by Carrie Bornstein
My five-year old has been asking for a while if she can go swimming where I work. She loves Mayyim Hayyim, which is probably not entirely unrelated to the never-ending supply of animal crackers and pretzels. In the past few months her requests have gotten more frequent. So I engaged her in the conversation.
“It’s not really swimming, you know, like in the summer, just for fun. Usually there’s a reason that people come – like a big deal thing that’s going on in a person’s life that they want to mark in some way.”
“I know,” she said immediately. “I can go because we’re having a new baby!”
Well, look at that, I thought. She gets it. I let her know that, in fact, lots of people immerse when they’re expecting a baby, and that becoming a big sister for the second time, or a “double big sister” as we call it, is a really big deal.
The two of us visited a few weeks ago. On the ride there I explained a little more so she’d know what to expect. She knew she wouldn’t wear a bathing suit in the water – she’d take off any barrier between her body and the water. Just like before she was born, she’d be completely surrounded by the water. Nothing else getting in the way.
And then I remembered.
The pedicure she still had on from a friend’s birthday party. And the beloved Band-Aid still on her finger from the night before. We talked it through a little and she said she’d think about what she wanted to do.
Then I told her that sometimes when people go in the water, they want to say something about why they’re there, maybe a special blessing, maybe some other words about the reason for their visit. I started to think about how we might adapt the immersion ceremony for the ninth month of pregnancy, when she said,
“I know what I want to say.”
“Thank You, God, for life and babies.”
Ceremony? Who needs a ceremony?! Of course she knew what she wanted to say. It’s us adults who have trouble coming up with the words. Only five years old, and it was completely intuitive.
We got into the preparation room and Ellie picked out a special purple toothbrush and Burstin’ Bubblegum toothpaste. She took off her clothes… and surprise… there was the enormous Smurf tattoo on her belly that I’d forgotten she’d put on the day before. Who knew a five-year old would have so many things to remove from her body?
Ellie decided she wanted to remove her nail polish and Band-Aid. Papa Smurf and Vanity Smurf could come off. Smurfette had to stay.
I got into my bathing suit; she took a shower. We entered the warm water and she went under like a champ. And right there on cue, when she came up for air, she said, “Thank You, God, for life and babies. And Ema and Abba.” (Mom and Dad)
After immersing a few more times and reciting the Shehecheyanu for this new occasion, she eventually agreed to come out of the water. We dried off and got dressed, and through her beaming smile, Ellie got to enjoy a chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing.
Carrie Bornstein is Mayyim Hayyim’s Executive Director. She and her husband, Jamie, are the proud parents of Eliana (5), and Dovi (3). They look forward, with some trepidation, to welcoming mystery baby #3 into the family any day now.