by Elisha Gechter
I’ve fallen prey to a Facebook trend. Each month I stick a big number to my daughter’s onesie and snap a picture to post online. This month number nine will come out of the package, which has me recalling the milestone we marked in my 9th month of pregnancy at Mayyim Hayyim.
As a married women (pre-baby) I was accustomed to using Mayyim Hayyim to take stock on a monthly basis – getting clean for the purposes of ritual immersion and getting clear on my priorities in life. I was aware that folks were dunking at Mayyim Hayyim for a myriad of other purposes, most of which I thought were beyond my comfort. But when I heard about a nine-month immersion, I was intrigued. It turns out that the custom for a pregnant woman in her ninth month to immerse in a mikveh is quite an ancient one. Jewish wisdom has long understood that a parent-to-be could use the ritual to focus on the huge turn life is about to take.
Mayyim Hayyim, being the open community mikveh that I love it for, also encourages fathers-to-be to participate in this ritual. So, I booked immersions for my husband and for myself and we showed up at 1838 Washington Street exactly one week and two days before Zoe was born (close call). We were handed a ceremony sheet carefully composed (and laminated so that it was waterproof!) for the occasion. We prepared on our own and I took time to admire my most full belly: “I am grateful for the miraculous workings of my body … to nurture the creation of another human being … all of these months.”
We met up in the marble tiled mikveh pool room and our eyes filled with tears as we recited lines to help us appreciate that the journey we were about to embark on would tie us to the generations before us and after us. “We are links in an inﬁnite and beautiful chain of life.”
There is often much waiting and anticipation when starting a family – waiting for that positive line to appear, for healthy test results, for the due date, and the arrival of the baby. But, being able to take a break from all that looking ahead, this visit to Mayyim Hayyim, gave us the chance to sit together and appreciate being in the moment. Away from our to-do lists (and not-yet-packed hospital bags) we stopped and expressed our thanks for a smooth, healthy pregnancy, a supportive community and a deep love for one another.
There was a bit of looking ahead in the form of calm prayer – asking for an easy childbirth and guidance once the role of parents was actually upon us. We knew we’d need “patience and the ability to ask for help, for a willingness to listen to … [our] intuition.” Directly addressing that yet unknown addition to our family we hoped for a deep relationship to develop, “to be open to the possibility of all you might become and to the gifts that will be passed on to me through your presence.”
During many whirlwind moments of my life Mayyim Hayyim has helped me pause for much needed reflection. “I pray that the wisdom I have gained through my life until this time will guide me as I take on this new life role.” I took my turn to dunk. As I dipped three times beneath the water’s rippling surface, I realized I felt confident in who I was, and who I would grow to become.
Elisha Gechter is the Associate Director of Adult Learning at Hebrew College. She is passionate about Jewish education and cooking and lives in Cambridge, Mass with her husband Sam and daughter Zoe.