I sit at my table, and wage war on myself
March 9, 2012 9 Comments
Sarah and I learned on last week that we were having our second miscarriage in seven months. In both cases, there was nascent life that simply stopped progressing – the sonogram view of the empty amniotic sac made my heart fall. The first time this happened, I held out tremendous hope for a miracle – that by some means the physicians had miscalculated the growth rate – that the foetal pole would blossom into the child we’ve wanted so much. That didn’t go well. This time, there was no pole at all – a yolk sac, but no indication of progressive sustained life.
And so turbulent emotions overtake me – in the non-deterministic manner of all turbulence, I find myself unpredictably swung from feeling to feeling, holding on to the relative stability of my workplace – a few know, most don’t, but it’s immersive enough that I can live in routers and switches for a few hours, seeking solace in the shared commiseration over frustrating policies or losing myself in problems there. You see, those problems can be solved.
When I was in college, I remember thinking that I did not want to have children. I believed the zero-population-growth people, and embraced the misanthropic view that the presence of humans was the problem with the world, rather than the purpose of it. I also remember thinking that I would be too much of a screwup to raise children, and that I should “not wade in the gene pool”, as was said by a person I know whose family has chosen to be childless (maybe they say “child-free” – I don’t know).
I do know that somewhere in the dating process with Sarah, I had the epiphany that I really, really wanted to have children with her. I was ready and eager before Sarah was, and when she became open to the idea, her severe health problems were in full bloom, rendering the idea moot.
For a long time, I believed that the likelihood this we would have children was low, and tried to get okay with that. I served as gabbai (sexton) for many years, and one of the things I really looked forward to was that the gabbai is the one who gets to publicly name all of the daughters born in the community. I grabbed onto that with both hands, and my eyes would get teary each time I said it. Seeing all of the britot (circumcisions) of the boys, likewise I would get teary. It was a solitary kind of hurt – no one asked about it, and I didn’t volunteer anything. I didn’t want to make any of my internal struggle public. I read the book of tehillim (psalms) several times asking that God either grant my prayer or remove the longing, and I eventually found a stable sort of peace about it. Part of that stability included thinking that this was a Divine decree – that the sins of my past life had been those which merited karet v’ariri (excision & childlessness). That self-flagellating approach was pretty seductive – conversations with RDBF, who indicated that there was not the slightest rationale for believing this, and describing my thoughts as theologically problematic did not shake the allure of seeing this denial as a form of intentional punishment from God.
A few years ago, the possibility started getting a little more real: Sarah’s health had been improving, and that dovetailed with her increasing desire. Since then, I’ve let myself get extremely eager and can really feel the pull. I’ve been much more in touch with the desire to be a child’s jungle gym, and to do all of the quotidian tasks of parenthood – pick up sick kid from kindergarden? Sure! Order diapers by the pallet? Absolutely! And so it came to be that 2011 was the year we expected to start trying in earnest.
And now this.
My mouth tastes like ashes. The Biblical image of seeing something wonderful and having it denied you is Moses looking out over the promised land, after he has been told that he will not live to enter it. I can imagine how he felt.
Some thoughts dominate me:
The essence of the tziduk ha-din (acceptance of Divine judgement, said at funerals) is Job 1:21: יהוה נתן ויהוה לקח יהי שם יהוה מברך… (…the LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed is the name of the LORD.
Here, my prayers are for acceptance, for understanding of God’s will. After all, where was I when God put the world on its foundation? Though I don’t understand the Divine plan, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a good reason for it, and maybe I was right before about what I deserve.
But then there’s the rest of me – less serene, and more angry. This is the part of me that wants to “rage against the dying of the light”, to call God down from His heaven and hold Him accountable for what He has done. Every day, we paraphrase Isaiah 45:7:
יוצר אור ובורא חשך עשה שלום ובורא רע אני יהוה עשה כל־אלה – [God] forms light and “creates” darkness, makes wholeness and “creates” evil; I am the LORD who makes all of these.
The verb בורא boreh (“creates”) is exclusive to God: it refers to creation ex nihilo, and implies that neither darkness nor evil would exist in this world were it not for God’s conscious decision and creation. Shall not the Judge of all Earth do justly, indeed.
I’m left with some pointed questions for my Maker – while I’m not eager to meet Him, I do want some answers about why the world is set up this way.
I waited to publish this so that I could calm down a bit. It helped some. Most of the people I’ve spoken to have been sympathetic, and a bunch of friends took care of us – it’s a measure of comfort to have friends, and it’s greatly appreciated. But it still hurts, and I still want the answer to my prayers to be different.