Cracks in a Holy Vessel

Pressure to Procreate Makes Miscarriage All the More Painful

Lisa Anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published March 11, 2013, issue of March 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 5)

He repeated himself.

“The baby,” he said. “There is no heartbeat. The baby’s gone.”

He said this several more times, because I did not respond.

I remember sitting up and walking out. I remember calling my sister on the way home. I remember my family and friends at home, their shock and grief, how they reached out to me, their lips moving, their words soothing, but I never heard a sound.

I remember the stunned shock. Because I could not make the sorrow come. I did not know how to fight the force of relief that swept through my entire being when I heard that the baby was gone.

I didn’t want to feel this way. I wanted to be devastated. I wanted the sorrow to tear through me, to make me wail and cry for my lost child. But it didn’t. My heart had betrayed my programmed mind. The ideology I believed in was crushed by a reality that was forbidden, a woman who did not want another and another child. I was a traitor; the things I felt did not match the things they said I should feel. I was a damaged vessel.

The day after the doctor visit, I gave birth to a stillborn fetus. Heavily medicated, I remember little of what happened. It was only two days later that I sat on my bed at home and wept, as the milk dried up in my breasts and the guilt wrapped around me in a deadly embrace.

The doctor said that I should be on birth control for six months. After five months, though, my rabbi told me that it was enough, and I was so scared that God would punish me, leave me barren forever after what I’d done, that I immediately agreed, begging the heavens for another child.

Within two months, I was expecting. I remember the relief, following by panic, and how I collapsed on the bathroom floor. I remember speaking about it to Rivky, the friend I met years ago at the bungalow colony. We sat in her kitchen, watching our children run around and play. She told me that she also had those feelings, but that her rabbi had reassured her that there was no need to worry: It was postpartum, too, the kind that sometimes comes months before birth instead of after it. It was nothing to think about. It would go away in time to have another baby.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.