My mother, sisters and I headed down to the immense communal sukkah in which our daughter’s kiddush had been elegantly laid out by my neighbors. I approached the sukkah and paused. There was no room. The entire yishuv population, from what I could see, was squeezing themselves inside that sukkah, to celebrate the birth of my little girl.
Despite the crowd, silence reigned as I spoke, explaining our daughter’s name, “Et-elle Emunah.” In addition to being a Hebrew form of her paternal grandmothers’ names, “Ethel” and “Erma,” her name could also be translated both as “a time for faith in Hashem” – a concept that resonated with every individual who had ever had to wait for their prayers to be answered in the right time – and “a time for Hashem’s faith in us,” referring, I explained, to the moment when Hashem chooses to place his faith on us and give us the gift that makes us parents.
My daughter had become a star. Cars would stop short alongside me as I pushed her in her carriage (Me! Pushing a baby carriage down the street). The mayor, the security chief, the rebbetzin – everyone was constantly asking how she was. Invitations to simchas included a special “Of course Etelle is also invited,” notation. Yes, my daughter had become a celebrity – and I had arrived. I finally belonged!
Two years have now passed. The euphoria has faded, to be replaced by reality. It’s a voyage of discovery in which I have found out first-hand how wondrous it is to watch a child’s mind at work. I discerned, too, that I cherish aspects of motherhood other parents seem not even to notice: The excitement of Gan pick-up time (that call of “My Ima!” is directed at me!); her school birthday party (We showed up with both camera and camcorder in tow.); tiny dresses hanging out to dry. (“Who knew wet laundry could be such a source of nachas?” my husband commented.)
On this voyage of exploration, I’ve discovered, too, that my heart is still fit enough to turn a few near-perfect cartwheels at the sight of my neighbor’s newborn, as my daughter keeps growing (I’m not jealous, I’m just…); that while I now have my own chevrah to schmooze with at the park, they still discuss homework, PTA and sleepovers – issues I cannot yet contribute to.
And, slowly, it dawned on me that having crossed the bridge from infertility to motherhood didn’t guarantee me a free entry into society. I have to enter at my own free will and realize that I don’t have to fit the mold to be there.
If I choose to compare myself and focus on catching up to others, I will constantly be chasing the elusive “ideal life” I had envisioned. There’s no point in pushing time, in trying to achieve a milestone, because life is not a race. While we have no control over our destiny, we do have control on how we handle it.
The best gift I could’ve given myself is to realize that there’s no magic wand to happiness or belonging. The power is within me, and in no way contingent on external circumstances.
Reprinted with permission from Shaarei Tikvah, a publication of ATIME. Visit ATIME on the web at www.atime.org