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In the summer bungalow colony I met Rivky, who had 13 siblings and who shared with me the brownies her older sister had baked. She said she wished she had a tiny family like mine — I must get everything I ever wanted. I offered to trade her one half of my gold earring set for her entire brownie. She agreed. I lay on the grass munching, my right earring hanging on Rivky’s left ear. Rivky told me that she planned to ask God to give her only six children exactly, but I said, “Nah, 13 is much more fun.”
A decade passed. I was 18 years old and engaged. For months I shopped, prayed and prepared for the family I would shortly bear. Walking down 13th Avenue, I’d gaze into the window of Mimi’s Maternity Shop, smiling blissfully at women pushing double carriages, a line of perfectly dressed children trooping behind. I strolled dreamily past Little Loungers and Mega Baby Furniture, my life laid out in front of me, certain and reassuring.
My first child came when I was 20 years old. I was on my way to becoming a holy vessel, every inch of me pregnant all the time. So I don’t know how it could have happened. God could not have meant it that way when he stopped my second pregnancy.
It was shortly after the shock of the first. By then, still recuperating from the wounds of childbirth, I knew that the joy of motherhood was there, even if I couldn’t feel it. The women around me said it was normal to be miserable and overwhelmed. It was merely postpartum depression, an ordinary part of the childbirth routine, something that would go away soon, just in time to have another child.
I waited for the shock to leave and for the joy to come. I did not allow myself to feel the dread seeping into my mind as my life closed in on me like a dark tunnel. I became pregnant a second time. My son was 8 months old.
Everyone congratulated me. I knew I was happy, because they told me I was. I was a vessel, a holy, pure vessel, and I gave life to souls.
But God must have known. It is impossible to hide such things from heaven, and perhaps it was because of this that He decided to test my faith.
I was in the seventh month of my second pregnancy, swollen and tired. I lay on the table in my doctor’s office for a routine checkup. I stared up at the sterile ceiling, teeth clenched, as the doctor moved the ultra-sound probe slowly over my abdomen. He was taking longer than usual, and I could not understand why.
I wanted him to stop already. Finally, he did. He stood up and looked down at me. He said something. I did not hear him at first.