Today my little guy turns two and along with the celebration of how beautifully he’s growing, I find myself a little sad that we don’t really have a “baby” in the house any more, at least for a while. Thinking back to what was going on two years ago, I can hardly believe it’s been so long, though I can barely remember life without him.
Two years ago, Velvel was born in the midst of the high holiday season and the beginning of the school year. Throughout the pregnancy, I tried to stave off worries about how his birth, whenever it happened, would fit in with the regularly scheduled events of the season. And, like we did with Zalmen, instead of revealing the exact “estimated due date,” we told people, “early September – before the holidays.”
As his birth came closer, I thought early thoughts, hoping he would give us more time to get to know him before other things started competing for attention. I worried about whether the bris would fall on Rosh Hashana, or even if he would be born on the holiday itself. As a cantor in a synagogue, there are three days a year my husband really can’t miss work, and two were well within range of the baby’s estimated due date! So a chunk of my energy went into willing the birth to happen at a convenient time (a spin on the traditional blessing b’sha’ah tovah – at a good time).
As it turns out, Velvel wasn’t thinking those early thoughts along with me, and he arrived in my forty-first week, four days before the new year. I spent my first ever Rosh Hashana at home on the couch. We had a bris between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. And on Yom Kippur, I ventured out in public for the first time with Velvel, spending much of my time focused more on the baby than the prayers. I’m going to have to be vigilant not to let the holidays overshadow Velvel’s birthday as he grows up. In the year he was born, it felt more the other way around.
But along with the challenges of a September birth, come some unique blessings – the blessings of starting a new life, a new stage, a new family configuration, at a time already designated for reflection and new beginnings. The energy that I wasn’t devoting to willing the birth to come sooner went largely toward reflections on all the newness, changes and adjustments that the year would bring — becoming a mother of two, guiding my toddler through the transition to “big brother,” finishing school with baby in tow, and starting some sort of rabbinic work. In reality, the anticipation of and adjustment to a new baby meshed beautifully with the spiritual preparation and transformation we’re supposed to experience on the high holidays. At the time I felt a bit like I had missed the holidays, absorbed in my focus on the baby. Looking back, I realize that I experienced the holidays through Velvel’s birth.
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