Ella Esther – the story behind the baby name

This is the story of our Ella Esther….

The year was 2008. We were finally pregnant with our first child. Since high school, I had been under the misconception that it would be nearly impossible to have children. For years, I believed that the endocrinologist’s diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome was true, based on that my grandmother and mother both had had difficulty conceiving. What did I know? I was only in high school, went to the doctor because my mother took me there, and took the birth control pills that he prescribed to me, though shattered by the notion of a childless future, because I thought I was being the good patient.

So, here I was, married now, still on the medication he prescribed, and thinking that there was no hope. Yet, I continued to pray to God for the chance of a healthy child. It wasn’t until my husband and I moved across country for his work that my mother revealed to me, ‘You never had the syndrome. We stopped taking you to that doctor because there was no evidence that you had it.’

Wait! You made me mess with my body, and encouraged me to take birth control since high school, to level out my hormonal imbalance, and then never set the record straight for all those years?!

I went off birth control. Six months later, when my husband and I were between houses and working on getting a loan for our new home, I learned I was pregnant. The overabundance of acne, lack of appetite, bloating and strong morning sickness gave it away. We were staying with my husband’s parents out of town. I learned that, in Orthodox Jewish tradition, it is better to hide the pregnancy from everybody but close family and medical professionals, so as not to attract too much unnecessary attention (and also to not get hopes up until there is a viable fetus). We believe that everything precious should be hidden and protected, not flaunted, and modesty of character and dress are things that we highly value for that reason, as well.

Well, wise mother-in-laws know better. She wouldn’t openly ask me about being pregnant, though. Instead she decided to chop an enormous load of onions, and cook with a ton of cumin, during the few months that we had to stay with them….just to torment me and push out the truth. I would not budge. It was a tough time for me to be around such strong smells, and I was far from the place we would be living, and from any doctor with whom I could get established who could give me advice on how to curb the nausea I was constantly feeling.

After a few months of living at my in-laws’ home, and moving around while awaiting our own home, we finally settled into our new home. I was twenty-three weeks pregnant, and one Shabbat afternoon I took a nap. I had a blurry-looking dream. In it, I was walking into a gymnasium. At the sideline of the basketball court, someone was sitting and holding a baby, but not giving her to me yet. I walked further into the room, down the court. There was a young, brown-haired girl holding a basketball. I asked her what her name was. She replied, “Ella,” and then gave me a hug. She had chosen me.

I woke up from my dream, sat up and looked at my husband, “It’s going to be a girl. Why don’t we name her Ella?” It was an instant hit.

In Judaism we believe that God gives all souls in heaven the choice of the parents to whom they will belong, and at that moment, I knew that this soul has chosen ME to be the mother. Why was the person sitting with the baby not giving her to me yet? Something about not picturing her being born told me that this baby would be a C-section.

What did the dream tell me, in full? Let’s re-cap. I would have a dark-haired girl by C-section. Interestingly enough, my husband and I opted out of knowing the sex of our baby by sonogram, and when the day came, neither of us expected me needing an unplanned C-Section due to the baby’s position. Thankfully, when the surgeons delivered our baby girl with a full “helmet” of dark hair, she was very healthy.

“Ella” in Hebrew, means “God is hers.” My husband decided to give her the middle name of Esther, because it was his grandmother’s name. When combined, the names mean, “God is hidden to her.” With our last name, her name means “God is a hidden good name to her.” Yes, God’s plans had been hidden to me. We had to make the move across country for it to be the right time to learn of my potential to have children. Anything important is something we hide and protect. God is often hidden to us, too, until we come to open our eyes to his miracles.

Submitted by Lisa S.