This morning my mother called me for my birthday and regaled again the story of my birth. My older siblings were all born at home in The Netherlands but by the time I came along, my parents and older siblings were living in Israel, in a village just outside Jerusalem, and home births were not done there. So, I was born in a hospital. My mother didn’t have me in the good, reknowned hospital not far from where we lived as my oldest brother had died there a year before and I think going back there was just too much to bear. Instead, I was born in a not so state-of-the-art hospital in the city of Jerusalem. My mother tells it like this:
“It was a Friday afternoon around 2 pm and I was outside in our back garden, hanging out the laundry to dry, nine months pregnant and a few days overdue.”
I love the memory of our back garden and when she starts telling that story, I can completely picture her in my mind’s eye with that laundry. In my childhood I’d see her hang the laundry there often and she always marvelled at how quickly it all dried again. We lived in a red house and I always picture that and then the big garden in the back with grass and flowers and shrubs and trees and a lot of sunshine. The pictures here below were taken at the back of the house about two years before I was born, when my parents and siblings first moved there. We lived in the downstairs section of the house, there were also two small apartments upstairs.
My memories of our back garden are very much linked to these following pictures (and yes, that is me at about a year old in that one picture). I loved the fir trees and to this day when it’s hot outside and I walk underneath a fir tree, the feeling and smell of that can immediately transport me back to my childhood.
Anyway, back to my mother’s story…
“I was hanging laundry when my labour started and it came in fast. Your father drove me to the hospital in Jersualem and an hour later you were born. It was an extremely quick delivery and your dad wasn’t allowed in the room. I was in a cubicle and just after you were born the doctors and nurses left me to attend a birth in a neighbouring cubicle and then a third birth in another cubicle. I almost felt like I had given birth three times that afternoon! I was then told to pick up my baby and belongings and to go and find a bed somewhere on the ward. They also gave me an antibiotics pill because apparently hygenic conditions in the hospital, especially the bathrooms, were not ideal. It was a hospital favoured by Orthodox Jews and I remember the women lying there without their wigs on, their hair very short and patchy. A rabbi came by the beds to sing a blessing for each mother and baby. When he came to my bed he said, ‘You are a goy (i.e. non Jew), I won’t sing for you.’ I protested, however, saying I didn’t want to be treated differently and that I would like a blessing for my baby as well! And so he did indeed sing his blessing for us. On Friday evening Shabbat had started and no one was allowed to be discharged on Shabbat. Papa was allowed to come by and visit us and then on Sunday, I picked up you and my belongings and discharged myself and papa picked us up to go home again.”
My mother loves telling this story and I have heard it so often! I always used to roll my eyes at her when she would tell me the story of my birth yet again, willing her to be done with it as soon as possible and trying to rush her along. Yet now that I have children of my own, I find myself repeating stories of their births to them as well and they are impatient with me about that too. It took me to have children of my own to finally understand my mother better and her need for telling this story as I now too like to do the same thing with my kids on occasion. And so this morning, when mama called me and told me again about how I was born, I smiled happily and was glad to still have her around to tell it.