It’s the time of year where we are forced to stop and look at ourselves, pondering things we could have done differently, and making resolutions for the future. I find this time period extremely difficult. Honestly, I hate doing a real chesbon hanefesh. I would like to use the excuse of being a busy mother (which, of course, I am), but in my heart, I don’t think that is the real problem here. It is so hard to go over all of the events of the year, to pick apart ways I could have done better, without feeling overwhelmed with guilt, especially knowing how difficult it is to change in certain areas of my life. Personally, I don’t like that feeling. I would rather stay “zoned out” in my reality. It is so much less work!
And really, how much of our reality can we change? Don’t we need to make a MAJOR overhaul in order to improve our lot in life? Can the tiny steps we are encouraged to take by our rabbanim and teachers actually do anything to affect the outcome of our stories?
Before I was married, I had the dream of a large household, full of children. So after a year and a half of marriage, a difficult move to Israel, virtually no money, and a miscarriage, my husband and I were over the moon when my oldest son was born. I thought my happiness had just been delivered to me on a silver platter—I was finally a mother! And I was going to be the best mother in the world!! I was going to be the fun mother whose house all the neighborhood kids always wanted to play at, the one who got down on the floor to play board games with her kids, the one who always rocked and sang each child to sleep, the one who taught them important life lessons in such a fun way that they didn’t even realize they were learning! (I will pause a minute while you laugh at my naivety.)
Then my son got sick and my world was turned upside down. After years of hospital visits, therapies, and all the heartbreaking things that come with a sick child, we stabilized both him and his brother, who was also diagnosed with a medical condition. Our two little boys, and all of their medical needs, were so much work that I forgot to be the “fun mom” I promised myself I would be. I still tried hard to bring my children on trips and vacations, and when we could afford it, I bought them all sorts of fun toys, but my view on life had become a lot more harried and negative in general. I found myself being critical of so many things, picking on the small stuff, fighting over minor grievances. I no longer knew how to relax and just be happy in the moment, and my frequent negativity reflected that.
What compounded this even more was the fact that after many years of trying to have more children, it was still just the four of us. I worked so hard at being grateful for my delicious boys and being satisfied with what I had, but I felt like there were gaps in our family—like someone (or a few someones) were missing. I had to undergo a lot of emotionally and physically draining fertility procedures which definitely took a toll on my emotional health, adding to my negativity, and after awhile, we were at a stand-still—insurance would pay for no more procedures, and my husband and I didn’t think we could take any more anyway.
So I started to look for ways I could enjoy my life as is. I was really trying to look on the bright side of things and accept circumstances as they were, and as I came to accept my reality, I started to work on my gratitude. I reminded myself that Hashem had blessed me with two amazing children; children who brought us so much joy. My husband and I were in a good place in our marriage and we had time to go on dates alone! BH my kids were now stable, and they were older, so we could travel and I could get a regular workout and sleep!! Oh, how nice it was to sleep through the night! I worked hard on learning to accept our status quo, even with the silent pain of missing neshamos deep in my heart.
I also started spiritually working on myself. When was the last time I had done that? Seminary? I started davening more, going to local shiurim, and really trying to strengthen my relationship with Hashem. And that is when it happened—the speech that changed my life.
It was one of those recorded Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi shiruim that is broadcast all over the world. She was speaking about the way in which we daven to Hashem for all the things that burden us in our lives. She said our tefillos have to be said with the true belief that Hashem can and will make a new reality for us if we believe it. It is about us and how we do not just accept things the way they are, but have the power to change our lives with our belief. We have to realize that Hashem can do anything. There is no limit to the brachos He can give us, as long as we don’t limit ourselves. We have to truly know and feel that He can change things for us, and we have to open ourselves up for the shefa brachos. We should not get mired down in depression, but hold on to the belief that things could get better at a moment’s notice—do we really believe in our tefillos, or are we keeping ourselves stuck in our situation?
It was at that moment that I realized that every time someone asked me the insensitive question of how many children I have, I would get defensive—and ashamed—and answer, “Only two.” It was me! I was the one forcing this reality! Why was I saying “only”? Was I preventing my reality from changing? I went home and started crying. The dam had finally burst, and I let out years of built-up pain, and then I decided I wouldn’t just be okay with the way things were. I would no longer “just come to terms” with two kids. I was going to change my reality! I was going to find the emunah to know that not only could Hashem give me more children—He would! I just had to change the way I spoke.
And I did. I no longer said “only two kids”, and I opened myself up to the potential for new possibilities in my life while I waited. And of course, I also did my hishtadlus—I made an appointment with a new specialist for a few months out. I still can’t believe it, but on the day that I had my appointment scheduled, I ended up getting my first ultrasound glimpse of the tiny peanut doing flips inside my belly instead! That active peanut became our family’s adorable comedian, and a few years later, he also became a big brother to our sweet baby princess. The floodgates had opened!
Adding two more candlesticks to my Shabbos licht, and two more beautiful faces to all of our wall portraits, I feel tears come to my eyes, time and time again. After so many years of waiting, we literally doubled our children in a matter of years! I am so grateful, and I try to make sure that I express that in words to Hashem as much as I can. And I also try to let it carry over to my world-view. Looking at my life with gratitude, I feel so happy. No, it is not the image I had way back when—my older children still have some medical challenges, I still struggle to make time to play games with my children, and it is very hard to overcome years of being so critical about everything, but I am trying. And I am happy, and working on being more positive this year—allowing that happiness to cancel out my negative, critical eye. Because look what amazing changes can happen when you allow yourself a new reality.