** I want to thank everyone who announced Samuel’s arrival on their blog. As I’ve been slowly making my way through my Reader, I’ve seen so many. I’m really touched.
Christmas last year Josh and I sat in our living room working. We were particularly excited about our plans for the day, because each of us being related to Christians, we’re often required to participate in some sort of festivity. But we begged off traveling last year, and thus were here in our apartment by ourselves, happily ignoring the date. Having worked fairly consistently throughout the fall, I felt good about my progress on my dissertation and taking this day to work felt like just another way I was ahead of the game. I was more than halfway through my pregnancy, and totally confident I could do this motherhood plus academia thing. It was definitely the last time I felt so good about every aspect of my life.
In Judaism, there are several New Years. There’s of course Rosh Hashanah, the “head” of the year and the birthday of the world (although some rabbis of the Talmud had different opinions on this) and appropriate to our covenantal faith, civil contracts. But Nisan, the month containing Passover, is also a new year, and marks the creation of man. Tu Bishvat commemorates the birthday of trees. And finally, the month of Elul, which marks the counting of tithes, is also considered a new year.
Because my happiness and my confidence took such a slap down after today last year, I think of right now as a personal New Years. When I say my confidence, I don’t mean the stuff of self-help self-esteem manuals, I mean my very faith in the righteousness of life. There have been many times over the course of this past year that I have wondered whether I still belong in the world. My blog friends have been tremendous in helping me keep myself together, the knowledge that all of you, care and understand. Julia, whose A is linked with my Natan through an accident of dates, and with whom I share a number of coincidences of interest and background. Bon whose story resonates too tragically closely to mine, but who gave me hope throughout this pregnancy that we could make it. Meg, whose Survivorgirl should have been here to play with my Samuel. Lori, who is my model for parenting after loss, and despite our differences, also an inspiration on keeping faith. And of course, Aurelia who kept me entertained and even more importantly, sane through bed rest, Niobe, Birdie’s Mama, Kate, Ms. G, Thrice, Rosepetal, Catherine, Aite, Tash, Wannabe Mom – each of you has taken on a special identity in my mind, and a particular role in helping my get through this year.
But still, whenever I left my little cocoon of a one-bedroom apartment this year to appear in public, I often felt at a remove from humanity. As if I were watching my surroundings from afar rather than being a part of them. In working on the one chapter I completed from start to finish (others were already in progress or are now in parts) I felt the same, as if I were going through some familiar motions. I had moments where I achieved my past enthusiasm, but never consistently maintained it.
When we entered the hospital just a bit over 24 hours from now last year, the world stopped. When I asked the resident examining me in triage if I was in pre-term labor, and she said yes, time stopped. When I told the team of doctors later that day that I wanted anything and everything done to save the baby, the outside world vanished. My entire being became enveloped in maintaining the pregnancy and Natan’s life. We didn’t know then if we were having a boy or a girl, but would find out shortly so that we could know a bit more about who I was trying to save. Samuel is his own person, not a replacement baby, but I think I remained in that space throughout my recovery and my pregnancy. Although I had no idea, our decision last year to isolate ourselves during this season marked a bigger separation for me than we could have possibly known.
I have much better hopes for this year, for my family, and for all of you.