The Emergency Room

The Emergency Room

I thought the reason Yaakov, my 3-week-old baby, was so miserable was because he had a hemorrhoid. But it wasn’t a hemorrhoid, my pediatrician informed me this past Sunday morning. It was a “perianal abscess” which meant a rushed trip to the emergency room.

At the emergency room, the nurse took Yaakov’s pulse, temperature, and blood pressure (I was so sorry I don’t have a camera on my Flintstone-era cellphone to document how she took his blood pressure with a doll-sized cuff wrapped around his leg…so adorable and jarring to see this grown-up procedure performed on a newborn).

Then the surgeon came and she drained the puss and blood out of the abscess (GROSS!). And she instructed me 4 times to wash Yaakov in soap and water after every diaper change for a week. And then we were on our way home, light-footed with thankfulness to Hashem for having made Yaakov what I pray to be at every doctor’s visit: a boring patient.

I was exhausted by the time I got home about an hour after bedtime, with a crowd of children to put to sleep.

But as soon as the house was quiet, I called my mom to tell her about all of that day’s excitement.

And after the call, it occurred to me that a doctor cut the umbilical cord connecting me to my mother 40 years ago. But no matter how far away I am, I still feel so connected to her.

My mom’s still the only person in the world who remembers all the stories I’ve told her decades after I myself have forgotten them. She’s the person who cancelled her patients for two weeks and jumped on a plane to Israel this past August when Josh had to travel abroad and I was too pregnant to go with him. She’s the person who, after Josh and I were harassed by a Nachlaot pedophile a few days after the birth, has been leaving on her cellphone 24/7 just in case there is an emergency and I need her help.

The truth is that I don’t know what my mom could do from Baltimore if there was a problem. And even if she was here, I’m not sure how my 5’2″, 102 pound, 69-year-old mother could protect me in case of emergency. But yanno what? The fact that my mom has her cellphone on and in her lap at all times really does make me feel safer. Just like when I walk down the street with my mom and I feel totally invincible. As safe as I felt when I was 3 years old, walking with my mom hand in hand past a barking dog.

My 14-year-old daughter, Hadas, just started “ulpana,” a high school for religious girls located in a yishuv a half-an-hour north of Jerusalem. As is common practice at ulpanot, Hadas sleeps over in the dorm 3 nights a week.

I miss Hadas. We have shared a home for the past 14 years, and now I don’t see her for half the week.

I am also very happy for Hadas and proud of her when I see how she seems to be thriving in ulpana; making so many new friends and adjusting to ulpana life.

But it hasn’t been so easy for me, and it did occur to me with a bit of a sting that the transition has been harder for me than it has been for Hadas. That I miss Hadas more than she misses me.

But last night she called, and she needed to talk. She had a problem, and she wanted to tell me all about it. I was stumped by her dilemma, and quickly suggested that she ask Josh for advice, and I passed the phone to him. And while they talked I felt sad, mourning the fact that in her new grown-up ulpana life Hadas no longer had so much need for her mother.

But after Josh was done listening and advising, he handed the phone back to me and said, “Hadas says she still needs to talk to YOU…” and I took back the phone and Hadas told me about some more issues that were on her mind.

And I felt my throat clench up with emotion.

I thought of how I have a mom.

And how now I am a mom too.

And how I will never have another mom.

And how Hadas won’t either.

And that all three of us, my mom, my daughter, and I, are links in an unbroken chain. Fortified, with undying love and devotion, from mother to daughter, for as long as we walk this earth.


  1. So glad your son is okay! Sometimes you can’t fix a problem for your kids, but letting them talk to you about it goes a long way.

  2. The end brought tears to my eyes. How poignant and sweet. Thanks!

  3. Such a beautiful article. Your kids should always be healthy and they should always turn to you for advice. Very inspiring. My mother passed away about 4 1/2 years ago and I still feel the need to have someone just to remember everything about me and be so involved in my life ( out of love). So enjoy every moment.

  4. I loved that. Really emotional…

  5. Susanna Rossen

    I loved your story, it tucks on my heart. Thank you!

  6. I’m crying! So beautiful…

  7. Mazal tov on the birth of your son. You are making us all cry with this post! Such a moving story. Please g-d may I be as inspiring of a mother as you and your mother that my kids should grow up and call me for advice from high school or better yet… write something like this about me!
    Kol hakavod!

  8. I see that you cherish the relatioship with your mom–continue to do so. I lost my mom a few years ago to that nasty disease Alzheimer’s but every day she “is with me” 24/7 nothing to interfer with our relationsip, like time, space, distance, money…I see her, feel her and hear her- a constant sensory experience. she was an artist that loved to draw interesting people doing interesting things; almost every day I witness a real live situation which I know my mom would love to draw..her memory for me is visceral and constant..I feel blessed to have had her as my mom and still do! May it be so with you! and BTW, my daughter not 14 yrs old, but qutie a bit older,and regardless of age, they always NEED YOU no matter if they say otherwise….

  9. Chana Jenny, I knowwwwwww!!!!
    In 1985, was in labor in New York.
    My mother was 200 miles away.
    The labor wasn’t going well and the hospital was disappointing me, to say the least. The doctor had gone for a nap.
    I called my mother throughout that labor – from a payphone down the hall (this was before cell phones).
    Why? As you ask, what could she do for me?
    Nothing. But she would CARE.

  10. This week’s article was a difficult one for me as I lost my mom 3 years ago, when my oldest son was only a month old. I still remember being there as she was taking her last breath and then just 30 minutes later having to nurse my newborn.
    I know you won’t but I hope all your readers will please please never take their mothers for granted. Because once your mother leaves there is a hole that is very very difficult to fill. Especially when there are challenges (babies not sleeping through the night), birthdays (upsherins), and milestones (first time my baby called me Ema).
    I pray that you and your daughter and mother should have a beautiful strong bond that will last “ad 120”.

  11. Needless to say, that was my last hospital birth. I had the rest at home.

  12. dear chana jenny,
    can you explain what you mean by “As is common practice at ulpanot, Hadas sleeps over in the dorm 3 nights a week?” why do they want students who live locally to sleep in the dorm? Why shouldn’t a 14-year-old girl sleep at home with her family?
    Just wondering,

    • I just asked my daughter this question, since about a third of the girls in her class are from the yishuv where the ulpana is located, but they are still required to sleep over at least 2 nights a week. She explained that when girls sleep over, there is more time for bonding between the girls and extra activities. It makes high school a much more intense educational and social experience. I can see that there are benefits, but I still wish that hadas didn’t have to sleep over…

  13. very moving. Lots of nachas from all of them. Refuah shelaima to the little guy.

  14. Thanks so much for your constant inspiration. Moms are pretty incredible people. If I do say so myself.

  15. Ooh, I’ve got the chilss. So poignant. I’ve been sreaming of that moment since my (ahem, 18month old) baby girl was born. Something about that feminine connection…
    I’m on the phone with my mom, every day, too. Ansd someday, someday…

  16. Sharon Saunders

    Even when the inevitable comes and a mom is no longer upon the earth, her daughter still consults her. Believe me.

  17. Thank you for your beautiful and inspiring article. Truly being a mother helps me appreciate my mother more and hope that I can fulfill my potential with this great challenge as well, being a wonderful mother and role model

  18. My grandmother recently passed away and my mum gave me some of her silk scarves to wear as tichels.
    When my parents visited to be here for my last birth, I wore one of the scarves to meet my mother for breakfast.
    Suddenly I went into labour, and there I was, “wearing” my grandmother , with my mother in the labour room as well.
    As I was giving info to the midwife my mothers ears perked up: “what? If that was the date of your last period…” she trailed off, teary, as we both realized this day of the birth was exactly 9 months after my grandmothers birthdate….

    An eternal connection.

  19. Crying! That was so beautiful and touching. I still talk to my mother daily and when we skip a day because we’re too busy I start missing her. Funny how that is as you get older. You’re a wonderful daughter and mother. And I’m glad you’re little baby is doing better!

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