We kicked off Passover 2021 COVID-style once again, with one Seder for just the four of us (night 1) and the other on Zoom last night with my family. Typically, we run a full Seder with my family, reading from the Haggadah, and we keep it simple with a few prayers and songs when it’s only the four of us. However, this year, Dan really wanted our small Seder to be more than that.
“Last year at this time, I was unemployed, and job prospects were dim,” he said earlier in the week. “We had no idea what was to come with COVID and we felt pretty isolated. This year, I have a job and am grateful and there’s hope with the vaccines. I want to do something meaningful.”
We started a list of what we wanted to include: lighting the candles; discussing the meaning of what’s on the Seder plate; the blessings – over the karpas, matzah, maror; an abridged version of the story of Passover, welcoming Elijah (speaking of Elijah, I wonder if he masked up this weekend given all of the homes he visited!). And, of course..
Me: We need to include the 4 glasses of wine.
Dan: I love how you think.
Jordan: Mom, it’s 4 cups of wine! Like kid-size cups.
Dan: I like Mom’s version.
There is a significance behind the four cups of wine. The Four Cups represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God, describing our Exodus from Egypt and slavery and our birth as a nation: “I will take you out,” “I will save you,” “I will redeem you,” and “I will take you as a nation.” The cups are a toast to each of these expressions.
Beyond the Seder and all it includes, one of our favorite Singer family Passover traditions is telling the story of the boys’ birth – which coincided with Passover 2004. I retold the story Saturday night when we started eating our meal.
“Dad and I went to the first Seder on Monday, April 5.”
“Where was it?” Ryan asked.
“Ryan, you know where it was. Mom tells this story every year,” Jordan groaned.
“I want to hear her say it.”
“Mom-mom B and Pop-pop B’s apartment,” I answered.
“With the very long table that took up the whole room,” Ryan added.
“Yes,” I laughed.
“Wait – it just hit me that your last meal before giving birth was all matzah-based,” Jordan said. “That’s a shame. I’m so sorry.”
I laughed again. “No one could believe I was even still pregnant by Passover,” I said.
17 years ago…
By April 5, I was exactly 38 weeks pregnant, but the doctors had predicted labor between 34 and 36 weeks because of the position of Jordan’s head. They even suggested someone stay with me at all times, because when I went into labor, it would likely be a fast delivery.
I’d started maternity leave at 32 weeks and had basically spent the last six either 1) lying on the couch – moving around with my monster belly was difficult and uncomfortable. I think I was the biggest pregnant person ever, carrying 13lbs of baby; or 2) going with my mom to Abington hospital every few days to take non-stress tests for the babies and then out to Bonnet Lane for lunch. The exciting life of a mom-to-be.
When, to the surprise of everyone, we got to the 37-week point, my OB practice scheduled an induction for April 6. They didn’t recommend delivering twins much past 38 weeks. We were told to call the hospital that morning before coming over, to make sure there were beds. If someone had been admitted who was unexpectedly in labor, I’d have to wait a day.
By April 5, I had exactly two outfits that fit the monster belly – both giant sweaters and maternity stretch pants. They are in pictures from every occasion we attended the entire winter. However, Spring came with a vengeance that day, and I found myself with nothing to wear in the 80-degree temps for the first Seder. My mom ran out and managed to find a pretty purplish blouse that fit decently well over the basketball I was carrying. I mention this as significant because the picture of me in that shirt is the last photo I have before life completely changed!
The Seder itself was uneventful (other than all of the good wishes on our delivery the next day), and the next morning, Dan and I woke up at 6:00 am to go the hospital. When I got out of bed, my water broke. I called the hospital to tell them we were coming. A nurse said there were no beds and to call back tomorrow.
“But my water broke!” I interrupted her, not wanting to risk Baby A’s quick arrival at our house. She said to just come over and they’d figure it out.
They found us a room, and we settled in. I was only a few centimeters dilated and not really in pain at that point, and several hours later, my family had gathered to hang out with us while we waited. My parents, sister and brother-in-law, Marni and Dan, Aunt Sue, and Mom-mom and Pop-pop were all there.
Only my family could turn labor into a party. Nurses kept commenting on how much fun we were having. Marni had made a labor mix tape and we sang along and laughed at her selections (eg Push it). After some time, I was 4cm dilated and had started to feel it intensely, but the pain evaporated after the doctor administered an epidural.
Once the amazing epidural kicked in, we played a version of the memory game, I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring… you know that game where you have to remember what everyone before you said and then add a new thing with the next letter? Our version was I’m going to the delivery room and I’m going to bring… (Anesthesia, Babies, Car seat… is it weird I still remember some of what we brought?) The family was impressed with my memory, given the circumstances, but always competitive, I wasn’t going to let a little labor get in the way of a game!
“Hang on,” Jordan interrupted when I got to this part. “The family was in the labor room with you and Dad the whole time? Playing games and singing? he asked incredulously. “Actually, never mind. I wouldn’t expect anything less. Go on,” he said. (I did, after a quick explanation that no one but Dad was there for the delivery part!)
The day continued. By 4:30, I was 6cm dilated. My ‘fast’ delivery had reached the 10 hour mark. We were finished with games; I was cranky and tired and wanted these babies out. The doctor had given me drugs to speed up labor, and pain was setting in again. There would be no more pain meds to help.
Marni and Dan decided to go to Dan’s mom’s house for the second Seder, since it seemed we still had awhile to go. But – in a dramatic turn of events – I was suddenly 10cm dilated at 6:00pm, and it was time to start the delivery. My mom called Marni and Dan, who had just arrived at his mom’s Seder. They turned around and drove back to the hospital at record speed so they could be there when the babies were born. Because – you know – it would be a ‘fast’ delivery.
Four hours later, I was begging for a C-section, and the doctor and nurses started the prep. Mom-mom, Pop-pop and Sue had gone home and were waiting by the phone for news. Marni’s Dan also went home to get some sleep, so he could go to work the next day. My poor family had hung in there for such a long time!
Finally, a quick 18 hours after my water broke, Jordan and Ryan made their debut into the world on the second day of Passover, at 12:18 and 12:20 am on April 7.
Marni and my parents cooed over the babies when they were wheeled out of the delivery room. They, and Dan, finally went home and fell into a deep sleep.
“How long were you in the hospital?” Ryan asked.
“I think it was five nights.”
“Where was Dad?”
“He was there most of the time,” I said. “One night he went to Aunt Marni and Uncle Dan’s apartment for dinner – they had leftovers from the Seder they never attended. Dad didn’t realize the leftovers were supposed to last them the whole week, and he kept taking more. He ended up eating all of their food!”
Ryan laughed – he loves this part.
“I was really hungry! And tired. And overwhelmed with these new babies!” Dan protested, as he always does.
“And then you brought us home, and that’s the end of the story,” Ryan said.
“Well, it’s actually the very beginning,” I replied, thinking about our 17 years of stories since then – some told through this blog, some kept between us, some still to be told. What an amazing, emotional, exhausting, miraculous journey.
Passover, while primarily about freedom and triumph over adversity, is also about strength, resilience, faith and miracles. I can’t think of a holiday more fitting to have become a mom to these two incredible boys.