| Split |

Split: Chapter 1 

Even without any medical background, my husband and I could tell that something was wrong

As told to Musia Slavin by Shoshana Green 


After ten long years of waiting, our baby was finally on the way.

My husband and I peered at the screen, eager to see our child’s form on the ultrasound. The images flickered: A strong heartbeat. Ten tiny toes. Perfect fingers. His head.

The probe slowed, then stopped. The screen showed our baby’s face, but was that… a duck bill?

Even without any medical background, my husband and I could tell that something was wrong.

The doctor went out to the hall, returning with a huddle of colleagues. They gathered around the machine.

“Yes, definitely a cleft lip,” we heard one say.

That’s when my heart dropped. A cleft lip — after all this?

Ten years of infertility treatments and a string of disappointments. Ten years filled with hurtful comments and time that trickles, oh, so slowly. Ten years of constant aching and draining longing for something that felt so distant.

Then, within a day, the ten years were over. We went from anxious to excited, from a barren couple to expectant parents.

How could a child with a disability be the gift we’d waited a decade for?

I looked at the ultrasound again, my eyes running over the outline of my child’s form. Was this the child I prayed for? Was he to be born with lips and palate split in two? Would he be able to eat properly? Speak clearly? Would he spend his life looking different?

We trudged back to our small Yerushalayim apartment, where I collapsed in tears. My father, across the ocean, left his meeting at work when he saw me calling again and again.

“Is everything okay?” His voice was rusty with concern. Later, he told me that he was cold when he dialed, thinking about all the things that could be so horribly wrong.

“Ultrasound… bad… cleft,” I hiccuped between sobs.


“Oh,” he said. A pause. “That’s all?” His gentle tone reached me all the way in Eretz Yisrael. “Oh, honey. A cleft lip isn’t such a big deal. It just needs some sewing. Bubby could probably fix it — if only we could get a baby in her sewing machine.”

I would have laughed if I weren’t so busy catching my breath. My father’s certainty reassured me. A cleft was fixable. Our child would be all right. Our family would be okay.

But later, as I made supper, folded laundry, prepared to teach, those thoughts kept turning back. Of all people, why did Hashem have to pick us? After waiting so many years, didn’t we deserve a perfect child? Yes, we could get through it — but I wanted a beautiful baby, one I could proudly show our friends. I imagined the whispered conversations. “Did you hear about the Greens? After all these years, they finally had a baby!” Then would come the big, “But…”

The questions tormented me for weeks. After years of teaching, I could speak about emunah and bitachon for hours. I knew the words that formed the answers I needed — but the words didn’t translate into the tangle of thoughts running through my mind. Why us? Why now? I was confused, exhausted, disappointed.

Whenever I spoke to my parents and in-laws, though, our conversations were rosy and filled with sunshine. I couldn’t let anyone know that I was upset. After all, who was I to be frightened? We waited so long, we should be happy with whatever Hashem sends, right?

But life is complex and gratitude isn’t simple. Our child was a gift from Hashem, and our particular gift came with challenges.

A few weeks after we discovered the cleft, my husband and I took the bus to visit Rav Yaakov Edelstein ztz”l and ask for chizuk.

“You’re allowed to ask Hashem for something else,” he told us. “Your tefillos still have power.”

My bakashos changed. When I swayed in front of my siddur, asking Hashem to grant us all good, I spoke to Him about our precious child. Can You make this all go away?

And in case Hashem’s plan was for our baby to still have a cleft lip, regardless of our tefillos, I asked Him to at least change the prognosis. Can You please leave it at a cleft lip and not a full cleft palate?

Regardless of what the future held, my husband and I would need Hashem’s strength to support us. Please, give us the ability to overcome this challenge.

And one last prayer, this one formed of heartache and acceptance. Hashem, please send us a child as perfect and as whole as You deem fitting.

Then I’d close the small sefer and cradle my growing belly.

to be continued…

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 725)

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