Not all promises are lost. One remains. It’s the one I made long ago
Once upon a time, I suffered from secondary infertility. Trying to remember that pain is like hearing a train’s distant whistle — it’s not close enough to hurt your ears, not anymore.
I found out I was expecting on Pesach, which felt auspicious. And then my son was born, weeks early, on Chanukah, and he was the light in my former darkness. It felt like G-d was giving me a special blessing.
Exactly one year later, the blessing seemed anything but. My child had a tentative diagnosis of autism, and his symptoms were pretty severe. I threw our lives into any therapy that had good data behind it.
Along with my hishtadlus, I also had a secret weapon. I would go to any bris I’d hear about, and when the baby would cry and the congregation would chant, “K’sheim shenichnas la’bris, kein yikaneis l’Torah, l’chuppah, u’l’maasim tovim,” I’d add my own prayer, repeatedly. I’d say, “Hashem, You have to keep Your promise. I gave him a bris, and You have to do the rest. Torah, chuppah, maasim tovim. It’s on You to make that happen.”
Yes, yes, I know. I’m a lawyer’s daughter, and I realize there are a whole lot of logical fallacies in my argument. But I deployed my secret weapon any chance I could get, confident that Hashem would fulfill the promises I set on Him.
When my son turned bar mitzvah and his mind was still trapped in toddlerhood, I put away my plea bargains, and stashed it where grown-ups place all former childish notions. Now, I go to a bris and simply wish the new mother mazel tov. I bury the sadness under the crushing carcass of acceptance and perseverance, and get on with my life.
I busy myself with tasks and errands and work and shopping and cooking, forever on the hamster wheel of accomplishments. Until Shabbos arrives, and I sit with my children around the Shabbos table. They are loud and chattering, their eyes bright and inquisitive. All except one.
I wait until I know I can’t anymore, and then I get up and retrieve my son from his usual place by the window. He is there alone, rocking back and forth. I call him back to the table to eat something. As his distracted eyes meet mine, and he begrudgingly returns to the table with a goofy half-smile, I’m reminded of something important.
Not all promises are lost. One remains. It’s the one I made long ago, suffering from secondary infertility. I promised Hashem to take care of the child He would give me, the one He gave me Pesach time. And here I am, undertaking to keep that promise.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 688)
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