A Mother Without A Child

A Mother Without A Child

A Mother Without A Child


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 spring, ideal.

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 didn't conceive soon, I would not be giving birth until the summer, and I really didn't 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 weren't anxious; after all I was still young. Relatively.

I didn't care if I was young, I didn't care if I still had time.
I wanted a baby, and I had been wanting a baby for years. The stress, both emotional and physical from doctor's appointments and treatments, was overwhelming. My husband was loving and supportive, and it was definitely hard for him, but I don't think he could ever understand what it meant every month when I got my period. He knew it meant that we didn't 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 wasn't pregnant.

After six years of trying, I finally became pregnant. We were thrilled. I couldn't 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 I
needed and not have any unnecessary stress in my life. Fortunately,
my husband was doing extremely well financially, so I did not need
to work for monetary reasons.

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 didn't 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 you've finally decided to have a baby!" I didn't know how to respond. I just couldn't 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 doctor's 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 baby's heartbeat in the doctor's 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 don't 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
headed for the hospital. Everything was routine. Everything was fine. I was progressing nicely and by the intensity of the labor I figured it wouldn't be much longer.

The nurses were supportive and helpful and tried to get the monitor strapped on properly to check for the baby's heartbeat. I was already at eight centimeters and they kept telling me how great I was doing. But for some reason they couldn't 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 wasn't time to explain but it was clear that they had to get my baby out and immediately.

I didn't feel any pain, though it didn't make sense since there wasn't even enough time to give me much in the way of anesthesia. Even if it had hurt, I wouldn't have cared, since all I wanted was my little baby girl to be alive and well.

My husband stood in the corner crying, knowing that he needed to be strong but fearing that he couldn't. 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 hadn't yet heard her. She never screamed.

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 wasn't 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 can't explain it, but I wasn't distraught. I wasn't 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
to 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 wasn't 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 didn't 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 not suffering.

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
to understand and believe that our ordeal had a higher purpose, even
though it 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 couldn't 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 wasn't his mommy, when I realized that I really was. To them, I was their mother. And to me, they were my children. No, I hadn't 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.

I've been working with this organization now for over 20 years. Next month is what would have been Bracha's 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 daughter.

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 Bracha.

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