The Baby that Never Was
I think about her often, the baby that never was. I see her sweet smile, dressed in pink frilly dresses and bows, bright blue eyes shining at me as I lift her and cradle her, singing her lullabies before she goes to sleep.
I thought about her constantly as I journeyed through Israel, from the hills of Tzfat to the Glickman Center for Domestic Violence. In Tel Aviv, I watched a little boy play through the center that was funded by Na’amat, the charity I work with back in the United States. As I saw his big brown eyes stare up at us, I thought about my baby. How it could have been her in that center, in need of protection, if I let the previous man in my life become her father.
The moment I decided to leave my previous life was because of her. I thought of her crying in a corner, her brown hair framing her tears as her father yelled and screamed how something wasn’t put away just so, and how she couldn’t understand what she did to provoke his rage. I thought of him running through the house hitting cabinets, accidentally hitting her, leaving her wondering how she could please a boy who could never be pleased and would never stop being out of control.
The likelihood of her existence isn’t very strong; my medical condition could be a big hindrance on my body’s ability to hold a pregnancy. But she was real enough in my mind that I would do anything to protect her shining face, even upend my life and start a new one.
This idea of my baby came back to me in Tzfat on Saturday morning, the clouds rolling through the sky and the wind chilling me. I went from service to service, as more religious girls were reading the psalms of King David and swaying with the air. They were praying for husbands, for children, for common womanly wishes. I wanted these things, but felt so far away from them; after all, most of these girls had never been married. I had been. And most of these girls would be able to handle a pregnancy without risking their lives. That certainly wasn’t me.
As the Torah readings seemed to come from every corner of the city, I saw Hannah, a girl I had met the night previously who had made her home here in Israel from Florida. She had previously lived in Tzfat, but was now a seminary student while trying to finish school. Her red curly hair and confident stance seemed to make her years older, not in wrinkles but in wisdom. Every room we tried to pray in seemed to overflow, and the written prayers in the prayer books had no English and provided no answers.
“Let’s take a walk,” she suggested. We headed down the winding staircase of the courtyard and began to proceed on the cobblestone streets. The movement of my body seemed to comfort my soul in ways the Hebrew words couldn’t.
We journeyed through the town over the streets, down nooks and crannies while greeting various residents that she had come to know living there. We traveled along the vistas and overlook the spring green fields that were sprinkled with yellow flowers.
Eventually, we stopped and I came to lean over this overlook. The clouds were rolling above our heads as I thought about this point in my life. As we talked about her boyfriend and her hopes of them being together, I spoke about my life and about this child. How I left my horrible marriage for this nonexistent being. It was crazy, because after all, how could you depart a marriage vow on a concept? She wasn’t real, and there was no telling that she ever would be.
The silence settled over us, with no noise but the whipping wind. Hannah’s face became thoughtful as she heard my story and all its insanity. And suddenly, her words crashed into my heart, breaking through the whispers and put-downs.
“Your child is alive,” she said. “She’s just not here yet. But she will be. Her spirit is here.”
They were words so simple,and anyone could dismiss them as being just a comforting thing to say or some new age mumbo-jumbo, a side effect of this mountain town. But somehow my heart knew it was real.
I felt her in that moment as the clouds rolled above me. I knew her before she even found her way into my womb. It was twisted and strange, yet comforting. In the years of doctors telling me of the uncertainty of a baby and my ex telling me constantly no, I heard her now. My unborn child. And my, was she the most beautiful thing in the universe.
I didn’t have words as I began to cry joyful tears, hugging Hannah and allowing her to cry with me in a way I never experienced before, the wind embracing us alongside. Because deep down in my heart I knew that she was right. Any person passing that scene wouldn’t have known, yet two strangers found a way to find comfort each other and let go of the fear. And until I met my child in my lifetime, I was holding onto her soul, like a small flickering candle that would never go out.