margo_marmon_ice_with_permissionPhoto by Margo Marmon

I guess I have always been afraid of water. When it turned into a phobia I don’t know. As a young child I hated going through a sprinkler or having a bath; I have a fear of slipping or not being in control ( I used to joke with my mother “Are you sure you didn’t drop me in the bath as a baby?”). As I got older I just dealt with it the best I could. In school we had swimming classes once a week, which I was terrified of and so during the summer holidays my teacher came once a week to take me to the pool to try and get me to be less scared. My parents took me to swimming classes every Sunday, but because I was really tall, the teacher took me into the deep end and let go of me. I probably only went under for a few seconds but that was enough for me and I never went into the pool again.

To ensure I was comfortable in the shower or bath, my parents always had a safety mat and a bar fitted to the tub/shower.

As I got older I never let it affect my day to day life, I just avoided water sports etc. My family used to joke with me that I was not getting married because I was avoiding the mikveh and all that would entail. When I finally met my bershet (intended husband) I finally had to face up to the fact I was going to need help getting through this issue.

I found an amazing kallah teacher who was recommended by someone who also had water issues as being super sensitive and supportive. My mindset was very much pragmatic. I knew this was something I had to do, I just had to find the most comfortable way to get through it.

Before I got married

  1. I went into a swimming pool with my sister who I trusted and we practiced ‘dunking’ over and over.
  2. I went to mikveh, taking along an amazing friend, at the earliest possible date prior to the wedding, so that it didn’t spoil the run up to the wedding.

Actually standing in the mikveh for the first time was very overwhelming, trying not to hyperventilate and breathe normally took time, but the balanit (attendant) was very patient and reassuring. When I got out I felt elated, I had actually done it, not only did I feel like I had joined some kind of ‘club’ of my ancestors I had also overcome one of the biggest hurdles of my life.

Getting used to going to the mikveh each month is not easy. In the beginning my husband knew not to come home before I left whilst I was preparing because I would become too anxious and short tempered, having been in that state for most of the day waiting to get it over with.

Now after several years it’s become slightly easier. I only go to the same mikveh that I’m used to (after having a disastrous experience going to an out of town one on a Friday night where the balanit shouted at me after my 3rd attempt was not kosher and I started hyperventilating….’it’s Friday night we all have places to go to, can you please hurry up!’) I will put off going if we are going to be away – with my amazing husband’s consent and understanding.

It’s hard to find yourself in that space between being anxious beforehand then going through the mitzvah to then being so excited to be with your husband all in the space of a couple of days. For me it’s a mindset of something I have to do and get through it, I don’t see it as a wonderful spiritual journey, or as a time for just myself like so many others do.

I do feel spiritually connected when the balanit gives me the most amazing brachot (blessings) as I exit, I have found a place that they are patient understanding and that their brachot carry me through the next month until I return again.