I’m tired, really tired—emotionally, physically. I just want to curl up into a ball and go to sleep, and sleep and sleep. In the mornings, when I want to stay in bed, somebody forces me up. “Mommy, Mommy . . .” It’s a new day. I have no choice. I have to get up.
My body is filled with a torrent of hormones, a tornado of emotions. The words go around and around in my head: “The pregnancy isn’t right. The fetus didn’t develop.” Three ultrasounds in two weeks confirm what I don’t want to know, but have no choice but to accept.I just want to curl up into a ball and go to sleep
“First trimester miscarriage is very common.” “It doesn’t have any implication about future pregnancies.” “Thank G‑d you have three healthy children at home, right? You’ll have more, don’t worry.” The doctor’s kind words replay themselves over and over in my ears, but they don’t stop the tears.
I think about my clients. I saw three women just today who had all suffered through a miscarriage at one time. Is this happening to me so that I can better understand them? My husband says not to work today, to stay in bed. But I make myself get up and go. I pray for strength and force myself, because I know that my massaging fingers and hands, my comforting words and empathetic ear help strengthen me and my faith as much, or more than, it does for them.
One tells me that she is afraid to become pregnant again for fear of miscarrying. “It’s safer, less painful not to try than to try and lose it again,” she tells me.
I look into her big, beautiful eyes, and as my body bleeds and cramps, I do understand. Suddenly, a name pops into my mind: Rabbi Akiva.
Who was Rabbi Akiva? Akiva, the son of Yosef, was a simple man, an unlearned illiterate shepherd. He met a woman, Rachel, who believed in him. Rachel was the beautiful, smart daughter of the wealthiest man in the land. She saw great potential in simple Akiva and married him. Her father disowned her, leaving her and Akiva poverty-stricken. She didn’t give up or lose her faith. She encouraged forty-year-old Akiva to study, and sent him off to learn for a total of twenty-four years.
Akiva came back to his wife twenty-four years later, accompanied by 24,000 students. He had become the greatest scholar of all times, the greatest teacher and transmitter of Torah. He had become the famous Rabbi Akiva. And then, what happened to him? In a plague that lasted over a month, all 24,000 students died. In a month’s time, he lost it all.
What did Rabbi Akiva do then? Did he think, “It’s over. There’s nothing left. This is too painful. I will give up, because the thought of losing any more students is more painful than the thought of not having any all.” Maybe he had those thoughts. I don’t know. But if he did, I wouldn’t blame him. However, what do we know about what Rabbi Akiva did?Rabbi Akiva left a legacy for every Jew
He took five men and he started all over again. From those five students, we have all the Oral Torah that exists—all the Mishnah, Talmud and Kabbalistic works. They all stem from Rabbi Akiva and his five students.
Why does Rabbi Akiva pop into my head as I look into my client’s pained eyes? Because Rabbi Akiva left a legacy for every Jew: There is no such thing as staying under the covers. When you are confronted with a test, when you feel like you’ve been knocked down, you must believe. You have no choice but to pick yourself up and start again. Everyone has the potential for greatness. Everyone, with G‑d’s help, has the ability to start over again. I know that I can’t be afraid to become pregnant again for fear of being disappointed or of losing the pregnancy; instead, I have to focus on the joy and the greatness of the child that will be born, G‑d willing.