyaledet
    There's nothing like proteksia...


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