by Debra Askanase
Sometimes, even newborn babies need a fresh start. That’s what I thought when I finally brought my eldest daughter home from Children’s Hospital, three and a half weeks after her birth. She had a rough beginning, going straight from Newton-Wellesley to Children’s Hospital. It was touch-and-go for the first few days, and after that, it was three and a half weeks of stress at the hospital, trying to bring her home.
Once home, we were panicked and nervous new parents. We were stressed out, still dealing with some leftover medical issues, and honestly, reeling from a birth that had been all but typical. A month passed. Two months passed. As her medical issues cleared up, we felt it was time to start thinking about a naming ceremony. She is named for two very strong women in her family – two great-grandmothers. It was important to bless her with the kavanah (intention) of a naming, and to publicly pass on the strength that these women embodied.
As the naming drew near, I began to think back on her birth: the trauma to her, the trauma for our entire family living with the uncertainty of the outcome, and frankly the trauma of the birth. It didn’t seem right to have a naming without recognizing, and moving on from the trauma of the first few weeks.
I knew of Mayyim Hayyim because my former neighbor in Jamaica Plain, Aliza Kline, was the Executive Director at the time. I also knew a mikveh guide, a longtime friend of my husband’s family. After a lot of thought, I decided that immersing her in the mikveh would be cleansing for both of us, and a fresh start for her before her naming ceremony. My husband’s family motto is “and you should choose life in order that you should live.” Mayyim Hayyim seemed to embody both the family motto and a new beginning for our daughter.
The day before the naming, I brought our daughter to Mayyim Hayyim for her mikveh immersion. My parents, in from out of town, and my husband joined us. As I walked into the changing room, I knew this was what I should be doing. As we immersed, I felt as if I was cleansing and sloughing off a part of our past that I wanted to leave behind, that I didn’t want her to have to carry any longer either. As we emerged, I knew with certainty that this was the completely right thing to do.
Mayyim Hayyim means Living Waters, and that is what the immersion signified to me: living, and living anew. Mayyim Hayyim offered both me and my daughter an opportunity to ritually begin anew. I am thankful to have found and experienced Mayyim Hayyim. Eight years later, I look upon our daughter and am so thankful for the joy that she brings to our lives.
Debra Askanase is the founder and digital engagement strategist at Community Organizer 2.0, a social media and digital strategy consulting firm to nonprofit organizations emphasizing strategic use of social media to support organizational goals. Prior to founding Community Organizer 2.0, Debra worked for almost 20 years in the nonprofit field, originally as a community organizer and later as a program director, executive director and economic development director. Her award-winning blog, Community Organizer 2.0, offers advice, strategies and opinions about using social media in the nonprofit sector. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Waltham, Massachusetts.