Nobody is offering to cook for me. Nobody is offering their sympathy
he good news,” I tell my husband as I take treatment meds for the first time, “is that this is all going to be behind us in, like, five minutes.”
I’m an optimist. If we’re doing treatments, it’s obviously going to work. We’ll have a baby in just a little over two years after we got married. That’s not even really called waiting, right?
Three hours after popping the pills, I begin to feel extremely nauseated. I stand in the bathroom, waiting to vomit.
I’m supposed to up the dose tomorrow and double it two days later.
I can’t do this.
Betzalel knocks on the bathroom door. “You okay in there?”
“Nope,” I manage. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
I don’t vomit that night, but the intense nausea worsens over the next few days. I stop eating any proteins. Just looking at them makes me feel sick.
The only thing I eat is chocolate-covered rice cakes and ginger ale, and even those are hard to get down. At work, Rochy is expecting, and she complains loudly about her nausea to anyone who will listen.
“My neighbor is so nice,” she tells me one day as she munches saltines. “She offered to make me supper once a week till I feel a little more normal.” I ogle her. She’s having her first. Nobody is offering to cook for me. Nobody is offering their sympathy. It’s so lonely, and I’m only a few weeks in.
But this treatment is going to work, I tell myself again and again. Hashem wouldn’t make me go through all this nausea and pain for nothing.
So while I feel increasingly isolated from Rochy and everyone else who seems to be moving on in life, I remind myself that I’m almost there.
And then… I’m not. The treatment is over, the pregnancy test is negative, I still feel sick from the meds, and for two days, I refuse to leave my house.
“I cannot do this ever again,” I sob to Betzalel. “It was awful and undignified, and besides, we’re only married for 20 months!”
The next month, I take a break from treatment. We call our rav and the Bonei Olam counselor, and they both agree that since I’m not reacting well to the meds, it’s a good idea to let my body recover and shed some of those synthetic hormones I’d swallowed.
And while it’s a relief to be taking a break from the misery of treatment, the isolation I’m feeling from my neighbors, coworkers, and friends bothers me tremendously.
Outside, summer is ending.
“I cannot find a playgroup for my Chaim,” my neighbor Sari frets to me.
“I’m the only one of my friends who doesn’t have a Doona for my Simchy,” my sister-in-law Atara shares.
I find myself thinking twice before going to weddings and other social events. Being the odd one out is getting to me. For the third time since we got married, a cousin offers us kvatter. For the first time, we decline. “They got married literally almost a year after us. I refuse to put our pekel on display!” I tell Betzalel. He understands.
When I start up our next round of treatment after Yom Tov, I’m delighted and sad to find another two frum women in the waiting room. I smile at one, and she smiles back. I motion to ask if it’s okay if I come sit with them, and she nods yes. And suddenly we’re a threesome, schmoozing about things I’ve only ever spoken about with Betzalel.
“If you never went through it, you have no idea what it’s all about!” says one of them, who introduced herself as Raizy. “My mother-in-law recently called me and nicely suggested that I go on this fertility diet ’cuz we’re married for two years. Should I tell her it’s her son who has the problem, and not me?”
Like true comrades in arms, we guffaw.
“We’re married for three years, so now everybody realizes there’s an issue. But it was much harder when we were married for less than two with a severe diagnosis, and literally nobody knew or even tried to be sensitive,” shares Chana, the other one.
The validation is like cool water in the desert. “You’re right, nobody chaps. I think you have to be married for at least three years to get any sympathy.”
A nurse comes to call Raizy back. We share numbers and bid goodbye.
“The best part is,” says Chana, “I know so many couples with the worst diagnoses — like me and my husband — who go right away to the most intense treatments and have a baby within a few years. But they know their chances of having another are very small. And some women with much lighter diagnoses start with much less invasive treatments and only move on to the serious ones when the lighter ones don’t work. So they could be waiting for five years, but have much more hope than a couple married for two years with one baby.”
I nod sagely.
“And we’re the lucky ones,” I say finally. “Because even though people don’t like to believe it, there are still couples in 2023 who don’t have a treatment to try.”
Chana nods seriously. “We are the lucky ones,” she agrees softly.
A nurse pokes her head into the waiting room. “Hava Glick?” I stand up and gather my things.
“May your journey be short,” I wish Chana softly. “And let’s keep in touch.”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 861)
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