Looking Back and Moving Forward

I know what you have all been thinking: I hope that Toby posts something for Rosh Hashana! It took me awhile to figure out what to write because it seems all too obvious, when I think about the coming year I hope to have a baby. This wish has the number-one spot on my short list. Sure, I’ll throw a few prayers out there for world peace, but this year I am allowing myself to be a little selfish and focus on what I want!

Someone once told me that couples who are dealing with infertility often have a difficult time around the holidays and especially with the new year. I’m not sure. Throughout the year a  hormonal surge can be relied upon to add  an emotion to any point in time- Tommy has learned to say, “Tobyka, it is not you, it’s the hormones!” In general, my most difficult moments usually have little to do with communal events, holidays or life-cycle celebrations. Instead, the hardest times are usually deeply personal and private and mostly involve disappointments.

If the Jewish new year was only about looking forward, a person could focus exclusively on his or her aspirations for the future and the yearly repetition of an unanswered prayer would make for an arduous holiday season. Fortunately, reflecting on the year that is concluding is an integral aspect of  Rosh Hashana  and Yom Kippur. 

Looking back on this year, I can only conclude that it was a good year full of blessings (both open and hidden). This year I have learned and grown so much: I amazed myself in the sheer number of people I have touched by sharing our story through this blog, I approached challenges with an internal strength I never knew was there, I discovered that members of my family were there to support us in very tangible and helpful ways, and I received an AMAZING recipe for homemade ice cream – ice cream just makes everything better! Tommy lost his job but found a career, strengthened his Jewish practice and knowledge, and used his subtle and still incredible sense of humor to create amazing moments. Approaching this year’s challenges together has strengthened our relationship and taught us both the meaning of partnership – in those moments when I want to collapse in my disappointment, he is my rock. Looking forward, I can only hope for much of the same.

There are numerous Hebrew greetings/blessings for Rosh Hashana and these days I find myself drawn to one in particular: Shana Tova U’Puriah ( a good and fertile year). AMEN! 

Other People’s Pregnancies

We all heard about it months ago: Kate and William are expecting! We were notified when she went into labor and waited with bated breath to find out if the royal family would welcome a new princess or prince – I believe that is his official title. I’m not gonna lie; I’m jealous. She has a great body, beautiful clothes, never a bad hair day and for all that she only has to put up with the constant scrutiny of the public eye. On second thought, no thank you, I’ll take my life instead – frizzy hair and all.

Then it hits me, the royal couple were married after us. We have been trying to conceive for about a year and a half and have had a year filled with IUIs, two rounds of IVF, a chemical pregnancy, and finally OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome). So the question that begs an answer is how do I react to the royal couple’s news, and more importantly that of my family and friends who are pregnant or parents?

Truth is, it depends. My biggest fear when I first began to share our struggle with infertility was that people would respond by treating me differently; that they would hide their pregnancies from me. I didn’t want to be overcome with jealousy upon seeing a friend’s belly begin to show. How would I feel when my sister called to tell me that she was expecting again, or far worse, when she avoided telling me? I worried that infertility would slip into all aspects of my life including my relationship with others.

Eventually, the day arrived and my sister told me she was expecting her second child. In that moment, I was overcome with joy at the thought of my adorable nephew as a big brother. Then I realized that she is due right around the time when I would have given birth if the chemical pregnancy had turned out otherwise. I actually felt relieved because it would have been difficult for my mother to be in two countries at once!

That’s when I stopped myself and thought, “Toby, how do you feel about this?!” I allowed myself to feel both happy for my sister and disappointed at my own situation. Mixed emotions are one of my favorite things in life.

There are those evenings when Tommy and I come home from a night out with friends who have children and wonder when it will finally be our turn. Those are the moments when I am most grateful to be going through this with him as my partner. We both know that there are multiple paths to parenthood and we will get there one way or another.

Every person who deals with this does so differently; there is no one way to approach all the emotions that accompany infertility, but in my experience it is helpful to speak with other women and couples who have been through or are currently involved in treatments. Their support and empathy helps me to overcome what can be an otherwise lonely and isolating experience and offers me an outlet to deal with various emotions.

A few days after my sister told me she was pregnant I received another phone call, this time from my 93-year-old grandmother. More than 50 years ago she, too, struggled to get pregnant.

“Tobaleh, I’m calling to see how you are doing, are you OK?  I want you to know that I love you!”

“Bubbie,” I said, “I love you too, and yes I think I will be just fine.”

The alarm on my biological clock?

This scene from the movie My Cousin Vinny has stuck with me over the years:

I laughed and understood that Marisa Tomei’s sentiments were those of most women. The accepted narrative being that women are in this big race against time to fulfill their purpose of bearing children. Once you hit your mid-20s, the clock starts ticking. So naturally, one day I too would hear that same dreaded tick-tock.

Lo and behold, that  if the alarm on my biological clock has gone off, I must have hit snooze. To clarify, I am not referring to my body. If being 34 means that I am supposed to feel a time crunch to have children, then I must be young at heart because I feel no pressure. I am not in a race, not against my own body and certainly not against anyone else.

Let me explain, I grew up in the Jewish Modern Orthodox world and imbibed in my childhood was an understanding that I was meant to meet a man, marry and start a family-in that order, please; I spent a lot of time struggling to find my place in this world as a single woman. So I dated,  A LOT.  Blind dates, during which I learned the crucial lesson that you must, must Google people before accepting a date and that one little cup of coffee can actually be a form of torture. I willingly shared the details of “what I was looking for” with every new person who asked – remember I talk a lot. Sure, I had fun too, but  all of this was towards the fulfillment of my destiny. At a certain point the word beshert made me want to vomit.

Then the most dreaded of events suddenly happened, I turned 30- as a single woman- oh the horror! Surprisingly,  I was overcome with a sense of freedom. I could hardly believe that my world did not crumble in front of me, but instead it got so much better! I picked up and moved from Jerusalem to Haifa, started a new job, and added some more friends to the wealth of great people in my life. I felt liberated, and I stopped behaving as though I was waiting for a partner to come around so that my life could begin. I still dated, but I was not afraid to be fulfilled by and grateful for the wonderful people and elements that my life comprised. It was also around this time that I thought about whether I would want to parent a child on my own if I didn’t end up meeting a partner. For me, it was clear that the answer was no;  I would only embark on all the challenges involved in parenthood with a partner. Make no mistake, I still wanted to have kids, but the alternative did not feel like a compromise or some inferior existence; I had visions of the things that I would do independent of who was in my life. Quite simply, I was happy and content.

Enter Tommy, the love of my life. In the blink of an eye we were envisioning our lives together, talking about a family, and I was moving back to Jerusalem (the things you do for love). I knew that most people must have assumed that we would want to have kids immediately. After all, we were in our early 30s, so tick-tock, tick-tock. In fact, we were, and still are, so happy that we wanted to take time just enjoy each other and our new shared life without all the common “joys” that go along with pregnancy, preparing for a child, and then having an infant. The rest of our lives was, and remains, ahead of us and we chose to cherish the moment. We knew that if infertility was an issue that we would face then so be it, but we would not allow our lives and every decision to be dictated by that possibility.

I have yet to hear the clock, but I do have a condition known as endometriosis; I had it ten years ago and I refuse to consider that I could or should have done anything differently to change my situation. Tommy, on other hand, could have asked me out years ago when our paths crossed for 30 seconds in 2005! Here’s a reality check, both men and women hear the clock ticking away when it comes to their lives. I refuse to spend precious moments obsessing over those things that are missing in my life, because let’s face it, there will always be something. Instead, we make the best efforts to move forward towards all of our goals, but we are sure to enjoy all the wonderful things that we have together. No regrets.

Afterall, tick-tock.