Braid the Parashah


This week’s portion opens with a declaration that a postpartum woman is “tamei,” or impure. This means the woman cannot touch consecrated things or enter the sanctuary during the period of “blood purification.”

Sitting here 3 weeks postpartum, and feeling like the text is talking directly to me, I’m surprisingly finding it compelling. Though I reject the negative connotation of the concept of tamei, I think there is something to be said for the broader acknowledgement that there are very significant physical and emotional changes occurring for someone who has just given birth. I see this passage as our biblical ancestors’ attempt to address that reality.

I’ve experienced the postpartum period 4 times but this is my first without a newborn. It’s different and I appreciate that this text is focused specifically on the birther. What makes the person tamei is the fact that their body is bleeding, not that they are caring for an infant, which has nothing to do with gender or giving birth.  Sometimes those two things overlap, but not all the time. I appreciate this as I navigate this bizarre space of recovering from childbirth without a child… 

My recovery is going really well and overall, I feel very “normal.” But I also know I’m living in a body that is still recovering from a pretty huge thing. Though I don’t see myself as impure, I connect to the idea that our society could do more to support those in the postpartum period. 

There is a lot of discussion around how much leave a gestational carrier should be given from work after birth. Some say 2 weeks to get through the most significant period. Others say 6 weeks to honor what is medically considered “postpartum” and may include postpartum depression, which is as common for surrogates as mothers because hormones plummet regardless of parenthood. There’s also the more general question of how to impress upon society that it is never appropriate to ask someone if they are pregnant!

I don’t have the answers to these questions but they are front and center on my mind and I appreciate that on some level, our biblical ancestors were trying to answer them as well! Even if our answers today look different than theirs!

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