Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Of Sealing Wax, Cabbages, and Kings

Every morning when we woke those first three years Yaakov would sing a song to my tummy. He never really came up with any words, just a bizarre lullaby of cuddly, deep ridiculousness. We would always laugh together while he sang to our new hope filled life within me. About Brussels sprouts that he or she would have to eat in the future, about how beautiful mommy is with those sleep marks from her pillowcase, about how floppy eared Abba is. I would wake up expecting to laugh with my expectation.
The morning after he found me crying in the bathroom over a home pregnancy test I was bracing myself to hear that now painful song about periwinkles and pansies. He just turned to me and kissed me on the cheek and got up to wash negel vasser. I missed it. His singing to my flat, hopeful, fearful stomach. But while it hurt not to hear about inny bellybuttons and smiles, the memory of what it had felt like the night before hurt more. I was so scared that we didn’t have anything left, without the promise of those silly lullabies.
I knew during our second date that Yaakov was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, to be the father of my children. We would talk for hours while we dated about the type of home we would build. How many kids we wanted, how we would teach them to love Hashem and torah. The middos that we wanted to stress. I wanted to stay home with the kids until they started school, and Yaakov would stop kollel once we had our little ones and get a job to support us all. We went to the zoo and he told me to look at how mommy lioness and daddy lion were licking their baby cub clean so lovingly. Everything to us was about children.
When he proposed after three months of going out, asking me to help him to build a bayis ne’man b’Yisroel, he told me that he had known that I was the one when I talked so movingly of the home that I wanted to build. He wanted to build that home together with me.
Under the chupa with a Talis wrapped around us, enveloping us together, I cried at the beauty of it all, our souls uniting, the shechina resting between us. I never knew that I could be so alive, so richly satisfied. All I wanted to do was to build something everlasting with him.
It only got better. He was so wonderful in a thousand different ways that I discovered. So careful with everyone’s feelings, never an unkind work from his mouth, even when my Aunt Zelda would make some biting remark about his family. Taking out the garbage without being asked. Loving me so completely and telling me in his little songs how much he wanted to grow with me. The more I knew him, the more that I was aware of the miracle that Hashem had created someone so perfect for me. He knew exactly how to make me laugh out loud, so hard that my sides hurt; he knew exactly how to make our private moments so alive and meaningful for me.
When shana rishona passed we thought, oh let’s not get uptight. Things will happen in their own good time. I would see all the little children playing in the yard of our apartment complex, which abounded with young frum couples and smiled that one day soon I would have a little person with tiny muddy shoes and a peanut butter smeared face. A little Yaakov and me combo. I thought of the butterflies that Yaakov had said were flapping around me that morning.
We had been the kvatir, you know the couple who passes the baby from mother to father, for the fifth time. It’s supposed to be a great segula for children everyone says. Chaim, Yaakov’s best friend was so kind to make us part of the bris. Chaim and Pessi had gotten married a month after us. It was their third child. I came home and cried. The next week was when Yaakov stops singing to my tummy. He could feel how much it hurt. Not soon after I accidentally overheard him on the telephone, telling another one of his friends that although he really appreciated the thought, he felt that it would be better not to be Sandig again.
All that I could think about was having a child. Teaching our baby, singing, rocking to sleep. I thought of going for a fertility examination but I was afraid of what the doctor might find. No one said anything, not our families, not our friends, especially not Yaakov. He didn’t want to make me feel worse. But I felt as if everyone was always silently asking. Every month I would hope, waiting for my period not to come.
I started to pray harder than I ever had before. Davening for other women who were having difficulties. I chose out special pirke tehilim which I would recite faithfully. I began to make my own challah, instead of buying it from the bakery, to get that extra mitzvah. I would make sure to light candles early, with special kavanah, accepting shabbis hamalka and the Ribono Shel Olam’s complete control over the world. As I stepped into the mikva each month I would concentrate, asking my creator, my father, my king, please next month may there be growth, let it be different.
But asking, praying, begging didn’t make things different. I asked others to pray for me, joined more chesed organizations, gave more tzedaka, tried to improve my shmiras halashon…trying to make myself a worthy vessel.
Yaakov was so supportive the whole time. He never once forgot to give a kiss in the morning …but I knew it was hard for him too, he never said so but I would watch him transfixed for a moment watching his nieces and nephews play. I knew that he wanted children just as badly as I did…but he never put pressure on me, telling me about expectations. He was what kept me going, what kept me from spending all of my time in our room with the shudders down and the lights off, crying desperately. And I was so afraid that I would lose him. What if I found out…?
But a Friday evening came when we were sitting together at our empty Shabbis table, that we had bought together years before with its extra leaves so that it could fit as many as we wanted. He was singing with his eyes closed. About me, to me his eyshes chayil he was saying. And how could I be so selfish I was thinking. How could I let this giving, loving man look at this empty table possibly forever, because I was too scared to deal with the unknown? How could I do that to him? How could I do that to us?
The doctor was wonderful. After giving me a thorough examination, she assured me that all was in perfect order. That moment was pure relief. I wouldn’t lose him, we could still build together. We would croon about cauliflowers and teddy bears again and again and again, I just knew it. The doctor told me that it would be best if I could try to relax, sometimes it is the pressure and stress that causes everything to get out of synch. Take it easy, it would come…but it didn’t. It didn’t come.
But I kept on taking it easy, trying not to break down at night anymore. Not allowing myself to be overwhelmed when we would go to people’s houses and they would say to their children, k’sarah’ k’rachel, k’ephriam. I would tell myself that it was possible. I told myself to stay calm for a whole nother year after that. Just relax. Take it easy.
When I told Yaakov what the doctor had said he asked me jokingly, but in all seriousness if I wanted him to serenade me again, if it still hurt? I could think of no better way to relax and kissed him to tell him so. But after another year of faithfully going to the mikvah each month, it started to be painful again. Maybe the doctor was wrong. Maybe I really was infertile. She was a top specialist, but who knows. I started to slip again, back into worry, depression; I was dragging us down again. Yaakov tried to comfort me, but I just couldn’t stop thinking that I would lose all of our dreams.
Then I came home one night. I came home and all the lights were off. I wondered, where is Yaakov? He was supposed to make chicken for dinner. I started getting worried that maybe something had happened. No, I said, get a hold of yourself. He is probably just running late, or helping someone out with something or other. Then I opened the door into our bedroom to change, flicking on the lights and there was Yaakov laying there. He had been in our dark bedroom with the shades pulled down. I had never seen him crying before. He looked so embarrassed, like I had just seen his mask slip off.
He kept on looking away, as if he could not bear to meet my eyes.
“It’s my fault,” he said softly, slowly. Not understanding I moved toward him, trying to find whatever I was missing. “You cry at night. You do so much and all you want is children. You’re so deep and good and beautiful. I see you watching them all grow and all this time I didn’t even think…All this time we have been believing it was you who couldn’t…but the doctor told me that this whole time it was me who was the problem….I just had a thought today to ask my doctor for a specialist during the checkup…I had been wondering and I…I’ll give you a divorce. A get, no questions. I want to fix it all, to make it right…I have been holding you back all this time, stopping you.”
His body was pulled inward, waiting for my reply.
I thought then of how I had felt that moment under the chupa…I thought of all the moments since then. I lay down next to him and sang softly that you Yaakov are so completely perfect for me and that I shall cling to your love no matter what because I know in the deepest part of my soul that was your name that had been called out with mine by Hashem before I was even conceived. I have never been so complete as when I am with you.