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Infertility Part I

By: David Mandel  

Infertility. Such a powerful word. So many strong images are created in your mind as you read just this one word. How many couples are you close to or do you know of that have this problem? You have pity on them, you wonder about their plight. 

Couples with infertility problems lead very different lives than couples with children. On the outside everything may look the same. On the inside beyond that front door life is so different that you can’t even begin to imagine it. 

Events that are pleasing or seem innocuous to you can be a torment for childless couples. A bris, a bar mitzvah, a wedding can be emotionally draining. Often there are simchos a childless couple would prefer not to attend. Those few words "Im Yirtzeh Hashem by you that are truly spoken as a brocho by everyone bounce off the ears of a couple wishing that brocha would only become true this year. 

When you marry you expect your life to follow a certain pattern including raising children. As the first years pass, you attend the brisim of your friends’ son first a few, then more and finally just about everyone you know, except you, has a child. There are certain aches and pains that you get accustomed to and learn to live with; Some pains ebb as time passes - not the pain of childlessness. It’s an emotional pain, it sears your insides; it’s hard to drench this fire. Your heart sheds tears which can’t be wiped away. 

Well Meaning Comments 
Imagine hearing in shul over and over again or at simchas the Chazal that a person who bears no children is as if he hasn’t lived. It’s like a dagger in your heart. Or the very very well meaning people who approach you with names of specialists not realizing that you’re about six months ahead of just about anything they heard of. Or that nice person who continues to ask you ten years into your marriage, “So when are you going to have a baby?” And finally the people who, once again meaning only your best interest, keep asking you why don’t you adopt as if you and your spouse haven’t thought about that option countless times. 

All these comments by friends and relatives are of course meant to be helpful. All too often they inadvertently cause pain. 

What can you do? 
Treat childless couples normally. Don’t view them as sad pathetic people who need to be constantly consoled. 

Don’t ask questions that you know are uncomfortable. If you have to begin your comments with I don’t mean to intrude but… Don’t! If this couple would like to discuss their innermost private problems with you, let them initiate this conversation. And in the most unlikely event this will ever happen, you should feel free to offer your advice. 

Support legislation to require insurance companies to pay for fertility treatments. The technology on fertility is changing every few months. The costs for these treatments are in the tens of thousands of dollars. How many couples could afford this? 

Let’s put expenses into perspective. Your annual expenses for your four children for yeshiva tuition, camp and for incidentals could be $50,000 a year. This is similar to the expenses young couples will incur in a year or two as they desperately go from specialist to specialist. If they maintain this pace for several years, as so many couples do, their personal financial situation could be devastating.“ 

Jewish holidays, that focus on children is especially difficult for childless couples. These include Purim, Simchas Torah, Chanukah. If you’re planning on inviting this couple to spend this chag with you and your children, give them space to accept or decline. Don’t push. 

There are several people in our community whose tzedaka and gemilas chasadim knows no bounds. Aside from the yeshivos, organizations and aniyim they support when they hear of a childless couple who can’t afford treatment, they’ll send an unsolicited message to this couple to get the treatment and not to worry about the money. This is unbelievable. Their names should be publicized because they deserve special recognition but I dare not. They would be inundated with requests for assistance. It is universally agreed that the greatest mitzvah one can perform is a chesed shel emes, to bury the dead as you can never be repaid by the deceased. Then the second greatest mitzvah must be performed by these people, and others like them, who help childless couples bring life into this world. 

This conversation sounds overly serious but it doesn’t have to be. A couple without children, and those who have reached an understanding with G-d that they will never have children lead as every day a normal life as everyone else. Sure they wish that that special light would shine in their house, the light of a beautiful child. Our society’s foundation is centered on a family constellation and all the more so in the Orthodox Jewish community where so many events are children centered. This could result in a childless couple periodically losing their center of gravity, their sense of balance. They can just as easily and just as normally lead productive lives which they do. It is the sense of frustration they sometimes feel at being stared at, as being thought of as different people. 

These couples live, breathe, sleep and dream one wish. There are times they would gladly trade places with you, whatever your troubles are with your children, just to experience the possibility of being a mother, a father. But they must continue to live with the bitachon, the hope as all of us must, irrespective of their personal situation that one day G-d will answer their prayers. 

Infertility. This is a discussion that is still secret and taboo in the frum community. It could help to open it up; to speak on it; to write about it.  

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