I don’t often tell this story, because it makes me seem a little bit mad. But Hannah understands.
Hannah left the temple and she ate and drank and her countenance was no longer sad. She wasn’t pregnant; she had no way of knowing that Samuel would soon be conceived; he wasn’t yet. But she who had been so sad and mad and had refused to eat and drink and who the priest had thought was drunk because she was so dishevelled and distressed and out of sorts – she ate, drank and was merry, all out of hope. She saw what was to come, and she liked what she saw.
My first daughter was the happy outcome of my second pregnancy. After the first one ended, I was distraught. I didn’t know how to hope, how to be happy. My own Job’s comforters didn’t much help: the ones who blamed, the ones who made long faces and low prognoses, the ones who judged, “you should be over it by now.” The first one’s due date came and went, and I continued, like Hannah, to starve myself of joy.
We went on vacation. Halfway up a mountain, I decided that I didn’t want to push myself any further. I decided, in that moment, that I was pregnant, and I needed to go back down to the valley. We scoured the hamlets, villages, and finally the one local town to find a pharmacy that sold home pregnancy test kits. My long-suffering and remarkably patient husband went in to get one. I stayed outside, in the little town square.
In the centre was a wishing well. It wasn’t an old thing, it wasn’t very traditional; it was a structure built to receive donations to a children’s charitable hospital. I was drawn to it. It asked me to make an offering, and I made my donation and I prayed. But not for a happy outcome. I already knew. I prayed in thanksgiving for my daughter, whose presence I had yet to confirm, but who in that moment I knew. I prayed in hope for those other parents’ children. I prayed with joy.
“Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer. They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord. … In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel.”