Thursday morning, four days before my due date, I was almost positive that I felt the baby "drop." 'Strange', I thought, 'I am usually overdue!' In the past, baby dropping led me straight into labor, so I was trying not to get too excited.

Then came these 'sensations', and I tried to figure out if this was 'it'…

One thing I knew for sure – this labor was going to be different than the first four. I had all four of my children, thank G‑d, naturally and without any interventions or pain medication. However, labor was always slightly traumatic. Very painful. Anxiety provoking.

This labor was going to be different Yet this time I was hoping for a painless birth. I know this sounds impossible, but I had been reading about a way of birthing in which the mom is so relaxed that she has no concept of time, of anything.

I had a wonderful doula who would be accompanying me to the labor and we had already discussed my ideal birth plan. I knew what I wanted, I just didn't know if I was capable of making it happen.

The major shift for me was to relieve myself of all pressure. I had in the past been under pressure to 'have the baby already.' This time I would let the magic unfold peacefully and at its own pace.

The contractions began. They were slightly intense, but so random and sporadic. "This might or might not be labor" I said to myself, "but it is certainly an opportunity for me to start practicing my new approach to breathing. With each deep breath I allowed myself to relax… and open up.

Thus began my process of listening to my body and helping it do what it wanted to do, as opposed to fighting it. In the past, with each contraction, I would tense up and try to distract myself. I would whip out my stop-watch and time the length of the contraction. Then, I would map it out on paper, so I could count through the next one and know when it would be over. Now I realized – maybe if I go with it and help each contraction actually do what it is meant to do then the whole process will work more smoothly… and faster!

So each contraction became a meditation. A meditation on the fascinating process G‑d created. On how G‑d created a woman's body in a way that it can peacefully birth babies! Each surge became an opportunity for me to pray… to pray that I be able to allow the process to happen. That I not 'get in G‑d's way'…

Each contraction became a meditationI held myself back from getting that pen, paper and stop-watch to "see where I'm at." There's no need! Let G‑d, my body, and the baby do the work! Why do I need to be in control over the situation? I will not help! I will only hinder!

The contractions were still very sporadic, and not very intense. I would get one, and then not get another until a few hours later. Then a few in one hour… But I did not allow myself to get frustrated or confused by that. The baby needs time…

Thursday evening - I did have trouble sleeping – simply because I was excited!

Friday morning – there was no major progress, but who cares? This is G‑d's show.

You can imagine my prayers as I lit the Shabbat candles Friday evening, asking for all the blessings for our family… for all those who seek a blessing for children…

Late that night I began to realize that this is it! Those surges were quite powerful. When I reverted to my old style of dealing with them – just wishing to get over with the contraction – I experienced pain. When I anchored myself, and used 'mind over matter' – and breathed, prayed, meditated, and relaxed through the surge – there was no pain. It was rewarding. I was certain that each contraction was getting me closer. I felt it in my very being.

On each slow and controlled inhale, I filled my mind with the words of the verse from Psalms: "From the narrow channel I called to G‑d..." (min hameytzar karasi ka). And on each very slow exhale, I completed the verse: "…G‑d answered me with a vast expanse" (anani vamerchav ka). "G‑d", I prayed, "help me open up… help me relax and allow this to happen".

I reminded myself: This isn't a race… this is a marathon.

This isn't a race… this is a marathonMy husband, Dov, and I had decided we were going to do as much of this birthing at home as possible. I was able to enter such a state of relaxation in between surges, that I was able to catch some good rest, possibly even actual sleep.

Shabbat morning Dov insisted on staying home with me. My brother-in-law would take over his position and run the Services at the Chabad House. And my sister-in-law would care for the other children.

Dov and I settled the children and went for a walk at the beach (down the block from our house). We laughed at the thought of community members finding it interesting, if they would bump into us, clothed in full Shabbat-garb, strolling on the beach. The Rabbi ditches services…?

Walking along the sand, on such a beautiful day, the weather could not have been more perfect. The ocean was a deep blue. With each surge we stopped and I listened to the crashing waves as I released my fears and entered a deeper state of relaxation.

Then I asked the question that I ask at least once during each labor of mine. "Why? Why does it have to be so hard? So difficult? So much work to bring a baby into this world?" And Dov reminded me, as I needed to be reminded, what an incredible transition needs to occur. How can it be easy for a whole new soul to descend??? The soul wants to stay 'up in heaven' near its Creator…

Looking out at the vast ocean, I began to sing to myself one of my favorite songs – "Come with me, Little Neshama'le (Soul)" – a song about a soul who is about to come down into the body of a new baby, and the soul is afraid and apprehensive about leaving its high and spiritual place in heaven… to enter a world of physicality, a place so mundane. And the accompanying angel comforts the soul that it can accomplish tremendous things down on this world… with Torah, mitzvot, and good deeds.

I then began to speak to the soul of my child within me. I cried and sang my comforting words to the baby's soul: You will not regret coming down here! You will be safe and happy in our family! We will do all we can to create an atmosphere that is familiar to you. We will do all we can to fill your life with G‑dliness, spirituality, purpose, love… as you now experience up in Heaven. Please come down! We are ready for you! Perhaps you are the final soul that needs to descend to help us all change this world into a world of peace, of redemption. Please do not fear this current exile you are about to join… because you, my sweet "neshama'le", can be the one to help us break out of it, and experience the coming of Moshiach! We are ready, with open arms, to greet you!

"Are you in labor or are you here to be induced?" I was ready for my rest, So we headed home and I laid down. I completely lost track of time.

In my state of deep relaxation, I could hear Dov offering me if I would like to join him and the children for Kiddush and the blessing on the challah. "I can't!" I thought. "I can't face the children…" I needed all the focus I had to maintain the state that I was in. But I knew that the peaceful Shabbat energy and seeing the beautiful faces of my children, would help me look forward to many more Shabbat meals with our new addition on the way…

As I slowly emerged from my room, and stood at the entrance of the Dining Room, my eldest daughter, (seven years old), looked up, with her large brown eyes, round and open wide, and blurted out: "Mommy!!.... You're ALIVE??!!??" With a huge smile, I joined the group, feeling grateful for our decision to be near our fun and loving family through my labor.

It suddenly hit me that although I felt so relaxed, and I was laboring at home so beautifully… I realized that these surges were really intense and if I waited any longer, it might be a very difficult ride to the hospital. Dov arranged for our ride.

In the car, I asked Dov to recite Tehillim (Psalms) out loud. I couldn't have thought of anything more uplifting, relaxing, and reassuring.

Slowly, in a very measured, relaxed, no pressure, and no-panic style – we made our way to the Labor and Delivery ward. The lady behind the counter cluelessly asked me: "Are you in labor or are you here to be induced?" I couldn't help but laugh! She's asking if I'm in labor?!? I think I am almost ready to deliver!!!

I was brought to my room, and made myself comfortable. My doula spoke to me gently through each surge while complimenting me on my beautiful breathing and keeping me anchored. Her massaging of my shoulders and gentle words kept me calm and relaxed…

The nurse came in to check me. I almost did not want to know how far along I was… I know of women who were told that after hours of labor they were only 6 cm dilated, or less, and at that moment they simply gave up. Some landed up with epidurals, others with a C-section! Their bodies simply closed down and announced: "I can not do this!"

This birth was going to take place with no-pressure and no-dramaBut when my nurse checked me, she told me that the baby's head was right there, ready to descend. I could barely believe what I had just heard. The moment I have been waiting for…

A staff doctor peeked her head in, letting me know that if my midwife did not show up in time, she would be the one to deliver instead. I should have flipped out. But I didn't! I didn't because I was now convinced that I actually did not need anyone… I was in G‑d's hands.

I remembered Shifra and Puah – the two Jewish Midwives in Egypt who we read about in the Book of Exodus, and how they said to King Pharaoh: "The Jewish woman birth their babies like animals. Before the midwife arrives…they have already had their baby!"

I can do this!

At this point, I had a flashback to what would occur in past labors at this milestone:

The last four of my beautiful children were delivered with what seemed to be a team of cheerleaders yelling "You can do it! you're almost there! Hold your breath! Count to ten!" The bright lights in my eyes, the fear in my heart. I would look up at the nurses, at the doctor or midwife, like a helpless little puppy – and just whimper "tell me what to do?! I can't! I'm too tired!"

This birth was going to take place with no-pressure and no-drama. The nurses were prepped. The lights were dimmed. The fetal monitor was turned real low. The midwife reminded me there was absolutely no rush. I can take my time...

So I laid there comfortably, very aware of what G‑d wanted me to do now… And began the "birthing breaths" that I learned about.

But then fear kicked in! I realized how afraid I really was! Afraid to move on. I was so aware of what I needed to do… but I didn't want to! I was about to end a whole stage in my life… yes of course – in order to give birth to a whole new stage, but still, it suddenly felt very scary to move forward.

Not because I was scared of hurting, or of pain. Simply because of the hugeness of this act. I told my doula that I felt scared, and it almost feels like I'm being told to jump off a cliff! How can I find the guts to make that first move? Why can't someone else come and just push me?

The nurses at front desk were amazed and inspiredSo I asked her to "talk me through" the next contraction, and she and my midwife (who had fortunately arrived, just in time) both reminded me about my strength, my faith, the power I have, the child that is ready to meet his/her loving family.

My doula held and supported me, and I squeezed her arm so tight. She grounded me.

There I was, – doula and midwife – three Jewish women! – I felt so at home. Two righteous women who will help me greet the next Jewish soul to enter this world… how appropriate…

'This next surge', I told myself, 'I'm going to do it'. It was my initiation. It was because I was ready, not because the staff told me to. I was ready. So I gave three deep breaths, and yes, 'breathed' that baby into this world! I picked up baby, and called out, "a girl!! She's a girl!" I could not believe it. It was so peaceful. The baby was so peaceful. What a gentle entrance into the world.

Dov, sitting on the other side of the curtain (for modesty reasons) reciting Tehillim (Psalms), could barely believe the tranquility of the scene. His thoughts were very clear, this is a Shabbat-baby. "Comes Shabbat, Comes Peace" ("Bah Shabbat, Bah Menucha"). At that moment he had the 'prophecy' that parents are blessed with, when naming their children. She was going to be called Menucha meaning peace, tranquility, rest.

As customary, I said the 'Asher Yatzar' blessing – a blessing that thanks G‑d for our working bodies. Tears streamed from my face as I said this blessing. Thank you Hashem for giving me the ability to birth a child and bring down a whole new person into this world! What an absolute miracle! Thank you G‑d for allowing us to 'act G‑dly' and be a part of actualizing such a miracle!

I bonded and nursed my peaceful new baby for two hours. Dov and I recited the blessing of "Shehechiyanu Vekiyemanu Vehigiyanu Lazman Hazeh" – Thank you G‑d who has allowed us to live and brought us to this auspicious time…

And then it was time to get to my room. I jumped out of bed, and freshened up. Nothing hurt, no aches, no pains, no strained muscles. Totally and completely natural. As G‑d intended.

How lucky I am to have been inspired to let go of my controlMy nurse shared with us that from all of her years at labor and delivery, she had never seen a birth like this. The nurses at front desk were amazed and inspired. As each nurse would enter my room, and find me walking around, yapping on the phone once Shabbat ended, they each took a double-take and felt the need to clarify… "are you the patient???"

In the past, my newborns slept through most of those first twenty-four hours, perhaps from the trauma of a forceful delivery? But this baby was alert, awake, and spent much of the first day bonding with me, nursing beautifully, looking deep into my eyes

How lucky I am to have been inspired to let go of my control. To let G‑d work His wonders through me. How blessed we are to have faith from the Torah that guides our lives, faith in a G‑d who is intimately involved with every nuance of our lives… and protects us all the way through.

I now feel empowered. I have the strength within me to conquer anything life brings my way. G‑d has given me the strength. True - friends, family, support is always nice. But the true support is the G‑dly soul within me.

Menucha has brought peace to our home. Serenity. And if bumps come our way, we will overcome.

G‑d is guiding us.

There is no question in my mind that this child, a whole world of her own, can be that final soul that needed to descend before the arrival of Moshiach, and the time of peace, tranquility, and redemption!

I am ready. I am ready for a world of serenity… a world of 'menucha'


Author Note:

Thank you to my husband, Rabbi Dov, for his incredible support and patience.

Thank you to Marie F. Mongan, founder of "HypnoBirthing" whose book greatly inspired me.

Thank you to my mentor who encouraged me to read, relax, and shift priorities during my ninth month.

Thank you to Wendy Steiger – my relaxed, sweet & caring Midwife.

Thank you to Jenn Camomile – my strong, confidant & loving Doula.