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 4 of 5)

I gave birth to my second child and then my third. Rivky, sometime after, birthed her fourth. I remember when Rivky told me she sat for hours in a bath of boiling water after missing her period, not because her cousin Frady said it worked for her — Frady wasn’t pregnant anymore after that — but for other reasons that Rivky couldn’t remember. An infection. She liked boiling water.

I met Rivky later on; she was heavily pregnant. She smiled at me sheepishly, and I saw the tired look in her eyes. After her sixth birth, her postpartum depression never left. It was her dazed expression, her pretty, young face staring blankly at me from under the influence of tranquilizers and anti-depressants, that finally made me see the things they never told us: that motherhood cannot complete you if it consumes you, that our lives are worth more to God than any wasted sperm and that the real sin is to believe that the unborn soul is more important than any mother’s life could ever be.

I became a person the day I stopped being a vessel. It is difficult to describe the sense of wonder, the freedom of stepping out of survival mode and into motherhood. I learned the joy of children because I could finally be a mother, because I could devote my energy to the three children I had, not to the ones I still needed. And for first time, I began to feel complete.

It is nearly 10 years now since I gave birth to a stillborn, nearly five since I witnessed Rivky’s breakdown. I had never wanted to write about it, never planned to look back at what I wanted to forget. And I would never have done so, if not for the picture.

It was an innocent conversation with a close family member two months ago. I don’t know how it came up, but at some point she told me about the photo of my stillborn baby.

“The doctor took a picture after birth and gave it to us…. You never saw it. It was hidden from you….”

And she told me that the baby who died had been perfect.

“He was beautiful. He was a perfectly formed infant. He had chubby cheeks; these tiny, perfect fingers; soft tuft of hair… he looked like your other babies, adorable, like a tiny doll….”


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!
  • "Selma. Nearly 50 years ago it was violent Selma, impossibly racist Selma, site of Bloody Sunday, when peaceful civil rights marchers made their first attempt to cross the Pettus Street Bridge on the way to the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama." http://jd.fo/r50mf With the 50th anniversary approaching next spring, a new coalition is bringing together blacks, Jews and others for progressive change.
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • 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?
  • 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.