”There’s a baby in my mommy’s tummy. There’s a baby in my mommy’s tummy.” The words, sing song as they were, could not sting more. But the singer did not know that. They came from my three year old son, who knew nothing of their meaning. I had lost my baby to a miscarriage only two weeks before. I was still, am still, feeling the pain. To make matters worse, as my son, Jake, sang these words, he, my husband at the time, and I, were at the home of a woman who had just given birth to a baby boy. We were at a bris, and I just miscarried. “There’s a baby in my mommy’s tummy. There’s a baby in my mommy’s tummy.” Could I get through this bris, this experience, this day?
As a Jewish girl growing up on the grounds of a cemetery in New York City, I knew all about going forth, multiplying and loss. My mother gave birth to two children. I always thought I would also have two. Instead, after six weeks of anticipation, I had a miscarriage. At the time, twenty nine years old and a stay at home mom, I believed what the doctors and my husband said, that I could try again, very soon. But for those two weeks after, I never really grieved the loss of my second child.
A week after the miscarriage, while I was making dinner, my husband, a newspaper reporter, said, “Leslie just gave birth to a baby boy. The bris is Friday. We’ve been invited. We don’t have to go.” A dish slipped from my hands. I was shocked. Although I did not know his coworker Leslie, I said, “Of course we’ll go.” I knew nothing could have taken the place of what could have been, but I believed there would be another pregnancy for me.
The day of the bris, I got dressed to go to a religious ceremony, coincidentally, in the same outfit I wore to my mother’s funeral two years earlier. We were welcoming this little boy into Judaism. What was I thinking, celebrating his colleague’s baby when my body was not yet healed? My heart was still broken. He or she would have been Eli or Jordan. I had a numbness induced by a gut wrenching pain that would forever remind me of October 10th, my baby’s due date. But I knew it was time to be happy for a happy occasion, Leslie’s newborn.
We walked into a split level ranch filled with a celebratory mood, where relatives were kissing, hugging and mazel toving. There were positive thoughts for the next generation. I grabbed a hold of my blonde banana curled little boy, who I adored. He was all I had. I had not forgotten that when I was two weeks pregnant with Jake, I almost lost him, too.
My family and I walked through the living room to the dining room, and found the parents with their infant. Stuttering, I offered my congratulations. My husband put on a better face. Leslie looked into my eyes, not knowing what to say except, “So glad you could be here.” Later, I learned she found out about the miscarriage. Someone at the newspaper had called to tell her. We handed her a gift. Could I have actually gone to the mall to buy a present? I admired the baby. After all, my miscarriage was not the infant’s fault. Leslie seemed relieved, as I saw her heavily exhale when I moved on. It was at that moment my son sing songed, “There’s a baby in my mommy’s tummy.” Everyone had to be just as embarrassed as I was.
In the kitchen, there were bagels and lox. It did not matter much because my stomach was still sticking out. Queasy, I even turned away from a box of chocolates, my lifelong favorite food. I felt odd, out of place, as if people were staring at me, feeling a mix of pity and disappointment that I showed up.
I saw the Mohel, the man who would perform the bris, from a distance. I imagined he was shaking his head, wondering what was I doing there. My son started running down the hall. It was his father’s turn to chase him. My husband rolled his eyes, with the “not again” look. I held my breath, closed my eyes. The bris was beginning in the living room. I excused myself to a chair in the corner. Looking for a bathroom to hide in, I went upstairs. Downstairs, the Mohel said, “Blessed be he who comes.” And I whispered, “Blessed be he who doesn’t come.” I looked into a room and saw the crib.
I was startled. I looked around and saw a teddy bear on top of a chest of drawers. The crib had a mobile hanging, turning around and around. I heard a child’s song about making dreams come true. I had wished for baby number two to be born a healthy baby. I was crying for my loss at another woman’s happy moment. I did not know I would not get another chance.
That was almost twenty years ago. My son is now grown, engaged to a wonderful girl. I live by myself, deep in the country. Approaching fifty, some would say that as my four dogs keep me company I can now look forward to grandchildren. My baby's babies would indeed be a blessing that I look forward to. But I have decided I want one more chance at being pregnant and having that baby. The story is not yet over.