The Children that Don’t Count

Whether the Duggers on U.S. cable tv or some of the Haredim families who have 18 children, most of us have heard of them or seen their Partidge family trailing along down a sidewalk. In the same vain we are also familiar with the many women who have felt the absolute need to have an abortion. People count these things, births and clinical abortions. But there’s at least one more category: miscarriages and rarely if ever is there even a tiny notation made in any given file for these uncounted ones.

This is personal. This is my story. This is my memorial of the uncounted.

Chaim (not his general name), and I had fallen in love. Neither of us had known anything like it. Every little thing meant something to us. We were enraptured with each other and hoped for every second of breath to be spent together. We had our issues like anyone else but always said it was outside circumstances we labeled ‘the situation’ that was the only struggle.

We frequently found ourselves talking about our future marriage plans, what to wear, where to live, the family we wanted of our own.

Coming to Israel was not initially part of the discussed plan but rather the evolution of our circumstances. To our horror and shocking reality he was diagnosed in his first year here with stage IV cancer and given two weeks to live.

Too many years in hospice work taught me that some patients actually can get better and go home to live a long life. I was tenacious as some who know me and determined to stop the sucking sound of life being taken away by this insane disease. I rushed to be here, (a story for another time), and committed my every cell to save his life. This wasn’t my patient but the love of my life.

I changed everything that I could in his regime to alter the insatiable appetite of this cancer. He’d already begun chemo and I knew that was a problem but I did everything else possible to restore him. However besides the cancer itself the chemo had left it’s mark.

It was between chemo treatments that we’d decided to try to have a child anyway. He wanted me to have a legacy of him with me long after he was gone. Before I get a thousand weird replies, to answer your question we were not fully married which is again another story for another time.

We knew Chemotherapy was known to affect sperm but still we hoped. Everything was stressful during this time anyway. Gaza was in turmoil, my aliyah process was complicated, he needed a life and death surgery in Jerusalem on a vital organ with a six week recovery time. It was intense.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I did become pregnant and miscarried in the first couple of months. After all I was also in my forties, (later to also find out that my congenital blood disorder could likely prohibit full term pregnancy). We wept together. Blamed ourselves and not each other and committed to keep trying.

Two years later. Again pregnant. He seemed so healthy; cancer markers were great. Wedding plans seemed really possible. Then pressures that to this day I grit with regret came from outside forces that he should return to preventative maintenance chemotherapy. He didn’t want to fight with anyone and agreed. In one month after agreeing to return to therapy his cancer had returned full blown war raging in virtually every aspect of his body. That day I received the phone call from him that there was nothing left but to go on palliative chemo I miscarried again that day, probably about the same time as when he received his news.

I have heard in my head the endless opinions of armchair quarterbacks telling me why and that it was for the best. Others who would say that those pregnancies were not real life, just fetuses or overgrown embryos. But this is my story! And for Chaim and I these were our dream children. A significant representation of our immeasurably love. But they didn’t count to anyone. No one understood our grief. No one came to their funeral. There was no funeral. Our children were not even considered children by most standards. But they mattered to us.

It’s been three years since Chaim died. I still have two little real-looking baby dolls he would pray over hoping we would have real ones to treasure some day. But I don’t.

The only consolation I have came in a dream months ago when I saw Chaim sitting at a table sharing food with Daniel Eliyahu to his right and Daniela Zipporah Katana on his left (the children looked ageless), but all were smiling. And I heard the words that they were patiently waiting for me. Maybe it is all make believe but it gave me a tiny bit of comfort that their lives were real and our children counted somewhere. I hope and beg G-d that someday I will see them, hold them, smile with them and the four of us will be a family where everyone counts.

About the Author
Israela Avraham is from the US. She is a private doctor specializing in alternative medicine and supplementing her income as a medical massage therapist in four hotels here having previously come from a six figure income. She has been a masorti/conservative rabbi turned Orthodox to make Aliyah.
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