There is a subtle irony in the idea that Sarah Imenu is the mother of all who convert, spiritually. I picture her amused at the idea because she, a woman who had so much trouble conceiving and carrying a child in the physical world, is now probably constantly pregnant and giving birth to new progeny in the spiritual one. The woman whose faith was so tested by infertility in the physical world is the most prolific mother of spiritual children, each one born of the watery womb of the mikvah, blinking the waters from their eyes like any newborn, emerging naked and new.
Like most natural processes, similar to adolescence, pregnancy is an awkward process at times. It’s a time of anxious waiting, of ups and downs, and of moments that can feel less than dignified. Some pregnancies end in heartache, with empty arms and lost hopes. Others end unexpectedly early, other plans interrupted and the newborn struggling without as much time to prepare for the world. Still other pregnancies go far overdue. Sometimes, the child doesn’t form in all the ways we hope and it faces a challenging life and other times a baby is born with everything it needs to succeed. Nothing is guaranteed as the mother sits, uncomfortably waiting in a mixture of anxiety and anticipation, joy and fear. Nothing is certain.
A convert is an infant forming outside the protective darkness of the womb, more like an adolescent going through awkward changes in the harsh light of the world. Still, there’s no rushing past that awkward stage any more than an expectant mother can skip the aches and pains of pregnancy and skip right to a puffy pink newborn in her arms or a gangly teenager can skip all the trials and tribulations of puberty. Some things simply can’t be rushed with any amount of effort or desire and have to be lived through for however long it takes.
No one pregnancy is the same. With my firstborn, he sat low in my belly. My pelvis ached with his weight. With my second, she sat high up in my ribs, making it harder to take a deep breath. In ultrasounds, each already displayed a unique personality. My daughter already slept with her hands folded under her head, a pose she’ll still take today. From my years of hearing conversion stories, none of Sarah’s pregnancies have been alike, either. Spiritually, she’s carried each of us however long it takes. I like to think she is expectantly hopeful for each of us as any mother is.
I fight the urge again to try to push my way through, realizing now in a way I really didn’t when I first started this process, that there is a purpose to being in this process for as long as is needed, moving as slowly as is needed and remaining in an awkward state. For now, I’m slowing down and trying to find the joy in this place and slowly prepare for what I hope will be the end of this long journey. I have no way of knowing how long Sarah’s pregnancy in my case may last or what further twists and turns it may take, but I’m grateful at least to know that I’m still being carried, that I’m still that potential waiting to be realized.
Awkward, yes, but full of potential.