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A Chanukah Miracle

Sarah Gold

“No one else can help me. You’re the only One who can give me children and a healthy pregnancy”

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

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T

he First Chanukah

Our wedding memories were three weeks fresh. I set up our own menorah in our own apartment, with its bare white walls, unstained carpet. The smiles on our faces were still timid as we lit a single candle. The glow from the candle, the newness and the excitement, encapsulated the moment before it became lost in the sea of eternity.

“And by next Chanukah we’ll probably have a baby,” I told my husband with a dreamy sigh. Everything was so perfect, why shouldn’t it continue to be so?

The Second Chanukah
I guess life’s definition of perfection didn’t match my own.

I sat by the menorah, brokenhearted and confused. My husband and I said Tehillim together and I choked down my tears. After he left I stared deep into the flames, trying to derive comfort and hope. Our second Chanukah. We’d had a baby.

The stillness of the night mocked my restless tossing as I attempted to control my panicked breathing. The doctor’s morose words suffocated my peace of mind. “You have a very high risk of losing this pregnancy.”

I was already in my fifth month when the doctor had uttered his grim prognosis, but his words were not new. Plagued by a rather large hematoma (blood clotting) behind the placenta, the doctors had been predicting doom since the beginning of the pregnancy. Yet the baby developed fine and the hematoma had begun to shrink. By the time I was four months, I had been breathing easily. Until the results of the newest ultrasound, that is.

“The uterine membranes are caving in from the hematoma.” The doctor’s words continued to haunt me that sleepless night, “If you make it to 24 weeks, the doctors could try to save the baby in the NICU.”

What had the doctor said? If. If I make it. I was 21 and having my first baby — anyone would be nervous — but what about having a baby that would not live?

I shivered as my mind transported me to the scene that had taken place less than three weeks ago, a short time after that frightening meeting. It was a few days after our first anniversary. My head fell back on the pillow, exhausted, as I heard the snip of the umbilical cord being cut. My baby was detached from me, born after just 22 weeks, facing the slim odds of an impossibly challenging world. Our little girl held on to life for a few hours.

Before the chevra kaddisha arrived, my husband and I were alone in the room with our tiny bundle, cherishing the moments we had to be parents. We gazed at her, tears flowing freely, writing volumes through the silence between us.

Then my husband broke the silence.

“This is what Hashem must feel.”

The revelation his words brought pierced my heart. I hadn’t yet stopped to give a thought to the Ribbono shel Olam, Who was not only experiencing my pain along with me but Who also, on a constant basis, sees His children come before Him prematurely — falling short of their potential. My baby might have been premature in this world, but in the World of Truth she was a perfected, holy neshamah. For how many people, though, is it just the opposite?

 

And Hashem must watch them make their poor choices every day. Oh, how I know what He must feel! That was what I felt as I stared at my premature baby girl: My child, how I wished to hold you complete and mature, how many dreams I had for you, how I longed to give to you my whole life long. And now this longing has been replaced by an eternal longing of could-have-beens.

“I know how You feel!” I cried by the Chanukah neiros, the image of my premature baby in my mind, while the flickering lights beckoned closeness to the One Above.

“Ki archah lanu hayeshuah,” my voice choked and for the first time its meaning was not lost on me. The concept of Mashiach had always felt distant, but now it penetrated my core. As I stared into the burning candles, my own heart burned with a fire of understanding. How could I long for my own personal yeshuah when the Shechinah was suffering?

The Third Chanukah

The third Chanukah proved far less moving. My emotions had become numb, my heart calloused in response to the difficulties that had transpired the previous year. I had grieved my loss, and had my hopes dashed month after month as we waited for another pregnancy. Over the summer, my 12-year-old sister became critically ill, passing away a few weeks later.

I discovered I was pregnant shortly after Rosh Hashanah, only to be told a few weeks before Chanukah that I had miscarried.

The miscarriage was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Until then I had held on to my emunah, davened with fervor, fought with all my strength to move on with life with a smile and to embrace every moment…

But after my miscarriage, emunah, tefillah, joy — all seemed impossible. I looked into the Chanukah candles. They seemed to beg me to derive strength and comfort from the Chashmonaim who had moved ahead despite facing an impossible foe: fighting a war against the mighty Greeks who outnumbered them.

Someone had told me a pasuk to say by the Chanukah neiros that was a segulah for having children. I summoned all my strength and managed to whisper: “Elokim Tzevakos shuv na, Habeit miShamayim u’re’eh u’pakod gefen zos — Hashem please look down from Shamayim and remember this vine.”

Somehow, I even managed a tear.

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