Back in September, this rabbi was keeping a secret from her congregation on Yom Kippur. I was eating on a fast day! There was no shame involved because I was pregnant. While I had not yet made the big news public, I was already daydreaming about a summer maternity leave.
When I miscarried that first potential life, I was deeply saddened, but I bounced back. Using the mantra "this too shall pass," my life was put back together after that setback. When I found out I was pregnant a second time this year, I felt like I had won the lottery. Unfortunately, I miscarried a second potential life when I was on the other side of the planet, chaperoning and guiding a congregational trip to Israel. So, I plastered a smile on my face, put my sunglasses on, inhaled a lot of over-the-counter drugs to deal with the physical pain, and stayed busy by involving myself in other people's lives.
As people like to tell me, I lead a full and rewarding life. I have a loving husband by my side, a roof over my head and a rewarding career that enables me and others to flourish. But this week, my life seems so empty and broken.
This is the week that I was supposed to give birth to my first child and celebrate my first Mother's Day as a mom. Nobody told me how hard this week would be. Every time I hear a commercial for a Mother's Day sale or brunch, I feel like I am being taunted. Every time I overhear a conversation about someone's Mother's Day plans for this Sunday, I do everything I can to keep the tears in. Just the sight of a pregnancy bump makes me walk in the opposite direction. Every time I look at my husband, I feel less than adequate and that I have let him down. Not only do I feel left out when I see all of the pictures of children on my friends' Facebook walls, but my faith is being tested as well.
There is a blessing in Judaism called Asher Yatzar, which accounts for the complexity of the human body. It is part of our morning prayers and commonly recited after bathroom usage.
Blessed are You God, sovereign of the universe, Who formed people with wisdom and created within him many openings and many cavities. It is obvious and known before Your Throne of Glory that if but one of them were to be ruptured or if one of them were to be blocked it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You (even for a short period of time). Blessed are You, God, Who heals all flesh and acts wonderously.
When I pray, sometimes I just recite the Hebrew words found in the prayer book without always concentrating on the meaning. This does not hold true for Asher Yatzar. The words if but one of them were to be ruptured or if one of them were to be blocked it would be impossible to survive jump out at me every time. These words are a constant reminder that there is something physically wrong with me, that prohibits the body God gave me from carrying a child to term.
As a result, like so many others, I stand before God day after day as a broken woman. The pain that I carry with me helps me relate to the pain of the people in my community. The compassion and empathy I feel for those in conflict comes from a genuine place. But really, I could do without this pain. I don't know what I want or what I need this week.
Who am I kidding? With Mother's Day around the corner, I just want to be a mom.
Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin is the spiritual leader of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in Queens, New York and in the fifth cohort of Rabbis Without Borders.