I was 35-weeks pregnant with my son when I became violently ill and started having contractions at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday night that happened to be erev Purim. My husband and I decided that, rather than risk our not-yet-2-year-old daughter waking up and not having us there, I would go to the hospital with a friend, and he would stay home. I realized how fortunate I was to have more than one person I could call in such a situation, but we figured that our friend Ilana was the most likely to still be awake from Purim festivities, so she was the lucky recipient of that phone call.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she was at our house, she took me to the hospital, and she stayed with me there for hours. After a terrible night, but one that would have been infinitely worse had I been alone (or had the baby ended up being in any distress), I thanked Ilana as much as words could possibly thank someone for that kind of generosity. She said, simply, “This is what we do.”
Those words have echoed over and over in my head this week, reminding me of the unbelievable value of community. No matter how capable we are of handling our own joy or sorrow, handling it in the company of other people is just better.
A couple of Shabbats ago, Tamar Fox and Jesse Bacon welcomed a 1-month-old baby girl into their home, something Tamar has written about on this blog and I’m sure will write more about in the coming weeks and months. Within hours, they had everything they needed for that first night, and within days, they had pretty much everything they needed, period.
The generosity they experienced from friends, neighbors, and strangers was overwhelming even from an outsider’s perspective, and I was proud to be part of the community that came together for them. I was honored to hold Dafna for a bit on that first Shabbat afternoon and thrilled that I could help by providing some baby gear.
What I didn’t have, though, were swaddle blankets. I walked up and down my extremely baby-friendly block and ran into some neighbors with a baby just past swaddling age. They don’t know Tamar and Jesse, but I explained the situation, and within minutes, they had a stack of swaddles for me, and I was on my way to deliver them. (Dafna is wearing one of these in the Kveller post announcing her arrival!)
Though Jesse and Tamar are close members of our community, we’re still getting to know each other on a more personal level (hastened along, surely, by the close quarters during our baby-wearing tutorial! Also, through a strange and semi-relevant turn of events, while I was in labor with my daughter, now 3, my midwife and I figured out that we both knew Jesse.)
The personal relationship is secondary, though, when the opportunity arises to help out, and I have been thrilled to organize a meal train, sort through our bags of baby stuff in storage, and provide the aforementioned baby-wearing lessons. Of course this is what we do!
The next part of this story is admittedly less flattering, but it’s all part of the same. In the midst of this first stage of new baby excitement for Jesse and Tamar, I took my kids for a walk. My son, now 16 months old, stuck his leg out of the stroller and through the slats of an adjacent fence. I thought the wheel was stuck, which happens approximately always, so I pushed a little harder. So much screaming ensued (from him and from me) that I’m not entirely sure what happened next, but thankfully, I ran into a friend, also going for a walk with her baby, and she comforted me, offered snacks to my kids, and reassured me that I wasn’t a horrible mother. Then I called another friend who brought us ice and walked with us to the doctor. Being in community is having these people everywhere I go. (Turns out, my son has a small fracture, but hopefully, after three weeks in his giant, bright blue cast, he’ll be good as new.)
The emails and texts asking after my baby’s leg have gotten mixed up in the emails and texts about coordinating food for Jesse and Tamar. My pride and happiness at our community coming together for Dafna has gotten mixed up in my sadness and fear about my baby’s injury. My joy, their joy, my struggles, and everyone else’s have all gotten mixed up together in a big, mostly beautiful jumble of baked ziti, extra pacifiers, tears, sleeplessness, and hope–because this is what we do.