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It is with complete amazement that I stare at my peacefully sleeping baby.  This time last year, I was davening to Hashem that the one last frozen embryo would successfully implant.  And now I have a 7 week old baby!  She is mine.  I do not have to return her to her rightful owner.   I am that rightful owner.  When she hears her mother’s voice among other women, she inclines her head toward me and not someone else.   No longer am I the sole observer of somebody else’s dream come true. Hashem had compassion and bestowed upon my husband and I the gift of parenthood.

Our baby Bracha Menucha was born on July 19th after 12 hours of being in labor that ended in my getting a c-section.   I had to be induced because my baby got too comfortable in her uterine home even though it was crammed quarters.  Unfortunately she did not like the pitocin which made her heart rate go down.  I had a spiritual labor.   Even though it was during the 3 weeks, I got rabbinic exception to listen to music, my  collection of religious music which created such a holy environment.  I also had a list of people to daven for related to having children, good health and parnasas.

Motherhood is such an amazing gift which I never want to take for granted.    As happy as I am for myself, there is a part of my heart that has pain for women who are struggling with infertility.  I do not want to forget where I came from, and the great miracle that Hashem bestowed on my husband and I.  Being pregnant was such an amazing experience, a humbling experience that should never ever be taken for granted when so many shed tears for that opportunity.  It is impossible to express in words the emotions I felt when I could feel my baby’s  kick inside me, or the flood of emotion that rushes through me when I hold my sleeping baby and admire her tiny fingers,  her button nose,  and her pretty eye lashes.

I am aware of each passing day and the importance of cherishing every minute with my baby, a gift I do not take for granted.  She is 7 weeks old  and in that short time span she has changed so much.  She  is more alert and her cheeks are filling out.  Once she was a mere 5 lbs 11 oz and now she is 8 lbs.  I am so grateful that Hashem gave me the gift of  my Bracha after almost 8 years of tears and tefilah.  Now a new journey begins.  May this journey be filled with happiness and a renewed sense of looking at the world from the innocent perspective of my daughter’s eyes.

My dearest child who is yet to be born,

I write this to you, a neshama who has not yet found a home in a Jewish woman’s womb.  It is my heartfelt prayer that you are reserved for me, that somehow Hashem in His compassion set you aside for me,  Rivka Rochel.  I have stood by the sidelines watching everyone else experience the joy of bringing into this world a beautiful neshamale.  I hope to no longer be an outsider. That I too will have my neshamale to welcome into this world.

Waiting for you has been a long and arduous journey for your father and I.  We hold in our hearts an overabundance of love.  You are the pure Jewish soul, we eagerly awaited all these years through a river of tears. We went through all kinds of medical procedures for this miraculous day – your birth.

In this journey, my connection with Hashem has had its ups and downs.  Yet I know Hashem is real and He knows us intimately. You see as undeserving as I am for a miracle, Hashem knew that I am the right mother for you, because you need the love that has been stored in my heart all these years.  A love that He created.  Just as He created you, He created in me this strong yearning for a child.

I want to instill in your heart a strong love for Hashem and a deep connection to Him.  I want you to be the kind of Jew that I am striving to be – a simple, loving, and caring person.  I am very far from that goal, since there is so much I am currently dealing with.  In time I hope to be like refined silver, purified seventy times seven.

I want you to witness the devotion with which I light Shabbos candles.  If you are a girl, I will teach you how to light your own candles at age 3.   It is with joy that I will gaze at your total awe and amazement over the flickering candle lights.  If you are a boy, you will accompany your father to sing Lecha Dodi at age 3.  He will be your example of how to pray with utmost concentration.

There are so many adventures to be had.  Your father will teach you how to ride a bike, and I will teach you how to write a poem.  You will learn how to read a map from your father because I am hopeless when it comes to directions.  I will introduce you to the wonderful world of making challah and a huge floury mess.   We will go hiking.  We will go on car trips.  We will ensure that you get a well rounded Jewish and secular education.  We will teach you your English and Hebrew alphabets.  We will teach you how to do negel vasser, the morning prayers, birchas ha mazon, and a host of brachoth.

Since you are not here yet,  I need to daven more, read tehillim, and internalize being grateful to Hashem for not giving you to me yet.  To everything under the sun there is a time and a season.

Right now you are a dream in my heart.  Soon with Hashem’s help, you will be a reality in my arms.

With love

Ima

Western wall in Jerusalem at night
Image via Wikipedia.

Every High Holiday, I prayed fervently for the same thing.  I approach each Rosh Hashana with fresh expectation that perhaps this will be the year.  Perhaps the previous year, I was not ready.  Maybe now I am closer to being ready to receive that ultimate blessing.  It’s not for me to speculate.  I must have total bitachon (trust) in Hashem.

Struggling with infertility makes me depend more and more on Hashem.  I have dealt with anger and frustration with Hashem for being in the Orthodox Jewish world without a stroller to proudly push to shul.   I have dealt with feeling so invisible because women with kids thought it more important to trade stories about their children, the Torah Day School, or oooh and ahhh over each others’ child than getting to know me.   I have dealt with various well meaning but insensitive comments that have ranged from ” what if Hashem does not want you to have a child,” to ” just relax and have fun with your husband,” to “maybe you should consider natural anti-depressants,” to “perhaps you had lots of children in a previous life”, etc.

I have a coping strategy that involves managing my social activities.   I have frequently engaged in a process of giving in and saying “Hashem You are the only One in control.  Any sense of control I may feel is merely an illusion.”  In addition,  my husband and I are studying the “Garden of Gratitude” – everything from Hashem is for the best, and to be grateful for His blessings and the suffering we go through.  Tall order for something so intensely painful.   The month of Elul is a month of transformation.  I can only hope that I am being refined like silver, purified seventy times seven until Hashem sees His reflection in me.  This thought brings tremendous comfort in a sadly painful world that  most of the frum world is totally oblivious to (a topic for discussion in another post)

Cover of "Mother"

Cover of Mother

After weeks and weeks of trying to get a hold of my fertility clinic,  I was disappointed to learn that for 2 weeks they will be closed.  Doing fertility treatment is difficult enough but when it is across the state it is doubly difficult, especially with planning and making travel arrangements.  I like the clinic and the staff there.  Yet there are all these logistical hurdles to cross.

Today I experienced  sheer joy when I got a definitive date to do the transfer of the frozen embryo, but there are timing factors and several issues that are too complicated to get into.  Added to this, are my feelings of being so scared and hopeful at the same time.  I want so much to have a child, to experience pregnancy, to day dream about my future child, and to one day hold my and my husband’s baby and give unconditional love.  My heart holds a lot of love for my unborn haby.  Despite these numerous lapses in my faith, I believe deep down inside the recesses of my neshama that I WILL BE A MOTHER with G-D’s help.  Do you think for one moment G-D would be so cruel as to have created me within me this strong heartfelt desire to have children since the age of 14.   How many 14 year olds dream of getting married and having children?

Life has unexpected twists and turns.  I am very very grateful to have my husband whom I love deeply.  We have had our fair share of challenges, and are ready for good things to happen.  This journey through infertility has been sheer hell.  I would not wish this on anyone.  I do not want this for myself and other couples.  As much as I love my husband, I wish we could have children to complete our family.  I would love to raise Jewish children, to teach our 3 year old daughter to light Shabbos candles.  I would love to see her hug my husband, and hear her say, “Tatti I love you.” I would love to see my husband teach our son how to recite Birchas HaMazon.  I dream of seeing our son walking to shul with my husband.  I dream of making challah with my babies and watching them get flour all over themselves.  I dream of buying frilly socks and black patent leather shoes for my baby girl.  I dream of  hearing baby laughs.  I dream of having a noisy house full of the chatter of children, and a peaceful evening with my husband.  I dream of seeing my husband look with fascination at our baby and not somebody else’s baby.    As you can see, dear readers,  I have a list of dreams that are endless.

With sheer determination and tenacity, I want to pursue my dream with Hashem’s help.  Ultimately, He is the Decider.  Dear Hashem as I write this, please, please, please have mercy on Rivka Rochel Bas Sarah.  Please, please, please when I do the transfer, cause this embryo to implant unto my uterus. May it hang on for dear life, and even divide to form two blastocysts.

Hashem, I have not been a good girl spiritually.  Lately, I have not davened or studied Torah, or said many tehillim.   Please, please, please have chesed and end this trial.  I will be truly grateful to you and I promise, I will do everything to create a loving home full of Hashems’ Presence and to raise our children to be kind, decent, caring Jews who love You and who want to perform mitzvoth. I promise to do everything to model what it means to be a good Jew.”

The frozen embryo represents hope of a bright future filled with so much possibilities, of dreams fulfilled.  I want my husband to experience the joys of being a father.  I so want us to be a beautiful Jewish family with a lot of love and kindness to extend to each other and those in need.

Hashem, please let us all experience the words in your tehillim – “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy is coming in the morning.”  May we all merit to hear good news soon, and may you answer every tefila speedily.  May we never cease to dream, and may each dream come true.

8-cell embryo for transfer 3 days after fertil...

Image via Wikipedia

Because I had an embryo transfer during an auspicious time, I felt relatively positive that I would be sitting down to our seder feeling the ultimate redemption – freedom from IF (infertility).  But Hashem had other plans.  Thank G-D we have a frozen blastocyst.  I can now speak the fertility medical jargon.  Too bad I do not have MD after my last name because I know what field I would be in.   I affectionately call our blastocyst when speaking with my husband, “Our frozen child.”

People with IF are special.  It takes strength to carry on with day to day life, and to live in an Orthodox Jewish community without going insane.  Since I had my treatment, two babies made their entrance. Baruch Hashem. Every year several frum women are either pregnant or giving birth.  Baruch Hashem for them.   After we spent a lot of money, all I now have is an empty womb, and my frozen child.   Yes I do have my husband, so I do have something to be grateful about.

My husband says. “Our dawn is coming.”  He is right.   Without fail, dawn comes after darkness; redemption after oppression.  Pesach is a time of redemption.  I will gather up my internal strength and march forward toward redemption after intensive cleaning and meal preparations.   Right now, I do not feel like doing much of anything.  All I can do is give myself a set time to grieve, and a set time to get some work done.

As my nurse said yesterday, ” Persistence pays off.”  My husband knows very very well that I am a very persistent person.

I am not an expert embryologist but from what I can tell, the picture that I posted is one perfect 6-cell blastocyst. I cannot help asking myself this question, ” How did Octomom get 8 embryos in one cycle and 6 embryos in another, and all ended up in babies?”  Sad to say some of her babies have disabilities.  Yet during my latest cycle, out of 7 fertilized eggs, 3 made it to the blastocyst phase.   What can I say?

I would never want to have more than twins growing inside me (maybe triplets), out of a sense of ethics.  But if we had 8 frozen blastocysts to fall back on,  I know full well my husband would be one nervous wreck.

Yes, persistence with prayer ultimately pays off.  What am I praying for?  A successful transfer, and who knows, the ultimate unfolding of my dream to somehow have twins.   From my lips to Hashem’s ears.

The Matengai of Kuniga Coast in Nishinosima (O...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes I feel as if I am standing on the edge of a cliff – the infertility cliff.  There is a huge chasm that separates the other side from where I am on.  The other side of the cliff represents the fertile world that most frum women are fortunate to be in.  I am at a point where I need Hashem’s break through.  You see I do everything I can to not feel so intensely about having a baby.  It is very difficult to do because in the frum world, women between 20 and 50 are immersed in their children.   Even the holidays have a child centric orientation as well – with the exception of Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av.

To add to my challenge, we belong to a small shul with 20 or less families attending regularly.  The shul is in a house and the kiddush hall is is a small living room.  When there are 40 people, it is like being crammed in like sardines.  Add to that the strollers that stand near the doorway, the little kids running around, and the pregnant women.  To a woman in my situation, it is like adding salt to the wound.  Unfortunately I am the type of person who wears my heart on my sleeve.

Since we moved to our new community a year and a half ago, within the shul there have already been 2 births.  There are currently 2 pregnancies which in the grand scheme of things is not a lot.  Relative to the smallness of the shul it is.  For the most part, I have dealt with it through limiting my shul attendance.

This past week-end at a kollel retreat I had a horrible time.   I went in with a positive attitude.  Candle lighting was difficult especially since mothers were lighting with their children.  I still lit my candles and did a short cut version of my usual davening.  Then  I went to Kabbalos Shabbos.   I noticed that physically I was not feeling well – PMS combined with a nasty headache.  I still davened with kavana, and immersed myself in the cantor’s voice singing to Carlebach melody.  I visualized our prayers ascending the throne of heaven, emanating a sweet fragrance.  Then came the evening experience with tons and tons of kids running around the hotel halls and dining area.  I started to feel drained.

We women understand very well the impact hormones can have on our emotions and mind.  I did not have the energy to be positive.  Plus I was focusing on the pain of what I do not have, coupled with the total absorption of others in their own worlds to even reach out to my husband and I.

Even though engaging in self-pity is not healthy, somethings it is good to just let it all out and move forward.  Our lives is a journey where, like it or not, we have to move forward.  Time marches forward.  We have an opportunity to make a difference to others, and to contribute something phenomenal.   I am working on what that means in my life.

B’ezrat Hashem, our next treatment will be successful.  My prayer for all of us going through this journey is that the pain of infertility  will be over soon.  Hashem will test us in other ways.  I believe this present pain will enable us to deal with the other tests more effectively.

Mother and child

Image via Wikipedia

There are times I doubt that my dream of raising frum from birth Jewish children will ever become a reality.  Sometimes it is a conscious doubt, and at other times subconscious.  My subconscious doubt  manifests itself when I become deeply depressed due to being around a pregnant Jewish woman,  or women with babies and small children.  I often find myself asking the question does my doubt mean that I lack emunah?

As with any spiritual endeavor, there are successes and there are failures.  Take for example, the spiritual goal of not speaking lashon hara.  You may have days of successfully avoiding the temptation to speak badly about someone.  Then one day a lapse occurs.  A friend did something inadvertently that hurt you, and at the soonest possible moment,  out came a negative statement.  That failure does not nullify your endeavor to be a Jew who refrains from lashon hara.   All it takes is teshuva and a resolution to be cautious about what comes out of your mouth going forward.

I view my momentary doubt in the same light.   Perhaps my doubt led me into depression.  That does not mean the absence of emunah.  Even in that moment of doubt, emunah is still there.  Why?  I got up the following morning and I prayed to Hashem.  By virtue of davening, I  have emunah that G-D exists and He hears my prayers.

Everything is from Hashem, even my strong desire to raise Jewish children.  My present pain is from Hashem, custom-tailored to draw me closer to Him.  He yearns for my prayers yet I hardly offer Hashem my utter devotion.  Still He bestowed on me the gift of emunah.  With that gift, the stinging pain is minimized and I find myself drawing closer and closer to Hashem.  I am completely dependent on Him.  As Rabbi Lazer Brody said in  one of his blogs, “The closer we get to Hashem, the happier we are.  As such emunah is the key to happiness.”

Any momentary doubt is just a temporary phase designed only to strengthen our emunah and trust in Hashem.