I am the walking poster child for infertility. Why? Because I talk about it… OFTEN. When people tell me my kids are adorable, I say “Thank you, they are all miracle babies, products of infertility treatments.” When people see I have 4 kids ages 9,6,5,5 they say “You must have your hands full” and I reply, “Better full than empty, I wasn’t sure I’d ever have kids.” I’m strong, brazen at times, fiercely protective of my “silent sorority sisters” who are still facing the journey to complete their families. But last night, I was a mess.
I knew I had to go to the Mikvah, and it wasn’t a surprise because I was counting the days, like a good girl who is keeping Taharat Hamishpacha. I was a little rusty because I had an IUD put in and have not gotten my monthly visitor in 5 years. At the beginning of the new year, I had my IUD replaced (time was up on it) and the doctor said I may have some bleeding and spotting. Since I knew EXACTLY why and where the blood was coming from, I knew I wasn’t getting around being a Niddah. It was actually nice to be a Niddah again, participating in something that I hadn’t been in a while, and I didn’t think much about it, just that my Mikvah night would be Sunday night.
So yesterday afternoon my husband said “You have to take a bath tonight, right?” I nodded yes and started to think about everything I needed to do for my prep. I pictured him giving the kids showers, dinner and doing bedtime, and by the time I came home from the Mikvah all would be quiet. So I logged on to the local Mikvah website to check the earliest time I could show up. JANUARY HOURS: Sunday – Thursday 8:00pm-10:30pm
I started to panic. It was now 5pm, the time on other community websites were 5:40 and you could come at 5:30. I had to wait till 8pm? I started to panic and I wasn’t sure why. So I needed to keep busy… I took out my contact lens case, my saline, my toothbrush, my glasses and put them in a bag to take with me. I decided I would pray for 3 women I knew who were in the throes of planning on building their families, each at different stages. I am very blessed with what Hashem has given me now that I wanted to pray for others in that special time.
Then I went to take off my pedicure, the color happened to be deep red and it gave me a hard time coming off. I was rubbing and rubbing, my heart was racing, I was beginning to panic and then I started to cry. Why was I crying? Why wouldn’t it stop? I realized I was having some sort of PTSD. This prep was bringing me back to a time of trauma for me. Each failed pregnancy attempt, each miscarriage, the Mikvah prep time was filled with tears. I knew why, but it still wouldn’t stop. The anxiety I had for going to the Mikvah for the first time in 5 years was escalating and here I was, with darkness outside, and I had to wait until 8pm. It wasn’t fair, I wanted it to end.
I called a friend who had not gone through infertility, but we are there for each other, and I complained. She lives outside my community and was appalled that the hours for my Mikvah were so late. I told her I was going to try and call another Mikvah where you need to schedule 24 hours in advance and beg to “get it over with” sooner. I hate bothering people, but maybe this “Mikvah lady” would happen to be there anyhow and I wouldn’t be putting her out.
I called her on her cell phone, I realized I was on speaker and asked if anyone else was in her car. She said her tween daughter, but was this about an “appointment?” I said “Yes, I’m having a hard time and cannot wait until 8pm.” She was about 40 minutes away but gave me someone else’s number to try. I tried that person, but got disconnected. I figured it meant I should wait and just go at 8.
I tried to distract myself, but kept finding my eyes welling up and I was pacing around the house. At about 7:20 I got a text from the initial Mikvah woman who said she was home, did I still need an appointment. I said “Yes. I COULD go to my local Mikvah at 8pm, but I think I would rather if you don’t mind, go with you.” She said she would meet me there in 5 minutes. I rushed out the door in relief. We pulled up at the same time, I got out of my car and started to cry. She gave me a hug, and said “I’m glad you are here.” She knows I have 4 kids, and asked if I was having difficulty getting pregnant again. I told her I was done having kids and these tears were not about getting pregnant.
“I have not been to the Mikvah in 5 years and all the trauma of my past is flooding forward! I can’t control it!” She said, “Well, now you are at the spa, take your time to relax, take whatever time you need and let me know when you are ready.” She closed the door behind me and I cried, like UGLY CRY (I saw it in the mirror). I was asking Hashem “why” in the prep room, like I had in the past. Why was Mikvah such a traumatic association for me? Why was I crying here again? Would it ever be a “safe, peaceful, rejuvenation” for me?
After I pulled myself together, I finished my preparations and knocked to signal I was ready. The Mikvah lady came and checked my hands, feet and back, and I told her I forgot the Bracha. She showed me where it was, and I was ready. I did what I was supposed to do and on my way up, I felt relief. I did it, and hopefully it will be another 5 years before I have to do it again.
At night I just kept thinking I needed to write down my thoughts, and I think its two-fold:
- For my silent sisterhood: the trauma is there, even for a strong advocate like me, I see myself as a strong person with a mission, but the cracks in my foundation are still there, and we can all fall apart. Its normal, you are normal.
- Mikvaot don’t realize all the circumstances women are dealing with. Many of them are emotional ones. Mikvah is a traumatic experience for those facing infertility, miscarriage, and even post infertility. I am sure there are other circumstances as well. Having late hours on a Mikvah night when its possible to go 2 hours before can be very anxiety ridden. There should either be an emergency number to call to make special arrangements, or make hours when the earliest time is.
It is a day after I fulfilled my Mitzvah, and I am still shaking and crying about the situation. My instinct is to do something, so I’m putting this out there so others can read and maybe make small changes to make this Mitzvah a little easier for those who find it challenging.