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Windows: Daughter of Israel

Eliana Cline

I hadn’t planned this trip. In fact, months ago I deliberately decided against it, when we received the invitation to attend the family simchah

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

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T he air outside is icy as I arrive at Ben-Gurion airport on a Friday morning. Pushing my stroller with one hand, I’m trying not to crash my luggage trolley with the other.

I hadn’t planned this trip. In fact, months ago I deliberately decided against it, when we received the invitation to attend the family simchah. The event promised to be a rare and momentous family reunion from three continents; a gathering of cousins who hadn’t seen each other in decades — or ever. I was desperate to attend. But, unsure how I’d feel only a few weeks postpartum, I prudently decided it wasn’t an option.

Yet when my daughter was just a few weeks old, I questioned my decision. I was overwhelmed from the difficult birth, the physical exhaustion, the emotional shock of caring for a teeny human being. Stuck at home all day, I felt isolated. I was struggling to adjust to my new reality.

As the date of the simchah approached, I felt heartbroken to be missing such a meaningful occasion. But as much as I wanted to go, I was terrified of the what-ifs of actually doing it — traveling alone with a screaming newborn, managing on little sleep, dealing with the freezing cold.

Two weeks before the bar mitzvah, I felt stronger. Something inside me shouted louder than the fear. It told me to ignore my hesitation and that I was stronger than I imagined.

So here I am. I stand in Ben-Gurion Airport and am acutely aware that I cannot do this alone. My two hands cannot push the stroller and the luggage trolley. I have no choice but to give up the “I can do it all” persona I have mastered. I muster up my best smile and pleadingly ask a kindly middle-aged woman to push the trolley for me to the taxi station.

Never for one second of the trip do I regret my uncharacteristically impulsive decision. Though I am physically exhausted, I am simultaneously rejuvenated and transformed in a way I couldn’t have expected.

With each day, my fragile postpartum being realizes that I am capable of so much more. I learn the meaning of graciously accepting help. I learn that having a child does not have to mean being cut off from society. For a week, I am in a culture where children are the norm, and having one is not treated with a freakish interest.

That sense of isolation that staying home all day with a tiny baby can bring about is replaced by a sense of normalcy. I feel as if I am fully functional; accepted and welcomed into normal living. And most profoundly, I feel an immense sense of belonging. Every day, countless strangers direct me, help me, and offer whatever they can — their hands lift my stroller, their eyes watch my baby, and their hearts spontaneously shower love on me and my daughter.

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