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Dear Neshama'le

Dear Neshama'le

A Letter to My Baby in Heaven

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Editor's Note: The following letter was written by the author to her nearly full term baby who was unfortunately born stillborn. The letter was originally written in Hebrew and translated by the author's mother into English. She addresses her letter to Neshama'le, the Hebrew term of endearment for "pure soul."

Dear Neshamal'e,

I hope you left the womb comfortable for your siblingsI decided to write you.

I wanted to begin with 'My Neshama'le or 'our Neshama'le, but mainly you are His Neshama'le.

Hope

I hope the nine months you were in my womb were comfortable for you.

I hope you enjoyed the songs we played for you, the songs your father sang to you. I hope the occasional off- key note didn't bother you too much.

I hope you liked the words of Torah your father told you, even though the angel that taught you Torah the entire time you were in the womb had already taught you everything you need to know.

I hope you left the womb comfortable for your siblings to come, and as your father says, hope you left them some note with the correct operating instructions . . .

Forgive Me

Forgive me for the times I rushed you to come out because it was getting heavy for me to carry you around.

Forgive me that at times I was like the soldier who has had it with the army and would say – 'how much longer'?!

I'm sorry that I complained about the stretch marks – that your father would call badges of honor …(what 'honor' when life did not come out of me, they are there to bear witness of what was and is no longer ?)

Forgive me for all the last ultrasounds I put us through. I know that they were not pleasant for you either – almost always, like G‑d, you would be hiding your face and then they would roughly shake my belly back and forth so as to get you to move to the left and to the right.

Forgive me that during our last days together I fed you sweet things when I panicked that I didn't feel you dance in my womb – I hope that at least it was tasty for you.

Forgive me for the nine months I didn't taste wine – I wasn't allowed . . .

Thank You

Thank you for the big and beautiful belly you gave me, I walked proudly with it, and you made me happy. People would stop me in the street to tell me what a beautiful belly I had.

Thank you for the sweet little movements that came in the 17th week. Your father and I were so excited. Then later the kicks that would surprise me anew each and every time. I loved most to feel your hyperactivity when we were at shul (synagogue).

Thank you for surviving with me on Yom Kippur and for listening to your father who whispered to you to be calm because it was Yom Kippur today . . .

Thank you for always keeping me company, when I was alone you would always move around letting me know that you were there and then I would talk to you and stroke you. When I would hear a sudden noise I would jump - startled - and you too would move and this always brought a smile to my lips. Yesterday a car suddenly screeched by making a frightening noise, I was startled, this time alone. . .

With Full Arms

The first time I was blessed with the blessing for "full arms" it was an unfamiliar term for me yet sent shivers down my spine. Upon hearing it I swallowed hard and said politely "thank you" without giving it too much thought. The first time I heard the blessing I was in my 7th month, but since then many people have blessed me with that particular blessing and I would receive it happily as I had prepared myself for everything except the event of returning home with empty arms.

We did not prepare ourselves for coming home with empty armsI prepared myself for the possibility of a difficult labor because I was told you were going to be a big baby. I prepared myself for the possibility of a C-section in case you had difficulty coming out the natural way. I prepared myself and your father for the remote possibility that you may have something medically wrong with you because I was told of the remote possibility that a lot of amino fluid can mean a possible problem with the fetus – something that was totally untrue in your case as you came out perfect. I prepared myself and your father for a possible difficult convalescence following many stitches, but you left me with one small stitch.

I prepared ourselves for the "baby blues" – postpartum depression – that may arrive after the third day of giving birth (If only I had the baby blues, by me on the third day after birth there was no baby and no blues – I had a lot of greens, yellows and orange but no baby .. .). I prepared a warm comfortable space at home for after I give birth. One of your grandmothers prepared everything for you – from the baby cot to the sponge for the sponge bath while your other grandmother prepared a plane ticket with a full suitcase of goodies for you. At home I had prepared for you a sweet little crib with a cute mobile and even a wall thermometer to make sure the room was warm and cozy for you during the cold winter. Neshama'le, we prepared ourselves for everything, but we did not prepare ourselves for coming home with empty arms.

Neshama

Words cannot describe the pain in my heart upon hearing the word, 'sorry' when they didn't see on the screen that familiar little heart pumping away. "Sorry', nine months, 'sorry.' We went through the first trimester, the second and just about completed the third and with one small word they finished with your life – 'sorry.' The word still rings loudly in my ears – 'sorry.'

When I felt your little body come out of mine I so much wanted to hear the sound that would declare my new status as Ima, Mommy. Had you cried even a tiny bit, I would have been an Ima, but no, there was only silence in the room and all I heard was the dear midwife being sorry for the sight of the knotted umbilical cord. . .

When I saw you I felt so connected to you – you looked so much like us. You looked so peaceful, your face was peaceful and your hair was a soft clean orange. I so much wanted to give you life, but when they took you from me I knew right away that you were no longer mine - that you were His, that you belonged to G‑d.

Nurturing You

"More than the calf wants to nurse the cow wants to give milk" (Pesachim)

Had you cried even a tiny bit, I would have been an ImaYou should know Neshama'le, I had a lot of milk to give you and you were not here to take it from me. A few days after giving birth to you, the first time I woke up with a wet shirt, your father was witness to the tears mixed with fear, frustration, pain, joy and excitement.

Fear - because I couldn't believe that this white liquid would ever come out of me just like that.

Frustration – because you weren't there to enjoy the bounty

Pain – physical pain from the weight of the milk

Emotional anguish – that I couldn't give you the milk

Excitement and joy – because I felt that as a woman – that G‑d gave me bountiful milk, and with the help of G‑d I know that next time around I will have milk for your siblings who will come at the rightful time.

Devorah Chana

Neshama'le, that's what we were going to name you – for our two grandmothers, but in the end I called you Neshama'le because that's what you were. You were a neshama, a soul, that came down for nine months to settle in my womb. Like a good settler – you did your tikun, your rectification, that you needed to do and you were evacuated from me by force.

On the Wednesday after I gave birth I felt you when I was at the Kotel, the Western Wall. The name Devorah means "bee" and there was that little bee that flew around me and wouldn't leave. How was it that the rain did not bother you?! Will you come again? I miss you so much, and would be so happy if you would come in my dream and tell me that you are alright and then I'll be able to tell you how much I love you.

Rivka, born and raised in Israel, worked with mentally disabled children and youth as part of her National Service. She has a degree in Special Education and English, and also studied to become a clown therapist. Rivka lives with her husband Ari in Ofra , Israel where she works as an English teacher at the local elementary school and girls' high school.
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Sarah Masha West Bloomfield, MI USA via baischabad.com May 10, 2016

This is very well written. So are many of the previous comments. Someday we will understand why these neshamas put only one foot into this world and then withdraw it. And we will understand why each set of parents was chosen to undergo the experience. Until then, I offer my empathy, poor as it is.
1 still, 2 misses, 1 live. Reply

Sara Bedein Efrat, Israel January 3, 2016

From Rivka's Ima: An update With a heart full of gratitude, our Rivka, who had the heart-breaking experience of "empty-hands", nowadays has her hands full of blessings. After two adorable boys (and another miscarriage), Shiri Devorah, now 4 months old, has joined the crew. Rivka's losses were baby girls and the birth of this baby girl was nothing less than miraculous and entered this world in high drama with a team of midwives and doctors summoned urgently to deliver her in a complicated birth. Everyone in the delivery room called it a "miracle" and we were all reminded how fragile and precious life is.
הודו לה' כי טוב כי לעולם חסדו Reply

Shulamit Fort Worth January 1, 2016

I am happy to hear that you later had two little ones.


I had one, and then two miscarriages. I am still sad about those. I always imagine they would have been girls.
But my little boy was really wonderful. He was exactly what I prayed for. Now he has two little boys of his own.

But that's only two grandchildren, when I should have had at least four. Reply

Sarah NY December 27, 2015

Thank you Thank you for your beautiful writing. I lost my precious baby boy five days ago and you have captured what I cannot. So sorry for your loss, but know that your writing has brought some comfort to another lost and grieving mama. Reply

Ruth Calgary June 22, 2014

To Sarah, Rivka's mother I am happy for you~! Reply

Sara Bedein Efrat, Israel June 20, 2014

Epilogue From Rivka's mother: After an early miscarriage, a stillborn and and another baby lost in her 5th month of pregnancy, many tears and many, many tfilot, Rivka and her husband Ari are now parents to 2 beautiful boys ages almost 3 and 1.5 who are a delight to their parents and doting grandparents and aunts and uncles. Reply

Ruth Calgary July 11, 2013

I can begin to fathom your sorrow, for I too have lost a beloved unborn. Reading the first line of your letter, I weep. I cannot see. I cannot finish the letter.

Your pain is stronger, fresher. Mine was over forty years ago. Nobody said, "I'm sorry you lost your baby." Everyone said, "I'm so glad you're OK. Yes, I almost died, but I wanted another and was never blessed again. I had my first wonderful one, but I had wanted others.

You are wise to go public. At least you will get some acknowledgement for your anguish. Maybe you will not still be feeling this pain and these tears, forty years down the road.

I hope that you can feel it all now, and mostly be done with it.

But now and then, it may well surface.

We're not supposed to say this, but I will say it anyway: May you be comforted among those who mourn for Zion and Jerusalem.

It's a good day to say that. We hare entered the Nine Days.

Gd bless you. Reply

Devorah Chana June 20, 2013

What sadness and emotion, that I cannot begin to fathom. But what strength and acceptance, I was moved by your hope amid the pain. And then startled and shaken when I read the name you had chosen, Devorah Chana, MY name... I don't know how to react, but it's shook something deep inside of me awake Reply

Martin Netherlands June 19, 2013

I've been crying while reading this behind my screen... I feel with you, knowing how can I ever feel with you this way? It touched me deeply. The deep love, the pain, the faith and thankfulness in the midst of the pain you feel. Although your baby has passed away, you're not "mother-less", you're still her mother; you carried a neshamah that is connected with you -for ever.

May HaShem bless you, and may the words of these comments comfort and support you - and the father of Neshama'le - strengthen you and all those women on this globe that have experienced comparable... Reply

chanie minkowicz-flint brooklyn, new york June 19, 2013

To Rivka, I am truly sorry for your empty arms, I too came home with empty arms 10 months after i was married. I was full term and everyone was excited when i went into labor. I understand your article very well, i also sang to the child in me and went out of my way to eat healthy nutritious meals. The article reminded of a pregnancy i enjoyed so much, a new young bride looking foward to becoming a mother, a childhood dream and then the empty arms you speak about , and the milk flowing.
however years later and b"h a mother to five beautiful healthy children b"h, i want to share with you that at this time your wound is open and iyh as time passes it will begin to heal, and then there will be times that is will open a little again ( like right now for me ) you will heal but never forget.
Your name is rivka, my middle name is rivka too, and rivka imanu had all the blessings returned when she entered the tent, those 3 blessings represent the mitzvos given to women, may your "tent" be blessed rivka! Reply

Anonymous June 19, 2013

David's words on his baby passing on..... When David's baby died David acknowledge that his baby was with G-d....the baby was not "lost" David knew where his baby was. So with us. This was the only thought that gave me encouragement on my unborn baby "Jacob" moving on to be with G-d instead of staying here on Earth with us. I did have that dream you mention....I dreamed that Jacob was swinging on a golden swing in heaven and having a wonderful time! So happy! Alive and well! Very vivid, intense and comforting. Reply

Lisa Rubin Suburban N.Y.C. June 18, 2013

I hear you. Rivka, I commend you for sharing this story for the world to see. I don't think I could share: seeing the those sad looks and hearing " so sorry for your loss" are sometimes worse than anything. Better to say I hear you and I'm sad (which I am). Reply

Anonymous January 6, 2011

I cry for you... And for me, and for all Jews and all humanity who have to endure such tortuous pain as a parent burying a child.
I'm sorry for you and double my demands that G-d spare us from this dark exile and bring us our long-awaited redemption-finally!!!!
I'm so happy for you that at least you have a soul-mate that sounds so wonderful to help you bear the pain and carry on doing good deeds for your child's Neshama'le (you will always be your child's parents and she will always need you until she is awakened by the coming on Moshiach), may it be right NOW! Reply

Anonymous McKinney, TX January 5, 2011

Stillborn Guilt Thank you Kelly for your beautiful words. Maybe this will be the start of some much needed healing for me. The loss was such a shock for me, something I never thought could happen, and aside from my husband, who tried very hard, I had no support. I felt like I should hide my head in shame. I still feel that I have let down my little girl, but your words resonated and I know that I will think of them often. Thanks so much for taking the time to write. Reply

Kelly Leeba Kinseth aka Kelly Rae Ettalong Beach, NSW January 5, 2011

Dear Anonymous, McKinney, TX I wish that you did not feel guilt over the loss of your sweet little daughter. It was certainly not you who caused this...I don't know the details but it was not You. We lose our babies and we suffer because no matter what anyone says, even a husband who is kind, nobody has truly known that child except for you and for Ha'shem. It has been 28 years for me and I still feel the loss. However, I am now able to look back and see that the woman I have become came from this tragedy. I was a better mother to my daughter, I am a more patient human being, I am a social worker and have had women come to me that do not know my background. When I hear their stories I can empathise with them; not just say sympathetic words. You, as the rest of us here, know the value of a life created. Perhaps had we never endured a hardship such as this, we would not be able to see how fragile and precious all life is. Ha'shem knows this and loves you even more for surviving your loss. With love, Leeba Reply

Anonymous McKinney, TX January 2, 2011

Your beloved daughter I lost my baby girl thirty years ago. I was going to be a complete ten months in two days. I did not go into labor, my cervix did not ripen, and my baby died. No one talked about it and it felt like I was alone in this experience, My mother had died the year before and I have no siblings.
I wondered why I was not able to deliver a baby like other women have done for centuries. I can't say that I stayed away from sweets, but I drank no alcohol, took vitamins, was sure to have protein in my meals, and drank a lot of milk.....thinking that I was caring for my baby. She was my first, and thank G-d since then, I have had three healthy children. The guilt from the first has never healed.
Thank you for your writing. It touched my heart. Reply

Kelly Leeba Kinseth aka Kelly Rae December 12, 2010

I understand I can hardly type as I am crying so much now. I understand. I loved my son as you loved your daughter. It has been many years for me and I still love him. You will never forget the love you have for your sweet daughter...the one that Ha'shem entrusted you to carry until she was done with what she was sent for.
I too am sorry. I know the feeling of empty arms and to someone who has never experienced the ache and pain, it is impossible to explain how it feels.
I will say prayers of healing for your heart and for you and your daughter to always be close so you will enjoy the bounty together in the world to come.
I love you my dear sister - daughter of the King. May Ha'shem bless you and keep you..... Reply

Beryl Tritel Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel June 26, 2010

Beautiful I read your story, and it was so beautiful and yet so sad. I would really like to be in touch with you about a project that I am doing. Please be in touch if you can. Reply

Elisheva February 3, 2010

So sad for you The pain for me of losing two in the first trimester still lives, but cannot compare with the pain you must feel at losing your precious little one after nine long months.

You have my tears. And my heart.

Gd bless you. Reply

Judy Resnick Far Rockaway , NY February 2, 2010

Saw Your Photo Rivka Singer, I saw your photo in the Jewish Press several months ago. You and your husband Ari were featured in an article about young couples on the list for bigger apartments being frustrated by the settlement building freeze. The two of you were photographed in front of a wall with Hebrew graffiti that read, "Ari loves Rivka." Since my daughter's name is Rivka and her husband is named Ari, I clipped the article and photo to share with them. You were just so beautiful in the photograph, looking forward eagerly to the birth of your first child. I am so saddened to hear that this pure little neshama'le was not meant to spend time with us. I hope that you will accept my sincere tefillot that you and Ari should be blessed by Hashem with other children, other pure neshamot (souls), that the two of you will have joy together in raising. May it be His will. Reply