Though I have obviously never been pregnant myself, I have had the blessed opportunity of going through the miraculous process alongside my incredible wife four times in the last decade. For some expectant parents, it is the physical changes that are the focus of pregnancy – the nausea, the aches and pains, late night ice cream cravings and ah, those fun hormonal changes.
But for many righteous women, pregnancy is a precious opportunity for an enhanced spiritual connection with God, a topic beautifully elaborated upon by Chana Weisberg in the book Expecting Miracles: Finding Meaning and Spirituality in Pregnancy Through Judaism.
During her first two pregnancies, Weisberg found a lack of spiritual literature relating to pregnancy so she set out to fill the void with Expecting Miracles. Bursting with personal stories of Godly women who used their pregnancies as an opportunity to reflect, the book connects women to God and grow spiritually.
Weisberg shares the intimate details of her own spiritual journey from Indonesia to Jerusalem, from a secular life to a deeply religious one. However, the book focuses on interviews with 24 mothers living in Jerusalem. These women include mothers, midwives and educators – each with their own personal experience and take-home message.
As one expecting mother put it, “I felt very fulfilled during pregnancy. Even if I wasn’t doing anything else in the world, just walking around with this baby inside of me gave me a lot of confidence. I felt full of self-worth.”
Expecting Miracles is arranged by topic and deals with many big issues that couples face during pregnancy including the work-life balance, birth control, family planning, large families and prenatal screening.
One career woman with a large family expresses frustration at hearing sly comments like ‘pregnant again!?’
”I feel as though I am going against the world in a way, going against progress. They all have careers and are intellectual…But that is not what this generation needs – what it needs is for us to focus on our connection with God.”
Many of the women in Expecting Miracles discussed the importance of providing spiritual nutrition to the growing child through prayer and extra good deeds. Tzipporah Heller, a renowned Jewish educator noted that “pregnancy can serve as an opportunity to change our attitudes towards our marriage, towards our deeds, towards how much Torah we’re living and learning.” Heller explains that motherhood is about unconditional giving, and pregnancy prepares for that.
In a society that highlights ‘unwanted pregnancies’ or glorifies irresponsible behavior with TV shows such as ‘16 and Pregnant’ or ‘Teen Mom’, it is reassuring that there are women like Chana Weisberg who remind us that pregnancy is a spiritual journey. By highlighting the personal stories of inspiring Jewish women, Expecting Miracles helps us recognize that pregnancy is the greatest blessing from God.