Closed For The Holidays

There are a few things about living in Israel that never get old: the buzz of  Jerusalem on  a Friday morning, buses that flash the message “Shanah Tova” or “Chag Sameach,” The Rosh Hashanah and Passover bonuses that I receive at my job; I love living in a country with a Jewish culture.  Admittedly, I maintain a strict observance of all Thanksgiving related practice – minus the football- and there is still a warm place in my heart for the movie theater on Christmas Eve, but there is nothing like Israel during the holidays.

Israelis begin their preparations for the fall holidays at some point in mid-August, it’s about that time  when they begin to throw around the phrase “Achrei HaChagim,” (after the holidays). Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in the country understands the implication of this phrase: everything gets put on hold until after the holidays, no exceptions. There are particular rules for this “season” and learning to accept rather than fight the trend will make for a much happier holiday season. To name a few:  don’t even think about trying to start a new job (you are much better off taking a vacation), assume that all government offices will be closed for two-thirds of this period, never start any type of home repair that will take more than a day’s work by any contractor – if you do, you will have only yourself to blame. In short, whatever it is that you figured was oh so pressing that it couldn’t wait, will have to wait until after the holidays.  Over the years I have been on both the giving and receiving end of this phrase, it’s all part of the culture that I love.

Last year, right before Rosh Hashana,  l learned that fertility clinics in Jerusalem, and possibly other parts of the country, basically shut down for the entire month Tishrei. A nurse told me in passing and I didn’t give it much thought; we were still in the beginning stages of the fertility treatments- tests and IUIs. I was prescribed drugs that stimulated the  development and release of multiple eggs and told  that if  I were  to ovulate over a holiday, then we should try the old-fashioned way. The stimulants at least  increased the chances of conception. At the time I thought to myself, by next year we’ll be pregnant so there was no need to worry (I was so naive!)

Yet in the blink of an eye a year passed and we were well into the IVF process ready for another  transfer of frozen embryos, but that would only happen “Achrei HaChagim.” When you think about it, it does make sense, IVF is an extremely time-sensitive process and there are too many days when the clinic would be closed. It is easier to slow things down to a full stop and give everyone, staff included, a break. Yes, we could have looked for a private clinic or another option that may have been open, but in the end we decided to take a break and wait. It wasn’t ideal, but also was not horrible to escape the process and enjoy the holidays; our embryos remained  safe and sound in the freezer.

Israel is back in full swing and we have returned to our regularly scheduled fertility treatments.

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.”