Ezra is asleep in his crib. His lips purse and pucker as if he’s sucking on a bottle. He is peaceful, even when he is awake. Awake, he stares at everything, fascinated by his surroundings, and giving smiles as payment for even a moment of attention. When my students ask me for examples of modern day miracles, Ezra is the obvious answer.
We named our son Ezra, Hebrew for help and support, because he is the manifestation of all the help we received in our efforts to become pregnant. We were told it would be next to impossible to conceive on our own. Besides my rampant endometriosis, I have a low reserve of sub-par eggs, and my husband has morphology issues with his sperm. On our third IVF cycle, the doctor retrieved 18 eggs, but only one embryo survived to transfer five days later. Ezra. So yes, Ezra is the obvious answer. He is our miracle baby. But the truth is, my understanding of miracles has changed.
On November 16, 2011, when Ezra showed us his face for the first time, and I was so overcome with love and joy that I thought if I never accomplish anything else in my life, I will die happy, was this a miracle? Or was this a fortuitous confluence of unlikely events, the result of hard work and perseverance of many mere mortals? Or are those one in the same?
Out of a total of 42 eggs retrieved during three IVF cycles, only one was able to fertilize, grow, transfer, and implant in my uterus. One grew as a fetus for nine months inside of me–brain, heart, fingers, skin, hair, lungs. One became our baby boy, who continues to grow now, a strong infant, curious and hungry. Yes, there were several doctors, even more nurses, daily needles filled with just the right doses of medication. That is what a modern day miracle looks like.
But in my heart, it feels selfish. I know people who have had far more IVF cycles, and who may never become pregnant. I know people who lose their babies every time they do become pregnant. And I know people who don’t have the insurance coverage or financial resources to avail themselves of the wonders of this medical profession (or to afford adoption).
For years, I asked God, why not me? I would make a wonderful mother! I prayed. I cried. I tried everything. Yet, Ezra’s birth did not still the essential question, it just shifted its focus: Why me, now? I didn’t pray more, or harder, or louder, than others. Surely God does not choose to interfere in the lives of just some. So why do I have my miracle when so many others will never have theirs?
Maybe it’s the unanswered questions that lead us to a place of rock-hard certainty. Watching my modern miracle asleep beside me, I am awakened to an unshakeable sense of responsibility, not only to Ezra, but to others. I have been blessed, and I cannot take that for granted. It is not enough to name our son in thanks to those who made Ezra possible. What of those who are still praying, still crying, still asking, “Why not me?” I must be a model for Ezra to live up to his name–I must be a resource for those who have questions, who need guidance, who require emotional support. I owe this to those who helped me, and to those still searching for their answers. And then maybe, just maybe, I will have a hand in someone else’s miracle.
For more resources on infertility, check out fertility technology in Jewish law, details of IUIs and selective reduction, and our interview with infertility specialist, Melissa Ford.