Editor’s Note: The author of this article prefers to remain anonymous.
I never imagined that I would observe regular mikveh practice. I didn’t grow up Orthodox, nor do I identify as such now. I didn’t have female role models in my life who were using the mikveh, no one encouraged me to take on the practice, and my husband does not care if I go or not, as long as I am happy. But somehow, I stumbled into this ritual that has come to have great meaning in my life.
The first time I went to the mikveh was right before my wedding. Accompanied by my mother and friends (many of whom were baffled by this foreign experience) I prepared myself emotionally, spiritually and physically for a major life transition. And I have repeated that process (sans mom and friends) every month since my wedding, with the exception of the time I was pregnant with my son.
The truth is, I don’t think that many people know that I practice niddah, using the mikveh monthly. It is not something that I talk about all that frequently, in part because it is a deeply personal experience, and in part because there rarely seems like an “appropriate” time to have that conversation. And that is okay with me.
Going to the mikveh is like Shabbat for my marriage. We say that on Shabbat we “shavat vayinafash,” we rest and rejuvenate. In the time leading up to going to the mikveh, my relationship rests a bit. We do not withdraw from one another completely, but our awareness of each other is altered as we mark the time before I can immerse. This means that the immersion itself is my rejuvenation. It refreshes me and restores me, ultimately returning me to my husband so that the cycle can start again.
Each month I get to revisit what it felt like to immerse in the mikveh the very first time, in preparation for my wedding and to remind myself of everything that brought us to that moment. Every month there is a rhythm and cycle that keeps us from taking one another for granted, that forces us to be thoughtful about the way that we mark time and that carries us through both good and difficult times, providing a structure that provides awareness and grounds us.
But my favorite part of the experience is that every month I feel as though I have the opportunity to get out of my head and out of my body, to take a step back and reflect, and to set new intentions and recenter myself. It is only then that I feel I am fully physically and emotionally present. It is at the moment that I immerse. And I exit the mikveh a bride anew.