The Dream That Was Meant To Be

Rabbi Tziona Szajman, her husband Timothy Olivieri, and their daughter Eliyana Bracha Nuhamin Olivieri.

Looking down at my beautiful daughter in my arms, I sometimes wonder what on earth took me so long. Bringing her into our lives was a long journey that did not begin with agency and governmental red tape, but with a dream I was afraid to let die. The decision to end our efforts with infertility treatments, though they that were slowly killing my husband and me, was incredibly difficult.

I don’t think I actually yearned for a biological child in the beginning. At my age, I knew it was a long shot. We talked of adoption before we ever visited a fertility specialist. Then, with the introduction of a powerful drug to my system, I got pregnant. Oh the joy of that time, brief as it was, and the devastation and loss in that miscarriage. I desperately wanted to recapture the joy and hopefulness of carrying our child and so I tried again and again, with stronger and stronger drugs. I chased the dream. I cried. I tortured myself with guilt. Something must be wrong with me physically, or spiritually, or emotionally. I knew I must have done something terrible and this was my punishment. I was sure God had deserted me. I sacrificed my body to surgeries, tests, medications, and scrutiny by professionals, friends, and family. I cried.

It came to a head when the side effects of the drug had me in such excruciating pain that I was sedated with heavy narcotics. “Don’t worry,” said my doctor, “the narcotics won’t affect the fetus at this stage.” That was it for my husband Tim. He was done. Of course I did not get pregnant—who would under those circumstances? Still, it took longer for me to let go of the dream. I had built it up to such immensity in my mind and soul. And then I was angry. I was angry for a long time, at God, at the world, and at myself most of all.

I was afraid to adopt. I was terrified of imposing my guilt and grief onto an innocent child. I had a notion that I had to heal completely before adopting so as to protect our child-to-be. My rabbi and mentor of many years put me in touch with another family who had been through a journey like mine. Their story of pain and grief horrified me and helped bring me to my senses. I will never forget one particular conversation with my new friends: I asked them how they let go of the dream of a biological child. They replied that they hadn’t. There was still grief, but it lessened with each joyous moment that filled their lives once they adopted their child. With that, we applied to adopt.

Then we waited, and did paperwork, and waited and did more paperwork and waited some more. Finally we were matched to a beautiful little girl in Ethiopia. For Tim, the bond to Eliyana was absolutely immediate, from the moment he saw her picture, from the instant her held her in his arms. He stared at her little feet. He sang her funny songs. He gurgled into her sweet face.

My bond was not complete until we were able to bring her home with us from the orphanage (a difficult month later). I remember holding Eliyana in my arms, rocking her to sleep, and my whole body filling with warmth and pure joy. In every smile, hug, giggle, and cuddle I marveled at how wonderful she was and at our luck in receiving her into our lives. I feel so blessed in the path, difficult as it was, that brought us Eliyana. 

The first time I sang Eliyana the Shema, while putting her to sleep, her eyes popped wide open and she stared, giggling and smiling, into my face as I sang. I felt God. But more than that, I felt Eliyana. Her presence overwhelmed me.

Eliyana takes joy in everything. She wakes up laughing! She dances to music only she can hear and her enticing smile invites you to join in. She loves to cuddle and will join in singing with you, albeit using her own words. She loves people, all people. She lights up to see them. She has an inner strength and a self reliance that allows her to entertain herself happily with blocks or nesting cups, or joy of joys, eating a board book. Every day I look at her and can’t think what I could have done in life to deserve such a sweet beautiful treasure.

After I began writing about this journey, people started to contact me about their own difficulties with infertility. I can’t tell them to stop. I can’t advise adoption. It is an incredibly difficult process and the decision very personal.

But for Tim and me, Eliyana is our beshert, our destiny. This is the family we were meant to be. Eliyana is our dream. We thank God for the journey that brought her to us. We feel blessed every day.

Topics: Motherhood
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How to cite this page

Szajman , Tziona. "The Dream That Was Meant To Be." 7 May 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 16, 2024) <>.