12 steps to guarantee a traumatic first birth (or what not do next time)

1. Choose an all-natural route such as Genesis Clinic which does not offer epidurals (they are available, but they are not offered primarily due to the birth route the clinic supports) because you are terrified of episiotimies and doctors and the smell of a hospital room makes you tremor.

2. Decide not to do ante-natal classes because everything you have heard about them is not useful and you have no time anyways so undergo no mental preparation for your birth or coping skills for a natural birth

3. Instead, read everything you can and think you know what labour is about

4. Find three different doulas, but remain so indecisive that you finally choose your doula when you are 40 weeks and due to give birth any second

5. Meet your doula properly for the first time at 1am when she meets at the clinic when you are in labour and ensure you have created no relationship with her and she knows nothing of your wishes or background.

6. Go into a natural labour with no epidural planned completely psychologically unprepared with no pain coping tools or no knowledge

7. Make sure the midwife breaks your waters (or even worse induces you) because labour is not progressing.

8. Be ignorant despite all the reading that any unnatural intervention (even breaking your waters) causes labour to progress almost immediately to an intensity of pain levels and closeness of contractions you very likely cannot deal with.

9. When you are 7cm dilated and want to faint from pain, ask for an epidural. Of course you are about 4 hours too late

10. Believe someone will find you lying dead on the floor because you will die from pain and then push a 3.3kg baby girl out of your body.

11. Be assured of how bad it was when your family comes to visit in the hospital and tells you you like you have been a fight (the swollen lip might have been their clue)

12. Vow to warn any female of child-bearing age that natural birth is the most horrendous and torturous thing you can ever do and you should never entertain the thought of not having an epidural at the first hint of labour

IMG_0551IMG_0549 POSTSCRIPT: Any sane person with BABY NUMBER 2 would never go back to Genesis again, would schedule a cesarean-section or at the very least. demand an epidural at the first sign of labour. Apart from not being sane, I also realized that I needed to heal from my first birth  experience. With divine grace, I found the most incredible birthing class and doula. Luckily I did learn something… my second birth was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I want to have another baby again just to be in that moment (and I am not the Ina-May-natural-birth-I-love-pain type. I am the give-my-myprodol-the-second-after-birth-just-because-I-can type). Birth DOES NOT HAVE TO BE traumatic. It is the hardest thing you will ever do, but there are lots of things you CAN do to make sure you are supported and held every step of the way. I am now a rather loud spokesman for helping people who had bad births to find ways to do it differently. Here’s more about I did it all again at Genesis, and how it was not traumatic at all Birth Story Part 1 Birth Story Part 2

Watch this space coming up: Everything you wanted to know about giving birth at Genesis Clinic – nothing but the truth

Why our children are our enemies and other options

“I want new silver ballet shoes (she already has more shoes than I have). I want a new blue bike with a trailer. I want to watch Fireman Sam on You tube. I want a new school bag with wheels I can pull like Esti. I want to go to Genesis park after school.

Enough, I want to scream. Enough. You can’t have everything. Always wanting, needing, demanding. When will it end. I have to put a stop to it. She’s becoming a brat. Spoiled. How can I say no. Should I say no.

Until I went to a parenting workshop with my daughter’s principal/teacher which offered a different possibility. Here’s my summary:

There are two ways of looking at our kids:

1. They are obstacles/ enemies/ things to be managed, controlled and tamed. We are scared of them. It’s us against them. Trying to get them to bath without a tantrum to eat their vegetables to brush their teeth more than once a month to not physically harm their siblings to speak with respect to do their homework. The list is endless.

2.  They are little human beings with a soul. Each has their own unique personality and depth and are just waiting to be connected to and explored and known.

Option 1 results in how I feel a lot of the time. Yet with option 2, each encounter is not a mini-battle. It’s an opportunity to engage connect and get to know these precious little beings G-d has entrusted us to raise. Enter their world. See it as a moment of potential connection. Not a war.

Sounds nice? Idealistic? Unattainable? Give me a break I thought – this can never work. Until a a few days later, an image came to my head, and I got a glimmer of what she was talking about.

Imagine. You are walking with your husband/mother/sister in the shopping center. A sign for a 5 star cruise to South America is advertised. You are overworked and busy and been so stressed.

“Oh honey, look at that – let’s book for that, I have always wanted to go there”, you say whimsically. “Don’t be ridiculous, you know we cant afford it. School fees have just been increased by 30% and I just had to replace your car”, your husband grunts.

At best, the conversation ends. At worst, you feel unseen unheard and un-validated. The truth is you didn’t really plan on booking the cruise.. You were expressing a wish. A desire. A fantasy for a fancy holiday and white beaches. Nothing more.

Imagine. Imagine if your husband didn’t feel threatened/ inadequate/ pressured from your request. Imagine if he simply turned to you and said, “Oh , how awesome that would be. What do you want to do on the cruise? ” And the conversation goes on like that. You return to reality and no cruise is booked. But as John Gottman says, you have turned towards each other.

Deposit in Emotional Bank Account. Check.

This makes sense. As adults we get this. We don’t always do it, but we get it. Yet with our kids I had no clue that it could be the same. Until I witnessed a true life example of what was possible.


The Scene: Josh is sitting on the floor after supper. He find a toy cataloge of every single Bob the Builder lego set available. His eyes go big and wide. Mom, I wish we could have all of these, he says.

Reaction 1 – Our kids, the enemies

Moms feel: Irritated, annoyed, guilty, pressured, tense

Mom thinks: Oh, he’s so spoiled. Look how many toys he already has. Nothing he has is good enough for him.

OR I am such a bad mother, I can’t afford to get him everything he wants. If he has a tantrum it will be my fault. I have to just make a plan to get him all of them.

OR Will it never end. wanting, wanting, wanting. All these children just want and want. They are always asking things of me. When will I get a break.

Mom responds with subtle (or not-so-subtle) annoyance or tension: That’s a nice idea, but you already have so many toys and you don’t need anymore. Maybe some other time.

Encounter ends. Connection with your child: None/ Negative

Reaction 2 – Opportunity for connection with precious being

Mom sits down with little Josh and looks at this catalog with the most wonderful selection of toys: Sweetie, she said with genuine excitement, wouldn’t it be just amazing if we could have each of these in our home? Imagine what fun we could have and how many things we could build.

Josh: His eyes twinkle and he nods enthusiastically. Yes we could build the bridge and then we could play the game when the builder fixes the pipes. He talks away sharing all his plans for what he fantasises about.

Mom feels connected, calm and present. No internal stuff clouding her. She just accepts his fantasy, and enters into it with him. A moment of real connection with her son. She enters his world and connects with him there. He felt heard and validated.

Connection Score: High. Feel good factor – High. Increase relationship – check.

Here’s Leah’s formula for no-battle parenting for connection:

1. Hear the request

2. Notice your own resistance and put it aside (eg guilt, irritation, tension)

3. See it as a moment of possible connection

4. Enter into your child’s world. “Oh wow, you wish you could go to the park. What is your best game at the park.” Or “Wouldn’t it be fun if we could eat all the chocolate for breakfast lunch and supper”. Or my own personal challenge with a daughter who has a shoe obsession. “That would be so nice to have silver shiny ballet shoes. They are so pretty. You would feel so fancy and look like your friend Avigail”.

5. Set boundaries if appropriate. “It’s supper and bath time, so we will go the park tomorrow”.

Ella’s shoulder – A moment of light in the mania of motherhood

Ella & I are shopping one night. She has had a mammoth afternoon nap, and I have been learning about the non-negotiable requirement of 10 minutes of no-distraction time with each child so I decide to take her to Genesis PNP with me.

Shopping is one of her time favorite past times (I can’t wait till she can drive). It is a gorgeous time together; the shop are basically empty, we are dancing in the isles and I don’t protest as she puts all the things she “needs” in the trolley – like chocolate and dog food (we don’t have a dog).

As we are walking out, I am overwhelmed with exhaustion. Working days & broken nights and pre-dawn wake ups slam into my head.

“I am so tired I could fall over”, I think out loud.

Ella looks up at me with concern and with complete genuineness asks, “Do you want to sleep on my shoulder, mommy”?

My heart stops. I look at these sweet girl – challenging at times, stubborn always and very, very demanding some days. The neediness of mothering sometimes is suffocating. Yet in that moment her pure soul shines through all that stuff.

“I would love to”, I say.

She thinks for a bit and gives this irresistible smile and says “But my shoulder is too little”. She giggles at the thought of me fitting on her shoulder, and we go home.

The whole week I think of this moment. When she refuses to bath or insists on wearing summer clothes on icy days or wants to hit her baby brother, my heart melts and my eyes fill with tears. In my moment of need, my 2 ½ year old daughter offers me what I offer her when she is tired– to sleep on my shoulder. Her safe place. She offers me her safe place.

Everything of being a mom is giving, giving, giving. But for this moment, she is offering something precious of her own to me.

And so even though I can’t fit on her shoulder, I know it’s all worth it.

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Lessons from my 2 year old: Why husband doesn’t notice your new dress

Ella (2 1/2 years old) is jumping on the trampoline in her new skirt from Israel which she refuses to take off.

Her best friend David (3 1/2 years old) comes down to the garden and sits on the grass showing me his new truck books with some car named Mater in them.

Ella stands on the end of the trampoline: “David, look at my new flower skirt, it’s pretty”, she squeals at him.

David looks up at her quizzically and after a few moments looks back into his book.

Ella shouts louder: “David, look at my beautiful skirt”.

David looks up again and is confused. He scrunches his eyes together in concentration and then he goes blank. She may as well be talking to Chinese. He returns to his book.

This happens a few times. Ella is desperate for her best friend to appreciate her new skirt which she loves so much.

But David doesn’t get it. He tries to, but just has no clue how to respond. Her pretty new skirt is out of his universe.

She eventually gives up; and they both go fight over the blue bike.

This small interaction, almost insignificant, stays with me all day.

I imagine this scenario in 25 years from now.

Girl is married, and she gets a new shirt. As she did at 2 years old, she assumes & wishes that the world around loves and appreciates what she does. So she expects that her husband will compliment her new shirt. But of course he doesn’t.

Depending on her level of maturity and self-worth, it could go many ways. It could easily turn into hurt and anger and disappointment. It could spiral into defensiveness and disconnection.

“If he really cared about me, he would notice”

“If he loved me, he would remember…..”

Yet this toddler interaction is the truth. There is no malice or cruelty involved. There is no intention or viciousness. David tries to understand. He looks up and hears her words. But he just has no ability to respond.

And likewise, Ella takes no offence. She tried a few times, and then moved onto a subject they could connect over.

Imagine. Imagine our relationships if these disconnects were handled with such neutrality. Imagine if our spouses/friends/parents’ limitations were simply experienced for what they are and forgiven in the moment.

And Ella? David and her play/jump/fight happily for a while, and later she shows her new skirt to her granny and together they obsess over the flowers and the colours.