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The Fertile Among Us  

I have a home. I have a job. I have friends. Yet I want a baby so badly, I can touch it

Studies show about one in six frum couples struggle with infertility.

And then there are those of us struggling with fertility. Who? The single women. The divorced ones. The widowed ones. Those who struggle with mental illness. Those whose illness is physical. Those who struggle with the physical or mental illness of another. And the biological clocks that stop for no one…

To my relatives, neighbors, and friends in the first category: Your pain is immense in its depth. In its mass. In its excruciating detail. I don’t seek to compare. I don’t seek to dilute that one iota.

But perhaps you’ll allow me the space to write this, and maybe you’ll read it, and maybe you can share a bit of your thoughts, of your journey, of your hard-earned strength with the rest of us?

I’m your acquaintance, your coworker, your cousin. You know my sweet little children, my second-grader and my independent-not-so-little preschooler. If you don’t know me well, you may think this is what I want.

If you know me better, you’re wondering why I don’t have six children under six. You’re probably davening for me. And only Hashem knows that it’s between me, the walls, and a decision. A hard, painful decision, made by our rav, that tries to measure how much energy I have, how much energy I don’t have, how much energy the other nisyonos in my life are already taking up.

I’m a failure. I have everything, and I’m miserable. I have a home. I have a job. I have friends. Yet I want a baby so badly, I can touch it.

I wish for full hands as I go about my mothering life. I want to cradle a newborn as I talk with my children and read them books. I want to swaddle a baby as I nod at their paintings and towers. I wish for a baby to hold as I watch their playground triumphs. I want to add a teeny-tiny baby bath to the bathroom. But my hands are empty, as is my womb, and I feel half a mother.

I walk down the street, and all around are strollers, double strollers, doubles-and-buggy-board strollers. I put my single away last month. I attend simchahs and bless the multiplying families around me. I’m shocked to find myself on the outside of the sleeping and feeding and management contests I’d so eagerly joined as an exultant first-time mother. And I don’t hold any weight in the sibling rivalry contests. So I stand aside, being different. Feeling different.

And go home.

Is one allowed to feel barren with two lively children skipping merrily at one’s sides? To feel empty, devoid, and down? A creative part of my body and soul is imprisoned with a lock and key. The lock and key are mine. And in the effort of trapping my soul is born a frustration so deep and so excruciatingly real.

Isn’t the heartache life’s challenges bring with them enough? Isn’t that struggle, that suffering, that pain enough? Do they need to cause me to also abandon my mothering dreams?

Another day, another month. My dream is so, so close, yet every day it grows just a little further out of reach. One more day, and one more.

And every day, my kids are growing, walking, and talking, baruch Hashem! One more day, and they’re toilet-training, swing-pumping, bike-riding. One more day, and the babies are toddlers and then kids running off to morah and to school, never looking back. One more day and the clock keeps ticking on these child-bearing years.

What kind of mother am I that these celebrations are stinging arrows in my heart?

But the decision stands. The time isn’t right. And my heart aches, dull and heavy.

Maybe I should buy that piano now. Or a violin. Wash out my pain in its notes, chords, and melodies. But what I want is a baby; I want it so, so badly. I want to carry it, and most of all I want to feed it, to hold it close, cuddling, snuggling, nurturing. It hurts.

“If you want to be a mother so badly, enjoy what you have,” my inner voice chides a million times a day.

“How many days are you going to enjoy the next baby for?” my rebbetzin asks.

“You don’t seem to deserve it,” the consensus rings out.

Don’t-deserve-it! Don’t-deserve-it! Don’t-deserve-it!

I wonder if and when I will.

Hashem has given me the strength to type these words. He’s given me my family. He’s given me my life. But He hasn’t given me a baby, yet.

So now what, I ask myself? What is a woman when she isn’t a mother? What is the rest of a woman if she is half a mother?

We were never taught the answer to this question. But I guess it’s not fair to be mad at our schools. Our teachers spent years and sweat imparting the most important values to us — Torah is the most important, tefillah is the most important, children are the most important. And they did a good job.

So now I cry at the right challenges. My husband left kollel. I haven’t davened properly in years. And my womb is dormant. And I cry and I cry, and I wish they would have told me what else came after that most important.

I sat with my rebbetzin and asked her this same question: “Torah is the most important. Family is the most important. Chesed is the most important. Shemiras halashon is the most important. What is the most important, really?”

And she answered me.

“Hashem is the most important. Our job is to serve Him. As He sees fit.”

That’s going to take an awful lot of work. Can anyone help me?


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 767)

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