Birth of Baby Ben in Belarus

The skies above the Ostrovets Regional Hospital at the start of Marina's labor. Photo by Ben M. Angel

The skies above the Ostrovets Regional Hospital at the start of Marina’s labor. Photo by Ben M. Angel

After five days in the Ostrovets Central Regional Hospital, my wife Marina called to say that she was in labor. The time on the phone clock showed to be around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4. The skies partly filled with mostly stratus clouds that had been moving by very fast across the skies since the start of the morning, when I took Albina to her nursery school.

When talking to her, I found it hard to figure out what to say to Marina. What are the right words to say to someone you admire when she is about to go into what is perhaps the hardest physical stress that she is likely to ever go through in her life? I struggled even to find an old favorite, the old “Ne pukha, ne pera,” or the Russian version of “Break a leg,” that stage actors would tell each other before their most important performance of a play that they are in.

Outside on the streets of Ostrovets, life went on as normal for the third day of school. Boys and girls wandered the sidewalks in school uniforms, adults were darting home for lunch, and in the store, the clerk was doing her normal pricing of items just put on the shelves that morning. I pondered that this could be one of the top five most important days in my life, and possibly that of Marina’s life. For me personally, my own day of birth, the day I finally met that someone I wanted to spend the rest of your life with, the day I committed to that fate, and the date of birth of our daughter served as the other four. You don’t always know the importance when it happens, particularly the date when you meet that someone you eventually marry and have kids with. But you figure it out eventually.

Baby Ben and Baby Albina, younger brother and older sister side by side, at the times of their births. Photos by Marina Angel

Baby Ben and Baby Albina, younger brother and older sister pictures side by side, from the times of their respective births. Photos by Marina Angel

Four and a half years ago, when the sky was sunnier and bluer, and the ground was cold and white instead of wet and green, our daughter Albina’s birth was actually somewhat similar. Had we waited instead of agreeing to have the birth induced, she might have come out a day later, on the fourth, like our little boy was trying to do in September 2013. Labor was induced early in the day around 7, during which time Marina was put to sleep for most of the day. She awoke well after contractions began, about the time that I arrived in my nerve-wracked state at 3:30 in the afternoon. I managed only to really get on the nerves of the nurse on duty in mid-afternoon, and by 6:22 p.m., they finally got up the courage to lie to me, telling that everything had gone okay and that I should go home. When I got home to Sveta and Valera’s place (Marina’s cousin and her husband), I found out that only after another 33 minutes had reality finally caught up with that fib, ending 12 hours of labor.

This time, Marina made sure I wouldn’t do the same sort of wait-and-annoy thing by telling me to go get a cake for the midwife and her assistant. It was admittedly probably a better thing to do as the 30-minute errand took the edge off my nervous energy. But then I and my mother-in-law Irina were to wait for her phone call when the labor finally ended. Two hours passed, three hours, and then four before finally both my mother-in-law and I lost the nerves to be patient. Marina’s mom started calling the hospital asking for any news about the birth. While I got ready to pick up our daughter from nursery school, she suggested that I go pick up some milk for Marina.

The list of live births with Baby Ben's birth at the bottom. Reads: Angel, M.I., Ostrovets, 04 Sept. 2013, 17:25, male, 4080 (gr)/55 (cm). Photo by Marina Angel

The list of live births at Ostrovets Regional Hospital with Baby Ben’s birth announced at the bottom. His entry reads: Angel, M.I. (mother), Ostrovets (mother’s home town), 04 Sept. 2013, 17:25, male, 4080 (gr)/55 (cm). Photo by Marina Angel

After collecting her from the play yard outside the school – the weather had improved for the first time in days so that the kids could play outside – we went to the store across the street from the hospital. We found two of the ladies who had been awaiting labor with my wife there buying supplies. I quickly asked them how Marina was doing. They said the labor wasn’t over yet. Crestfallen and growing ever more worried, I made our purchase and took our daughter to the hospital grounds.

A good many popular comedians today, many of whom I find entertaining, reject the idea that there is a God up in heaven. In contrast, I, myself, long ago rejected atheism. Though the concept makes some logical sense, there is still a strength to be found in the belief that you are being watched over, that if you ask, then you will receive, and that there is even greater strength in the acceptance that everything will work out as it is supposed to, no matter how things work out. Some of these things don’t require a belief in God to accept, but belief is how I learned to find that strength. So I took the opportunity to teach my daughter Albina how to tap into this strength, to pray and to find comfort in difficult times by asking God for help. The time was about 5:25 p.m.

Baby Ben's first ever photo, taken around 6 a.m. at Ostrovets Regional Hospital. Photo by Marina Angel

Baby Ben’s first ever photo, taken around 6 a.m. on Sept. 5, 2013, at Ostrovets Regional Hospital. Photo by Marina Angel

We got home and settled in, and as I sat down to wait for our weekly Skype visit between my daughter and my American parents, Marina called. Her voice was weak, but she said the magic words, that we have a son. My relief was beyond description. She passed along to me the important information about our new addition: his weight – 4,080 grams (almost exactly 9 pounds), his length – 55 centimeters (about 21-1/2 inches), and the time of birth – 5:25 p.m.

Baby Ben photo number 2. Photo by Marina Angel

Baby Ben photo number 2. Photo by Marina Angel

Albina responded to the news that she has a brother with a “Wow!” My mother and father echoed the sentiments in turn on Skype. My mother-in-law and I shared three toasts to our little miracle before I brought our “thank you”, in the form of a cake and a bottle of liqueur for the nurses. I also brought for my wife supplies, including our pocket camera.

Baby Ben with his eyes open, photo number 3. Photo by Marina Angel

Baby Ben with his eyes open, photo number 3. Photo by Marina Angel

Our internet birth announcement drew almost instant responses from an incredible line of respondents. With only a few exceptions, they were almost all people with whom I had the honor of knowing over the past decade since graduating from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It was a beautiful way of catching up with people from my past.

Baby Ben back to sleep, photo number 4. Photo by Marina Angel

Baby Ben back to sleep, photo number 4. Photo by Marina Angel

The next morning, my wife surprised me with having the first set of pictures ready to export from the hospital. Copies of the six shots, shared in this blog entry, were instantly sent to my parents in the United States. They finally had both a grandson and a granddaughter. I felt, as my parents’ only child, as if I completed an obligation.

Baby Ben photo number 5. Photo by Marina Angel

Baby Ben photo number 5. Photo by Marina Angel

Our baby boy, tentatively named after his father (the fourth in a line to carry the name), came to us on the day before the Jewish New Year, or so said many of the fellow curators on Geni. He’s Catholic, but perhaps there will be some sort of significance in that fact about his birthday. Hard to say. Belarus was at one time the home of a large number of Jewish people, the result of Catherine II the Great’s policy of settling the Jews of Russian within the Russian part of the partitioned lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Perhaps he waited until this date to join the world in order to express this important part of his homeland’s character. Again, hard to say.

The last of Baby Ben's first photo series, photo number 6. Photo by Marina Angel

The last of Baby Ben’s first photo series, with tongue sticking out, photo number 6. Photo by Marina Angel

But one aspect of our son’s birth was particularly noteworthy. The doctor who oversaw the birth was none other than the one with “international experience,” the one that the previous weekend left the women in the maternity ward feeling as if they were being held hostage. Although she wasn’t “paid in advance”, she took an active part in helping my wife to give birth. Other women’s experiences may have been different, but my wife reported that she performed her role as a professional, and was truly worthy of our thanks in our son’s delivery. To some, He may not exist, but God really seemed to come through for us this day, inspiring the best to come out in those who truly could make a difference.

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5 Responses to Birth of Baby Ben in Belarus

  1. Pat Daly says:

    YEAH! Very intelligent looking lad. Congratulations.

  2. George Valdez says:

    What a Beautiful Baby, and as always, we send our love and wish the best for you and your family,,,,,

    With Love
    Cousin George and Merry Valdez
    Richland Washington, U.S.A.

  3. Judith E. Burns says:

    You have reason to be proud – Ben a very handsome and healthy looking baby boy again congratulations. Judi from GENI

  4. J. Floyd says:

    All my what a treasure. He is one handsome fellow indeed. And the one with his tongue sticking out gave me the biggest smile ive had in sometime. What a joy he has brought to your family and the world God spoke him into your lifes . For many reasons we all are given a purpose hear. . But having a family like his a mother with great camera skills. And a father with such great words can help him start this journey with love and joy . Only God gives life such great purpose. Great Job Guys I love his name and I know he will carry it with pride. As you both will all ways be proud of him. Congrats to all your family what a very nice post you have here I see so much love shining thru. How very proud you must be. And very very good reason to be.. hope you all are well . Good luck with a bright future sure to come… many blessings from the Floyds . You did a great job cousin. J Floyd. WV

  5. Carla Schuller says:

    Well…..he looks like a charmer! The photo with tongue out is droll and perhaps my fav. He certainly won’t get into mischief with all that swaddling…..already induced into a disciplined life, eh? Thank you so for sharing this special moment in your lives! May he always be surrounded by love and a stimulating environment!…..Carla, Austin, Texas

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