Veterans: Easing new life into the world

Rachelle Oseran, 60, from Zimbabwe to Jerusalem, 1976.

Rachelle Oseran always hosts reunions for students of her childbirth preparation classes after everyone has given birth (photo credit: ARIEL OSERAN)
Rachelle Oseran always hosts reunions for students of her childbirth preparation classes after everyone has given birth
(photo credit: ARIEL OSERAN)
By the age of seven, Rachelle Katz Oseran knew she wanted to make aliya from Rhodesia, the African country later renamed Zimbabwe. At 10 she declared that no matter which career she’d someday pursue, above all she dreamed of being a mother.
She has combined those desires as a certified Lamaze childbirth educator and doula in Jerusalem for the past 32 years. In addition, Oseran taught prenatal and postnatal fitness classes at the Jerusalem International YMCA for 23 years and more recently became a certified teacher of yoga, mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting, and Lamaze educator training courses.
She gives lectures and workshops to physicians, midwives, physical therapists, doulas and childbirth educators in Israel, the United States, Asia, Africa and Europe.
In a way, her passion for easing new life into the world is an apt rejoinder to the grotesquely opposite passion of the Nazis responsible for the murders of her father’s first wife and two children at Auschwitz.
However, Oseran doesn’t limit herself to Jewish families; teaching in English makes her classes accessible to students from all segments of the Jerusalem population: immigrant and Sabra Jews of every persuasion, Christian and Muslim Arabs, foreign diplomats and visiting academics and journalists.
In fact, it was a Muslim Arab student who inspired Oseran to become accredited as a Lamaze childbirth educator trainer in 2011.
“She told me she wanted to bring childbirth education to her community, but there was no training available in English. So I went to Canada to become accredited. My goal is to help as many pregnant couples as possible learn evidence- based information and effective coping skills in order to have safe and healthy birth experiences.”
Growing up in a strongly Zionist community, young Rachelle attended Carmel Jewish Day School and joined the Zionist youth group Habonim. After finishing her degree in social anthropology at the University of Cape Town, she moved with a friend to Israel and dormed in Arad at the World Union of Jewish Students.
In the summer of 1976, she worked as a counselor for high-school trips to Israel sponsored by the North American Federation of Temple Youth, an arm of Reform Judaism. She stayed on to work in the NFTY office for five years, during which time she met and married Rabbi Joel Oseran, who has just retired after 30 years as vice president of international development for the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
In 1982, a month before the birth of their first son, Shai, the couple arrived in Los Angeles for what became a fourand- a-half-year stint at University Synagogue.
A friend signed them up for a Lamaze course.
“I found it so empowering and confidence- boosting. I went into labor knowing about the process and what to expect.
It was a challenging birth but such a positive experience that I decided I wanted to share it with other couples,” she says.
After earning Lamaze certification, a diploma in childbirth education from the UCLA School of Nursing and certification as a fitness professional, she taught childbirth prep at University Synagogue and prenatal exercise classes at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the Oserans had a second son, Ilan.
Following the family’s return to Israel in 1986, she taught childbirth preparation classes at Jerusalem’s Misgav Ladach for 16 years, until it ceased operating as a maternity hospital. In 1988, she and Harriet Scher opened the Great Shape exercise studio at the YMCA.
“Our third son, Ariel, was born in 1989 by emergency cesarean section.
Even that was a positive experience because I was able to make choices, and that’s what it’s all about,” she says.
Oseran has organized national conventions for birth professionals in 2006, 2008, 2009 and, together with her colleague Amanda Goldman, in 2015.
In April 2014, Oseran completed a training program with certified nurse-midwife Nancy Bardacke to teach mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting (MBCP) courses. “It really changed my life,” she says.
The back story is that in 2006, emotionally and physically drained from an intense lecture schedule, she became seriously ill while vacationing in South America. The head of infectious diseases at Shaare Zedek Medical Center told Oseran she must learn how to deal with stress. This prescription led her to classes with Dr. Dina Wyshogrod, founding director of the Israeli Center for Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction.
She went on to train professionally with Wyshogrod. The two women annually lead mindfulness trips to India together. The idea of mindfulness is to be aware of one’s experience, including feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations in the present moment without judgment.
“While I was training with her, I kept thinking it was so relevant to childbirth, so I hooked up with Nancy, and now I teach MBCP as well as Lamaze. They’re totally different paradigms.”
Oseran will be presenting at the Lamaze International Annual Conference in Florida this fall about how to incorporate mindfulness in Lamaze classes.
“Birth is often about pain and fear, and many women in labor are either thinking about their last contraction or how much longer it will take. They are not in the present, and that’s a real cause for suffering. I have found that mindfulness helps so much in parenting as well.”
She practices what she preaches. “This is part of who I am,” Oseran says, adding that her family still vacations together, now that the children are grown.
Shai, 34, recently married and works at The Israel Project in Jerusalem. Ilan, 31, is a psychologist doing an internship in health psychology, living in Ramat Gan, and is becoming certified as a mindfulness-based stress-reduction teacher. Ariel, 27, is finishing his undergraduate degree at the Hebrew University in international relations and communications.
Oseran takes pride in knowing that whereas in 2010 there were only three Lamaze educators in Israel, now there are more than 20 – thanks to her course – and some are teaching in other countries.
She also feels gratified to have helped so many couples achieve positive and empowering birth experiences.
“One study in Israel showed that onethird of women giving birth here suffer some sort of trauma, and that is horrific.
Though the Internet age might lead women to think they don’t need classes, there is no substitute for them. Lamaze really gives the woman tools to be part of the decision-making process in birth so she is more likely to be satisfied and fulfilled in her experience.”
Oseran has received many testimonials from former students. “One is from a nurse who had been approaching [childbirth] with a medical mind-set and wrote, ‘Thank you for opening our eyes to the possibility of normal birth.’ Another, feeling fulfilled despite an unexpected emergency cesarean, said, ‘Thank you for letting us comprehend this state of mind.’ These, to me, mean I’ve done my job.”