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Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Visiting With Old Friends (Children Mentioned)

After my daughter actually made good on her threat to "scream in shul" (which makes me gulp since she also threatened to treyf my kitchen and eat toilet paper this week when I wouldn't give her jelly beans), Josh took them into the hallway and I was left during the Torah service with my Etz Hayim. Just me and a Tanakh. And a body gearing up to ovulate. And I did it.

I flipped over to the barren chickies in the beginning of the book.

The first time we were going through treatments, I spent every Saturday in shul not reading the portion we were actually learning and instead rereading the stories of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel. It's sort of like reading blogs that are never updated. Sarah laughing over finally getting a BFP. Rebecca worrying about miscarriage with her twins. The strain on Rachel's marriage as she lashes out in desperation. I've read their stories so many times, went over the meager information about their stats so many times, wondered if I could get through decades of infertility like Sarah all the while knowing that as much as I would hate myself for it, I would have run off fertile Hagar as well.

The first time through treatments, I was so focused on having a child that I never noticed the structure of the family or the number of pregnancies. I thought once motherhood was obtained, many of those feelings about infertility would fly out the window. Turned out, like many other things in life such as the aesthetics my 8th grade hairstyle or the sanity of my grad school boyfriend, that I was wrong.

Sarah, the first woman in the troika, had one pregnancy and one child. Rebecca, the second woman, had one pregnancy but fraternal twin boys. Rachel, the one I related to the most of the three women, had two pregnancies. Etz Hayim points out her desire to have children was so strong that after going through one of the most painful sensations in existence, she immediately wanted to go through it again for another child.

What does all of this mean? I'm not sure. I thought it was interesting that I only noticed it now. I thought it was interesting that each woman has a different family structure once childlessness was resolved (and to take this a step further, the other Emaot--or mothers--of Infertility in the Torah, each have a different family structure too. Hannah finally has a child, but the child leaves her home. And Michal never gives birth, but instead adopts her sister's five children when her sister dies therefore becoming a mother to five in one fell swoop). I thought it was interesting that I hadn't turned back to those pages until today.

My daughter returned to the sanctuary after I moved seats to get away from the two annoying men who were carrying on a long conversation about their golf game. There was a space next to the window and she danced wildly to the entire spoken Amidah, punching the air with every "Baruch ata Adonoi..." She threw her head back and spun around, clapping her hands as if the Shabbat spirit had entered her body and she was looking for a few snakes to pick up and prove it. It made me wonder about Sarah, whether she tried again so she could live through the wild-dancing-in-shul years one more time but was ultimately unsuccessful. It made me wonder about Rebecca and whether she always felt like she missed out on something by building her family all at once. It made me understand Rachel and why she needed to try again.


TeamWinks said...

That first paragraph provided me with quite the learning opportunity. :-)

I'm completely not religious, but found your post interesting. Thanks for letting us glimpse into your world.

Wen782 said...

Wow, who knew jelly beans were such a powerful tool of the "wishing to be calm and serene people"? LOL

I can just picture a wiggly little one trying to stay calm and basically being incapable.

I think there are stories throughout history of women who could inspire us. I'm glad you're getting some comfort in the stories you've been reading.

decemberbaby said...

Great post. I love hearing insights on those stories... what always strikes me about them is that all three of those matriarchs were ultimately able to have children, and yet their lives seemed basically unhappy. Or is that just me? It seems the scars of infertility were just as long-lasting in ancient times.

Amy said...

Thanks for writing this. I've thought a lot about these women in the last two years and how the Lord ultimately blessed them.

I know they didn't fully understand God's plan or why they were infertile while all these other women had so many babies...especially Rachel!! I believe that they must've felt a lot like I do....but their faith sustained them just as mine will sustain me.


Bea said...

There are a lot of stories in there, now you point them out all together like that. And people say this willingness to go through ART for a child is a modern craze.


Rachel Inbar said...

I always thought that G-d made Rachel infertile because he felt it was unfair that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. So there was Leah having one baby after another... but I think Jacob still loved Rachel more.

Rachel, as you said, did go through 2 pregnancies and gave birth to two children, but she didn't live to see Benjamin. I guess that was just a reality of the times. Sad.

es said...

When I light candles on Friday night and daven to Hashem for children, I often think of the matriarchs and how they suffered through the same thing that I am. It comforts me and makes me feel not as alone.

Anonymous said...

I often think about these stories. Their meanings have drastically changed since first hearing them as a child.

kirby said...

Wow. Just the other day, the hubby and I were joking around about whether we would use Hebrew names when we made aliyah.

I couldn't help but think: yeah, you can call me Hannah.

I'm glad I'm not the only IFer for whom these stories have a deeper meaning.

Michell said...

Being a person who is not at all religious I hadn't thought of those stories in so long. It's interesting to be reminded that women battling IF has a long history. Those stories can be very inspiring.

DI_Dad said...

After dealing with infertility for so many years when my wife converted before our first child was born she took the hebrew names Hannah Ruth. So even though she has for the most moved on she is reminded of her struggle and theirs each time she is in shul.

Dianne/Flutter said...

You make me want to pick up my Bible and look in on them. So many interesting thougths...I've always wondered about the untold story. And often love to read books on these women - the author's imagination only inspires mine. Since these women OBVIOUSLY had so much more to them. Unfortunately, we only have a part of their story.

GLouise said...

I love reading these stories as well. I have always felt that Sarah gets a little too much blame for offering Hagar to Abraham!
I also think that Sarah must have been one hot mama, since she had been placed in that one harem, at something like age 75?

I have also heard some people hypothesize that Joseph, son of Rachel, may have experienced infertility as well, based on the names he gave his two sons. I need to go look those up again! :-)