The year 2015. A Thursday. I was two days past my due date. I was in the OB’s office. The appointment had gone well. No change. I sent my husband off to work. All I had left was the fetal fluid check. A new test. No problem, I thought. Me and the big G dash D were good. There was no way I was going to have this Baby Boy before Passover. Ain’t no thing. It’s in the bag.
I was wrong.
At 11 a.m., I was told to go to the hospital. They would either tell me I was having the baby or going home. After six hours in the Labor and Delivery waiting room, I found out I would in fact be having this baby. They sent me off to have my last meal before the big push-a-roo. I came back at 8 p.m., waited until midnight to get my room, and around noon the next day my Baby Boy was born.
On a Friday. The day before Passover.
The following is a list of tips I wish I could have found on the internet then. And so, here is my little afikoman present to you:
1. Find out if your hospital has a Bikkur Holim room, and ask for the code. The Bikkur Holim room is a dedicated room in the hospital set up with kosher food and other Jewish necessities, but no Jews tend to hang out in the hospital over Passover. Friday morning as I waited for Baby Boy to come into the world, we had the bright idea to ask for the clergy member on duty. She came. She told us about the room, but instead of giving us important details like the code we needed to enter, she prodded us with questions about our feelings. Not helpful.
2. If you clean your home for Passover, ask for help. Of course I waited to the last minute to clean and kasher my home for Passover. It was clean enough, but I had not koshered the oven, stovetop, sink, or covered the counters—all the OCD-like behaviors that the holiday entails. Who you gonna call? I called my mother. Not only did it give her a task to keep her idle hands busy, it also helped us A LOT.
3. How can the seder have order when you have no control over what is happening?!?! We had been invited the seder by lovely people from our synagogue, but the thought of sitting upright in a chair for hours, or even waddling home five blocks at 11 p.m., did not sound enticing or viable. So, we planned for a low-key seder for two reclining on the couch like the Romans.
We had ordered take-out in advance, including the seder plate. But as mentioned, things don’t always go as planned. Since we had the takeout in the apartment, I asked my mom to bring over food for my hubby before our son was born. Two shopping bags of food were brought to the hospital. A kindly nurse let us put it in the nurses’ fridge. However when I was moved to my room, the nurses would not let us use their fridge but instead gave us basins with ice. Less than ideal. Which is why getting the code to the Bikkur Holim room is super important.
On the first night, we had a seder in the room. (I was attached to a catheter and couldn’t walk. While I was sorry for my poor roommate, we still retold the story of the Jews in Egypt and their hard labor, although through a different lens.) The second night, we moved our little party to the waiting room. The three of us sang the songs together, rejoicing in being a newly formed family and excited to start our journey. (Note: Don’t forget to stash haggadahs in your labor bag.)
4. Having a C-section? Get some Jewish penicillin. My sister came to the hospital with a ball jar of homemade chicken soup. This was a tonic. It was lukewarm and a few hours old before I could have it—but it was awesome. (Also of note, bring a battery-operated fan. I thought I was in the desert, I was so hot.)
5. Food in the hospital. OK, so they wouldn’t let me store my food in the fridge. And they didn’t understand the concept of kosher for Passover at first. And then they did. Nothing says delicious Passover breakfast like a seder plate. Yup. That’s what the hospital gave me. Complete with shank bone and saltwater. Needless to say I could not eat it. So, I waited for my hubby to come along with something more amenable.
Make sure to have someone bring you all your meals. For lunch they gave me a Meal Mart Frozen Beef Goulash. How was I to microwave it if I was still stuck in bed? Would anyone really want Beef Goulash after giving birth?
6. Sharing the news. As our baby was born a few hours before the holiday, most people did not see our newsflash until after the holiday. We did have an email ready to go, but people get very busy making haroset and whatever else they are doing. When telling VIPs on the phone, make clear that you don’t want them to share it on social media. Although well meaning, it is still your news to broadcast, not theirs. Unfortunately, I was in recovery when a well-meaning relative decided to blast it to the world. I was hurt, emotional, and overwhelmed, and it took away from the immense joy of the moment.
6. The Last Supper. After I was checked and told I was in fact having a baby sooner rather than later. I was told to go home, get my stuff, and get a bite to eat. Being that it was my last supper before Passover, my husband and I went all out. We went to a restaurant we would never go to and got steak, burgers, beautiful apps, and mocktails. We were not kidding around. We didn’t know when we would have another good meal. Enjoy this time!
6. A bris. Having a boy? We knew but were not telling people so we made a Google doc with various venues and prices, food that we wanted, and a general vision. We went through all the various scenarios (bris on holiday, bris on Passover but not holiday, and bris after Passover). Don’t want to write anything down? Just make sure you and your partner are on the same page. And if you are having the bris the day after Passover, you might be charged an extra fee by the caterer who needs to reopen their kitchen the night before.
7. Lay off the matzah. Your body has just been through trauma. Just don’t do it. There are so many other better foods to eat that won’t rip through your digestive track.
8. Be open to anything. On my second night in the hospital, I got a new roommate, who as I heard through varied conversations with various social workers, was homeless. Hearing her story, or the multiple versions of her stories, made me grateful to have a partner who I could depend on and a family who I could turn to help me care for this new baby. As I counted my blessings, I laughed as I overheard her talking to her new baby boy, Elijah.