T he “Welcome Home Mommy and Baby!” sign was bright and colorful, drawn by eager little people who hadn’t yet been told there was something wrong with their new brother. The older children, though, hung back, slightly scared, as Aviva made her grand entrance with baby in tow.

The little ones ran up to her immediately. “Mommy! Mommy!” But the bigger ones seemed to be waiting to take their cue from her.

Aviva, it’s all up to you. How you act right now will determine their relationship with their little brother for years to come.

She shook her head slightly — even she knew that was ridiculous — but she put on the widest smile she owned and cried, “Mazel tov!”

Relieved, they all rushed to crowd around the baby, sleeping in his infant seat.

Zevi was standing off to the side. Aviva glanced at him uncertainly. The ride home had been full of unnatural conversation and even more unnatural silences. After so many days apart — the hospital had kept the baby a while for testing — Aviva felt almost shy around her husband, who suddenly seemed closed off to her. Outgoing, talkative Zevi, had always been as open as a book, unlike her own complicated self. Yet now, she longed to ask him what he was feeling, but she didn’t know how, and some part of her was afraid of the answer.

Zevi walked slowly over to the small group clustered around the baby. With a strained smile, he looked down at the sleeping baby. Aviva watched as, hesitantly, he reached out a hand to stroke the baby’s cheek; watched as his gaze softened. Blinking, he turned away.

With forced cheeriness, he called out, “Nu, chevrah, who does the baby look like?” Amid the laughing and clamoring, he looked at Aviva and said, “Go get some rest. Didn’t you just give birth or something?”

It was almost the old Zevi, minus the sparkle.

Nodding, Aviva made her way upstairs, surprised to find how weary she really was. Was this what having a baby in your old age did? She snuggled deliciously under her covers, closing her eyes…

She’d barely begun to doze when she was awakened by little voices at her door. Opening her eyes with a start, she was aware of a vague feeling of disappointment, as if she’d been dreaming something achingly pleasant. Wincing as she stretched, she called out, “What is it, Tovale?”

“Tatty said to tell you the

baby’s hungry.”

Baby — hungry — Oh. That lingering feeling of wellbeing from her brief sleep dissipated, as something hard and cold clunked into place in her brain.

She’d been dreaming that she had no baby. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 543)