At least five people in a group of twenty to which I belong struggled with infertility. Within our tight-knit group, they shared their stories about miscarriages, failed attempts to conceive, and other accompanying challenges. Some spoke about the experience’s impact on their faith, others focused on the difficulty of being a part of a community and attending shul, and still others about the unintended effect of scrolling down a newsfeed on Facebook where friends and family post photos of their children.
Before my experience hearing from my friends in this group, I had not thought about infertility much. Yes, I had a friend here and there who mentioned that “they were trying” or had been for a while. But the issue of infertility, to me, seemed as if it affected a select unlucky few. After all, most people I knew, at least to my knowledge, got married and had kids without difficulty. My family’s closest friends growing up all had three to five children, evenly spaced out, as if it was all planned.
But in the last five or so years, I’ve noticed people, both men and women (but mainly women), begin to share their stories of pain surrounding infertility. The more stories that are shared, the more I’ve realized that this is not an issue of just a select unlucky few. The issue of infertility is a reality that affects many. In fact, I have come to learn that one in eight couples suffer from infertility.
Maybe infertility is more pervasive now as a result of later marriages and women wanting to establish their careers before starting families. Maybe people are coming out of the woodwork to talk about their experiences because they realize much has to change in our discourse and the way that we engage with issues of infertility, including with couples themselves. Maybe it’s both those factors, as well as others.
We need to raise awareness because our friends and family members are hurting. We need to lobby insurance companies to cover treatment (and genetic testing because it is preventative care) and recognize infertility as the problem that it is.
My shul recently held an infertility awareness week, with a number of events and talks sprinkled throughout the week and on Shabbat. I was disappointed at the low turnout. We need to remove the stigma of infertility so that we can discuss it in an honest and open way. Just because people are not talking about it does not mean that the issue is non-existent.
I also recently noticed a flyer in a women’s bathroom promoting Yesh Tikva for women who are struggling with infertility. While I was thrilled that this method of advertisement would inevitably reach lots of women, I was saddened by a comparison I immediately thought about. I’ve often seen flyers targeting women of abuse taped to the inside of bathroom stalls. While abuse is something we don’t discuss enough either, the secrecy of the bathroom flyer is for the purpose of protection. It is intentional secrecy. The issue of infertility should not be limited to secret flyers.
That is one of many positive outcomes of Yesh Tikva’s Infertility Awareness Shabbat, which raises more awareness and sensitivity to issues affecting members of our community. The change process is slow, but meaningful and worthwhile. Hopefully, at some point in the near future, we will no longer need fliers in the bathrooms.
Yesh Tikva, Hebrew for “There is Hope,” is a national non-profit, created to provide emotional support to those navigating infertility. Yesh Tikva aims to give infertility a “voice” so no one should have to feel alone or ashamed and to educate the Jewish community about the unique struggles that come along with infertility. Join Yesh Tikva for the Second Annual Infertility Awareness Shabbat April 1, 2017. Help raise awareness and sensitivity regarding infertility, and unite as Jews over a cause that affects 1 in 8 men and women throughout the Jewish community. To partner with Yesh Tikva in sharing a message or Dvar Torah email Events@YeshTikva.org. For more information visit us at http://yeshtikva.org/infertility-awareness-shabbat/.
All posts are contributed by third parties. The opinions and facts in them are presented solely by the authors and JOFA assumes no responsibility for them.