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Sarah with her husband and the two children she waited years to have. 

Image: Sarah Barak

I married my husband David in 1998 when I was 22, and we assumed we would wait a couple of years before having children. That desire to have kids didn’t materialize in me, and I found myself resistant to the idea of ever being a parent until I was 32. Then, suddenly, it was all I thought about. I was recovering from an advanced case of Lyme Disease, and my doctors advised me to wait to conceive. When I was 34, the day after I got up from sitting shiva for my father, I learned I was pregnant. My first thought was, “God, don’t let me miscarry this baby. I can’t handle another loss in my life,” but that was exactly what happened. I conceived for the second time very easily, but unfortunately also miscarried in the first trimester.

After both miscarriages, David and I reached out to our friends and Jewish community for help: We were unmoored from the loss, but we didn’t have an official outlet in Judaism in which to grieve. Friends brought us meals and came over to comfort us, much like an informal shiva. I tried to find solace in using the mikvah, but all it did was reinforce the emptiness of my womb. I was obsessed with becoming a mom, and every pregnancy announcement in our Orthodox community felt like a personal affront from God. I struggled constantly with whether to attend each friend’s bris or simchat bat: If I didn’t go, I felt selfish. If I did go, I usually wound up sobbing in a bathroom stall.

I also sought solace from the support group, RESOLVE, which I ultimately ended up leading in Washington, DC, where we lived. David and I were exceedingly open about our losses both as a public service and as a way to process our feelings, and we blogged and posted about this topic on Facebook. We learned that so many other people suffered the same way.

After recovering from the two miscarriages, I couldn’t get pregnant again. We investigated adoption and had procedures with a reproductive endocrinologist. We ultimately conceived again, but I had another miscarriage at 12 weeks. When we decided to pursue IVF, we believed that our best chance of success was at a clinic in New Jersey, so we trekked there for a consultation.

As part of the workup, the doctor performed a sonogram, and we learned I was five weeks pregnant. Seeing the baby’s heartbeat took my breath away, but I was instantly filled with dread. I started to talk to the doctor about starting IVF after I lost that pregnancy. “Why are you sure this pregnancy will miscarry?” he asked. “Why wouldn’t I be? It happened three times before,” I replied. He said, “I am not giving up on this pregnancy, and neither should you.”

That image on the sonogram was our daughter, Roya, born January 2014. Her name is Farsi for “dream,” and indeed, she is our dream come true. In Hebrew, Roya is spelled the same as the word “revayah” in Psalm 23, meaning “overflowing.” David cried when he blessed her in the hospital on Friday night for the first time.

I felt strongly about wanting to try to give Roya a sibling but was scared given our painful path to parenthood. My obstetrician encouraged me to try to conceive even though I didn’t feel ready for another child, because he thought it might take us a few years even if we were successful. I took his advice and to my great surprise became pregnant immediately. That baby was our daughter Talia, meaning “dew from God.” Dew is an unearned blessing, just like our cheerful Talia, who was born three weeks before we moved to Seattle last summer.

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I believe my path to parenthood has made me a better mother: I pinch myself when I look at my wonderful girls and think about the years when I thought I never would be a mother at all. This perspective helps me weather the inevitable lows of parenthood better than I otherwise would have.

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