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A Spiritual Delivery

A Spiritual Delivery

Baby Menachem Mendel a few hours after his birth
Baby Menachem Mendel a few hours after his birth

Here I am, in a darkened room, staring at a tiny pulsating dot on a fuzzy ultrasound screen. "This is your baby's heartbeat"—the doctor says. "I know," I whisper, completely mesmerized by its rhythmic movements. My mind is consumed by only one thought: this is my baby. I am amazed by the speed which I am drowning in an ocean of love with the five millimeter image on the screen.

Later that afternoon, as I am showing the ultrasound picture to my fourteen year old daughter, she asks me a question I never expected to hear: "Mom, where is the baby's soul now?" "Wow, I think, "this is incredible. Where did she hear this kind of question? In Hebrew school?"

"I think his soul is still with G‑d, while the body is being formed and getting ready to receive it at birth", I respond almost automatically, without realizing the effect my own words will have on me. By the end of the day I feel as if an invisible light bulb went on inside of me, leaving me with goose bumps of awe, as I realize that this tiny body in an ultrasound picture is the future host of its soul. And the precious package from Heaven—my baby, who I will hold in my arms in a few months, possessed by sweetness and deliciousness-- the Divine spark dwelling within.

Can I trust enough in my Creator and in myself? Since that day of the ultrasound, the birth of my baby has appeared in a totally different light to me—a G‑dly one, to be precise. After four births—the first in Russia, when I was 19 years old, petrified and lonely, lost in labor pain for over twenty-four hours in a cold hospital, promising myself I will never have kids again. Then another three in America, comfortably enjoying medical advances, but absolutely detached from my Creator and my spirit, attached instead to IVs and monitors.

Now, suddenly, I am ready to fall into a new dimension of birthing—the spiritual one, rather then the medical--physical model. For myself, I know that means a natural birth, one where I experience and feel every single part of it.

It feels right in my heart, but my mind shoots me with questions: Can I trust enough in my Creator and in myself? Can I endure the pain? Can I stay strong in my decision to give birth naturally? And the biggest of all: can I surrender to the unknown and simply let the G‑d's hand, and the rhythms of birth, safely carry me ashore?

I guess I will never know until I try. So I make the decision to prepare my mind and my body, combining prayer, meditation and guided imagery. But I know I will need more than that-- I will need help from the highest place, Heaven, and from the ultimate helper, G‑d.

I also know I will need to feel that I have the moral support of the person closest to me, my husband.

When I tell him what kind of birth I would like to have, he raises his eyebrows in surprise: "Why go through torture when you don't have to?" he asks.

This is something I have to do and I don't know why At first I try explaining to him the process of birthing from the mystical perspective of the Torah, something I connect with very strongly: the exile of the Jewish people in Egypt is likened to the period of gestation in the womb, the splitting of the Red Sea is like the breaking of the waters; forty years in a desert and forty weeks of pregnancy. He looks at me as if I am speaking Chinese to him and not plain Russian. Then, I try explaining to him what it means to me- experiencing the birth through the eyes of the spirit, to be right in the midst of it, feeling and living it thoroughly. Thirty minutes later, I catch myself thinking that I am wasting my time trying to pour my soul out. It is still Chinese to him. Then I just say: "Look, honey, this is something I have to do and I don't know why and I need your support." Please, I add softly, with my eyes begging for his help. It takes him a minute, till he says: "Sure, you know I will do anything for you."

"I just need you to believe in me." I say, relieved by knowing that I am not alone. I have my best friend cheering me on.

Over the next few months I get busy: I read books and make notes on what applies to me. I read about Judaism's perspective on birthing and birthing stories on I write my own breathing meditations and create the imagery in my mind to go along with them. (G‑d's light entering my body, keeping me safe and at peace)I practice these meditations and imagery with false labor contractions.I pray daily, asking for a natural and easy birth, for me and my baby to stay safe and healthy.

Even though I am doing everything I can to prepare, I feel deep uncertainty, knowing how unpredictable everything may turn out. There is nothing I can do about it, but surrender into the mystery, respecting the fact that the ultimate result of my labor is in G‑d's hands.

So when, in the early afternoon, while grocery shopping, I feel the real thing—the first labor contraction, my initial response is excitement mixed with panic and fear. It takes a long prayer, combined with deep breathing, in the middle of the bread and jelly aisle, before I feel semi-calm.

I drive home, continuing breathing deeply and praying.

I go in my bedroom, curl up in bed and start timing contractions—they come 10 minutes apart. I practice my breathing meditation with them. I softly talk to my baby, letting him know that I am ready for him and he is safe. By now, I am amazed how calm and comfortable I feel. There is a part of me though, the hysterical part, wanting to make a scene, to throw a tantrum of fear, but its voice is dimmed by the soft lullaby of the spirit, gently whispering the song of peace. I ask G‑d to be with me, to never leave me. I am afraid that without His presence I will crumble in fear and pain, giving my power away to the physical rather them spiritual part of me.

I call my husband on his cell phone: "Honey, I think…"

He stops me, almost screaming: "I am coming, don't do anything!!!"

I know what he means: "Don't have the baby till we get to the hospital." I understand his panic, since it's our fifth child and things can go really fast and my last doctor's visit confirmed it.

"Believe me, I am not going anywhere"—I reassure him.

Fifteen minutes later, I hear some crazy driver racing up the hill and I have a strong feeling I know who this is—my precious, nervous and beyond scared husband—the total opposite from his meditative wife. I smile, hearing the slamming of the door and him galloping up the stairs.

One second later he is next to me, staring at me, as if expecting the bomb (his extremely pregnant wife) to explode right before his eyes. "Let's go!"

I have never heard his voice so high pitched and I begin to laugh. Well, not for long.

Contractions getting stronger by now, I need to be quiet, focus inward and not to loose the contact with my light within. In a fog-like state, partially in a trance, I get ready, kiss my kids and get into the car.

The hospital is twenty minutes away, right off the freeway. Before I know it, we are already at the entrance. By now my husband is reading my meditations to me. He seems calmer now; his eyes are full of love and compassion. For a split second, in the middle of the hospital hallway, our eyes connect and we feel truly as one.

You are my hero—he says.

In a few minutes I am admitted into the labor room and the nurse offers the pain reliever. For a second, the past labor experiences surface in my mind, tempting me to give in and accept her offer. But before I have a chance to entertain this thought, I hear myself saying "No, thanks, I am fine. "

There is no turning back and now I know I can do it. I hold onto the Rebbe's prayer for birth, pour a few drops of calm emotion aromatherapy on my forehead and sink deeper into a trance. I lose track of time….dreaming, melting into the light, praying...

Suddenly, I am awakened from my peaceful state by this intense, sharp pain, which I cannot control. I am breathless, raw and primitive, but I am not afraid. I accept this moment; I willingly jump into it with each and every contraction. "Be with me, G‑d. With you by my side I have nothing to fear.

In a few minutes the room becomes bright and filled with people, my doctor's face close to me: "the baby is almost out, push through the pain." she says.

As I am screaming that I cannot, I hear the words I have been waiting for: "He is right here, I see him!"

In a few seconds my son is on my chest; his wet, soft breath against mine, skin to skin, heartbeat to heartbeat.

Time stops and right in this moment, I know what Heaven feels like—it's pure joy. I say thanks to our Creator for this unforgettable experience, for the miracle that just taken place. I ask Him to help me build the connection we just had into a relationship. I want to feel G‑d's presence in me all the times, through the fear and doubt, pain and joy. This labor gave me a taste of this connection, a glimpse into what used to be an intellectual concept, called spirituality. It gave me an opportunity to feel the difference of the physical versus spiritual and for that I am deeply grateful.

Dr. Katherine (Rivka) Agranovich was born in Belarus, FSU, and now lives in Orange County, California, with her husband and five children. She is a doctor of natural health and the founder of a holistic health clinic. Katherine is passionate about studying Judaism, and enjoys writing. She is the published author of Tales of My Large, Loud, Spiritual Family.
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Katherine Agranovich SJC, USA August 9, 2011

Writer's responce You know what's best for you, we are all different and unique. And if epidural is what you would choose, that would be the best choice for you! Good Luck! Reply

Sara Abro joburg, rsa August 8, 2011

a pregnant woman your story is special and it seems as if you managed giving birth in a way that brought love and faith. And your husband sounds like an excellent support. Thank G-d I also have such a special man. I have to say that I dont believe G-d wants us to suffer. I am having my first baby in February 2011 (PG). I want a natural birth but am sure if it takes long or hurts too much I will get an epidural. the entire experience is very daunting! Reply

Jewelll Hirschorn Alexandria, VA July 8, 2011

Thank you for sharing your account of your experience with your 5th childs birth. It was very inspirational. My daughter-in-law is expecting in Sept. of this year and I will share your experience with her. Reply

Diane Kisela Cape Town, South Africa December 1, 2010

Overwhelmed... ... I am simply speechless. As I was reading your account, all these emotions were going through my mind: fear, anxiety, excitement. And it's not even my own experience!

I'm not married yet, I'm not even dating, so this is something I've still got to look forward to. Hopefully very soon.

All I can say is, respect to you for not taking those pain relievers.

I still have shivers running down my spine - in a good way, though! Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem September 11, 2009

a spiritual delivery The "spiritual delivery" was possible because she did not have a two and a half day labour, followed by a C.Section because the baby was traversed.

I wish my son had come out in hours! Reply

rivkie ives richmond , uk April 24, 2009

your article dear rivka

your ability to communicate is wondrous. you bring Hashem into your life in such a touching way. you are so down to earth as you experience lofty ideas. what an inspiration. hatzlacha (much luck)in all you do Reply

Dorothee Stuttgart, Germany April 23, 2009

Spiritual delivery My 17 years old daughter's reaction to the article:
Wow. Thanks, Mommy, this is overwhelming. I’ve got tears in my eyes several times. Respect up to this woman and to all other mothers. Respect to you, for giving birth to your 5th (me) on the same good way. This sentence came up to me especially: "I am breathless, raw and primitive, but I am not afraid." There are so many meaningful lessons-and-questions for-life packed in this text. "And the biggest of all: can I surrender to the unknown and simply let the G-d's hand, and the rhythms of birth, safely carry me ashore?" >>Surrender to the unknown<< For your little, perfection-seeking girl this is something to learn again and again. I felt sure, this was her first baby. But no, it was her 5th. It so beautiful: this mother-love! By the way, the story is very well written. Sitting excited in front of the screen, I was feeling nearly to have been along. (only nearly)

Your daughter R. Reply

Laura Beth Addess Marietta, GA/Cobb Co. April 22, 2009

Natural Birthing Dear Katherine,
I am a mother of 3 beautiful girls. All natural births 3 times, 2 at home with a qualified profession. It was the greatest experience of my life all three times. All we have is Hashem to lean on in the middle of labor. A really great birthing coach is key as well. You have to know how to stand up for yourself in hospitals so you don't get "the standard procedures" unnecesarily done to you or your baby. It takes alot of courage and research on the subject to know how to do that. I chose homebirth because in Georgia hospitals, the epideral rate in close to 100%. C Sections and alot of times falsely created "problem births" are the norm. Homebirth was the best option for me and my husband as we knew we were doing natural from the first child. We never feared and never regretted it. It was the best thing ever. I highly recommend this type of birthing to all mothers to be who desire a natural birth and I'm proud of you for trusting in Hashem for your fifth one. Reply

Rivka Perth, WA April 21, 2009

Powerful! Thank you so much for sharing this! It took me a couple of traumatic births to finally place my trust in HaShem and go on to have some pretty empowering and awesome births (at home with my 4th & 5th sons) - the key ingredient being Emuna (faith) and remembering that HaShem is so very 'revealled' at this time when His new creation is being breathed into life by Him. I think your story is so important to remind women that they are created according to HaShem's will, and that means we have the potential to have some pretty awesome and amazing birth experiences, when we remember the 3rd 'Partner', who is directing the whole experience in accordance with His infinite wisdom and mercy! Reply

Dorothee Stuttgart, Germany April 21, 2009

Spiritual delivery Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm blessed with 6 wonderful children and gave birth even at home 2 times with G'd's help. Blessed is HE, the creator of life. Reply

Sally Cernie Phd Riverside, Ca April 21, 2009

Natural, Spiritual Birth Dear Katherine:
Congratulations to both you and Felix. I am so proud of you, I never doubted that you could do it, because I have the privilidge to know you; your determination, and your faith which I have seen intensify with time. If only I could have such faith, I was even tempted to turn to Judaism when I experience your fervor, yet I realized, I know G-d and He is with me at all times, so whatever Religion one belongs to is unimportant. What is important is to know that this Great Power Exists and is part of us and will be with us through trials and tribulations as long as we Believe. I love you Katherine. And Felix, you are the best. With your love and guidance all your children will be blessed and will make a difference in our world. With love, Sally Reply

Moishe April 21, 2009

Jealous In the midst of my welling up reading the part where you're with G-d, I again felt jealous of a woman's experience in birthing our children. It shouldn't take, however, such a miraculous event for men to realize how special women are. For any man who doesn't realize the myriad complements of women to men, they're not living. Men, even knowledgeable, observant ones, should appreciate the many things to learn from understanding women better. And why should men not learn how women are different and, in many ways, the opposite of them? Why should men not know how to make women comfortable, to feel safe, appreciated, loved, etc. It seems that its one of the fundamental purposes of G-d's design and desire. Among themselves, men should not trivialize, disregard, or disrespect their wives. Rabbis shouldn't drag on a kiddush on a late Shabbos afternoon while wives and daughters are waiting @ home for kiddush out of respect to their husbands. They should encourage men to deeply care about wives Reply

Anonymous Paraguay April 21, 2009

Wonderful! Thank you for the very fulfilling article! I felt submerged by reading it and it's very inspiring...Thank you so much for sharing it. Reply

Milly April 21, 2009

Wow your story is incredible. I admire your courage and determination. I'm sure that the natural birth was worth it. Well written and well done. Reply

kari panama, panama April 19, 2009

Me encanto!!! Reply

Emily M. Boston April 3, 2009

What a great story, it made me cry. You are right; the natural birth is such a freeing experience! This is one of those times where everything is illuminated in a light of heaven. I am blessed with two children and both of them were born naturally. I also found that during my births G-d carried me “safely ashore.” Sometimes I get busy taking care of children, working, and forget to see G-d in all the details of my life, but I will always remember these precious moments of connection during my births! Reply

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