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Lifelines: Thanking the Doctor

C. Saphir

Doctors aren’t prophets. They have permission to heal, but not to make predictions. But only several years later did I learn Who the true Healer is

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

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“Where’s my emunah?” I retorted. “The fact that I’m having this baby, that’s my emunah.”

W hen I was expecting my sixth child, I was diagnosed with a condition that was life-threatening to both the baby and me.

“This pregnancy is not viable,” my doctor warned. “The baby will either die before birth or be born a vegetable. You might die, too.”

What is a Jewish woman supposed to do when she hears such words? The first thing I did was talk to Hashem. “Ribbono shel Olam,” I said, “the child born before this has serious mental and physical disabilities. They’re telling me that if this baby survives, it will be a vegetable. I can’t handle two disabled children!”

The next thing I did, together with my husband, was speak to a rav. He advised us to get a second opinion, and referred us to a specialist, Dr. Hartstein. “Right now, there is no immediate danger to you or the baby,” Dr. Hartstein told me. “So let’s monitor the situation. When it becomes dangerous, we can take action then.”

The condition did turn life-threatening — at 35 weeks of gestation. Dr. Hartstein performed an emergency C-section at that point, and my daughter Bracha was born completely healthy. That experience taught me that doctors are not prophets. They have permission to heal, but not to make predictions.

But it was several years later that I really learned Who the true Healer is.

After my ninth child, I went through a number of miscarriages. I had lost several pregnancies earlier in my childbearing career, but those were scattered between my healthy babies, and were not as difficult. These losses, in contrast, proved absolutely devastating. I became down and miserable, a shadow of myself. I went about my daily routine mechanically, doing what I had to do to run my house and take care of my kids, but without any joy or pleasure. I lost a lot of weight, because I had no appetite and I barely ate. I had no interest in doing anything, and I cried myself to sleep practically every night.

You have so much brachah in your life, I would scold myself. Appreciate what you have! Snap out of it!

But all that did was make me feel guilty.

During this time, my niece got married. I felt no excitement before or during the wedding, and when I made sheva brachos afterward, I went through the motions on autopilot. I didn’t care about the simchah at all; all I wanted to do was get through it.

At one point, I met a woman who worked in the local pharmacy and had helped me to get certain hard-to-obtain medications during my last failed pregnancy. “I want to thank you for all your help,” I told her. Then, I added, “I lost the baby in the end.”

As I said those words, I started crying. Thinking how silly and ungrateful it must look for a mother of nine children to be crying about a failed pregnancy, I apologized for crying.

“Don’t be sorry,” she responded. “Cry! Keep on crying! These are emeseh tears coming from a broken heart. Use those tears to daven, since Hashem is karov l’nishberei lev.”

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