Last weekend was a momentous one for our family. The day before she turned 27, and three weeks before her due date, my daughter Tamar brought her first baby into the world.
This made her a mother, her husband a father, me a grandmother, her father a saba, my mother a great-grandmother (good going, when you’re 75); and her three siblings, aunts and uncles; and the rest of us, of course, immensely happy.
My daughter’s in-laws were grandparents and aunts already. That doesn’t lessen their joy at this birth, of course, it’s just for us this is all entirely new. What’s more, it hasn’t been the most straightforward of gestations.
There were health complications both early on and later in Tamar’s pregnancy, which meant that the birth itself carried terrifying risk. When Eden Ayala — as she was named in synagogue last Saturday — was born, the relief was enormous.
So enormous that it’s only in the last few days that I’ve realised how very nervous I’ve been these past eight months.
When they’ve experienced any sort of medical crisis, people always say how enormously grateful they are to the NHS, to the doctors and nurses and midwives who got them through it, and I now feel this gratitude in spades too. I wish these wonderful professionals were paid more and that their working conditions were better.
I have also realised these past days that when you are flooded with relief and gratitude, it’s hard to know what to do with those feelings. The impulse is to give back, to do something that puts that gratitude in motion. One way of doing that it to give to charity. And I know exactly where to donate,
Eden was born very early on Shabbat morning in North Manchester General Hospital which, rather wonderfully, has a Shabbos room. Openable with a push button code that you’d have to know Gematria to decipher, it looks like a tuck shop.
Neatly arranged bags of snacks in labelled containers sit on shelves next to rows of water bottles.
There’s a fridge with portions of salad, pots of yoghurt, bottles of juice, jars of jam and pats of butter, a table with plastic-wrapped challa rolls, and a hot water urn for teas and coffees.
And though they weren’t there last Shabbat, I am reliably informed there is usually a hot plate and pot of cholent on the go too. And if that all weren’t somehow enough, the Shabbos room at North Manchester General Hospital also has drawers of tiny nappies, vest-popper baby clothes and wipes.
Funded by the charity Ezra Care, it is truly exceptional provision that makes you feel proud to be Jewish. Proud that so much thought, care and money has gone into offering Jewish patients and their families somewhere to sit, make tea, eat kosher food in their moment of need, on a day when can’t buy or make anything to eat or drink themselves.
As for the baby, people say the best bit about being a grandparent is that you can give them back. Wrong! A week in, and I want to spend all my time with my little granddaughter. It’s wonderful to have a little baby in my life again.
And it’s wonderful seeing my daughter become a mother. Manchester was already too far away from Brighton, where I live. Now, it is much, much too far away.
If you don’t buy tickets well in advance or have some sort of railcard, a Euston to Manchester train can cost almost the same as a February flight to Israel, and a six-hour drive in a small car from Brighton is a long and back-aching journey.
But I’m not complaining. I’m enormously grateful. I really am. Though I’d be even more grateful if I had a large and comfortable car, or knew someone with a helicopter, and had a flat in Manchester.
Oh, and had a million or so to spare so I could give generous gift cards to the NHS professionals and donate a serious sum to Ezra Care.