A little over two years ago on October 10, 2015, I gave birth to my first child, a girl. Named after my two grandmothers, Helen and Rose, she was the first proof for me that the past lives on into the future. With all my faith in Judaism, mysticism, and everything holy, I didn’t know that I truly believed in miracles until Helen came into the world. So two years later on December 10th, 2017, my second daughter was born, proving once again that the universe is full of surprises.
It’s true what people say: The second time is nothing like the first. During my first pregnancy I wore pretty dresses and read out loud to the baby in my belly. I would rest as much as possible and make notes of how I was feeling. The second time around, with a toddler at home, I wore sweatpants all day, combed spaghetti out of my hair on a regular basis and one time, I was so tired from chasing my 2-year-old around that I started to put on one of her pull up diapers instead of my own underwear.
But some things were better. For example, among my friends and family, it had already been established that Adrian (my significant other) and I have an interfaith household. We weren’t concerned about letting people know that our child would be raised Jewish for my side and Mexican Catholic for his. People knew this already. They also witnessed firsthand the beauty of what our interfaith family had to offer. We have experience raising Helen with all of the holidays and all of the festivities of both cultures and religions. We weren’t afraid that it wouldn’t work; we knew and know that it does work. This was a relief. What wasn’t a relief was how much pain I was in the second time around… again.
At three in the morning, on a freezing winter night in Brooklyn, my contractions were two minutes apart and the doctor sent me home. I was only three centimeters dilated and he told me to go home or walk around the block for two hours. Adrian and I did neither. Instead, we did what any Jewish Mexican-Catholic family would do in a situation like that: We ordered tacos. Yep, 12 tacos were delivered to the entrance of the hospital with two cans of soda and enough salsa and guacamole to make a pregnant lady dilate faster. We inhaled those tacos. I had to breathe between bites because my contractions were so strong. Helen came into the world with pictures of each of my grandmothers propped up in the delivery room. The new baby came into the world with the knowledge that, when things are looking rough, you can always get steak tacos delivered at three in the morning in New York City.
Everything was different the second time— everything but our faith. The hospital was different, the doctors and nurses were different. Yet, when we finally went back in to the labor and delivery section of the hospital, Adrian still prayed to the Virgin of Guadalupe and I still prayed to Hashem (God in Hebrew).
So what, then, would we name our second daughter? We chose a name that encompasses all of our traditions. Our new baby, Alma Evelyn, is named for Adrian’s sister and his niece in Mexico. Unlike my family, who names babies after the deceased, Adrian’s family names babies after the living. How interesting it is that both of these names are also significant in Hebrew. Alma in Spanish means “soul,” and “young woman” in Hebrew. Evelyn means “wished for child” or in Hebrew, “life.”
Alma came out unlike a Jew or a Mexican-Catholic — she came out like a peaceful Buddha. She cried once, and then she looked around at the world. We couldn’t understand it. Helen screamed her head off when she was brought forth into the world. Alma was calm and had a sense of nirvana about her. But, we decided after everything that she was either the next Dalai Lama, or it must have been the tacos.
Here’s another thing — with a toddler at home, one worries about things like jealousy and sharing. It was a similar worry to the one we had about raising Helen in an interfaith family. Fear and anxiety sometimes take over. What will people think? Will it work? Can we do this? These were the same questions we had about bringing a new baby home to a child who is still a baby herself. But, the answers to these questions are how you deal with the situation. In our interfaith family we don’t care what people think; yes, it works, and yes, we can do this.
Bringing Alma home for the first time, Helen looked at her with wonder. She calls her “baby Alma” and pets her head. In the morning she wakes up and says, “Oh, hi baby Alma!” When Alma cries, Helen says, “Mami, bottle!” Faith is what you believe and family is what you make out of those beliefs.
This article originally appeared on www.InterfaithFamily.com and is reprinted with permission. For more resources designed for interfaith families exploring Jewish life, visit www.InterfaithFamily.com. Sign up for their newsletter here.