Wednesday, April 28, 2010

the barren womb

"The leech has two daughters, "Give, Give." There are three things that will not be satisfied, four that will not say, "Enough": Sheol and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, "Enough."

Proverbs 30:15-16

As my first wedding anniversary approached, I began to show symptons of a virus that affects millions of women each day I'm sure, "the baby bug." You probably know what I'm referring to... the endless daydreaming of what it would be like to be pregnant, to actually hold your baby in your arms, strolling through the baby sections of every store you enter because the clothes are just so little and cute, thumbing through baby naming books, finding yourself staring at mothers with their babies, seeing the world through pink and baby blue-colored glasses... perhaps you've been there, too.

I remember those naive feelings of bliss, clueless about what it would really mean to actually experience motherhood, thinking that my world was about to transform into some kind of paradise. It continued after the "positive" pregnancy test, and then six weeks after conceiving, the paradise turned into puke-ville! As I wrote about in detail in the post, "A Time to be Sick," I had a very unpleasant three and a half months of severe morning sickness during my pregnancy. It was only then that I learned that having a baby was much more than picking out patterns and clothes, having a shower, and deciding on names. It was the biggest test of self-sacrifice that I have ever and possibly will ever face, giving up your body in a sense in order to nourish and sustain another body, another life. True, pre-pregnancy and pregnancy is the time to be blissfully naive, extremely happy and hopeful, and I never attempt to make pregnant women feel otherwise. They should be smiling, glowing! It's truly an amazing state to be in! When the baby joins the family, then reality has a way of showing up! Don't get me wrong, I loved the last half of my pregnancy, coming home from the hospital with the cries of newborns freshly ringing in my ear, sleeping in the recliner because I was unable to lie flat in bed, and stumbling around in the dark at all hours of the night to tend to my new daughter... It was an incredible, almost surreal experience for my husband and I, and we hope to do it all again.

Which brings me to the present time, recently discovering that a close friend is pregnant with baby number three, and I find myself with a (temporary) case of the baby bug again. For a few days, I found myself repeating those same daydreams, even though I know what reality feels like! So once again, I see the truth and the importance of the above verse from Proverbs. A barren womb is never satisfied... I think we should not miss the fact that barren womb is mentioned alongside death, thus alluding to the fact that both are real and powerful forces. I have mentally and emotionally felt the pull of my own barren womb, so I am aware of its power. Perhaps you've been there, too. I do plan, Bizrat HaShem, to have more children, but not now. In weighing the pros and cons, I've decided it is not the most favorable time for my family to add another member, especially taking my sickness into account. However, just as sure as I hear my biological clock ticking, I hear my womb whispering, "more"...

Being a mother and still experiencing this "syndrome" makes me wonder how childless women must feel. I have heard it said that all women desire deep down to be mothers, and although there certainly are women who are too busy, selfish, and comfortable to be "inconvenienced" with children, I cannot say what is truly going on in their hearts. Perhaps the desire can be quelled or redirected to having money, pets, collectibles, etc. Of course, I am not speaking for women who are unable to conceive children and/or adoption is not a viable option for them... they have my deepest sympathy. Nevertheless, I would like to encourage anyone who does not have children of their own by going deeper in this matter.

Being a mother can mean much more than physically having children. I know of plenty of women who have conceived and given birth, but I would not call them mothers at all. If you are childless, let me encourage you with this verse from Isaiah used to bless single women every shabbat:

"Sing, barren woman who has never had a child! Burst into song, shout for joy,

you who have never been in labor! For the deserted wife will have more children than the woman who is living with her husband, " says Adonai... Don't be afraid,

for you won't be ashamed; don't be discouraged, for you won't be disgraced. You will forget the shame of your youth, no longer remember the dishonor of being widowed. For your husband is your Maker, the L-rd of Hosts is His name. The Holy One

of Israel is your Redeemer. He will be called the G-d of all the earth."

Isaiah 54:1,4,5.

How can the barren woman end up with more children than the mother? By having spiritual children. Think about it, a woman who directs her maternal instincts to forming relationships with spiritual children can have more children than any of us would ever dream of having physically (yes, even Michelle Duggar!) And the quantity is not the important part. You don't need hundreds of spiritual children, just a few good ones. If we are honest, we know that in many cases, the people who had the biggest spiritual impact on us are not our parents at all. All women, whether mothers or not, are called and commanded to teach and disciple younger women. In Titus 2:3-5, older women are told to teach the younger women, and I think age here is more about spiritual maturity than the number of years you've been on the earth.

I have had and am grateful for the many women who have "mothered" me. Whether it was my biological mother who nurtured me, my senior-citizen neighbor who taught me how to cross-stitch, the co-worker who gave me advice regarding health, the friend who brought me chicken soup when I could not eat much more than that, or the many older women who pray for me and offer spiritual guidance. It is very important to have these women in our lives, whether they are spiritual mothers or spiritual daughters. If you have no experience raising children, then pray that G-d would send you a young woman that needs guidance in something you do have experience doing. Teach her to read, to write, to sew, to cook, to love G-d... whatever you can teach her. Surely she will be grateful to have a spiritual mother like you in her life.

So, mothers and spiritual mothers alike, the next time your barren womb whispers to you, "not satisfied," ... just pat your belly and say, "Actually, I am more than satisfied... because I have many spiritual children, because my husband is my Maker, the L-rd of Hosts is His name, and He will be called the G-d of all the earth."


  1. Beautiful concept! It is an odd, odd thing to have that desire, even and especially amongst the anxiety and worries of the reality of raising a child. Al and I were just talking the other day about how we know when enough is enough...and even more than that, we got into a discussion of whether life is truly created each time by HaShem or whether He created the system and it is up to our decisions as to whether or not a life will be conceived. In which case, how do we know whether we are fulfilling His will in His time or satisfying our own natural desires? I love your insight and point of view. Keep it coming!

  2. I believe every person is meant to be. (Psalm 139.) So, although you may think you may be satisfying your own natural desires by bringing a child into this world, HaShem may have an entirely different (and bigger) reason for that child's existence.