Born on the right day

You know what they say about mother’s instincts… Dial the clock back to late 2014, when a couple from our community asked me to marry them in Cape Town the following April. Cape Town is gorgeous, one of my favourite places on Earth. My answer was a resounding “Yes!”- any excuse for a visit to the Mother City.

Naomi was happy for me to go, on one condition: I had to fly down on the morning of the wedding and be home that same evening. Naomi was newly pregnant, and the baby was due a full seven weeks after the wedding. What had gotten into my wife that she was paranoid about me being away weeks before her due date?

Sometimes I remember not to contest Naomi’s instincts, so I begrudgingly booked to fly back straight after dinner.

The wedding was exquisite. On a wine farm against the backdrop of granite cliffs and an aquamarine sky, the chupah and reception were magical. After sushi and speeches, I congratulated the bridal couple and zipped off to the airport. Only once I was safely on the road to Cape Town International Naomi mentioned that she was in early labour.

The flight back was packed. I was seated at the window in the last row. For the two hours back to Joburg, I plotted strategies to disembark before all the other passengers. I turned on my phone as the tyres hit the runway, relieved to hear Naomi reassure me that we still had time.

Shaina was born the following morning, seven weeks premature. How Naomi had intuited this remains a mystery. We were totally unprepared for her preterm arrival. We hadn’t decided on a name and didn’t have all the newborn goodies you take to the hospital. Little did we know then how Shaina’s life would be full of surprises.

Dazed, we kept telling people that she was “meant to be born” a month and a half later. She wasn’t “meant to” come so soon. On reflection, she came precisely when she was meant to.

Tonight we will celebrate Shaina’s seventh birthday. Shaina’s birthday is always a massive celebration with a string of parties at home and school. People spoil her. She nibbles a little cake and then sings and dances Happy Birthday endlessly.

Naomi and I struggle on her birthday. Each birthday is a reminder that she continues to fall behind in her milestones. We can’t help but remember how different her older siblings looked when they celebrated these ages.

What gives us comfort is the date she was born. We celebrate our children’s birthdays on the Jewish date, and Shaina was born on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Hebrew month Iyar. We had expected her mid-Sivan, close to her mom’s birthday. In Jewish tradition, the first day of the month encapsulates the energy of that month. Iyar is an acronym for “Ani Hashem Rofecha” (you can only really see this in the Hebrew spelling), which means, “I, G-d, am your Healer”. Shaina came seven weeks early on the first day of the month of healing.

Could she have been born on a more appropriate date?

Published by rabbiarishishler

Husband, father and rabbi of Chabad of Strathavon in Johannesburg, South Africa.

7 thoughts on “Born on the right day

  1. Happy birthday to Shaina , Hashem’s blessing of innocence & joy to our world.
    A mother’s intuition is so powerful & Rabbi you were wise to respond to Naomi’s request !

    Liked by 1 person

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