| Musings |

The Child We Were Given   

     Our princess spent her first day of life undergoing a battery of tests and scans

Iwas about an hour post emergency C-section, with my husband at my side in a dark, quiet room. The hum of hospital nightlife continued in the distant background as we rejoiced together at the birth of our little princess.

At three a.m. Thursday morning, we had hours to go before we could start making phone calls, informing her proud grandparents, aunts, uncles, and four older sisters of her arrival. For now, ours was a world of three.

And then, our world was rudely intruded upon with the arrival of a team of doctors, who coldly informed us that our baby had been blessed with a cluster of birth defects. None of them were life threatening; they weren’t even lifelong. Each, with varying degrees of severity, would either correct itself or was correctable with surgery. And yet, a few of the issues were serious, and their corrective surgeries were serious, too.

The doctors retreated, and my husband and I were left to wrap our minds around this new information. Our room was suddenly darker and quieter. Deep in my postpartum haze, I vacillated between euphoria: “This is my special miracle princess! I waited six years for her, and nothing can dampen my joy!” and despair: “This is too much for me to handle. Hashem, why couldn’t you give me a healthy baby?”

Morning dawned, and we made our rounds of celebratory phone calls. We shared some details with some people, more with others, and fewer with still others. Our princess spent her first day of life undergoing a battery of tests and scans, both to prepare her for her first serious surgery, which would take place early Friday morning, and to determine whether she had additional issues.

On Friday, after the emotionally harrowing ordeal of sending our one-day-old baby into surgery, my husband went home to take care of our older children. Because I had given birth via cesarean, I would remain hospitalized over Shabbos; Baby would be in the NICU as she recovered from surgery. We made arrangements to have the children spend Shabbos with my parents, and my husband would join me and the baby in our “luxurious” quarters.

After getting the children all packed up and settled at my parents — no easy feat considering they were homesick and desperate to meet their new sister — my husband made the return trip to the hospital.

He came bearing gifts: fresh challah from my mother and a heartwarming care package from my younger sister. She’d sent fruit, chocolate, and that week’s magazines. We set up our hospital room as Shabbosdig as possible (thank you Bikur Cholim!), and made last-minute Good Shabbos phone calls to the children.

One silver lining of having waited six years for this princess was that my parents didn’t have their hands full of crying toddlers; although the children weren’t happy that we weren’t with them, they were old enough to understand.

With the onset of Shabbos, our world was once again reduced to three: my husband, our baby, and me. No phone calls, no older children, just the serenity of Shabbos and space to come to terms with our new reality — and to remind ourselves of the brachah of this miracle and the constant, comforting presence of Hashem in our lives.

But every time we made peace, every time we accessed our emunah and allowed it to bring us a measure of serenity, we’d be thrown a wrench.

Shabbos morning, we visited our princess in the NICU. We were fortunate to be there as the attending doctor made her rounds, and she updated us on Baby’s progress and prognosis.

And the wrench: “I’ve been researching her condition a bit more, and I discovered there are some more hidden defects often associated with it. We’ll be running more tests throughout the day. It’s very likely that the results won’t be what we want them to be.”

Our Shabbos morning seudah was subdued as we took in this new information. Afterward, my husband slept. I couldn’t sleep; the darkness that edged my world left me restless. I sat down with the Family First my sister had sent and began reading.

It was Issue 800, 7 Tammuz, July 6 2022, the date my daughter’s journey in This World began. I turned to the last page, and the Flashback quote hit me like a punch in the gut.

“You can live each day, mourning for the child you were not given, that perfect child… or, you can cherish the child that you were given. You can find her strengths, help her with her weaknesses…”

The original article had been written by Leah Gebber in Issue 287, Turning Tides: Filling the Canvas with Color.

The darkness receded from my world once again, and I read those words over and over again. Cherish the child that you were given. Cherish the child that you were given.

Defects or not, this was our precious child, our special miracle. Hashem chose us as her parents, and He would hold our hands every step of the way. We just had to make sure we never lost sight of His Presence, never lost sight of the gift we had been granted.

The ensuing weeks brought many ups and downs. No doubt there will be plenty more as we navigate this new journey. But every time darkness threatens to creep in, I repeat those words that so providentially and so very timely made their appearance in my life: Cherish the child that you were given.

The results of those Shabbos scans were inconclusive; we need to redo them in several months. But no matter what the results and no matter what the outcome of this entire ordeal, we will hold on to this truth: this is our precious child, gifted to us by One Who loves us.

Through it all, we will cherish the child we were given.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 816)

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