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The Child I Prayed For

The Child I Prayed For

Life after Loss

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The author's baby boy
The author's baby boy

The red light on my phone flashed again. It was just a few hours after my birth, and I already got 13 e‑mails and 22 text messages wishing me mazel tov, congratulations. Everyone was incredibly happy for me, and they would love to talk to me when I have a minute, no pressure.

My baby was 6 hours old. He was a blond who looked red-haired in the light, weighed a lot less than expected, and was serious about his job as a newborn. That means he cried a lot.

Before I knew it, the mantra got shortened to “Everyone is happy, and I am in pain."And so did I. It was a difficult birth. I had a C-section averted last minute, and an epidural that wore off, not to mention swelling and complications. Nursing got off to a bad start, with cuts and bruises to bear witness.

The unwanted thought kept repeating itself, at first timidly but gaining more confidence. “Everyone is so happy. I have a beautiful, healthy baby boy, thank G‑d. I’m also happy. But I am in pain! Every part of my body is screaming for attention with an itch, ache, or deficit of some sort (think sleep).”

Before I knew it, the mantra got shortened to “Everyone is happy, and I am in pain. Everyone is happy, and I am in pain.”

And to my horror, it somehow got twisted to “What’s there to be happy about? I am in pain!

I knew I had to reach out. Through the fog I managed to send an e‑mail, propelled by my inner disequilibrium.

I received a short reply. “Don’t worry. The pain will go away, and the baby will stay.”

“The baby will stay. The baby will stay.” I reread the last four words and they grew larger in my head, like the letters on an eye exam chart. There’s something about black on white dancing off a little screen at 3 in the morning that can penetrate a distorted perspective. That can give a gentle and soothing reminder. This baby will stay.

My first one didn’t.

It had been a normal pregnancy. Prenatals, maternity shopping and routine checkups. Two weeks before my due date, my doctor suspected that my baby was breeched, and he decided to do a sonogram.

He fidgeted with the thing for too long. What’s the big deal to figure out where the head was?

My doctor looked up and said grimly, “There is something wrong with your baby’s head.”

That’s how I was introduced to a page in What to Expect When You’re Expecting that I had conveniently skipped over. The diagnostic term was “anencephaly.” It meant my baby wouldn’t make it.

I wasn’t spared any pain then either. The labor was long, and the delivery excruciating. With all the medical interventions out there, none could medicate the searing pain of holding a child for the first and last time.

I cried for a womb which helped develop a child, but which did not produce lifeIn the depth of my sorrow I questioned the pain, and I questioned the process I had just been through. A few short weeks later, as I sat through Rosh Hashanah services, I cried for the fresh wound piercing my heart. I cried for a womb which helped develop a child, but which did not produce life. And I wondered about the purpose of it all.

It seemed to me that the theme of Rosh Hashanah was childless women, hearing about it in the Torah reading, a haftorah, and in the rabbi’s sermon. To me, that somehow validated my pain. I identified strongly with Chanah, mother of Samuel the prophet, as she struggled to deal with Peninah’s growing family. I ached for Sarah, who eventually gave birth at 99, as I thought for the first time what it means for a woman not to bear children. She, too, must question why she must go through physical and emotional pain without seeing results.

In a very subtle way, I was uplifted as well. Sarah did eventually have children. Chanah too had a son, and she was able to fulfill her promise to raise him surrounded by holiness. As I read about Chanah’s prayers, I visualized my own fusing with hers, tugging at a rope reaching the heavens. Maybe it wasn’t so subtle; I felt a palpable sense of optimism as I neared the end of the reading. Chanah brought him to the House of G‑d and proudly said, “El hana’ar hazeh hitpalalti—this is the child I prayed for.”

“This baby will stay.” This year, I was going to stay home on Rosh Hashanah. I had a newborn baby to take care of, one who awoke three times a night and needed much love and care. I slowly allowed a new mantra to enter my consciousness. “El hana’ar hazeh hitpalalti”—this is the child I prayed so hard for. This is the purpose of it all! To raise a child of G‑d, one who will know Him and serve Him lovingly. I am in pain, yet there is reason to be happy.

Sara Blau is a teacher and extracurricular director at Beth Rivkah High School. She is a wife, mother, and author of several children“s books.
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S United Kingdom September 22, 2017

Chanah also endured further loss with Samuel, as she took him, at two years of age, to Eli in order to fulfill her vow to HaShem, so he would be in service for HaShem for all his life.

Conception to a living healthy child is a major theme in the Torah.

The pain a mother feels when conception does not occur, or the loss from spontaneous abortion or postnatal loss, no words can truly describe this. Yet, HaShem has ensured that this information is recorded for eternity in the Torah.

This is HaShem's way of letting women know, that in their darkest hours He is with them.

Thank you, for sharing your experiences as this helps the silent woman to have her voice heard. Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem September 19, 2017

So sorry 😐 for your loss. I had a still born and a cot death - both boys. Also four miscarriages. Hashem eventually blessed me with four wonderful children 👶 👶👶👶 - the last one born at seven monhs pregnancy. They are now TG married with their own children. Thanks for Sharing. Reply

Yehudit Atlanta September 18, 2017

Can someone help with the pain of never having children?
I thought I'd overcome it, but there was s baby naming in shul last Shabbat and it all came back. I had to retreat from the service and sit in a corner of the ladies room to cry.

Shana Tovah to all, and a special wish to your precious baby boy, Sara. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY November 24, 2012

great! thank you so much for writing this article, might be hard to express this sometimes, but it means everything. May g-d bless you with many happy and healthy children to come. Reply

Anonymous October 17, 2012

really touching wow! thank you for opening up to write this article. really moved me. Reply

bec October 4, 2012

praise be!! what a wonderful story, filled my heart with much joy. Reply

Anonymous chicago, il September 21, 2012

yes when a mother carries a child there is a tangible love. it is so strong and when there is a loss it is real. if there is no love there is no pain. Reply

samantha b September 19, 2012

to whom this may concern i had a stillborn three years ago and i would have loved to read such an article. full of honesty and hope. i hope chabad.org files it in a way that it would come up in the searches. touched my heart Reply

Anonymous Ft. Myers, Fl September 19, 2012

never getting over the loss So how do we mothers, who have lost in such a way, ever get over it completely? Even when you have "surviving" children, does that ache of "holding a child for the first and last time " ever really disappear? Does the answer to this question come only with Moshiach? These days, for some reason, that's not good enough. I want to know now. In any case, thanks for writing, and making me feel less alone... Reply

Dassy postville, iw September 19, 2012

Thank You i enjoyed your writing, and please keep it up, this is such a great website and it just keeps getting better with more writers like yourself! Reply

Anonymous Miami Beach, Fl September 18, 2012

Powerful I was extremely touch by the deep description, what a strength in faith, don't have any children's, I see my sister with her two litle ones, her loves towards them never sizes to amaze me, seeing her two year old knee and pray to G-D is one of the most beautiful moments. I treasure! Reply

Queen September 17, 2012

I loved this! Thanks for being so honest about the birthing process I had my suspicions about the pain. Now I know that with life comes pain, I am glad G-d granted your wish, the child I prayed so hard for will stay with me awhile, good read. Reply

Anonymous Crown Hights September 15, 2012

The child I prayed for. I was very touched by the deep description and inspirational thoughts. It is good that you opened in the happy part. It is hope and encouragement while going into the painful memories. I wish everyone good news and mazel tovs speedily. Reply

Mandy Cohen BROOKLYN September 13, 2012

amazing thank you for the article it really touched me Reply

chanah nyc September 12, 2012

powerful moved me to tears. "el hanar hazeh hitpalalti" wow. Reply

Your sis in law:) Beverly Hills, CA September 12, 2012

Love it Sarale;) Love you! Reply

Anonymous california September 12, 2012

validating validates the challenge one feels in raising children, while at the same time giving perspecitve Reply

Rivka Flushing, NEW YORK September 11, 2012

You write with such honesty, strength and faith. Thank you for sharing. What you have taken from these experiences has given me strength. This morning was another crazy day sending my boys off to yeshiva. One is having difficulty transitioning to high school, the others were fighting with each other. I dropped them off and said to myself what am I doing wrong? As you said: " This is the purpose of it all . To raise a child of G-d, one who will know Him and serve Him lovingly."Raising children has pain physical and emotional but that is the goal. Reply

moshe borowski far rockaway, ny September 11, 2012

having worked in loss and bereavement for many years - WOW, very heavy + poignant. Reply

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