Guest Column by Elana Bekerman Frank
Rosh Hashanah and the Jewish holidays can be a dreaded time for anyone, especially when pleading with G-d for a miracle.
I remember sitting in synagogues over the holidays, asking and praying, “G-d, when will I find my true love and start a family?”
Thankfully, I found a husband (eventually), but the tears and frustration weren’t gone yet. I felt the pain for several years more because the rest of what I wanted, being a mommy, seemed impossible.
The holidays for me, while I was trying to conceive naturally and then through fertility treatments, were brutal, physically and emotionally. This time of year is meant to be a festive time for family gatherings and new beginnings, but for me it meant emotions I didn’t know how to deal with and depressing endings I didn’t want to discuss.
If that weren’t enough, rabbis were joyfully calling out names of newborns, kids were running all over the place, laughing and smiling, holiday gatherings were being planned around children’s bedtimes in every corner of the synagogue — ugh, it felt as though G-d were taunting me and enjoying it.
Thankfully, it’s not all gloom and doom for me anymore. Whether from G-d or excellent doctors or both, I got lucky, twice, and finally have two beautiful boys who call me mommy.
And though treatments also failed twice more, I no longer feel alone during my continued journey, thanks to the amazing support I’ve found. Below are some tips I wish someone had shared with me earlier to help deal with the dreaded holiday season.
6 Tips to Overcome Infertility Gloom
- Be selfish. Nothing can make the pain of infertility disappear. Acknowledge that this may be a sad and uncomfortable time for you (and your spouse), and pay attention to your own needs, no matter how rude you feel that might be. People who love you will understand, and those who don’t don’t matter.
- Prepare for awkwardness. Plan how you will handle awkward situations or insensitive questions from family and friends and even strangers. You don’t have to open up, but you may consider (and be surprised) how loved ones can make you feel better if you do.
- Make it a mini-vacation. If you typically travel to visit family and friends, consider staying at a hotel to have personal space at your disposal. Especially if you know being surrounded by small children, pregnant relatives or other painful reminders of your infertility will affect you.
- Lean on someone. Talking to someone, be it a therapist, a friend or a support group, can be helpful and comforting. The Jewish Fertility Foundation’s Wo/Men’s Infertility Support Havurah (WISH) meets the second Tuesday of the month (starting in November) at MACoM.
- Remember each other. Emotions run high over the holidays. Set aside time to plan something fun with your spouse. It can be helpful to have something exciting to look forward to and give you a chance to talk with each other about your feelings. Your partner may be able to help you through the rough times. And if you plan something really cool, it can be a talking point for you with family and friends.
- Don’t give up. There is a bit of comfort knowing that Jewish women (much holier than I am) have been dealing with infertility since biblical times. On Rosh Hashanah, we will hear the heartbreaking story of Hannah, a barren wife whose prayers are answered when she gives birth to a son, Samuel. Maybe G-d responds to our prayers after all.
Wishing you and your families a fruitful year of happiness.
Elana Bekerman Frank, a native of Atlanta, lived, studied, worked and did her breeding in Maryland, Manhattan, Israel and New Jersey. (The breeding was only in Israel.) She is quite vocal about her fertility struggle and her desire to help others. She is the director of public relations and marketing at the Weber School and president and founder of the Jewish Fertility Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance, educational awareness and emotional support to Atlanta Jewish families who have medical fertility challenges.
JFF, WISH Merge
The Jewish Fertility Foundation announced Sept. 9 that it had gained federal tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit status, meaning that all donations to the organization going back to its founding in December are tax-deductible.
The status also makes the organization eligible to apply for certain government and foundation grants.
The foundation’s founder and president, Elana Bekerman Frank, called the status “a major milestone.”
“Our dedicated board of directors and committee members have been working hard putting all of our ducks in a row so that we are ready to begin allocating grants for fertility treatments, providing community-based infertility support groups and educational trainings,” she said.
As part of the educational arm, JFF has acquired another young organization focused on similar issues, the Temple Sinai-based Wo/Men’s Infertility Support Havurah. The WISH committee is now part of the JFF education committee.
WISH will resume meetings Nov. 10 and continue on the second Thursday of each month.