Having children in the pandemic era
May 22, 2020
By Mel Pearlman
In the May 11, 2020, edition of Time Magazine, a mother eloquently writes in an essay titled, “The pandemic has put our dreams of another baby on hold,” about her fears and concerns of conceiving g another child during this era of the coronavirus pandemic.
She and her husband, already the parents of a 2-year-old, the essayist continues, “Remembering how special it had been for both of us to grow up with a sibling close in age and wanting the same kind of companionship for our son, we had planned to try for another child this spring.”
She then describes how the fears and uncertainties, the lifestyle restrictions, job security issues and health dangers brought about by the pandemic led her and her husband to postpone having another child “at this time.”
While I normally would have skimmed this essay or possibly skipped over it, the subject matter captivated me because as I write this column, my wife and I are waiting with great apprehension and anxiety, as well as with immense joy and happiness, for news of the imminent arrival in NYC of our second granddaughter. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic we cannot be there to share the moment.
Every parent and grandparent wishes that every child born into the family enters the world under optimum conditions of perfect health, prosperity, family and world serenity. But if we only wait for these utopian conditions, are we passing up the joy that children bring even in an imperfect world?
From the historical Jewish perspective, when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt under extremely harsh living conditions and hard labor, they continued to procreate, never losing hope that one day they or their descendants would be free. Even when Pharaoh decreed that every male child born to an Israelite slave be killed, it did not stop the enslaved people from having children.
The Hebrew slave Jochebed, driven by hope and optimism in the face of despair, cast her male child into the Nile in order to save his life. That male child floating in a basket in the river, pulled away from his mother by the current to an unknown fate, was ultimately rescued from the river and raised in Egyptian royalty.
Despite being completely assimilated into Egyptian culture and love for his Egyptian family, the only family he had ever known, his Jewish heart and soul prevailed when he saw an Egyptian slave overseer mistreating an Israelite slave. He rescued the slave from certain death by killing the overseer and was compelled to leave his life of comfort and luxury to escape Egyptian wrath.
That baby, named Moses, became G-d’s emissary to Pharaoh, which led to the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, to the acceptance of the Torah by a freed people at Mt. Sinai, to the national identity of the Jewish people and the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to Abraham to return the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
More recently from a historical perspective, many of the post Holocaust survivors from the concentration and death camps of Nazi Europe, who had experienced what on earth had to be as close to the theological hell as you can imagine, found themselves in Displaced Persons Camps throughout Europe. These camps were deplorable in their own right.
As they waited for resettlement to Israel, the United States and other allied countries, and despite their current living conditions and past experiences, hope and optimism still existed in the survivors. There were many marriages and births in the camps and many survivors went on to rebuild their families and lives in America, in Israel and throughout the world.
The current pandemic has created challenges for all people in all walks of life. Each family has to make their own judgment on how to react to the pandemic. This column is intended to offer one more perspective on the issue.
If you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner.
Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first vice president and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.