Contracting Body, Contracting World

Last night, I had preterm contractions. My due date is next week, but I had the kind of contractions that stop you in your tracks.

After being supine for a bit and drinking some much needed Vitamin Water, I got to thinking about contractions and how the contractions that come with physical labor parallel the labor of parenthood.



Jewish mysticism has its own take on the meaning of contractions.

When active labor kicks in, all of my attention will turn inward toward the immediate goal of getting the baby out of my body and safely into the world. And once we bring child number two home from the hospital, my physical world will contract as well. Most of my time will be spent in the intimacy of my home, to solemn hours of nightly feedings, to daily walks around my neighborhood and to introducing this new sibling to our 2-year-old son.

But there’s another level to the contractions of parenthood that connects to a Jewish mystical idea of tzimzum (literally, contraction.) The mystics teach that when God created the world, God was everywhere and needed to contract God’s self in order to make room for the world, and indeed, for humanity to exist. I think a similar thing is going on when you become a parent (let’s not let the God metaphor go to our heads, dear parents, but in some respects, we certainly are a newborn’s whole world.)

For my newborn children, my own world contracts so that I can focus on their safe passage through the first weeks, months, and even years of their lives. But as they grow older, I anticipate needing to contract myself, to pull back and enable them to flourish and thrive.

But contractions don’t exist in a vacuum. After contraction comes expansion.

Dasee Berkowitz

Dasee Berkowitz is an educational consultant, community builder and writer. Her pieces have appeared in Haaretz, the Forward, Kveller, MyJewishLearning and JTA. She currently lives in Jerusalem Israel with her husband and three children.

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