Writing this was inspired by reading this post by Mrs. P. It challenged me to face some issues which I sometimes wish I could just let go.
Being open to life and welcoming a baby were easy enough, emotionally, the first time around. I wanted a baby and prayed for a baby, and patted myself on the back for having such godly desires.
However, once I had a baby, things changed. New motherhood is always a challenge. Even though I knew what was right, even though I always believed Jewish couples should be open to children unless there are very serious circumstances that rule against it, I couldn't make my heart yield to it once more.
I know I risk sounding like a wimp, or someone of little faith, but I was terrified of becoming pregnant again after having my first baby. I was terrified even before my period returned – and it returned pretty soon, when Shira was only four months old, even though we gave her no bottles or pacifiers. Perhaps it had to do with early night weaning. But at any rate, after that happened, I realized I'm in "danger" of becoming pregnant again, and fretted anytime I wasn't actually having my period (which only happened two or three times before I became pregnant again, so you can imagine I fretted a lot).
"I need more time," I pleaded with God. "I need more time to recover, to be with my baby, to get used to being a Mom, to invest in the relationship with my husband." Yet in the meantime, fear was ruining both my marriage and my joy of motherhood. And like poisonous mushrooms, other, vain thoughts were springing in my mind: I need more time to do my thing. I don't want to endure the discomforts of another pregnancy (even though I'm blessed to have relatively easy pregnancies). I want to have the "perfectly" spaced children, so that I won't have to face "what people will say."
Judaism does not forbid birth control. Yet there must be good reasons to use it. And to my shame, even as I bargained with God, I knew my "reasons" were not good enough to seek rabbinical counsel and ask for authorization to use birth control. I felt ashamed when I faced the thought of a wise old man seeing right through my vanity and worldliness. "I, uh, would really like to wait until my abdominal muscles look just the same as they had when I was a young bride."
And so I went on. Outwardly, I did the "right thing" – trusted God and never used artificial birth control. But my heart was hardened towards the possibility of another pregnancy. "I'm just not ready," I told Him. "Surely you won't give me another child until I'm ready? At least not until she is a year old. Yes, a year, I think I could cope with that." Every month that passed with me still not being pregnant, was like a little victory.
When Shira was a year old, I still felt I'm not ready – and discovered I'm pregnant.
I wish I could say my entire attitude changed from that moment, but my heart was unyielding. At first, I refused to believe, and then I was unloving and bitter towards the new life that was being so carefully knitted together in my womb. I blamed God for "getting in the way" of whatever personal comforts I might have to forgo, for morning sickness, and for repeated changes in the youthful figure I was so glad to have back. I did not acknowledge the blessing that was so generously bestowed upon me. More than that, as ridiculous as it sounds, I was angry with God for taking my prayers so literally. Yes, I asked for a year, but surely He could have been generous enough to give me a bit more time?
But when I went in for my first ultrasound, a huge smile plastered itself on my face, and later I excitedly called my husband and told him our baby has a heartbeat. And a tad later, I started wondering how much damage I had done with my initial lack of love and acceptance.
As months passed I became fearful of punishment. I was anxious about my baby being taken away from me for being such an awfully ungrateful person. In the dark, I would cradle my belly and whisper, "I'm so sorry. I love you. I just want you to be born healthy and to hold you in my arms and be the mother you deserve."
When I was told my baby isn't growing as fast as it was expected, I shared this with some people I expected to support me, but instead I was chided for "spacing my pregnancies too closely". Someone else told me it's because I nursed Shira during my pregnancy, thus heaping even more guilt upon my shoulders. It was very hurtful to hear (especially as such opinions are completely unfounded), but it was even more hurtful to think that something may be wrong because of my wickedness which sent such negativity towards my tiny babe, right from the beginning.
I'm nearing the end of this pregnancy now, and I must admit, I'm more restless and anxious than last time around. I won't rest until the baby is safely born, healthy, and in my arms. All my petty thoughts and ridiculous calculations ("24 months apart is OK, 20 is too little") have shrunk away, and all I want right now is to hold my baby.
I took so much for granted. Each child is a blessing. Just because I was blessed with two pregnancies so soon, does not mean I will continue having baby after baby. There are many cases of couples who experienced unexpected fertility problems – explainable or not - after easily having one, two, three or more babies. We never know whether we'll have a dozen children, or a small family – because we never know God's plans for us, though surely they are good and right.
I look at my older daughter's precious beautiful face, and wonder how I could ever not want another dear little one like her. I spend my days singing to her as I work, telling stories, kissing boo-boos, tying little pigtails, giving warm baths – and I feel there is nothing I'd rather do than the same with another little one. I miss nursing and dearly hope to get back to it soon. I miss the feeling of a sweet soft little babe in the crook of my arm. "Forgive me," I plead with God, "and bless us in the ways You see fit. Your judgment is, and ever was, so much better than mine."