I couldn’t believe it. Not again. There I was, eight weeks pregnant, and I was spotting. It was light, but it was definitely blood, and it was the last thing I wanted to see.
I called my husband and told him I needed to go to the emergency room for an ultrasound. We managed to find a babysitter and headed to the familiar corridor at the Bikur Cholim hospital in Jerusalem — the same corridor where I had twice been told previously that my pregnancies hadn’t made it.
So there I was, again. This time, however, I had two healthy children at home, which gave me hope that there might be good news.
After what seemed like an unbearably long wait, the nurse called me in and did an ultrasound. She kept moving the instrument over my stomach. I saw her straining her eyes, trying to determine what she was seeing, or worse, what she wasn’t seeing. She then turned to me and explained that she couldn’t find the baby on the monitor. She saw the pregnancy sac but not the baby.
She explained that the ultrasound machines in the hospital weren’t the greatest resolution, and suggested I go to my doctor and let him do an ultrasound on a better machine. I wasn’t sure if she was telling me this to make me feel better or because she really believed it, but I had no choice but to return home, unsure as to whether I was pregnant.
The next morning I came in to see the doctor who determined I should have been seven or eight weeks pregnant and the baby should have been quite visible, with a strong heartbeat.
Once again, we attempted the ultrasound. Once again, there was nothing. I stared alongside the doctor at the empty screen. A pregnancy sac with all the pregnancy symptoms, with no baby. The doctor said I could wait another week and try again. I asked if anything would be different then and he admitted nothing would change, but said it might give me more time to come to terms with the situation.
The doctor gave me the form I needed to take to the hospital but warned me that they most likely wouldn’t be able to admit me for a few days because of the holiday. It was then that I realized that the next day was Purim. And not only was Purim supposed to be a joyous occasion, but my husband and I ran a program for post-high school students, and I was supposed to be cooking the celebratory meal for 30-plus girls for our huge Purim party.
Though I wanted to take care of this right away, I had no interest in spending Purim in the hospital. I decided to go home, get through the holiday and deal with my loss afterward.
When my husband asked if I planned to dress up, I told him I was dressed up. I was walking around laughing, smiling, friendly, happy. That was my Purim mask. I was mourning the loss of my baby. My joy was my costume.
When we enter the month of Adar, we are supposed to be marbim b’simcha, to increase in our joy. And yet I never knew until this incident that an obligation to be happy is not always so easy.
I somehow made it through. My students had a blast. As we read the Megillah, I reminded myself that just as G‑d’s name doesn’t appear once in the whole story of Purim and yet clearly G‑d is present in every moment, it was clear that I wasn’t alone. I thought of how this holiday was celebrating an unbelievable turn of events from what could have been the most devastating massacre of the Jewish people into a day of celebration and freedom.
And I thought that maybe, just maybe, this related to my situation as well. A part of me berated myself for trying to think positively. Two ultrasounds had said the same thing: There was no baby. And yet, the story of Purim also seemed closed and shut, and then there was a miracle.
When Purim was over, I figured I had no other choice but to register at the hospital. But they wouldn’t let me; there was a time limit for the doctor’s slip, and the time had expired. I needed to go back to my doctor and get another slip. But by the time I could get to the doctor it would be Thursday, and I absolutely didn’t want to spend Shabbat in the hospital. I figured I would go on Sunday instead (Sunday is a work day in Israel).
It was Saturday evening as I was arranging babysitting for the next day when I heard sirens. From all directions, a deafening wail. I knew there had been an attack. And I knew there must have been many casualties.
I turned on the radio to discover a bomber had detonated himself about 10 minutes away from my apartment, in the neighborhood of Beit Yisrael, alongside a group of women with baby carriages. Six young children were murdered in this attack, four mothers were killed and more than 50 women and children were seriously injured.
I sat in shock trying to comprehend this immense loss. Children, who just a day ago were running around in their Purim costumes, were now gone. How quickly the world could turn upside-down.
I thought that even though I had lost my baby, there was no comparison to the pain and loss that these families, their loved ones and the entire Jewish people had experienced. There was no way I was going to the hospital. The hospitals needed all their resources to focus on the victims.
I waited another week to return to the doctor for my hospital admittance slip. I explained what I needed and he began to write and then, figuring I had nothing to lose, I asked if he would be willing to do one more ultrasound.
He explained that my blood tests had shown that my hormone levels weren’t high enough, and two ultrasounds had shown that there was no baby. Another ultrasound wasn’t going to change anything. I don’t know where it came from, but I started to cry. And cry. And cry. The doctor had no idea what to do. He asked if the ultrasound would make me feel better. I nodded.
I didn’t even bother lying down on the table. The doctor sighed as he began to move the instrument over my stomach. And then, I saw something.
The doctor almost dropped the instrument as I asked in amazement, “Is that my baby? Is that a heartbeat?” To which all he could do was nod his head.
Once again he asked my dates, which indicated I should have been almost 10 weeks pregnant. And yet, according to the ultrasound, I was only six weeks pregnant. I was at the exact time when the baby is first able to be seen in an ultrasound. In the other two ultrasounds my baby wasn’t showing, not because he wasn’t there, but because he was too small to be seen.
“If you had done this ultrasound last week, we would not have been able to see the baby. What a miracle,” was all he could say. I left the office holding tightly to the original form the doctor had given me for the D&C. That slip currently sits in my son’s baby book.
Our baby boy was born exactly eight months later to the very day. We named him Netanel, meaning “gift from G‑d.” JN
Sara Esther Crispe is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and Jewish wisdom. She originally published this piece on thejewishwoman.org.