Chana Deevon: Midwife of over 30,000 Babies


Chana Deevon
The Midwife of Over 30,000 Babies

By Chana (Jenny) Weisberg

Name: Chana Deevon
Birthplace: Halberstadt, Germany
Occupation: Midwife
Education: Shaarei Tsedek Nursing School, Jerusalem
Children: Five Children, Twenty Grandchildren
Husband’s Name: Elitsur Deevon
Husband’s Occupation: Lawyer, Formerly Spokesman and Director of Minister’s Office at Israeli Interior Ministry
Place of Residence: Jerusalem, Israel

A senior obstetrician once said that obstetrics is “98% boredom and 2% sheer terror.” During my fourth birth, I experienced for the first time in my life what it feels like to be part of that 2% when my baby’s oxygen supply was suddenly cut off during the delivery.

Thank G‑d, in the end my birth ultimately ended safely and easily, largely because the midwife on duty that night at Jerusalem’s Shaarei Tsedek Hospital happened to be none other than Chana Deevon. With forty-six years of midwifery experience and over 30,000 babies under her belt, Mrs. Deevon is almost certainly the most prolific and senior midwife in all of Israel.

After the birth, the younger midwives who saw the emergency procedure performed so effortlessly by Chana Deevon explained that I had been extremely fortunate. A less experienced obstetrician or midwife, they pointed out, would not have had the experience to act so decisively and effectively in order to give my birth a happy ending.

Afterwards, Chana Deevon stayed with my husband and me, and reminisced about what had inspired her to dream of becoming a midwife for as long as she could remember.

She recalled how she was born in Halberstadt, Germany in 1938, where her father, the fifth rabbi from the distinguished Auerbach rabbinic dynasty, served as a congregational rabbi. By that time, Hitler had made it illegal for midwives to deliver Jewish babies, but Mrs. Deevon’s mother went into labor with her and her twin brother in the middle of the night, so the local midwife reluctantly agreed to help her when she was reassured that she would not be detected under cover of darkness.

It turned out that Chana Deevon and her brother would be the last Jews born in their city, where a vibrant Jewish community had existed for hundreds of years. Soon after she was born, the city’s entire Jewish community was transported to the Teresenstadt concentration camp, and Rabbi Auerbach and his wife were on one of the last trains providing transportation for Jews out of Germany, on their way to Palestine with their four young children, ages two, one, and twins aged three months.

On that train, Chana Deevon told us, several nuns approached the young rabbi and his wife. Seeing the couple surrounded by their crowd of children, one of the nuns made a disgusted face and pointing at the infant twins, declared, “You should leave these worms here! Why bring them? They will surely die on the way to Palestine anyway!”

“I have dedicated my life to saving the lives of Jewish children” On the night that Mrs. Deevon saved the life of my youngest daughter, she told us, “Every Jewish baby that I deliver, I see the face of that nun. At every birth I attend, I think how she said that I would die, and how I have dedicated my life to saving the lives of Jewish children.”

When I interviewed Chana Deevon this past month, she told me more about her life, love of midwifery, and illustrious career. “I am 69 years old, so my friends are all retired. They ask me, ‘Chana, what are you working for?!’ I think that many of them think I am crazy. But I love this work! I believe that midwifery is the most joyful, satisfying, and inspiring profession that exists. I come to work today with no less excitement and enthusiasm than I did when I was an eighteen-year-old nursing student volunteering in the old Shaarei Tsedek Hospital delivery room. As long as G‑d continues to give me the strength to work as a midwife, I will!”

“When I was starting out as a midwife as a girl in my early twenties,” Mrs. Deevon continued, “midwifery was very different. There were no monitors and no ultrasounds. I would be the only midwife on duty, and there was no obstetrician in the hospital to step in during emergencies like there is today. I remember in those early days delivering the large baby of a diabetic mother when the baby’s head got stuck during the birth. I ran to the general doctor on duty, and he yelled at me, “I don’t know what to do! You are the midwife! You take care of it! It was absolutely terrifying.”

Today Shaarei Tsedek is Jerusalem’s most popular delivery room. They have state of the art medical equipment, several midwives on duty at all times, and there are attending obstetricians 24 hours a day. Nowadays, though, the challenges are different. Back then there were only 100 deliveries a month, now there are close to a 1,000! That means that today there is much more pressure on the midwives than ever before.

“Being a midwife comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. We must make life or death decisions constantly. To this day, every time I return home from a shift at the hospital I say, ‘Thank You, Master of the Universe, that the whole shift passed in peace.'”

Chana Deevon with one of the 30,000 babies she has delivered
Mrs. Deevon also reflected on the challenges of having a demanding career at the same time that she was committed to being a devoted mother to her five children. “My home and family were always my top priority. I was determined that my children should always have a mother at home, and that they wouldn’t suffer from my career, so in those early years I would only work the night shift. This was hard on me. I would leave for work at 11 PM, and return home at 7 AM to send my children off to school. It’s true, I slept very little, but at least it wasn’t hard on my children. I think that my children were very proud to have a mother who was a midwife when they saw the many thank-you letters and phone calls that I received from the women I helped.”

An unexpected bonus of having a mother who is midwife is that Mrs. Deevon has been able to deliver nineteen out of her twenty grandchildren (the twentieth was born abroad). “Delivering my grandchildren has been, hands down, one of the most exciting and moving experiences of my life. My daughters and daughters-in-law come from all over Israel for their births so that I can deliver their babies. My oldest granddaughter who is newly married told me, “You must promise me that you will not retire until I give birth!”

Chana Deevon is especially proud that this same 21-year-old granddaughter volunteered with her for two years in the Shaarei Tsedek delivery room, and was so impressed by the first birth she attended that she decided to start training to become a midwife in order to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps.

Mrs. Deevon told me with a big smile, “One grandmother recently told me that I have delivered four generations of her family members. I sometimes feel like I know 90% of the people in Jerusalem. Today I went to the grocery store, and I was stopped by three women on the street who told me that I had delivered their babies. I love when that happens!”

“There is no aspect of midwifery that I don’t like,” Chana Deevon explained at the end of our interview. “Of course, there are difficult, even tragic moments in this line of work, when I must deliver a baby who died in utero or when a baby is born very sick. But what continues to motivate me after all these years is my desire to bring more life into the world, and to save more and more lives. As Jews we know that there is absolutely nothing more important than that.”

Reprinted from Chabad.org

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One comment

  1. beautiful!

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