When we moved to Israel, my husband and I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t work for the first year. We decided it would be important to focus on having our family settle and acclimate to a new country, culture, school, language, and friends. There are so many changes when picking up a family from everything they’ve come to know and love. Since I have always worked outside the home, I was actually pretty excited for a year of “vacation.”
Fast forward 7 weeks, and I was extremely bored. Since my children were in school 6 days a week all day, and my husband was busy working all day every day, I didn’t have much going on. I mean, there are only so many days in a row I could go food shopping or walk around aimlessly. I needed something fulfilling, something that would feel productive- a good use of my time. I decided to start volunteering.
It’s been 4 months since I began what has been the most exhilarating job. I’ve been volunteering in Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in the baby nurseries. How did that happen?
After discussing this idea of volunteering with a friend, she mentioned different ideas. Then she said the hospital. It spoke to me. I’m not sure why, but I’m happy it did. As a teacher, I had never thought of myself in a different role. But moving to a new country, it’s all about reinventing yourself. And I’m trying to figure it all out!
I called the hospital and spoke to someone in the volunteer office. She said she’d get back to me. After a few days I was getting impatient so I called back and again, a wonderful conversation that ended with, “We’re just waiting to hear an answer.” I decided I’m going to take this into my own hands and go visit the office. To not only put a face to the name but also to show them my real desire to do this. So I basically created my own interview. They were so welcoming and sincere. They showed me the list of names, 3 pages long, of people that have called to volunteer. My name was the only one with a pink mark. She said that meant that I made a great phone impression! The interview ended with her calling multiple different wards. I was placed in the nursery!
So I’ve been volunteering there every Monday and Tuesday morning and it has given my week so much more meaning. When I put on my purple jacket and name tag, I feel like I have a purpose. I have become friends with the nursing staff, doctors, volunteers, and cleaning staff- some might call me too friendly and social. I absolutely love it! I have met so many new moms- some of which I’ve even kept in touch with. I’m amused when they ask me for advice or tips- and I have to try to remember, since it’s been a while since I’ve had a baby- my twins are 8! Or I laugh to myself when the Dads ask me- “So.. did you have to go to school for this?” And I say, “You mean, to learn how to change diapers?”
The hospital is run so efficiently and smoothly. I love working with the head nurses, Gabi and Yael- who have each completely welcomed me into their “family.” You wouldn’t know there were over 20,000 babies born there yearly! Actually, at 8:30am when all the babies wake up at exactly the same time- it isn’t that hard to believe! Sometimes, I feel like a “baby whisperer” going from one wagon to the next to calm them down- placing their pacifier in their mouth, or cuddling them in my arms.
I remember all the way in the beginning, I was honored to be given the opportunity to be trained for hearing checks on the newborns. I truly enjoyed working alongside Dalia. After four weeks, I realized that it didn’t speak to me- it was too quiet in the hearing rooms- I needed to see people. So very respectfully, I asked if I can return to work in the nursery, and I was welcomed back with open arms.
My favorite part of the job is after the doctor completes the morning check. I change the babies into fresh diapers and clothing, wrap them up and bring them to the mothers- and of course checking the names and number tags, ensuring each baby goes to the correct mother. The moms’ eyes light up- whether it’s their 1st, 5th, or 12th child! And when the mom just needs a little time, but the baby needs to eat, I’m the lucky one that gets to feed it the formula. Can you say “Tova, having ‘baby fever’?!”
I love using the hospital as a learning tool for me to learn Hebrew. It amazes me how far I’ve come since I started- now able to have complete conversations in Hebrew. Often, Shira, Tamar and Daniella, laugh at me when I make a silly mistake. I am impressed, though, that I was able to deliver a joke, punch line and all, in Hebrew, successfully.
What I find fascinating when I look at all the babies lined up next to each other is that they are all starting out with the same beginning- and they are all about to go down different paths, with so many different opportunities ahead of them. Each of us is on our own path and life journey. For all the babies I’ve been privileged to take care of, I hope they have long, healthy, fulfilling lives and only bring joy, happiness, and peace to their families and the world at large.
My take away from this is that when you have your mind set on something you can’t sit back waiting for it to happen. You have to work for it. And I know this isn’t a paying job, but that’s not what I wanted for now. I wanted something that I can look forward to, where I’m making a difference, and something I can feel really good about. But something that didn’t take me away from my real focus this year, my own children’s needs.
I am so grateful to Shaare Tzedek for giving me this opportunity! Happy 4 month birthday to all the babies I took care of on my first day!