Sara and Jeremy were excited to grow their family.
Here they were, married for a little over a year. They were adults, yet still so young. They expected life to be easier, as it appeared to be for all their friends. Birth announcements, bris invites, simchat bats and meal train emails seemed to be flooding their inboxes. Everyone else’s family was expanding. So what was wrong with them?
No one had ever spoken with them about the “What if it doesn’t happen?” before. From as far back as they could remember, getting pregnant was a given. Even the children’s song said so: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby…”
Life becomes full of questions: What next? What do you do when you don’t fit in the prescribed box, when you are different? Who can you call? Who would understand?
It didn’t take long for them to feel like outsiders. At Shabbat meals they were the only couple without kids. They sat at tables where everyone was talking about nanny shares, best diaper companies and feeding schedules. They sat silently and invisible. They had nothing to contribute to these conversations.
The comments and questions began. Are you waiting? (Naive.) You know your parents want to be grandparents. (Irritating.) You will see one day. You don’t understand what “tired” is until you have kids. (Upsetting.) You are so lucky that you don’t have kids yet. You can sleep in, travel, go out whenever you want. (Infuriating.)
Their friends weren’t trying to be mean or offensive. They simply didn’t know, and Sara and Jeremy didn’t want to discuss it publicly.
Beginning the Journey
When it became unbearable, Sara and Jeremy stopped hanging out with their married friends and started to make new friends. Single friends, friends who had just gotten married and those they knew were waiting. Around these friends they didn’t feel so different and their struggle was not so visible.
Let’s take a minute to better understand fertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), a healthy, fertile 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month that she tries for the first 12 months. Meaning it can take the average couple under the age of 35 up to 12 months to conceive. So unless one has any prior medical history or indication that ovulation is not occurring, it is perfectly normal for it to take a full 12 months to get pregnant. And 80% of couples trying to conceive will get pregnant within that one year of trying.
But for Sara and Jeremy that was not the case. Twelve months passed and they were still not pregnant.
Not knowing where to begin, they reached out to their primary care physician for a referral and without any extra research booked their first consult with a new kind of doctor, one they had never heard about before—a reproductive endocrinologist, aka a fertility specialist. He appeared to know what he was doing and as they definitely did not, they relinquished control and handed him full rein of their fertility.
The tests began for both of them—blood work, ultrasounds and more. It was time to get to the bottom of what was causing their infertility so that it could be treated.
Here Come the Chagim
As they started the process, Rosh Hashanah and the chagim were suddenly around the corner. A time to be with extended family and their inquisitive glances. For some, it is a time of happiness. For others, a frustrating and potentially upsetting experience.
More about the chagim next month…
Gila Muskin Block is a fertility warrior and executive director of Yesh Tikva (yeshtikva.org). Yesh Tikva, Hebrew for “There Is Hope,” was established to end the silence and create a Jewish community of support for all Jewish people facing infertility. Yesh Tikva provides professional psychosocial services, resources and tools to those struggling with infertility and raises awareness and sensitivity on the subject throughout the Jewish community.
In anticipation of the Yamim Noraim, Yesh Tikva will host its annual Hafrashat Challah Initiative. Sign up on the Yesh Tikva website to participate in taking challah prior to Rosh Hashanah while taking pause to pray that all those facing infertility are blessed with healthy children this year.