I have a friend who just gave birth in Jerusalem.
Her baby girl was struggling to latch, and awash in a flood of hormones and debilitating exhaustion, the two of them spent a long two hours sobbing together in the nursing room at Hadassah hospital.
My friend is Israeli. She wears a Star of David.
There was another mother in the room – a Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem… she wore a purple hijab, and her bloodshot, hooded eyes were somehow rimmed with perfectly applied kohl.
My friend sat there weeping while her newborn baby girl shrieked at her breast. It wasn’t my friend’s first baby – and she had never struggled like this… but all babies are different, and just as we have our own personalities, so do they.
“This baby is acting like kind of a jerk,” my friend told me.
The other mother tried to help. “Lift her on a pillow… express a little on her lip…. Let her smell it, let her taste it.”
Finally, the baby latched on one side.
“Maybe I should express the rest of the milk on the other side,” my friend said “I can save it in a syringe”
(These were early days when only there was only colostrum.)
“Here, you keep nursing and I’ll do it for you,” the other mother said. “Is that ok?”
My friend shrugged. It seemed like the only reasonable thing to do at 3 am on her baby’s first day of life. She nursed on the left breast, and the other mother milked her on the right.
Outside the hospital, tensions were high between Israelis and Palestinians, but inside that nursing room, there was only compassion, gentleness and peace.
“Once,” my friend later told me “we lived in a village and we took care of each other. When one mother couldn’t nurse, another mother nursed for her. Our children were like her children and her children were like our children. This is still in our nature. Maybe it’s time to let women run things around here in Jerusalem. We might just figure it out together.”