The tinny thumping sound of my unborn baby’s heartbeat filled the silent room, and I smiled at the joy of hearing this music. It was a routine monthly visit to my obstetrician, and I offered my arm and gave them all the blood they requested. I had my escalating weight taken and recorded and received all the necessary poking, prodding and measuring of my fifth-month bump. Then I bounced out with a jolly “Goodbye guys, see ya’ next month,” and continued on with all my other responsibilities.
The Phone Call
A week later, as I filled up my cart with groceries in the supermarket, I received the phone call that froze the blood in my veins. It was a nurse at the obstetrician’s office calmly informing me that the results of my blood test were positive for Spinal bifida and Trisomy 21. She urged me to come to the office as soon as possible to take an Amniocentesis and “discuss my options.” I stood frozen in my spot, my eyes staring at the empty space of air in front of me. I mumbled incoherently and shut the cell phone leaving my cart filled with groceries in the middle of the aisle.
I numbly walked to my car. I don’t know how I reached the shul where my husband served as rabbi, I don’t remember driving, but I found myself in the empty parking lot and that’s where the tears started to flow. I called him and chokingly asked him to come down to my car. Concerned at the sound of my voice, he raced downstairs and jumped into the seat beside me. He looked at me fearfully, and whispered, “What happened?”
Later, we called our rabbi, and he advised us not to take an Amniocentesis, as the test itself has been known to cause complications – and even miscarriage. He also urged us to find a new doctor, because he did not like the way this doctor was handling the situation.
Neither did I!
A Mother-In-Law’s Prayer
That day passed in a haze of disbelief, fear, a flurry of phone calls and, mostly, tearful prayer. We spoke to my mother-in-law, Mrs. Zahari Lankry, an extraordinary sadeket whose care and hesed for others is legendary. After hearing the awful news, she immersed herself in tear-drenched prayer and lit a candle in the merit of the great sage, Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes.
The next morning, she called and spoke to us with a voice filled with strength and confidence. She told us that during the night, she beheld an amazing dream. Rabbi Meir appeared and promised her that the baby will be perfectly healthy, and there was no need to fear. My mother-in-law requested that if the baby is a boy, we should name him Meir, and if we have a girl, she should be named Meira, in merit of the great sadik who promised to intervene on the unborn child’s behalf. My husband and I both wholeheartedly agreed.
It was difficult to find another doctor who was willing to assume responsibility for me at this point, but finally we found an Orthodox Jewish doctor who understood our beliefs, and had other patients from my husband’s congregation. He agreed to see me and I gratefully joined his long list of patients.
A week later, I woke up in the middle of the night to discover that I was hemorrhaging. We raced to the hospital, every minute counting, praying for my and my baby’s life. Baruch Hashem, the hospital staff treated the problem, and I was ordered to remain on total bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy. They warned that I must never be more than a 20-minute drive from the hospital, because if I stared hemorrhaging again, my life would be at risk if the bleeding was not stopped within 20 minutes. We canceled our trip to New York for our nephew’s bar missva, and I relinquished most of my outside responsibilities.
I had six children at the time and did lots of mothering from the couch. I came to realize how needed I am, and yet, how the world kept turning even though I could not do those “extremely urgent things” that were so devastatingly important just a week ago. My children tried to be helpful, but mostly they enjoyed that I was always, always around. Although I couldn’t do much for them, they had my attention and constant ear. It became so clear that this is what children need most, above everything else.
As I worried about my health and about my unborn baby’s health, I engaged in heartfelt prayer. This high-risk pregnancy seemed to further prove that something was wrong with the baby, but each time I felt overcome by apprehension, my mother-in-law reminded us of the promise we received from Rabbi Meir that everything would be fine.
An Early Labor
One Shabbat morning in my eighth month, I went into labor. At first, I was in denial. It just couldn’t be, it was way too early! I drank some wine, I rested, but there was no doubt about it, the labor pains were intensifying. My heart was pounding; I still had six or seven weeks to go… or so I thought! “Please Hashem,” I prayed, “I don’t know what is going on with my baby, I am so scared, please help me.”
It was immediately after Shabbat that the contractions became close enough that it was time to rush to the hospital. Several hours later, I gave birth to a beautiful, but very miniature, little girl. We were somewhat relieved, but still apprehensive as they whisked her off to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Then, a doctor came to inform us of the status of the newest member of our family. Though she was premature and tiny, he said she was otherwise perfect! She did not have Trisomy 21, no Spinal bifida, no deformities; she was whole and healthy. With tears of joy coursing down my cheeks, I thanked Hashem for His kindness.
It was then when my husband exclaimed, “Wait a minute, you know what today is?”
I didn’t. But the excitement in his eyes told me that it was a big deal.
Containing his excitement he continued, “Tonight is the hilula (anniversary of passing) of Rabbi Meir Ba’al Hanes!” We were awestruck. And as the emotions continued to stir within us, we knew for sure that our little four-pound miracle would be named Meira.
Two years later, we traveled to Teveria (Tiberias) to pray at the gravesite of Rabbi Meir Ba’al Hanes. With heartfelt gratitude, we thanked the holy sadik for his intervention in bringing forth a miracle from Hashem.
The sages teach, “Saddikim bemitatan nikra’im hayim – the righteous after their passing are considered alive.”. How comforting it is to know we still, in these days, can rely on the extra merit of the holy saddikim of the past. May we always merit their protection, and may we never need a miracle.