The coronavirus pandemic began around the beginning of my pregnancy. I remember when my good friend gave birth in March 2020. I was thrilled for her and her new, beautiful baby boy. I also felt badly that she had experienced a “corona birth” with all the rules and restrictions attached. Even her husband wasn’t allowed to be with her for the birth (although her doula was there). She had no visitors, and the brit milah took place with six people in attendance—only the mohel and her immediate family.

I was three months pregnant at the time and clearly recall my thoughts. I naively assured myself, “When it’s my turn to give birth, things will surely be back to normal.”

Well, as the Yiddish expression goes, “Man plans, and G‑dThe most trying circumstances can bring the sweetest surprises laughs!” But sometimes, the most trying circumstances can bring the sweetest surprises, and may introduce us to character traits and strengths we didn’t even know we possessed.

As my due date of Oct. 1 neared, it became clear that not only would this be a COVID birth, it would be during the three-week (or longer) lockdown in Israel. Trying to look at the positive side of the situation, I quipped, “At least we won’t need to worry about traffic on the way to the hospital!”

In all honesty, I was apprehensive about how I would manage with a mask during labor and the new reality shaping this major lifetime event.

To my pleasant surprise, although things were definitely different this time around, my experience was overall very positive. I felt G‑d’s kindness and providence guiding me, and was introduced to a beautiful, new birthing method I hadn’t planned on or expected.

It began with my indecisiveness about which hospital to use. The COVID policies of the various hospitals in Jerusalem were very different, and I wasn’t sure what would be best for me and my baby. I registered at one hospital where I had my last two births and prayed that G‑d would lead me to the right place.

On Shabbat, labor began. Neighbors called an ambulance, and my husband and I were on our way. En route, the medical personnel asked me when I had last felt my baby’s movements. I hadn’t felt anything for enough time that the driver decided that we were going to Shaare Zedek Medical Center (not the hospital where I had registered), where they would be more equipped for potential complications.

I was whisked inside and sent straight for monitoring; thank G‑d, everything was fine. But it was this detail that led me to exactly the place I needed to be.

It was specifically in Shaare Zedek that a friend whom I hadn’t seen in months showed up offering acupuncture treatment to women in labor. This was one of the two nights a week that she comes, and I was the first patient to whom she was directed.

I can’t even describe the joy and comfort I felt at meeting Pnina under these circumstances. She is a skilled Chinese medicine practitioner, and a warm and sensitive person. It was wonderful to catch up after not seeing one another in such a long time. Even though I am not a fan of needles, I appreciated her treatment, and even more so, her caring presence.

As Pnina inserted needles into various pressure points, she offered helpful tips and information.

She informed me that, as of recently, Shaarei Tzedek began offering water births. After seeing my excited reaction, Pnina helped connect me to the necessary parties, and I was lined up for my first-ever water birth. What a sweet surprise!

The room was dimly lit, there was soothing music playing in the background, and beautiful pictures of nature moved across a large magnetic screen. Faigy and Dalia, the midwives trained in water births, were exceptionally positive and supportive.

The warm pool of water was everything I hoped it would be. It relaxed me and eased the pain of my intense contractions. The unbearable pressure on my lower back was immediately relieved, as I allowed the soothing water to lift me. Within 15 minutes of entering the pool, our precious daughter was born in a most calm and peaceful manner—something I had never experienced before and had not even imagined possible.

It was in the wee hours of the morning of Sunday, the ninth of Tishrei, the Eve of Yom Kippur. Our baby made her appearance at the ideal time for kaparot, when G‑d’s kindness and compassion are revealed. The timing reminded me of the tremendous kindness we had been shown, specifically during these unusual circumstances.

I spent Yom Kippur at the hospital, and the outdoor minyan in the main courtyard was another heartwarming reminder of G‑d’s constant presence and the unique nature of the Jewish people.

Every type of Jew was in attendance, and additional participants joined from their porches on the upper floors. Many of the congregants were dressed in white; some were confined to wheelchairs that were pushed by loving family members or friends. There were elderly and frail patients, small children in strollers, women like myself who had given birth, and a sprinkling of doctors and nurses in their gear.

We were socially distanced with masks, but we all had gathered to pray on the holiest day of the year under the clear Jerusalem sky. The somber lockdown, and even the intense heat wave, didn’t deter this gathering of eager Jews seeking to connect with their Maker.

As we lifted our voices in prayer and recited the words, “G‑d, please remove all illness and plagues from our midst,” I felt the extra intention and fervor, and connected to those words more deeply than ever.

While I prayed at Shaare Zedek, our daughter was named at our Chabad of Baka minyan led by my husband during the Torah reading of Yom Kippur.

“Her name shall be called in Israel: Chana Miriam,” for my husband’s grandmother and great-grandmother (Miriam Popack and Chana Altein), for Rebbetzin Chana (the Rebbe’s mother) and for our biblical heroines, of course.

Chana and Miriam were both prophetesses,Thanking G‑d for His kindness generates positivity with a powerful message for us today. We are all waiting for the end of this pandemic, and yearning for personal and global salvation.

May we experience the Redemption of our people, which Chana prophesied about in her prayer of gratitude when she was blessed with a son. And may we be able to celebrate in song and dance, like Miriam the prophetess, at the time of our original Exodus from Egypt.

And while we pray and anticipate, let’s remember to thank G‑d for the constant blessings He bestows upon us. Amid the upheaval and strife of this global pandemic, it’s especially important that we recognize our gifts and acknowledge them. The Chassidic masters explain:1 Thanking G‑d for His kindness generates positivity and opens a conduit for continued bounty from above. The Zohar teaches that our relationship with G‑d is like a mirror image; according to the countenance which we display below, we are shown from above.2 When we act with joy and gratitude, we arouse G‑d’s smiling countenance and an outpouring of blessings ensue. When we demonstrate our appreciation, we are the ones who reap the benefit.

My lockdown birth, which transformed into my Erev Yom Kippur water birth, is a precious reminder to me of G‑d's infinite goodness and the priceless gift of gratitude.