This week's portion: labor
Read Write Poem #109: six weeks

Ohalah 2010, seen from afar

This weekend, the ALEPH ordination programs community -- students in the rabbinic, rabbinic pastor, hashpa'ah (spiritual direction) and cantorial programs -- has gathered for a Shabbat retreat which culminates in our annual smicha (ordination) ceremony. Immediately after the smicha ceremony, the annual conference of Ohalah, the association of rabbis for Jewish renewal, will begin.

Last year I went to Boulder a few days before the Shabbaton, to begin a three-year training program in spiritual drection. I entered that experience with an exciting secret: I was pregnant for the first time. A few friends and teachers guessed the news just from seeing me; a few others learned the news because I was too excited not to share it. I remember Friday night services especially vividly -- dancing around the ballroom at the Boulderado, wearing my burgundy velvet dress and a white pillbox kippah which Ethan had brought me from Dubai, thinking about the fact that by Ohalah 2010 I would have a three-month-old in my arms.

By Shabbat morning, that pregnancy had ended. I spent the  rest of that Shabbat in a fog. The miscarriage and its aftermath feel incredibly distant now. In mid-March, I shared my miscarriage poems with the world, releasing Through for anyone who might need it. Then Ethan and I went on vacation. By the time we came home, although we didn't know it, we'd conceived our son.

Now it is January again. My community has gathered, and the ordination ceremony will take place today -- though no longer at the historic Boulderado; this year we're meeting in a more affordable venue in St. Louis. And this year, for the first time since I began the program in 2005, I will not be there to laugh and cry and cheer my beloved friends on as they celebrate this new stage in their religious journey.

It's amazing how much can change in a single year. When I left the Boulderado last year, I didn't realize that I wouldn't be returning. I didn't know that I would become pregnant again so soon. I couldn't have imagined, then, what it would feel like to be home with my six-week-old son (who is miserable with the first cold of his short life) while my community has gathered without me. Parenthood is an overwhelming journey so far, one which I'd love to write about if I could find the brain cells and the time. (It's been six weeks since I got a decent night's sleep; I count myself lucky if I can string together two hours at a stretch.) Everyone tells me these early weeks will have flown by, once they're gone, though right now individual minutes pass at the speed of cold molasses.

This time next year, I'll be with my community again. Drew will be a year old and these difficult early weeks of parenting will be as distant a memory as my miscarriage is now. And if all goes according to plan, next year's smicha ceremony will be a particularly special one for me. For now, though, I can only be where I am: sitting by the fire with a snuffly infant strapped to my chest, thinking of my friends and teachers in St. Louis with love from afar.