This time of year, that song is bittersweet for me. She would have been seven this year. It would have been seven years of miracle or hell, depending on if she had lived and how she would have survived.

I gave birth at twenty-five weeks to a beautiful girl. I went into labor unexpectedly. At the time, the doctors sagely diagnosed a severe UTI. It would take another, tragic pregnancy loss to learn that my obstetrical issues would not be confined to a single event.

“She knows you’re there,” the nurses helpfully said as the hours wore onWalking into the hospital with moderate pain and some bleeding, I was whisked off to ultrasound, only to be whisked straight to labor and delivery to bring this precious soul into the world.

While we were waiting for the birth, my husband asked the neonatologist if there was anything to pray for. Being so young, was there even a chance of survival? We were told that ⅓ of these babies are fine, ⅓ survive with mild-to-severe handicaps, and ⅓ do not make it. When she finally emerged from my womb, her faint cry pierced the tension in the room. “A good sign, siman tov,” it was whispered in both Hebrew and English, as she was intubated and rushed off to the NICU.

The next two weeks, I held vigil by her cribside. She was too fragile to hold, but we were encouraged to talk to her and gently stroke her hand. “She knows you’re there,” the nurses helpfully said as the hours wore on. I helplessly watched the machines pump air and life into her skinny and frail body, barely the length of my forearm.

Oddly enough, I found myself humming the words to a popular Jewish song. My husband began saying more and more Psalms. I couldn’t concentrate enough to open a prayerbook, so time after time I found myself humming the tune to this song that was stuck in my head. At one point, my husband even asked me what it was that I was singing. I told him and he looked at me, speechless. I asked him what the name of the song was. “Hope,” was his distracted reply.

Hope. Did he not get the irony of this? I told him that perhaps we should name her this, Tikvah. He said that we should wait and see. Subsequently, in my mind, her name became Tikvah for me, and that was how I referred to her. The days and the hours passed on, with him murmuring his Psalms, and me humming my song of hope.

Things were stable, and the hope continued. After a week, I began to privately plan the huge bash that I anticipated her welcome-home celebration would be. But three days later, things changed. We began to have to ask the most heart-wrenching questions. The latest tests were showing that the previous stability had proven to be short-lived. A brain bleed had not stayed contained, as previously hoped. Blood is toxic to a brain, and the tests would show that it had spread, leaving behind a ravaged organ. No hope, the doctors said. No hope, the rav, the rabbinical authority, said. We were under no obligation according to Jewish law to maintain her life. While we could not stop administering any life-saving machinery or medicine, we were not obligated to start anything new, nor would we have to restart any medicine that had been or would be stopped.

We couldn’t stay there waiting for her to die, yet we couldn’t pull ourselves awayFor the next two days, we were torn. We couldn’t stay there waiting for her to die, yet we couldn’t pull ourselves away. Finally, at the end, she passed away in the early hours of the morning. When we got the call from the hospital, their sympathies were expressed, and we were comforted to know that the nurse assigned to her had thoughtfully said her final Shema with her before she was taken away by the Jewish Burial Society.

Did my hope die? It’s still a question that I struggle with. Which was more tragic, her birth or her death? It’s impossible to determine, since they were both horribly sad, leaving more questions asked than answered. As the years have passed, I admit that my questions surrounding her birth linger more than those about her death. We believe that there is a meaning and reason for everything we do. Our lives have constant purpose, and we are here to help rectify this world. Her two weeks in this world brought many prayers with her. Who knows what was stirred in the heavens because of that? Her death, I have to honestly admit, brought a bittersweet relief.

Although we were not required by Jewish law to mourn the typical seven-day shiva period because of our baby’s young age, we did use the days following as a time for us to sit together and emotionally start to heal. Food was brought, people visited, but just having that time together to regroup our energies and contemplate our blessings was very helpful.

As the years have passed, I guess I have learned that that’s what hope is all about. G‑d gives us challenging situations, sometimes superhuman challenging situations, and we deal with them with the best of our human abilities. We hope that the efforts and prayers we send out will effect the changes that we desire; but, that is not always the case. That’s where the hope becomes emunah. Emunah, loosely defined as “hope” or “faith,” is really much deeper than that. It is our ability to take the previous knowledge gained, coupled with resolve to move onward, to face the challenges ahead, whatever they may be. I guess it is really about having faith in the hope.