Two summers ago, I gave birth to my first baby during a military conflict in Israel. “Operation Protective Edge,” as it was named by Israel, began just six days before we welcomed Silas into the world and lasted until he was six weeks old.
It wasn’t our first military conflict during our time in Israel, so when the sirens started wailing that night when I was 39 weeks pregnant, we knew the drill. We knew that from the moment we heard the shrill rise of the siren, we had 60 seconds to get to a bomb shelter or, since our small apartment building didn’t have one, our concrete stairwell. We knew that makeshift rockets from Gaza would be flying towards our city and that the Iron Dome would track and potentially shoot them out of the sky. We knew that in our pajamas or boxers, we’d see our sleepy neighbors throughout the night, and that we’d wait with them to hear the loud boom of the rocket being shot or touching down somewhere. We would guess how close it was or how many there were, counting the number of booms with hearts pounding. We’d squeeze hands in the dark silence and then return to our beds, anticipating repeating the whole thing again at a moment's notice.
When military conflict comes up in conversation, it sounds stressful and traumatic and downright crazy to have given birth during that time: to have had my monitoring interrupted by sirens and been forced to run to the hallways of the hospital for safety; to have seen images of war on the television as I walked the halls, willing my labor to progress; to have taken cover in hallways, stairwells and shelters with our newborn son as rockets flew through the sky.
I gave birth to my first baby during a war. Really?!? How amazing! You’re so brave! That must have been so stressful. AND you were in labor for over 30 hours?!?! I suppose that story does sound pretty shocking and impressive.
I usually smile and nod and try to change the subject because part of me feels like an imposter when anyone finds out Silas was born during that war. While the facts say that the military conflict was the defining circumstance of that summer, my heart says that the beautiful, intense chaos of becoming a mother was so much more. Don’t hear me wrong; the war was not a small thing for anyone in that region. Mothers lost sons and daughters on both sides. The devastation was tremendous and the effects on the people of Israel and Gaza were horrific.
Yet somehow, in my little postpartum world, the war within my own heart as I transitioned into my new, all-consuming role was larger and more defining for me than Operation Protective Edge. There was also a conflict between my desire to give that sweet boy everything I had inside of me and also just wanting three minutes to shower by myself to have a good cry. There was a war between my compulsive googling of “how to know if my baby is getting enough milk while nursing” and my intense desire to think just a few non-baby thoughts. I was torn between my delight in our family growing and my sadness that it would never be just the two of us anymore.
The summer of 2014 could be defined by milk, diapers, tiny clothes, and watching my baby breathe. That night when my husband found me bouncing our crying son on the exercise ball while weeping is a much more intense memory than the countless times we ran with him into the stairwell during a siren. I hoped for good sleep and hoped for a ceasefire with equal passion. I was just as worried about my son’s jaundice and my milk supply as I was worried about getting caught outside without shelter during a siren.
Silas Edwards was a little rocket that fell on our lives, but his arrival left the good kind of devastation, unlike the war. The breaking down of selfishness, the destruction of entitlement, the sacrificing of what felt like our very selves for this little person. But we believe that life can come from death, so the giving up of our life that summer for Silas’ sake brought forth a beautiful new life. Deeper love and deeper joy sprung out of the small deaths each day. And that is what is engraved deeply in my memory, deeper even than the war.
Guest post written by Casey Ditty. Casey is a follower of Jesus, wife, mama to two boys (the second due to arrive in just two weeks!) and a new doula. After living in the Middle East for her husband's medical school training, she is excited to now put some roots down in the Midwest during residency. She records most of their adventures in her little blog, The Dittys.