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A contemporary mikveh at Temple Beth-El in Bir...

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As we are in the midst of Parshah Toldot, all sorts of thoughts flood through my mind, especially since this Parshah is about my namesake and her fertility struggle.   Toldot means “offsprings” and “generations.”  As the Torah relates, Rivka Imanu was childless for 20 years.   Yitzhak davened to Hashem opposite his wife, and G-D accepted his prayers and Rivka conceived.   Also, her pregnancy was tumultuous since two nations were tussling inside her womb.

I am a day-dreamer.  Often I imagine feeling the sensations of pregnancy, my womb stretching to make room for my babies.  I dream of carrying twins.    I would love to replicate Rivka Imanu’s experience, Im Yirtzeh Hashem,  except for having an Esau and a tumultuous pregnancy.   I just want the simplicity of two very pure and holy neshamoth within my womb, basking in the full knowledge of the Torah.  Ah, the truest form of being a Jewish woman.

My struggle is intense.  As a frum Jewish woman, I feel like I am looking through a glass window at my heart’s desire being manifested in other Jewish women’s lives.   Although I am happy for them, I do not want to be left out.    I find myself asking, ‘What is the purpose of my G-D given life?”  There has to be a very special purpose to my life, given my background.  I was not destined to be born FFB (frum from birth).  I was born in an atheist background, a Jewish neshama that Hashem delivered into this world through two very non-Jewish and judgemental parents.  Growing up I felt I did not belong.  From the time, I could conceptualize my thoughts, I began my very complicated spiritual journey which led to my gerus.  Somewhere along the journey, I gave birth to an intense longing to have children to raise up to lead very Godly lives.  When I had my Orthodox gerus, I thought that Hashem would open up the gates of shamayim and dispense very special Jewish neshamoth to my husband and I.   Yet here I am struggling with this intense pain and dealing with some very unsavory emotions.  Yet all that Hashem does is perfect.

When I look to the Torah which documents the lives of my ancestors, I derive a certain level of comfort.  I am Bas Avraham v’ Sara.  Hashem took Avraham and said ” I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.”  In my mind’s eyes, I can see a celestial tapestry of Avraham Avinu’s descendents, and sewn into this tapestry, my husband’s lineage, a stream of Torah abiding Jews who are my and my husband’s pride and joy.

My day-dreaming ends, and I am faced with my present reality.  Today I did not behave very well emotionally.  I had an outburst that ended up in a chocolate and cheese binge.   I know intellectually that Hashem has given me everything that I need:  my husband, my health, my talents, my intellect, my friends, my home, my Jewish community, etc.  Where I am at today is perfect.  My heart screams, “No!!!!”  Sometimes the pain is so excruciating that it brings up the dregs that clog up my neshama, and I fail to see the beauty of the Jewish neshama that Hashem endowed me with the moment I stepped into the mikveh and took on the yoke of His Torah and mitzvoth.

I have been privileged to use the mikveh for more than just conversion.  When I prepare myself to immerse in the mikveh, I feel so beautiful and so holy.  Prior to entering the state of being pure again,  I hand my robe to the mikveh attendent.  I am conscious of her averting her eyes to protect my modesty.  And as I immerse underwater, my body curled up like a fetus, I am aware that I am experiencing something holy beyond anything that words can express.  As the gates of Shamayim burst open, I whisper my heartfelt prayer to be a partner in Hashem’s creation.  I too want to join the other frum Jewish women as they carry holy neshamoth and give birth to precious Jewish babies.  My heart aches for myself and other Jewish women who experience challenges of bringing the dream of motherhood to reality.

In the meantime, as I await my miracle, I take a step back to assess the purpose of my life.  Hashem has given me so many talents.  I am a writer and I have an artistic flair which I express in photography.  So much is in my heart that I want to put on paper.  I also have the makings of a serial entrepreneur.  So many business ideas twirl in my head.    I want to launch a successful home business, and help others to do the same.  I also want to teach the Jewish people about the struggles that couples go through when they cannot conceive.  Just as painful is the struggle that single Jews older than 30 go through.  I will not rest until we as a community are sensitized to others.  I also want to laugh a lot and bring laughter to others.

May Hashem grant us all the desires of our hearts.  May Moshiach come soon so that we can be in Yerushalayim basking in the glory of Hashem’s revealed Presence.

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The waterfall of my dreams

I have mentioned in prior blogs that the hardest part of infertility is being in the Orthodox Jewish world.  While it is wonderful that we are thwarting Hitler through the birth of every Jewish baby, being left out is the toughest emotional challenge.   No matter how small or large the shul is,  even with the passage of time, the pain is still there.  There is no escaping pregnant women or birth announcements.  Recently I heard the announcement of the birth of a baby boy.  I feel crappy for myself although I am happy for the family.  I cried out to Hashem that the pain is becoming very unbearable.  The burden and guilt associated with being the one with the fertility issue hurts to the very core of my neshama.  Yet what can I do?  I am powerless, at the mercy of Hashem’s compassion and loving kindness.

I do not know what words of encouragement that I can offer to myself and others as I go through this pain which is a natural part of the process.  I am learning a lot about myself through this very unpleasant journey across the valley of infertility.   There are certain negative characteristics that have been instilled in me through my very super critical parents.  As a child, I was compared to others.  I also heard tons of negative comments about other people.  As a result, it has been ingrained to view myself in the context of other people.  As Rabbi Arush would say, we each have our individual soul correction to go through.  I am having a tough time accepting the fact that infertility is part of my soul correction.  The fact that other women have babies, or are pregnant, has no bearing on my present circumstance.   The challenge is to accept my suffering with love and  enuma, with the knowledge that soon this present situation will be over.

I have also heard that if we all were to lay down our packages, representing the very tests that Hashem has given us, and offered a choice of selecting a package that we could live with, we would pick the original package that was given to us.

As for the waiting and waiting until I get to travel to see my doctor for the next round of treatments, I must be patient and use this time to the best of my G-D given ability to grow.  May the tears of pain that I weep today turn into tears of joy over the unfolding of Hashem’s greatest miracle.

Having just emerged from Simhat Torah, the High Holidays are finally over.  Overall,  I enjoyed the High Holidays which were very good and refreshing despite the occasional twinges associated with seeing children on their tatti’s shoulders during Hakafos.  I kept whispering to Hashem, “Please let it be this year!”  This is a new year with a fresh opportunity to draw closer to Hashem and grow from this test.   I am feeling extra sensitive, and hope to direct it toward being sensitive to other Jews and their pain.

I read a very encouraging story about a New Year with a New Mazal.  A couple in Yirushalayim had struggled with infertility for 19 years, and the fertility clinic had no hope to offer.  Yet they refused to give up and persisted with their davening.  Both were very diligent about their Torah observance. The husband, Moshe, was unusually careful about one particular mitzvah, Kiddush Levanah.  Every month he anticipated this wonderful mitzvah of blessing the new moon, and a new month.  One month due to the cloudy skies and rain, he could not view the moon so he proceeded to find a location where he could perform this mitzvah.  Finally, on the 14th of Teves, he and his friend drove to a place near Chevron for Kiddush Levanah.  After performing the mitzvah, they danced and sang and then proceeded to daven at the burial place of Rochel Imanu.  A group of Chassidim had been moved by the way Moshe had said Kiddush Levanah and the happiness with which he performed this mitzvah.  They approached him and requested that he share his story. After hearing Moshe’s story, they each requested Hashem for Moshe to be blessed with a child, and pleaded with Rochel Imamu to cry and daven for Moshe and his wife to have a baby.

A little over 9 months later, the couple were blessed with twin girls.

As the 11th of Chesvan approaches, the yartzeit of Rochel Imanu, I pray that we all will be blessed with our little miracles.  Please Rochel Imanu please please daven for Rivka Rochel Bas Sarah and Noach Shlomo Ben Chaya, and for every childless Jewish couple who have month after month and year after year cry out for children.

May this be the year of ultimate spiritual transformation and good news of  miracles after miracles after miracles.

Let us all draw closer to Hashem and perform each mitzvah as if our very lives depended on it!

Rosh Hashana | Hebrew New Year's 2010
Image by Lilachd via Flickr

I am encouraged to see that over 400 people have viewed my blog and I hope that in some way several of you are encouraged by my writings.  If so, I have a lot of joy, knowing that in someway I made a tiny difference.  I hope to see your comments.  I also welcome suggestions.

Rosh HaShana 5771.  We are in a New Year.  Am I excited?  Part of me says yes and the other part no.    Yes – because we are in a New Year, and therefore, a chance that my Decree from Shamayim will be sweet with good news of my pregnancy and birth!  No – because for several Rosh HaShana’s I hoped against hope that this would be the year that I became pregnant, and each year ended in painful disappointment.

I look back over the years to see if I learned anything.  Did I grow?  I think so.  I went from being a Conservative Non-Jew who went to a Conservative synagogue to becoming an Orthodox Jew.  My husband and I became more observant.  We  have grown closer to each other through our personal challenges.   We have taken on Hashem’s mitzvoth.  Most important of all, we are drawing closer to Hashem.

While davening at shul, for a split second, I actually felt awe and fear of Hashem’s judgment.  I am trying to internalize that whatever judgment Hashem has decreed for me is for my good.  It is hard because I am afraid what if it is the decree that I do not want.  I must activate my emunah, bitachon, and tikva (faith, trust, and hope).  Without these three attributes, all I have is darkness and sorrow.   My emunah tells me that Hashem is very much with me, and that this test will soon be over with positive results achieved; bitachon tells me that Hashem has my best interest in heart and that despite my deep pain, I do not have to despair, even though I feel that I am at the bottom of the deepest pit in total darkness; and tikva provides me the assurance that Hashem will answer my tefila and grant me the desires of my heart.

Right now I am feeling nothingness because I have not 100% internalized emunah, bitachon, and tikva.  Otherwise, I would be all smiles, and people at shul would flock to talk to me.   I seek Hashem’s forgiveness,  guidance, and help.   During Rosh Hashana not only did I acknowledge Hashem’s sovereignty and ask for  children, but also that I make His will mine, even if it meant that I might not get what I want.   That was very difficult.

Here we are at the beginning New Year.  In a few days, our decree will be sealed.  May we all have our heartfelt prayers answered.  May each and everyone of us who desires a child, be joyful and grateful mothers in 5771, grateful to Hashem for His miracles.  I ask Hashem’s help in not feeling jealousy or resentment toward the frum mothers who proudly push their strollers carrying their bundles of joy.  I feel so alone yet I must cling to Hashem for He is my rock and my salvation.  Shana tova.  G’mar chatima tova!

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Shabbat Candles
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My heart is broken into a million pieces four days before Rosh HaShana.  Shabbos morning went to shul to daven because this is the last Shabbos of 5770.  I davened with a lot of kavana and felt very close to Hashem.    Despite the strollers and recurrent pain, I was in a better frame of mind.   I talked to a few people, and then a friend who is around my age comes to me and says that she is pregnant and it was unexpected.  Baruch Hashem I said that I was happy for her.  Baruch Hashem that I meant it.  She told me she was davening for me and I said thanks, that just this past summer I lost 3 embryos….. The conversation continued for a little bit.  When she left to talk to someone else, I turned to my husband who was talking to my friend’s husband.  He asked my husband if he heard the news.  I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation because the color had left my face and my strength was slowly ebbing away, and I had to rush out the door.    The weather was gorgeous and I was relatively alone.   I did not care if someone would see me.  I started to cry.  Looking at the blue sky, I spoke to Hashem.  I cannot remember what I said to Him.  I only remember feeling so left out.  I felt that perhaps Hashem did not bless me with a pregnancy because of my bad middos.  My husband and another friend told me that I do not have bad middos, and that I am sad because I too want to be pregnant.

My husband was sad too.  He felt weak and depressed.  Our last Shabbos in 5770 ended in sadness and tears.  I quoted one of the lines from Tehillim to my husband, “Weeping may endure for a night but joy is coming in the morning…”  Another line I quoted, ‘You will sow in tears and reap in joy.”

Hashem please help me to learn what I supposed to learn.  If You think that I am not ready for the ultimate bracha, please help me be ready.

I would give anything to have an unexpected pregnancy.  And you know, it is all up to Hashem.  I cried. I ate some ice cream.  I polished off a bar of chocolate (thank God I did not eat meat on Shabbos), I said Tehillim, and I talked to Hashem.  I am soo afraid, what if I never get pregnant.  But you know,  it is not up to me.  I pray for Hashem’s mercy and that it is His will that I have a child, if not twins.  Please Hashem You are in the field.  Please do not forget little Rivky.

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A picture of "The Shul on the Beach"
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Through the encouragement of the Puah Counselor with whom I talk to every week, I went to shul last Shabbos to be around little children and mothers with babies.   Her rationale was to prepare me for the upcoming High Holidays when I will be going to shul.  Keep in mind that our shul is in a house with very small space so during kiddush the place is packed with people from wall to wall.  During the times when my emotions become overwhelming there is nowhere to escape to unless I walk out the door.

Last Shabbos it was pretty hot.  I braved the 1 mile walk in the heat and was truly grateful for the shade.  I thought that there would not be too many women with small kids in shul due to the heat.  When I got to shul, I was in for a surprise.  Not only was the shul packed, there were lots of small kids, including two babies.  I had to confront my pain….  I told Hashem, “You sure are testing me!”

I had flashbacks to the three embryos that did not implant and I felt a twinge of sadness.  I had to tell myself that there will be a second chance for a new set of embryo transfer.  With my self-talk, I was able to carry on a conversation with a couple of women.  I could not bring myself to talk to the mothers with their blessed bundles of joy.  The pain was still raw yet I felt that Hashem was transforming me in that moment.    Had my Puah counselor not pushed me, I would not have gone to shul.

I got an invitation for Shabbos lunch with friends of ours.  They have three children, and the youngest is a cute 2 (perhaps 3) year old.    I should ask how old she is.  We had an enjoyable lunch.  The walk back to our apartment however was not so enjoyable.

Did I pass the test?  I certainly hope that in Hashem’s eyes I did.  Often transformation comes with a lot of effort to step into a zone that does not feel comfortable.   Being at home on Shabbos is comfortable.  I do not have to confront my pain.  At shul on the other hand, I have to deal with the painful reality that presently I am not pregnant and that furthermore a viable pregnancy means I need medical intervention with no guarantees of success.  This is a situation where I have no control.  I depend on Hashem’s compassion and mercy.  May He answer my heartfelt prayer and the tefilos of every Jewish woman who is presently childless.

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The weather is hot.  My new apartment is full of stuff that I have yet to put away.  I just finished drafting a contract related to a potential opportunity to help Mercaz Beth Israel with their United States fund raising.  Could this be an answered prayer for a home based profession with the possibility to transfer the position to Israel.

So much to keep me busy yet I am going crazy with the uncertainty of the future. Will I become a mother?  Will my going to shul for Kiddush work out as I attempt to be in harmony with the babies and toddlers that will be present.  Elul is the month and Hashem is in the field.  I need to reach out to Him given the easy access.  Today I feel proud I read the daily readings from Chofetz Chaim and Tehillim.

Tomorrow is almost Shabbos.  To think that someone is davening for my husband and I at the Kotel.  Plus we had Pidyon Ha Nefesh where a Tzaddik sent up his prayer to one of the open gates of shamayim. How was this accomplished I asked my husband.  To which he answered, “If I knew, I would be a Tzaddik.”  Next plan of action a letter to the Lubavicher Rebbe’s Ohel.  For now, I will bravely face my fears.

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