Loving Chezky has been one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, as a mother or otherwise. Don't misunderstand me; there's nothing unusual about him. He's a regular ordinary boy. But from the moment he was born, it has been me and Chezky, head to head, struggling wildly to reach each other.
It all started the day I turned yellow and doubled over in pain. My friend Ilana dragged me to Hadassah Hospital, where they told me I had an infected gall bladder. They didn't want to treat me because little Chezky was already part of the picture and they didn't want him to get hurt. For days I writhed in pain in my hospital bed until they realized that not only Chezky's, but my own life was in danger. They promised me no x-rays, no radiation, just a little anesthesia.
I remained awake for one of the most excruciating procedures known to mankind, and was bombarded with enough radiation to destroy a small city. A huge tumult ensued. The doctors were insisting I abort. I was refusing. Insisting. Refusing.
One morning, a nurse entered my room and sat down next to my bed. I knew what was coming. "You can't have this baby. It's not fair to you. It's not nice for you. You can't bring a baby like this into the world." I stared at the ceiling, wondering what to say to this young woman. "You can't always do what's comfortable," I replied. "You have to do what's right and true. The Torah teaches us that, and Hashem gives us the strength to do what we need to do." She shook her head sorrowfully at me and walked sadly away. Part of me longed to follow her and take the easy way out.
The first time I actually saw Chezky was not during a joyous reunion in the birthing room. Having entered the world despite "the worst medical crisis in midwifery," according to my midwife, he was sequestered in an incubator until further notice. Drugged and literally unable to move my legs after an emergency C-section, I hollered for two days straight in two languages until they brought my son to me.
What a surprise awaited me! After having delivered two blue-eyed, rosy cheeked personal replicas, along came a whole new model. Since he was attached to so many machines, and since I couldn't move, it was an awkward first meeting. The nurse sort of dangled him down over me, and I tried to hold him next to me as best I could. He looked up, or was it down, at me with the most beseeching brown eyes I'd ever seen. Can you love me even after all this? they seemed to say. And that's been the song we've sung and the dance we've done ever since.
My husband and father-in-law were extremely pleased with Chezky. "Very handsome," said Zaidy. "Now, that's how a baby should look!" said the Tatty. Need I say which side of the family he took after? My parents looked on suspiciously, unaccustomed to Chezky's being so dark complexioned and a boy at that, being the parents themselves of three plump, fair-eyed girls.
What a whirlwind Chezky was born into! How did he manage it? He came on the heels of a beloved young lady who had only recently emerged from her own medical gehinnom. And she had arrived on the heels of our firstborn who had already completed his soul's tikkun and moved on to the next world. [We refer you to the uplifting account as related in the Parshas Tazriya - April 14th issue. About baking challos on Friday morning...] I am afraid that we weren't quite ready for Chezky, yet. He was a distinguished guest who had arrived before the room was ready, before the floor was washed, yet who demanded, and was entitled to, full service.
On top of all this, he was born with the same disease that had killed my first child, and almost my second, so an extended hospital stay followed his birth. It took a full month until he nursed well, and his bris was delayed. Now, thank G-d, he is as gezundt as they come, with hardly a sniffle ever. In fact, I can count on the fingers of half a hand the times he's taken antibiotics or even Acamol! [Bli ayin horo.] So much for the Hadassah doomsayers. Doing Hashem's will only brings blessing.
Chezky's bris was a little unusual. I had been sent to the beit hachlama to recuperate, against my better judgment. The sandok chosen to hold Chezky was only available in the afternoon, and since it was rest hour, we couldn't make the bris there, although we were advised to find a place in Telz-Stone for convenience sake. My cousin, a long time resident there, knew of a marvelous family that used their spacious and beautiful home to make simchos for people free of charge, so that's where we ended up.
It was a good thing we had such large quarters at our disposal. The event was like a bar mitzva! There must have been at least one hundred people there! The reason it was grand was because my first baby had died before he could have his bris, so this was really like two in one. But it didn't diminish from Chezky; it added. Still, it was a strange feeling and it hovered over the entire event and everybody felt it. Because my first child had stopped breathing right in the middle of his sholom zochor, it had been a public affair. People were right there when it happened. And as we all know, seeing and experiencing something yourself is totally different than hearing about it second hand. Many of the people who attended Chezky's bris were the very ones who had been unfortunate enough to be at that fateful sholom zochor -- in America!
We weren't even in touch with some of them anymore. Yet here we all found ourselves, at the somewhat isolated outskirts of Jerusalem, gathered together for Chezky's bris. Some of the guests had moved here, some were visiting, many of the unmarried yeshiva students had come here to study. It was totally heavenly ordained -- they needed to be there to complete the experience for themselves, to reach a round-circle happy conclusion, or beginning, a shleimus with the tragedy they had witnessed first hand on a rainy Friday night two years earlier, in another, distant place.
And so concludes the story of Chezky's humble beginnings. Before I continue, I must describe him to you. Chezky, now five and a half years old, is a beautiful little boy with large brown eyes and long lashes. Everyone loves him, not just me. He has a little sister who idolizes him and a big sister who bosses him around a bit. According to his rebbe, he is the best reader in his whole class, and not just by a small margin. He can climb anything and take anything apart -- and even put it together again. He is the first child in the family who figured out, by himself, how to use a can opener.
Chezky is fast! He can grab a whole handful of candy from a bag on the counter before you've even registered in your head that you've gotta stop him! He's a very determined fellow. When he decided he didn't want the training wheels on his bike anymore, he somehow convinced one of his friends to borrow a wrench from his father's toolbox. He took off the wheels, got on his bike, and took off.
We all watched him, even the neighbors, because it was such a compelling sight. He didn't even wobble. It was as though he'd been riding all his short life.
Chezky loves to hug and be hugged, to give and be given to. He has a sweet way of fondling your ear lobe while you're hugging him, and sucking his thumb when he's tired or lonely. He loves chocolate and would do just about anything to get some. Oh, there's one more thing about Chezky that's very unique: he can dance. I don't mean the jerky, uncoordinated motions of an excited child. I man serious, direct to the beat, uninhibited dancing.
We were once visiting a friend who brought out his guitar and sang some beautiful songs. Chezky had everyone mesmerized for about an hour, as he accompanied the singer with his uniquely graceful movement.
So why am I writing about loving Chezky? What could be so difficult about loving such a lovely boy? I guess you could compare it to shidduchim. It looks good on paper, but the chemistry is all wrong.
To be continued