Dear Mrs. Bluth,
Please help me, my heart is breaking and I don’t see how I can stop the terrible things that are happening to my children. What should have been a wonderful blessing that every family so ardently awaits, has turned into a far-reaching tragedy in its aftermath.
I am the mother of seven children, all married, baruch Hashem, with 23 grandchildren. My youngest daughter recently gave birth to her fifth child, a little girl after four boys. Although her other children are healthy, this new little one was born with Downs syndrome. Both my husband and son-in-law refuse to acknowledge this baby and there is great bickering back and forth as to whether to place her in a home or institution for the sake of shalom bayis.
My daughter is deeply depressed and has lost a great deal of weight. She cries much of the time because she doesn’t want to give her baby away, yet she doesn’t see how she can keep and care for her along with her others and keep a loving relationship with her husband. In her vulnerable and depleted condition, she is guilt-ridden and blames herself for the damaged child, from what she ate to the detergents she used while pregnant. Her husband is quick to encourage these thoughts so as to remove any guilt from himself and appear totally blameless. He deflects any responsibility for something no one is responsible for and mercilessly subjects his wife as the bearer of all blame.
I fear for my daughter’s sanity, I am terrified that my son-in-law will embark on a path that will ultimately lead to a ‘get.’ But most of all, I fear for the other children caught in the middle of all this bitterness, and this new little life that no one but my daughter wants. My son-in-law has already reached out to his Rav, his father and his Rosh Yeshiva and a handful of other poskim, for their opinions, none of which he agreed with. So he has taken to staying away from home as much as possible.
I spend my days taking care of my daughter, trying to give her chizzuk while I care for the children and see to the house. However, my heart can no longer bear the pain and anger in that household and I am beginning to succumb to my own depression. Please help me. Tell me what to do, where to go, with whom to speak so that we can all begin to heal and help this baby find her place in our lives.
My heart breaks for you and for the burden you are carrying. However, please understand that you are the voice of reason that holds this family together in this, their darkest hour. Please stay strong and find the strength to continue to be the rock and support they so desperately need right now.
What comes to mind is a letter I received from a woman many years ago with the following story. Perhaps this will give you comfort and the hope you so dearly need. She wrote as follows:
“No one can aptly describe my joy when I finally was told that I was pregnant with this much-awaited child after so much pain and failure. Being extra cautious, my physicians scheduled me for an amniocentesis to make sure everything was going as it should. As I sat in the waiting room before the test, I struck up a conversation with the one other woman there for the same reason as we were both laughing at our similarities, right down to our names that, with the exception of a few letters, were almost alike. As we waited, she took out an artists sketch pad that held the picture of an almost finished drawing of a lovely bowl of fruit. The drawing was almost perfect, were it not for a thread-thin crack in the center of the magnificent bowl. She showed me the other sketches in her book, all stunningly beautiful, but in each there was a tiny imperfection, yet all the pictures were perfect in their imperfect state. It was quite obvious that these flaws were intentionally included and actually enhanced the balance of their beauty.
It was troubling me though, why she would carry this theme throughout, and not draw at least one picture that was completely perfect. Her answer was simple. There is nothing that is completely perfect in this world, in this life, in us. Even that which appears perfect, if examined with an inner eye, will reveal the slighted irregularity. In reality, we all strive for perfection, but only a sainted few will attain the closest thing to it, but we can still create magnificently beautiful things in our quest to achieve perfection. And that is why I look to blend in the imperfect with the perfect, because one is dependent on the other.”
Her words would serve to give me strength five months later, when my son was born with Downs syndrome. Looking at him and hearing her voice in my ear explaining the beauty one can find in all things, no matter how large or small the imperfection, has helped me raise a beautifully imperfect young man who never stops giving me love, joy and comfort. He is Hashem’s special gift to me and I no longer see the flaws, only the beauty and I thank Him every day for allowing me to care for His special child.”
Dearest friend, there are so many things you can do if only you take heart and understand the special task you have been given. Who are we to argue or complain about the gifts we receive, when in truth they are gifts. Please show this column to your daughter and son-in-law and tell them I welcome their call and am ready to help them navigate the waters. Family counseling is definitely in order for everyone who is having difficulty and I am ready to assist in that endeavor. Tap into your reserve of hope and trust in Hashem, and help will reveal itself in the form of the many wonderful organizations who assist those in your position. There are many beautiful people out there who are waiting for you to let them help you in loving and raising Hashem’s Special Child.