I had it really easy growing up. I come from a loving family, with wonderful
parents and great friends. I graduated with honors, attended an Ivy League
university and landed a prestigious job as soon as I finished. Basically, I had
it all and life seemed pretty easy.
Things got even better a few years later when I met the love of my life and
we decided to marry. My wedding was straight out of a book, with my perfect
bridesmaids and beautiful gown and sunny afternoon for an outdoor ceremony
overlooking the beach.
For the first few years of our marriage, I continued to work full time and my
husband, who had a great position, was then promoted to vice president of the
company alongside an impressive raise. With his new salary, it seemed like the
ideal time for us to try having a baby. We looked at the calendar, just like we
did before setting our wedding date, and found what we thought would be the
perfect time. We figured if we wanted to go to Hawaii in May, we would probably
wait until the summer to get pregnant, then I would give birth sometime in the
Little did I know that my perfect life and perfect plans and perfect
pregnancy were only in my dreams.
We went to Hawaii and had an amazing trip, and then we started to try to
conceive. I figured that getting pregnant would be as easy for me as everything
else had been in my life. After all, when I really wanted something and worked
hard for it, it always seemed to fall into place. So we tried, and a few months
passed by, and nothing happened. I was a bit surprised, but not in the least bit
concerned. If anything, my greatest fear was that if I didnt conceive soon, I
would not be giving birth until the summer, and I really didnt want to be
pregnant in the heat.
More months passed. Then a year. Then two, three, four, five.
During this time we went to every possible doctor. Nothing was wrong, or at
least nothing they could find. The doctors werent anxious; after all I was
still young. Relatively.
I didnt care if I was young, I didnt care if I still had time.
a baby, and I had been wanting a baby for years. The stress, both emotional and
physical from doctors appointments and treatments, was overwhelming. My husband
was loving and supportive, and it was definitely hard for him, but I dont think
he could ever understand what it meant every month when I got my period. He knew
it meant that we didnt conceive, but he could never know what it felt like when
my stomach ached and I felt it begin, and then I would have to stare at the
cruel and bold blood, reminding me and screaming that I wasnt pregnant.
After six years of trying, I finally became pregnant. We were thrilled. I
couldnt believe that I was actually carrying a baby. I immediately stopped
working, since I wanted to make sure that I could sleep when I wanted, eat what
needed and not have any unnecessary stress in my life. Fortunately,
husband was doing extremely well financially, so I did not need
to work for
As the weeks passed, I watched as my body began to change. First everything
seemed so tender, then slowly I noticed a small bulge in my tummy. In time, it
was hard to have anything around my waist. I was in love with my baby and with
my pregnancy. Every morning I woke up with a smile on my face, so grateful for
being able to carry this child. We had already picked out names, I had been
eyeing a stroller I really wanted, and knew exactly where I would be headed for
adorable baby clothes.
Everyone was thrilled. By my fourth month, it was obvious that I was
expecting and no matter where I went, people would speak about it. I had always
been very private about our struggle to conceive. I didnt realize that while we
were anxiously hoping for a baby, others just assumed that we chose to wait. Now
that I was showing, I started to hear comments, Wow, so youve finally decided
to have a baby! I didnt know how to respond. I just couldnt believe that
others thought that any of this had been my choice. But then again, before I
knew how hard it would be, I also thought that it was all in my hands.
I did everything perfectly right. I ate all the right foods, did the
recommended amount of exercise, slept well and took my daily vitamins. I went to
my doctors appointments like clockwork, and left each one relieved and thrilled
to discover that everything was exactly how it was supposed to be. When we first
heard our babys heartbeat in the doctors office, we both broke down crying. We
had been waiting for so long for this.
As my due date approached, I read every book on labor and delivery that was
available. I knew every medical term and felt confident that I had a wonderful
doctor. My mother had flown in to be with us and to help after the baby. My
in-laws were also there to make sure that my every whim and
need was being
taken care of.
I knew that most first-time mothers dont deliver on their due dates, so I
was shocked when the very morning of my due date, my water broke. My husband
joked that our daughter seemed to already be following in my footsteps always
on time and very organized.
We waited until my contractions were five minutes apart, and then
for the hospital. Everything was routine. Everything was fine. I was progressing
nicely and by the intensity of the labor I figured it wouldnt be much
The nurses were supportive and helpful and tried to get the monitor strapped
on properly to check for the babys heartbeat. I was already at eight
centimeters and they kept telling me how great I was doing. But for some reason
they couldnt get the monitor to read properly. They tried a few different ways
before a look of concern crept across their faces.
Before I knew what was happening, my calm and supportive environment became
frantic and panicky. I just started crying and praying, not knowing what was
happening. I was wheeled into the surgical ward for an emergency c-section.
There wasnt time to explain but it was clear that they had to get my baby out
I didnt feel any pain, though it didnt make sense since there wasnt even
enough time to give me much in the way of anesthesia. Even if it had hurt, I
wouldnt have cared, since all I wanted was my little baby girl to be alive and
My husband stood in the corner crying, knowing that he needed to be strong
but fearing that he couldnt. They opened me up and the doctors screamed to one
another about the cord. I watched in a daze as they tried to unwrap the cord
from around my baby. I could see her, but I hadnt yet heard her. She never
I kept waiting for them to remove the cord since I figured that it was
preventing her from crying. Unknown to anyone until that point, my cord had been
so tightly wrapped around her little neck that it had strangled her. They
removed the cord. But my baby girl was no longer.
No one needed to tell me what had happened. The tears streaming down their
faces were enough. The doctors cried as they started to explain that as she
descended in the birth canal, the cord tightened and tightened. There was
nothing they could have done. There was nothing I could have done.
I was asked if I wanted to see and hold my baby. I did. We did. The nurses
washed her off and wrapped her perfectly, so caring and loving. Then they handed
me my daughter, peaceful and beautiful, as if she were asleep.
We stayed with our baby for a while, holding her and crying. She was perfect.
Absolutely perfect. Everything was developed, ten little fingers and ten little
toes. She was exactly how I had envisioned her. Only she wasnt alive.
We decided to name her Bracha, meaning blessing, since we felt that despite
all of our pain, she was truly a blessing, and we prayed that our journey with
her would also be the beginning of future blessings. When we felt we had said
our goodbye, I gently handed Bracha back to the nurse.
I cant explain it, but I wasnt distraught. I wasnt hysterical. I was
broken but not in a destructive way. Bizarrely, I felt that my time with Bracha
had been complete. Deep down, I somehow knew that she had lived for the exact
amount of time that she had needed to. And even though it was the most
excruciating experience I had ever gone through, I felt I had been blessed
have been able to carry her around and love her and give to her for nine months.
We had been blessed to see her and hold her and tell her we love her.
The strangest part was that this strength wasnt coming from within. Both my
husband and I knew that Bracha was helping us through this and was responsible
for this attitude. While I may have been prone to spend the next year in bed
crying and feeling sorry for myself, Bracha instilled within me a sense of
purpose and responsibility that until then I didnt have.
A few days later I left that hospital, a mother without a child. But being a
mother, I was filled with love and caring and compassion that needed to be
shared. And I knew I needed to find a child or children to share it with.
Following our loss, we tried again to have children. But for whatever the
ultimate reason I never became pregnant again. Yet Bracha always was our
reminder that we needed to have hope and we needed to give hope.
I felt that if I had suffered such an experience, there had to be a reason
and a meaning. I knew how much I loved Bracha, and I knew how I would have taken
care of her had she lived. And yet, as I mourned my loss, I read in horror, of
stories of women who had abandoned their babies, left them for dead, or abused
them terribly. Those babies were more fortunate than Bracha since they were able
to live, but something had to be done to ensure that they live a life of joy and
Furthermore, our whole experience had also brought my husband and I much
closer to our Judaism, since during our pregnancy we felt the need and desire
for a community and spiritual meaning in our lives. Our increase in Torah study
and practical observance gave our lives a structure and security in an otherwise
very difficult and traumatic period. And from our learning, we began
understand and believe that our ordeal had a higher purpose, even
was hard for us to see.
We discussed with our rabbi my decision to dedicate my time and energy to
helping children. He suggested I contact a Jewish organization that took care of
orphaned children whose parents had either died or couldnt care for them.
Within a week, I had a position working with the babies. My new full time job
was caring for these precious souls, feeding them, bathing them, playing with
them and loving them.
I will never forget the first time one of these children hugged me and called
me mommy. I wanted to correct him and tell him I wasnt his mommy, when I
realized that I really was. To them, I was their mother. And to me, they were my
children. No, I hadnt given birth to them, but I had given them the security,
love and care that I would have given to my own Bracha. And Bracha had given me
the ability to do so.
Ive been working with this organization now for over 20 years. Next month is
what would have been Brachas 21st birthday. Over the years, I have helped raise
hundreds of precious and beautiful babies, and watched them develop into
productive and successful children and young adults.
Twenty-one years ago Bracha made me a mother. But it was the children to whom
I dedicated the rest of my life that made me a mommy. And thanks to the hope and
ability that my Bracha instilled within me, I now can also proudly call myself a
grandmother, since one of the girls I cared for just
gave birth to her first
And you can imagine how much I cried when I held her little girl as they
named her at the Torah. You see, they also named their beautiful baby