I had booked an appointment at the hairdresser. I was fed up growing my hair, even though most of the time it’s hidden under a scarf or hat. But I still had to have hairpins at the ready, an elastic band and a hair slide – or one of those fierce combs which pull at the roots – to conceal all of my hair before putting on my head covering. It all takes time, and sometimes I’m a bit pressed for time.
I made the hair appointment for now, because I knew that, b’ezrat Hashem, in a few days’ time I would be a bit pressed. My younger daughter was about to give birth to her fourth child, and I’d offered to go and stay in her home and help her when she came home from the hospital. She had packed her case, and I’d packed mine in readiness for my trip away from Jerusalem.
Larissa put the finishing touches to my new hair style, cut very short, took a large hand mirror to show me the back of my head, I nodded my approval, and put on my hat.
“Kol ha-Kavod (well done), Larissa, it’s exactly what I wanted. Now Avital* can give birth,” I said with a smile, ” … whenever it will be, b’sha’a tova (at a good time). I just hope she doesn’t have to have another Cesarean section – as she did last time…”
In a split second, or so it seemed, Rachel* – the owner of the hairdressing salon, who had been cutting another client’s hair – was at my side.
“You have to say Nishmat Kol Chai (a prayer of gratitude) every day. It’s min-haShamayim (straight from Heaven) that you came today to have your hair cut. I was at a shiur (lesson) only last night given by Rabbanit Assoulin* and she said if we need help for something special, Nishmat Kol Chai is what we should say. And so should your daughter.”
Rachel went behind the desk and reached into her purse.
“You see, I didn’t even have time to put these out on the table this morning.”
She gave me a small booklet with the Nishmat Kol Chai prayer,
“And please let us know when the baby is born. B’hatzlacha! (Good luck)”
I called Avital immediately, and told her. “Start now,” I said, “and so will I.”
Avital called me each morning to tell me what was happening. “No change,” she said each time. “But I am saying Nishmat Kol Chai.” As was I.
Friday, a short winter Friday, Shabbat would come in at 4:02 p.m. It was now 11:00 a.m., and no word from Avital. I had managed to hold myself back from calling her or Yonatan,* her husband. My stomach was jumping around with apprehension, but with only a few hours to go to candle-lighting I doggedly continued with Shabbat preparations, glad to be so occupied.
Just after 12:00 p.m., the phone rang, Yonatan. “Ima, we’re on our way to the hospital. We’ll let you know what’s happening.” I automatically reached for the by now quite dog-eared Nishmat Kol Chai booklet, praying that the delivery would go well, that both mother and baby would be safe and well.
A few minutes before 4:00 p.m., a call from Yonatan. “No real news. It’s taking longer than they thought. They might have to do a Cesarean…..”.
We went into Shabbat in a state of not knowing, hoping and praying for the best. We went to shul, family came round to distract us, but I found myself surreptitiously glancing at my watch too many times, counting the hours until it would be possible to hear what we longed to know – that a healthy baby had been born and that all was well.
Immediately after havdalah (marking the end of Shabbat) the phone rang: it was Avital!
“Ima, Baruch Hashem, we have a healthy baby girl, she was born last night. She weighed 4 kilos, 595 grams!!!. And Ima, I didn’t have to have a Cesarean! The midwife was so wonderful, encouraged me all the time, she kept saying, you can do it, you can do it, I’m with you, we’ll do it together…”
I could hear the euphoria in her voice. She continued, on a high with relief and joy. “And Ima, we’re going to name the baby Ariella,* that’s the name of the midwife!”
I was overcome with gratitude to Hashem that baby Ariella had arrived safely, and that my daughter, Avital, had been so well taken care of. I took out my Nishmat Kol Chai booklet, and recited the lines which had become so familiar to me in the past week.
As promised, I went to help my daughter on her return home from hospital. After I was back in Jerusalem, I made my way to Rachel’s hairdressing salon, to announce the good news.
“Mazal tov, mazal tov. And how is your daughter? Did she have to have a Cesarean?”
“No, she didn’t, I’m relieved to say. It’s impossible to prove, but I’m convinced that saying Nishmat Kol Chai affected the outcome. So thank you, Rachel, for passing on Rabbanit Assoulin’s advice – and the timing couldn’t have been better, Baruch Hashem!”