Tag Archives: G-d

Miracles

This is the story of how my youngest child almost didn’t exist. He wouldn’t be here today if I had followed my doctor’s advice. She admitted she was wrong. I wonder how many other times she and her colleagues have made such a grievous error.

 

My youngest son was conceived the week of September 11, 2001. A day that will live on in our memories – a day that changed the world. By the time September was over, we had done a pregnancy test, and confirmed that we were indeed pregnant, again.

 

My first three pregnancies had been anything but smooth – but the children were born healthy and well, and were thriving as normal children were supposed to. Since my third son was born I had suffered two miscarriages, just over a year apart from each other. So finding out I was pregnant was exciting as well as scary. Within a few days of the positive test I started to feel nauseous in the mornings – a good sign that the pregnancy was sticking. (I hadn’t felt that with the last pregnancy, and I had miscarried).

 

I was in contact with my doctor early on, as I didn’t want to lose this pregnancy too. The minute a woman learns she is pregnant a space is made in her heart for this child. She starts dreaming about the child she carries within her. It’s instinctive. And I am no different. I took progesterone hormone supplements (those of you who have had to take them, you know that I don’t mean pills to swallow) in order to just boost my body’s ability to handle the pregnancy. I didn’t pick up my other kids, although the youngest was already 3 and didn’t really need picking up that much. I did everything I was told to do to ensure this baby stuck.

 

I was two months pregnant. I felt a twinge in my lower back. Ok, I guess I need to lie down. It got worse. I went to the bathroom – I was bleeding. Oh no here we go again I thought. But worse than the bleeding was the pain. We got to the hospital, where their immediate concern was the belief that I had an ectopic pregnancy. This is a pregnancy that doesn’t make it to the uterus, but gets stuck in the fallopian tubes, and can be life threatening if untreated.

 

Tests results came in – negative. They felt that an in depth ultrasound was needed to check if the baby was still viable. The ultrasound technician declared her findings – there was a fetal sac, but no heartbeat was visible, and at this stage of the pregnancy it should be. Her conclusion – the baby was not viable. My ob/gyn was paged.

 

Meanwhile I was still in agony. They had diagnosed me first with the ectopic pregnancy, then they put me on drugs to cure a kidney infection – which they quickly realized was also a misdiagnosis. They prescribed me morphine – even tho in my mind I was still pregnant and shouldn’t have been taking it. The pain was that bad.

 

I remember lying in bed in my hospital room, with Dr ThreePushes sitting next to me, holding my hand, trying to convince me that I had lost my baby, and that I need to let her do a D&C to clean out the womb, something that I was unfortunately familiar with from my first miscarriage. I told her that she was wrong, that despite what the ultrasound showed I was still pregnant. I told her I felt pregnant, and that I know my own body. Every time I fell pregnant I knew right away. With both miscarriages I knew in my soul that my babies were lost. I didn’t feel that now. I felt deep within me that this baby was still viable. My doc was skeptical, tried very hard to shake me out of my deep denial. She told me the blood tests showed low level HcG – another sign of a missed miscarriage. She wanted to schedule a D&C for the next day. I persuaded her to hold off, at least until after I had spoken with my rabbi.

 

The rabbi was unreachable for most of the next 24 hours – which was most unlike him, but I refused to allow my doctor to go ahead with the D&C until I had spoken it over with my spiritual leader. However, Dr ThreePushes explained to me that leaving it much longer, if in fact the baby had passed, could compromise my health.

 

I managed to get her to agree to do another ultrasound. I told her that if this ultrasound was the same as the other one performed the day before, that I will allow her to go ahead and schedule the procedure. It frustrated me to not be able to be in contact with my rabbi, but I had to accept it.

 

We went downstairs to the ultrasound place. I was shaking like a leaf. I knew deep in my bones that I had not lost this baby. But medical science didn’t seem to agree with me. The technician called us in – when she saw us she did a double take. She was the same tech as the day before and the look on her face was that we were wasting her time and resources.

 

I lay on the table as she prepared all of the equipment. At that moment I gave it all up to G-d. I really felt that I communicated with Him, lying there on that cold ultrasound table. I put it all in His hands and told myself that I would trust that whatever would be, would be the right thing. I had a tremendous sense of peace come over me.

 

Meanwhile the waves of resentment were emanating from the tech. She didn’t want to be there. She made that damn obvious. She consulted with her superior, who probably told her she had no choice in the matter, as she started the scan.

 

I was too frightened to look at the screen, so I chose to look at her face instead. I had a profile view. I was perplexed to see a tear run down her cheek two minutes into the scan. She picked up the phone, murmured something into it, and continued to scan. Within 30 seconds there was a doctor in the room, having a hushed conversation in French with the tech. The doc took over the scanning. There was a look of blatant shock on both their faces, and at this point I got really very scared.

 

I finally had enough, asked them to stop conversing in French whispers around me, and tell me in plain English what the heck was going on.

 

They explained. Where yesterday there had been an empty fetal sac, today there was a “normal for two months” fetal sac and a heartbeat. A strong heartbeat. They showed me on the screen where the heart was beating. They said that it was absolutely impossible that this could have changed in 24 hours. Impossible. But there it was, in front of their very eyes. They were both very moved, and a little disturbed.

 

I was returned to my hospital room, feeling as if I had won the lottery. I knew it was still a precarious situation but I was right. My baby was viable. Dr ThreePushes showed up soon after, also in shock. She told me, later, after the birth of the baby, that everytime she came across someone in a similar situation whose intuition told them they were still pregnant, she insisted that they have an ultrasound a few days later, just to make sure they would not be aborting a healthy fetus.

 

This was truly miraculous – there was no other way to explain it. I wonder what my rabbi would have said – but at the end of the day it didn’t matter. My baby was not dead. They couldn’t explain the pain. They thought that perhaps I miscarried a twin. But at that moment all that mattered was that I was right, and if I had listened to medical advice I would have lost my baby.

 

The pregnancy did not improve much. I was on bedrest until I gave birth. 30 weeks on bedrest with many complications, but this baby was a stubborn little fighter and hung in there until 37 weeks and 4 days into the pregnancy when I went into labour. After 20 hours of labouring the baby decided he didn’t want to come out, he liked his accommodations. A caesarean was performed, and our little miracle was born healthy – 5lbs 12 ozs, 10 fingers, 10 toes, absolutely perfect. Baruch Hashem.

 

Many times I think back to that afternoon – that moment when I gave all my trust to G-d. If only we could feel that kind of trust on a regular day when nothing huge is at stake. That is a level of faith I hope one day to reach.

If I cover my hair will that draw attention to me?

In the Torah – Bamidbar 5.18 – it talks about the Sotah – a woman suspected of adultery – who is made to uncover her hair. The rabbis extrapolated from this that a woman back in the day kept her hair covered as a general rule. Therefore Jewish married women are commanded to cover their hair. The Shulchan Aruch commands a man not to pray or recite blessings if there is a woman in front of him with a “tefach”(4 inches) of skin uncovered that would usually be covered, this applies to hair as well as it is considered part of the body that is normally not seen. I could cite many more sources that say the same or similar. I will point out though, that at the time of all these discussions, it was the societal norm for women of all faiths to cover their heads, not just the Jewish women.

 

I have heard all the arguments for hair covering, and indeed I covered my hair for the whole 12 years I was married. I had as much fun with it as I could. I wore snoods and berets, bandannas and tichels, and had many different styles and colours of wigs. Yet I hated it at a purely visceral level. I felt as if I stuck out, as if by the mere fact of acting modestly by covering my hair, that I was drawing attention to myself  – exactly the opposite of what modest behaviour is about. (I will be the first to admit that I love attention, but for the right reasons.) This contradiction bothers me still, although my outlook has changed somewhat with the benefit of time’s passage. I now know that I cannot control what other people may think when they look at me. I could walk around in a burka and I am sure there would be someone somewhere who would find that simply irresistible.

 

The sheitels (wigs) that some women wear these days seem to defeat the whole purpose of kisui rosh (head covering). A woman’s hair is representative of her beauty, and therefore a married woman covers it so that her beauty is not shown to other men other than her husband. These custom sheitels that cost thousands of dollars potentially draw more attention than the woman’s own hair would attract. But apparently, the idea is also to remind the wig wearer that she is married, even if it looks like she is wearing her own hair. She knows that she is wearing a wig and will therefore be reminded to act in a modest fashion as befits her status as a married woman. She will want to contemplate her inner beauty when her outer beauty is covered. What about married men, don’t they need reminding sometimes that they are “taken”, especially as most men in the religious world do not wear wedding rings? Don’t they need to look to their inner selves?

 

When I received my Get I did not come home, rip off my wig and state that never again would I cover my hair. It took me a couple of weeks of deep thought and contemplation to come to the decision that I felt it was no longer appropriate for me to wear a head covering.  I covered my hair during my marriage because that was what my spouse had requested, not because it was the right thing to do. I was no longer married, so why did my hair need to be covered? So people should know that I had been married? Oh please, the kids that are constantly underfoot are proof enough of that.   I have always been respectful of my surroundings, and always cover my hair in shul and at religious functions, and at times, I cover my hair so as not to make my kids feel as if they stick out like a sore thumb. In fact, even though I say I do not cover my hair, it is covered a lot of the time – car pool, Shabbat, barmitzvahs, weddings, etc. But there are times – grocery shopping, doctor appointments and the like, where I feel the wind on my scalp and feel free.

 

There are some modern Rabbis who have ruled that a divorced woman is allowed to uncover her hair if she believes it will help her chances for another shidduch, and some that say she can uncover her hair but only after she moves to a different town. Some say not at all, that she may as well walk around naked. I guess it all depends on who you ask IF you ask. I needed to do what was right for me and my emotional state at that point in time. Maybe one could even argue, that uncovering my hair was showing my grief for the end of my marriage. After all there is no shiva when a marriage has died / failed.

 

I have been judged by a few and told that I was ruining my children’s reputation by not covering my hair, and what kind of example am I setting for them etc. I don’t do things for other people to see and applaud. If I am going to do a mitzvah I will do it because I want to, because I desire that spiritual connection with G-d. I don’t give a fig about what everyone else thinks. I think society these days is so concerned with what others will think that we lose sight of the real picture. Religion and spirituality is first and foremost about the relationship between a person and their deity – and that is a private and personal relationship. I wonder if G-d really cares what colour my skirt is, or if I am wearing panty hose. Doesn’t He see through all the outer trappings into the soul within? If I am comfortable in the summer in my barelegged-ness and therefore more able to serve G-d b’Simcha (with joy) – isn’t that more important than sweating like a pig and grumbling about doing a mitzvah in the heat of the day.

 

Is what I wear on my head more important than what is in my heart? I know there are reasons why we do all these things, some due to custom, some to law, but is it really fair to call someone religious based on the way they dress? Is behaviour not more important? Religious to me means someone who does their best every single day to serve Hashem and keep His laws. There are many “frum” people sitting in jails all over this continent. I don’t think of these people as religious, to me religious means honest. It has nothing to do with dress codes. Being religious means adhering to a code of decent upstanding behaviour.

 

I have been asked many times since the big “reveal” if I will cover my hair when/if I remarry. Initially I said no no no, no way no how, not for all the tea in China. I do not want to be shackled again doing something for the wrong reasons. BUT I have more knowledge now, and if I choose to cover my hair, I will be doing it because I feel it is the right thing to do, because it is something that I want to do, and is not being foisted on me by my potential spouse and the society in which I live. I am not afraid to be different. Those who know me know that I do not care what people think of me.

 

I have grown in my spirituality in the last couple of years, I really feel as if I have renewed my connection with Hashem, on my own terms, as a woman, as a mother, as a person. Any decision I make now brings with it the benefit of hindsight, and of understanding my own personal journey. It is for no one but G-d to judge me and my motivations. He sees what is in my heart. It is Him I strive to serve with the best of my abilities. If in the fullness of time I decide to cover my hair, it will be because I believe it to be the right thing for me as a Jewish woman.

 

I am very interested in your views on this topic – please don’t hesitate to share them with me here.