Monday, November 22, 2010

Battle Scars

"...And so Hakodosh Baruch Hu chooses a particular couple who will draw such a neshama down to this world. The neshama departs from the kisei hakovod and is immediately placed in an environment in which it is at home - an environment which is heavenly in nature, for an isha me'uberes carries within herself not only a child, but an entire Gan Eden as well.....

However, those special neshamos of which we have spoken above cannot bear to separate themselves from Gan Eden and sully themselves by entering this world of gashmius. And so they are spared from undergoing this discomfort and are returned to the lap of their Father in shamayim, having fulfilled their mission by leaving the heichal haneshamos, thus bringing Moshiach closer.

And what of the mother who had suffered, hoped, and in the end was so disappointed?

She is of flesh and blood and her feelings are understandable. However, in loftier moments - in moments when her wisdom can overcome her emotions - then she can free herself of her earthly thoughts and join in the elation enjoyed by her neshama. Then she will become possessed by a feeling of true joy - the joy of a wealthy man who takes reckoning of all his business endeavors and sees that the profits far outweigh the expenses.

She has merited to have as her guest a pure, holy neshama, accompanied by heavenly light, heavenly malachim and a heavenly Torah. Hakodosh Baruch Hu has chosen her guf to be the bais midrash of this neshama. And when this neshama leaves her, something of the kedusha that entered her will remain, and will not leave her for the rest of her life.

She was zoche to bring Moshiach's arrival closer by offering a sacrifice for this purpose. She is left with no mother's compensation; what she has endured has been for Moshiach's sake alone. She has served as a loyal soldier, not as a worker who awaits immediate payment. She has served with the loyalty of a soldier who is ready to suffer wounds in battle, if necessary, solely for the glory of the king.

Was it all worth it?" *

I lay on the stretcher, consumed by the ache in my heart. I don't want to be here. I barely register the needle in my arm, as I drift into blessed I embrace the blessed release of sleep...numbing the desperate ache inside me.

And when I am awakened, my baby is gone.

It was a normal, uneventful pregnancy, and we eagerly awaited the birth of our child.  We looked forward to our baby's upcoming arrival with joyful anticipation. We wondered whether it would be a boy or a girl..we speculated as to who it would look like...and we talked about who he/she would be named for.

And then, at a routine 16 week checkup, there was no heartbeat. My baby was no longer living.

I cried there in the doctor's office. I cried when I got home. And I cried the next morning at the hospital.

And then I was okay.

I got up, brushed myself off and moved on. I had other children to take care of. A miscarriage is pretty common, after all.

But I wasn't okay, really. Not inside. There was a very alive and real baby inside of me. A baby who died.

For a long time, I'd keep track of how old my baby would have been...should have been...and every time I'd see a child that age, it hurt.

Eventually, the hurt faded. It never disappeared, but it was replaced by a dull ache that settled somewhere deep inside me. I rarely thought about it. And when I did, it was just a fleeting thought. A tiny pinprick of pain.

But sometimes, during the time of year when we would have been celebrating another birthday, I think about it.

I wonder what this child would have been like. I wonder if he would have looked like any of his siblings. I wonder if he would have been quiet or outgoing. I wonder about how he would have changed the family dynamics. I wonder...but I'll never know.

But I do know that he would have had a place in my heart.

He would have been loved.

"Was it all worth it?

In painful moments when disappointment sets in and normal human feelings dominate one's mood, there may be one answer. However, when holiness breaks through, when the seichel of the neshama speaks and the joy of the Jewish soul bursts forth, then there is an answer of an entirely different nature. The answer is accompanied by the chimes of triumph, with the joy of the victor, with the deep-seated satisfaction of one who has earned something of immeasurable value...." *

I've suffered a loss. The ache never really goes away. There is no joy in that...for me. But there is acceptance. It's how it was meant to be.

And I've grown through it. I've learned the depth of sorrow. I've learned that life is incredibly precious, and that every moment shared together should be enjoyed. It's given me increased sensitivity.

There are no chimes of triumph. But I've brought Moshiach's arrival closer.

And that is a comfort.

*Excerpted from a letter written by R' Moshe Wolfson and translated by Rav Shimon Finkelman.
For a copy of the full letter, email me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Half a Mama

"You're going to drive her??" She stared at me in utter disbelief.

My little girl was frantic. She had a science test to study for, and she couldn't find her notebook. I wasn't really worried. I knew she'd do well on the test anyway. But she was distraught. After a thorough search, I concluded that it definitely was not in the house. So at 8:30 PM, I agreed to drive her back to school to see if it was there.

My big girl was incredulous.

"I would never have dreamed of asking you to do that at her age. You would have told me that it's my responsibility to make sure I have it, and if you drive me, I wouldn't learn that."

She's right.

Sometimes, it seems like I have two sets of kids.

The older set was born when I was younger. I stayed home to raise them. I had more time, more energy and more flexibility. I took them to the playground and I read them books. Bedtime was firm, and there was no snacking before dinner. And...if they left their notebook in school, would they learn to take responsibility if I was always fixing their mistakes?

The younger set has an older mother. I have a lot more patience and tolerance. And so much more appreciation for every moment. I'm more aware of the swift passage of time. I know how fast they grow up, and I savor every minute.

With age also comes wisdom. I learned that some things are not worth getting worked up about. I learned to choose my battles.

But I don't have as much time to spend with them as I'd like, and I don't have the energy I used to have. I'm tired. Bedtime is not a concept they are familiar with. There's a lot happening around the house at night, and they want to be a part of it. So I make a lame attempt at getting them into bed, and then I go to sleep and hope they do the same sometime soon. If they want something and I can't think of any reason not to get it for them, I will. My little girl has too many pairs of shoes, and my little boy has too many books and toys. And...if they leave their notebooks in school, I'll drive them there to get it.

My older kids call me on it all the time.

"We were never allowed to do that."

"You never let us take that much snack to school every day."

"You're spoiling him."

Maybe I am.

I look at my older kids. They are mature and responsible. They are sensible and trustworthy adults and near-adults. They are everything I'd hoped they'd become. And I wonder if I am making a mistake in the way I am raising the younger set. Maybe they need me to be the kind of mother I was to their older siblings. Maybe I should be sticking to a method that has been tested and proven to be effective. Tried-and-true.

But maybe they were given to me at this age because this is the kind of parenting they need. Maybe not every child is meant to be parented in the same way.

Or...maybe I am aware of what I am unable to provide, and I am trying to create some sort of balance. Trying to make it up to them in some way, maybe.

Which brings to mind a story I read about a Rebbetzin in Meah Shearim whose married daughter came to visit and watched as her mother gave her much younger sister a potato chip.

"Mama," she cried, "when I grew up, I had to wash six floors in order to earn a half of a potato chip!"

"When you were little," the Rebbetzin replied, "you had a whole Mama, so Hashem knew it was enough for you to have half a potato chip. Now, 25 years later, your sister has half a Mama, so Hashem provided her with a whole potato chip."

More Mama, less potato chip.

Less Mama....more potato chip.