It wasn’t the script I anticipated. I got married at 19, got pregnant immediately, and was prepared to make my parents grandparents, and my grandmothers great-grandmothers.
Except at the last minute, that did not happen. Instead of welcoming a healthy newborn wailing and crying, the delivery room was deathly quiet. I had a stillborn.
It was absolutely devastating. It was a long and painful labor. And in the end, I hadn’t become a mother. I was burying my baby. Even the doctor cried.
After nine months of nausea and back pain, of carrying this sweet little baby in my belly, of dreaming about becoming a mommy and holding my newborn in my arms, I came home empty handed.
It was awful, especially since my entire Jewish community was anticipating seeing my baby as well. They didn’t know I’d had a stillborn, so for the first few weeks, when I mustered the courage to go outside, I was greeted with the traditional “Mazal Tov!”
I had to gently break the news to people that unfortunately, I had a stillborn, and then be there to comfort them in their shock.
Every baby that I saw reminded me of my loss, and it was hard for me to be around babies for a while—not an easy feat in my community. Each adorable cooing baby was a reminder of what I did not have.
Then I got pregnant again. This time, I wasn’t naive anymore. I knew that things could turn out very differently than I anticipated. I was filled with anxiety and afraid to keep my hopes up.
My mind kept taking me to the worst possible scenarios, and I was apprehensive before every doctor’s visit. I almost didn’t want anyone to know I was expecting again, in case this baby also wouldn’t make it.
I mistakenly thought that if I prepared myself adequately for the worst outcome, I would shield myself from disappointment. I was restless and felt my heart physically hurt from my worries and fears.
In the midst of all this, I realized something. The anxiety would not help the baby’s health. Sure, I could allow my thoughts to go to the darkest of places, but I also could have faith that everything would turn out OK.
Did I want to spend nine months riddled with anxiety, or did I want to spend nine months calmly looking forward to a healthy birth? I preferred the latter. And while it was not always easy; I knew that my emotional and mental wellbeing was tied in with my faith, and it was much better for me to be in that space.
I decided to choose to visualize a healthy baby, a joyous homecoming, and I looked forward to bonding with my newborn.
Nine months later, I had a healthy baby boy. I never knew I could love a tiny little thing so much. I was smitten by my prince, and I cried tears of joy that I was finally holding my own child.
I felt like my huge loss helped me appreciate my son even more than if I hadn’t gone through what I went through. A year and a half later, I was blessed with another boy. My hands were full, and I was thrilled.
But the rollercoaster continued.
I lost another pregnancy, and then had another two babies. By then, I was so grateful to God for giving me four healthy and vivacious boys, who are now ages five to 12.
But I had more losses along the way, which were both traumatic and difficult, landing me in the ER multiple times and even requiring a blood transfusion. I was pained by each one, and felt the void deeply.
And yet, with each pregnancy, I still felt that it would serve me best to envision a healthy baby and a positive outcome, rather than to imagine another doomsday.
By nature, I can be a little uptight and anxious. I think deep down, we all crave the control of knowing exactly what will happen and how. But I have learned that true peace and serenity can only come from giving up control, or giving up the illusion of control.
My faith in the Creator has taught me to let go and trust him, and also has shown me that having faith in him actually helps me, regardless of what happens.
I developed my trust muscle, called bitachon in Hebrew. Generally translated as trust, bitachon is a powerful sense of optimism and confidence based not on reason or experience, but on faith.
When I had the stillborn, the doctor told me I was struck by lightning. When I had other misses, the doctor told me it was a fluke. But that makes the world feel so random and senseless.
I would prefer to think of it in terms of part of a master plan, that there was a reason for what I went through, even if I did not understand it. I prefer to believe that everything in the world did not just create itself into being, but that there is a higher power that is running the show. I call that faith.
Faith gives me confidence. Faith helps me visualize a positive outcome. And faith helps me cope so that when life does not go in the way I intended, I believe that I am in good hands and nothing happens by mistake.
I can’t say that I never get anxious, but I can say that I always have the option to lean into faith, unclench my fist, take a deep breath, and hug my precious little people God has given me.
Sara Blau is the author of 29 books for children and adults, including “Thought Streams – Meditations For Jewish Women Based On The Talks Of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,” which is available on Amazon. She is also a public speaker, wife, mother, and educator.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
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