It’s been five years since the worst Rosh Hashanah of my life. As we arrived at my parents’ house that Sunday afternoon, my wife and I received bad news: despite our best efforts to conceive a child, we were unsuccessful. Again.
This had been going on for some time. We had visited doctors, specialists, naturopaths and religious advisers, tried tonics and vitamins – anything that might help. Everyone said we should relax, that lots of couples experience the same thing, that we would eventually be successful. But nothing was working, and at some point we began to feel like we were being pushed toward the most drastic treatments, like in vitro fertilization, before we had exhausted less invasive – and less expensive – options.
‘experiencing infertility was hell’
Still, we remained hopeful. We had each other to lean on, after all, and our families offered tremendous emotional support. Everyone agreed we were doing everything we could – and then some – and it really felt like we had to be heading for a breakthrough soon. But then, as we were dressing in our finest and readying for synagogue, we got the latest negative test results. We were completely gutted.
I couldn’t set foot in the sanctuary that Rosh Hashanah. In the months prior, I had made all sorts of overtures to higher powers – please just give us a child and I’ll be a better person. A better Jew. I promise. But there had been no answers from above, and now, to be honest, I was tired of looking for them. Instead of praying with the congregation, I walked the empty halls, aimlessly and angrily.
After Rosh Hashanah, we refocused and were introduced to a new set of fertility specialists who listened to our hopes and fears and responded with compassion and encouragement. We started to get up at the crack of dawn for early-morning treatments before heading off to work. Still, nothing was happening, and it all began to seem hopeless – until one cold January morning when we got the news we had been waiting for: we were expecting. Our daughter was born a month after the next Rosh Hashanah, and our son followed (without fertility treatment) a year and a half later.
Looking back, experiencing infertility was hell. There’s just no other way to put it. We felt like failures – and worse, we couldn’t understand why. Whenever we’d hear about another newly pregnant friend or family member, it seemed like we died a little inside, and we hated ourselves for feeling that way about people we loved and admired. We were exhausted by all the appointments and treatments, and that meant we had less time and patience for everyone, including each other.
As a new year arrives, I know I’ll be thinking back to that Rosh Hashanah five years ago when everything felt so bleak, and about all the couples out there who so desperately wish to conceive a child. I have no profound words of advice – “Relax” and “It’ll happen at the right time,” no matter how well-intentioned, don’t help when you can’t relax and it isn’t happening. Instead, all I can say is that I sincerely hope 5778 will be your year.