I’m sitting cross legged on the floor with my childhood friend Robin; two pre-teens pinching each other, wondering Are we really here, or Is this a dream? How would we know the difference? What will I be when I grow up? Have I already met my husband? What will our children be like?
I’m 37 sitting in my apartment, “WILL I find my beshert?, Will I ever have children to whom I will pass on our traditions”. Maybe,maybe not. When Ze’ev and I, found our way to the Chuppah 6 months after my 40th Birthday, we knew there could be challenges with fertility, and we quickly learned that unless we got very aggressive about it, we didn’t stand a chance.
Hormones, cycle monitoring, acupuncture, mindful awareness, special diet– I actually found ‘mating foods.’ And spiritually?… Torah classes, segulot, niddah, Tehillim, mikvah, challah baking. I tried everything. If I prayed hard enough, I would get pregnant.
And I did — with our first IUI, (intrauterine insemination ). But three months in, there was a major complication with the pregnancy which would never result in a live birth. This was a harrowing experience. One that is both very far away at this point, but also eternally present in my mind and soul. We carried on. After several more failed attempts at IUI we started IVF (invitro fertilization). The hormone injections can turn a perfectly normal human being into a lioness hunting for meat, or a sobbing sad sack at the drop of a tomato. Not fun for anyone, – ask my husband. But.. voila, I became pregnant the first time we did IVF. Good thing, because I couldn’t keep ducking out of work for appointments or shabbat dinners for Ze’ev to give me shots. But that pregnancy did not last more than a week.
After our 2nd round of IVF failed as well, we changed doctors, So what if she was in Tarzana … we wanted to be parents badly! That meant opening ourselves up to however that might happen; we started to explore adoption. But after two more rounds of IVF our house fund and any future child’s college fund depleted, we admitted that family planning needed to include financial planning. But that could wait, because three fertilized embryos had implanted in my womb, woa! One …disintegrated rather quickly, and the second miscarried a few weeks later while I was standing in a hallway waiting for Ze’ev to come out of a doctor’s appointment. One tiny speck of light, which is what an 8 day old embryo looks like, made it all the way, and that is our son Amichai Yehoshua. He was born July 20, the 5th of Av- just before tisha b’av in 2007. I was 43 years old.
After Ami, We had two more failed attempts at Invitro, using frozen leftovers – we’re Jewish after all. Of the 6 frozen embryos from previous transfers, none resulted in pregnancy. It was time, physically, emotionally and financially to be present and completely satisfied with our magical boy, our miracle – Amichai.
So, that’s the abridged version of our journey to parenthood. With the help of our community, our family and friends, we were never alone in it. We shared openly with friends, and people we never expected showed up and offered support and information, torah and stories of their own that helped us cope. And we have been honored to do the same for others.
Our Rabbi, Rabbi Kanefsky, showed us the expansiveness of halacha and he was genuinely caring, keeping us afloat spiritually when hope was waning. I am eternally grateful to those who were so intuitively sensitive. We never know what challenges someone is tackling. Every time I’m asked how many children I have, I’m tempted to say, how do you know I have any children? When I hear, “only one?” I say, not ONLY. I do have ONE amazing son, he is ENOUGH. I delicately share how it can hurt when a well meaning person says, “You could still have more…” I still recall …the hoping and waiting, testing and trying and reaching.. how pregnant women seemed to be everywhere I turned.
I knew that I shouldn’t be jealous of someone else’s simcha, but I was. I felt ashamed when I couldn’t overcome it.
It was easy to lose faith, ….but, somehow I got stronger instead of weaker. In tehillim I heard the music of ancient times, the prayers, the songs of King David, I heard the harp strings, the pleading and praising and the voices of our ancestors and my own voice. At the time, I still wasn’t pregnant, but I was abundant with hope, I was fertile- something was growing within me. I was nurturing something… my soul, my relationship with g-d. A switch flipped; I saw the miracle, in every mother’s swollen belly I celebrated every new birth. I believed this miracle came directly from the almighty. Under the chuppa, Ze’ev and I acknowledged three of us in our relationship, and I finally got what that meant. Anything is possible, but only with god’s help– even our doctor asked for Hashem’s blessing. The impossible became bearable with god’s great strength.
It was almost a year after this perspective shift, that Ami came into our lives. I will never be a young, naive mother, but I will always be a grateful one. And every day I pinch myself, just like Robin and I did when we were kids and ask- Is this real, or am I dreaming?
Psalm 121: “My help is from hashem, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to falter; your Guardian will not slumber. Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps – the Guardian of Israel.”