One Extra Candle
Being Jewish, when I think of candles,
I associate them with the rituals in which Jews light
candles. Before the Sabbath, an unmarried Jewish woman
traditionally lights one candle. After she's married,
she lights two candles, and then as she gives birth
to each child, she lights an additional candle.
A long-burning candle is lit as a memorial
for a loved one who has died, both on the anniversary
of his death and on specific days of festivals. So,
to me, candles have come to symbolize souls. I see the
flame reaching upward with endless determination and
I imagine the soul pleading to stay safe from harm.
Children came to me neither quickly nor easily. It
was a Friday when I discovered that my first attempt
at in-vitro fertilization had yielded fertilized eggs.
I felt happy, but helpless - they would not be implanted
until Sunday. So that Friday evening, I decided on a
symbolic gesture - I lit an extra candle. I lit an extra
candle each week while I waited to see if implantation
had taken place and went back to lighting just three
when I found it hadn't.
The second IVF I did the same and when I found that
I was pregnant with my first child, I continued lighting
the third candle, each week... for almost 9 years now.
With each IVF I did the same, lighting an extra (fourth)
candle for the tiny embryos. When, several treatments
later, I discovered I was pregnant with twins, I added
the fifth candle, for the second twin.
These past few weeks, I have been lighting a sixth
candle, for a baby who may or may not be growing inside
me. Somehow the extra candle makes me feel like the
tiny embryo's soul is just a little bit safer.
This piece was written in November 2001. Just a few
days later I found out that I was pregnant,
but it appeared, due to the low beta hCG level to be
a chemical pregnancy. As I waited to miscarry, the beta
continued to rise. The ultrasound showed a large hematoma
in my uterus and only during the 8th week were they
able to identify an embryo, with a heartbeat. Amazingly,
it was the hematoma and not a problem with the fetus
that caused the pregnancy to end just as I finished
the first trimester.