My son turns 8 years old this Thanksgiving Day. The last time his birthday fell on Thanksgiving was when he turned 2. I wasn’t with him that day. I didn’t get to see him blow out the candles on his slice of pumpkin pie. I didn’t get to sing “Happy Birthday” to him and I wasn’t there for his birthday party.*
Instead, on that day, I was in the hospital, taking care of my daughter. The funny thing is that I hadn’t even met her yet. Nobody had. I didn’t even know she was a she. I was about 22 weeks pregnant and we were already fighting with one another. I was fighting to keep her in and she was fighting to get out. Little did I know that I was about to spend the next 16 weeks flat on my back in a high risk pregnancy unit.
About two weeks earlier, I was going about my business taking care of a toddler and teaching my students how to read, when I was diagnosed with incompetent cervix. The situation was so dire that I was immediately sent to the hospital and the doctors didn’t know what the outcome would be. Ultimately, I had to undergo an emergency cerclage procedure. It was a scary and uncertain time, but now, six years later, I continue to be thankful for what I have and for what I didn’t know I had at the time.
My daughter is now a healthy 5 ½-year-old with lungs of steel (thanks to those two shots of betamethazone), and my son is coming into his own as a freshly minted adolescent who loves baseball and all things LEGO. But so many things had to come together in just the right way, in order for us to have gotten to this point. Friends and family cooked, cleaned, visited, listened, put up with, and otherwise took over when I was out of commission. To be honest, I was never much help in the cleaning or organizing departments, but our family’s routine definitely took a hit when things were suddenly sent into crazy mode. We needed help, and fortunately we didn’t have to look further than our own community. Both of our shul’s rabbis were there for us, members of our synagogue were there for us, our son’s preschool teachers were there for us, my doctors and nurses were there for us, and our friends and family both near and far were there for us. This was all extremely helpful in making me feel that things were going to be okay.
That year, we thought longer and harder about what it means to be thankful: for the food on our table, the friends and family we have, and the freedoms we enjoy. We must remember that the only thing that is predictable about this world is that it is unpredictable.
In our family, we regularly schedule donation pickups with different charities. We also make a point of collecting canned goods at our children’s birthday parties to donate to food banks to help them understand that not everyone enjoys the same luxuries as we do. Although these aren’t huge contributions to society and we can always do more, they are small deeds that we hope will somehow make an impact on our children and teach them about ways that they can positively influence and heal the world.
Sometimes it feels hard to ask for what we need, but we all need to do it at some point in our lives. So even if you don’t want to, don’t feel like you need it, or feel that others might be more deserving, just ask for the help you didn’t know you needed. And be thankful.
*For those of you wondering, don’t worry, I eventually did get to sing “Happy Birthday” to my son when we celebrated in the hospital a couple days later. With an Elmo cake, no less.