Miracles come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. And not always do we recognize all the wonderful gifts that are showered on us. However, there are certain miracles that everyone can clearly recognize.
There is a woman I know well who had one such miracle this past week. Leah (name changed for privacy) has three small children. Leah was taking birth control so she wasn’t expecting to get pregnant any time soon. This year, after the High Holidays, she felt a bit strange and told her husband, Yechiel, that the way she was feeling she only felt when she was pregnant, and she knew that couldn’t be since she was taking birth control. Leah and her husband went to the doctor, and sure enough she was indeed expecting a new baby. Pleasantly surprised, they went home and thought to continue as with the other pregnancies she had had. But this one was going to be quite different; their story was just beginning.
Leah went for regular checkups, and in one of those visits she was informed that there was a problem with the baby. The doctor told her there was a rare complication with a probability of very challenging results. The shock hit Leah and Yechiel hard. It sounded very dangerous and complicated. They were told that they must entertain the thought that Leah might have a stillbirth. Although the pregnancy was in an advanced stage, the staff mentioned the option of an abortion to avoid the agony of a stillbirth or a severely damaged child.
The tears and the prayers didn’t stop flowing – from the parents of this unborn baby and their families and friends. Everyone was praying and hoping that this little baby would continue growing in a healthy way, as only G-d could ensure, regardless of the medical diagnosis.
Most Jews have a rabbi whom they follow and ask questions to when they are confused or need direction. A rabbi is a role model for the whole family, who can guide their lives on a good and righteous path. However, in times of distress and trouble, almost everyone – including those who have not yet found their own rabbi – seeks out the advice of a well-known and prominent rabbi as to what needs to be done next.
So Leah and Yechiel went to one of the biggest and most prominent rabbis of our time, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. They had to make lots of calls and pray that the rabbi would be available to hear their story. They wanted a real meeting with this giant of Torah, not just to walk by for a moment when the rabbi blesses everyone who comes to pray at his shul. They were sure he would lead them in the right direction.
Yechiel’s family knows the Kanievsky family, and they arranged a meeting with Rav Chaim. Yechiel and Leah arrived at the Rabbi’s home. Leah waited outside in the hall, anxious to hear every world that Rav Chaim would tell them. Yechiel entered the Rabbi’s study and poured out his heart. He explained the whole situation and above all what slim hopes the doctors had given for this unborn baby. The great Rav Chaim in his infinite wisdom looked at Yechiel with his kind eyes and told him not to worry, to continue with the pregnancy as usual and to keep praying. He said everything was going to be all right. He gave his blessing, and Yechiel was on his way.
Leah couldn’t wait to hear what the Rabbi had said. Deep down in her heart she wanted so much to hear and believe that everything was going to be all right, but the doctors and medical staff were so discouraging that she was afraid even to hope. But the comforting words and blessing of Rav Chaim shined new light onto this grim and sad situation. From that minute on, they didn’t want to hear any more talk about this baby not making it. As far as they were concerned, this little soul inside of Leah was going to live and become part of their family when the time would be right.
One Friday night, after Leah and Yechiel had finished the Shabbat meal with their family and had just put the children to sleep, Leah didn’t feel right. They called a neighbor to watch the kids and then called an ambulance. They rushed off to the hospital and were admitted immediately. One look at Leah’s medical file and the doctor said Leah would have to stay and be monitored. “We want to make sure that you and the baby are safe, and as of now we’re certainly not sure of that.” That was very discouraging, but they just kept remembering Rav Chaim’s encouraging words and didn’t pay too much attention to the negativity of the doctor.
Against all odds and statistics and medical predictions, Leah made it through her 32nd week, when she went into labor and was rushed to the operating table for a C-section. Thirty minutes had passed and Leah asked the nurse why she hadn’t heard the baby cry yet. The response was that they were taking care of the baby and she had to wait. Leah got very nervous and thought if she didn’t hear the baby cry perhaps her worst nightmare had come true and they were simply waiting to tell her. She called out again, but still didn’t hear the baby cry. “But I didn’t hear the baby cry,” she said again, and at that minute the baby gave a very small but definite cry. Leah cried as well. She looked up toward the heavens and said, “Thank you, Hashem.”
Leah recovered nicely but painfully, while the little baby received 24-hour care in the neonatal intensive care ward. I visited Leah and her miracle baby. The baby was tiny, in an incubator, and hooked up to all kinds of tubes, but relatively healthy. I put my hands inside this holy baby’s empire and felt chills go up and down my spine. G-d’s presence could be felt so strongly and with so much love. This was a four-pound miracle, a gift that no one could fail to recognize.