In those days, the 1970s, nobody talked about miscarriage, so I grieved in silence. Only my husband and my mother knew.
In those days, doctors told you to wait a few months after a miscarriage before trying to get pregnant again. During those months, I found a lump in my breast.
In those days, the doctors recommended waiting a few months to see if the lump would go away by itself–maybe it was an enlarged milk duct from the pregnancy, they suggested.
It wasn’t. It was a tumor.
In those days, nobody talked about breast tumors either, so I trembled silently. Only my husband and my mother knew.
I was all of 22 years old.
But God was good to me. The tumor was benign and I became pregnant right after the surgery, giving birth to my oldest child nine months later.
I didn’t think I would ever get over that miscarriage, but I did. Even though I still, almost 40 years later, remember the due date for that could-have-been-a-baby. And with each successive pregnancy during which I bled heavily, I lived in terror that all that bleeding would result in another miscarriage.
I had always wanted five children. A few years after my third child was born, I negotiated with my husband (who would have stopped at three) and I became pregnant. I secretly hoped I’d have twins so I’d get the five kids I wanted.
But something about this pregnancy seemed wrong from the start. I had always gotten pregnant quickly, but this time it took much longer. I had a bad feeling and was sadly vindicated when I started to bleed and lost the pregnancy. Unbelievably, it had been a twin pregnancy. The loss was terrible.
That time I needed two trips to the hospital for two D&Cs, and bled for months. I became very depressed. I still remember sitting on the floor near my bed, and when I looked up at the clock, four hours had passed.
Finally, after all that bleeding stopped, I got pregnant again. Though I did bleed as I always did early in pregnancy, the pregnancy held. In the delivery room, after my son was born, I got hysterical, telling my husband to make sure he was breathing and had the right number of fingers and toes. The nurse tried to calm me down by telling me everything was OK, but I could not calm down. I was pretty sure that was the last child I would have and that, combined with the relief of having given birth to a healthy baby after all that trauma and blood, made me sob for all I had gone through to have him, grateful for this precious gift.
But I still really wanted baby #5, and wasn’t ready to give up hope. So when, for a “push present,” my husband wanted to buy me a candelabra for Shabbos with four branches, I chose one with five, with an extra silver piece to make the middle look like there was no place for a candle, but was part of the design. If, as I hoped, I did have another baby, the piece would be lifted off and a candle could be inserted.
Flash forward to today. I have four children, all adults now, all married. And that fifth branch, the candelabra’s middle pole? I eventually removed the extra silver piece, and put it away. The candle in that middle branch was lit for the first time on the Shabbos after my first grandchildren were born, nearly 11 years ago. That branch is for all my grandchildren now. Including the twins who were the first, and the second set of twins, who just arrived.
Sometimes God works like that.