T he air outside is icy as I arrive at Ben-Gurion airport on a Friday morning. Pushing my stroller with one hand I’m trying not to crash my luggage trolley with the other.
I hadn’t planned this trip. In fact months ago I deliberately decided against it when we received the invitation to attend the family simchah. The event promised to be a rare and momentous family reunion from three continents; a gathering of cousins who hadn’t seen each other in decades — or ever. I was desperate to attend. But unsure how I’d feel only a few weeks postpartum I prudently decided it wasn’t an option.
Yet when my daughter was just a few weeks old I questioned my decision. I was overwhelmed from the difficult birth the physical exhaustion the emotional shock of caring for a teeny human being. Stuck at home all day I felt isolated. I was struggling to adjust to my new reality.
As the date of the simchah approached I felt heartbroken to be missing such a meaningful occasion. But as much as I wanted to go I was terrified of the what-ifs of actually doing it — traveling alone with a screaming newborn managing on little sleep dealing with the freezing cold.
Two weeks before the bar mitzvah I felt stronger. Something inside me shouted louder than the fear. It told me to ignore my hesitation and that I was stronger than I imagined.
So here I am. I stand in Ben-Gurion Airport and am acutely aware that I cannot do this alone. My two hands cannot push the stroller and the luggage trolley. I have no choice but to give up the “I can do it all” persona I have mastered. I muster up my best smile and pleadingly ask a kindly middle-aged woman to push the trolley for me to the taxi station.
Never for one second of the trip do I regret my uncharacteristically impulsive decision. Though I am physically exhausted I am simultaneously rejuvenated and transformed in a way I couldn’t have expected.
With each day my fragile postpartum being realizes that I am capable of so much more. I learn the meaning of graciously accepting help. I learn that having a child does not have to mean being cut off from society. For a week I am in a culture where children are the norm and having one is not treated with a freakish interest.
That sense of isolation that staying home all day with a tiny baby can bring about is replaced by a sense of normalcy. I feel as if I am fully functional; accepted and welcomed into normal living. And most profoundly I feel an immense sense of belonging. Every day countless strangers direct me help me and offer whatever they can — their hands lift my stroller their eyes watch my baby and their hearts spontaneously shower love on me and my daughter.