In the Beginning

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By: Miriam Burstein

There was nothing. And then there was chaos.

A few days before I gave birth, a new cycle of Torah readings began, starting with the creation of the world and mankind. Day and night, dark and light, water and sky, earth covered with trees and shrubs and flowers, celestial bodies sparkling into the vast abyss, flocks of birds soaring below the clouds, the oceans teeming with fish and whales and jellyfish and dolphins, insects swarming over the dust, beasts of all sizes in the trees and caves and deserts and plains. And man oh man, then there was man. And then G-d rested.

Before baby, there is routine. Herd kids out to school, work, pickup and park, break up fights, bedtime, lesson planning or Pilates, collapse, repeat. Empty the freezer and refill it. Empty the washing machine and refill it. Teach a lesson and plan another. Drop kids off, pick them up. Constant motion. I don’t know how much I am accomplishing, but I am always doing something. One more bedtime story. One more vocabulary worksheet. One more batch of chocolate chip cookies to stick in the freezer.

People have a natural drive to work, do, change the world, be like our Creator. If we are doing something, we are accomplishing—or at least trying. These days, if we have nothing to do, we open Instagram or Facebook and see what everyone else is doing. We don’t like to just be.

 

And then there was baby.

And the world continues to spin without me. Really. No one starves, the kids go to school and come home, my husband gets some work done, and everyone wears something every day. The kids go to friends’ houses and the library and youth group events. Relatives come and go. The kids’ friends come and go. My temporary substitute at work, who I tried texting from the hospital delivery room but only spoke to the next morning from the ward, comes and goes.

But there is also chaos.

A tiny, tongue-tied creature with an insatiable appetite. Trips to the well-baby clinic, and to the pediatrician to get weighed and to the lactation consultant. Repeat. An infection and antibiotics for myself, a bris to arrange, an apartment to buy, a car to sell. A forehead to glue, teeth to drill, lice to comb, lost glasses to replace, the threats of measles and missiles to avoid, performances to walk the kids to see, performances to watch the kids act in.

And laundry. When there is no other chaos in life, there is always laundry. Because even if everyone wears something every day, there is no guarantee that it matches or fits properly. (My two-year-old is wearing mismatched socks as I type this.) And somehow, laundry seems to be the only thing that no one else in the family can figure out.

And amidst the chaos, I hear, “Thou shalt rest.”

From my husband, who tries to do whatever I did before the baby on top of everything he did before the baby and is getting no more sleep than me, but would also like us to go out for a walk or sit and talk. From relatives coming to visit, and who want to hold the baby or talk to me or know what they can bring and how to help. From the preschool teacher who asked me to pick my little one up early for a week while she was on vacation so the substitutes wouldn’t be overwhelmed. From neighbors who offer to pick my child up one day and ask me to pick theirs up the next. From people pushing their toddlers on the swings in the park. From the lactation consultant, whose waiting room I sit in for over an hour—twice.

So, between the feedings every hour and a half and the burping and the rocking and picking kids up and taking them to the park and making supper and loads of laundry and cups of coffee and appointments, I rest. Because I am. I am me, even at rest. I sit and watch my world carrying on without me, and I look forward to getting back to a new routine with my new little creation. But for now, I can rest, because the Creator is running the world.

 

Miriam Burstein

is a mother, teacher, freelance writer, translator and blogger at israelisalad.net. She holds a master's degree from the Shaindy Rudoff Creative Writing Program in Bar Ilan University. A US ex-pat, she has been living in Israel for fifteen years.

Rochel Lazar