Awareness can mean many things from people knowing about infertility to the development of a culture that understands the reality of infertility and knows how to support those experiencing it. Hasidah is building awareness on many levels from increasing knowledge to making the change in the Jewish community’s culture to be more supportive. During this National Infertility Awareness Week,  Hasidah will publish a several perspectives and helpful pieces of information to help expand awareness. Please share!

Not so successful

Source: RMANJ: Infertility In America 2015

Myth: Infertility does not effect regular healthy couples that much
Myth: Infertility treatments like IVF’s have low success rates

Reality: American’s are overconfident about natural fertility.
Reality: 1 in 8 women have a fertility impairment.
Reality: That 1 in 8 number was extremely generous. It does not include men (that issue alone is worthy of a lot of awareness!). It does not factor age in accurately (it starts at age 15). The Jewish community tends to marry and have children later than the average American which increases infertility rates.  In other words, for the Jewish community the rates of fertility impairment are likely closer to 1 in 6. Ask your friends. You are likely to find that it quite common to have experience with fertility impairment.
Reality: IVF is 32%  on average (SART.org 2013)
Reality: Natural fertility is a 20% chance. (See chart)

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Hasidah is fundraising to help Jewish babies be born. We get the questions posed in this Crowdfunding Babies article a lot. The Jewish community funds camps, day schools, trips to Israel, children’s books, community gardens, learning programs, film festivals, guest speakers, musical performance, etc, etc, etc. It seems that having a Jewish child is a least as worthy. We don’t ask parents to crowdfund their children’s education, or for seniors to fund raise for their meal assistance. The community subsidizes it because it is important. And we should. We should also assist those struggling with infertility to bring Jewish children into the world.

See more posts like this on on our Facebook page: Facebook.com/JewishStork

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Can you tell which one is "real" and which is "synthetic"?

Can you tell which one is “real” and which is “synthetic”?

Recently Dolce & Gabbana made some comments that were less than kind to the ears of anyone who has struggled to have a child. Make that anyone who thought about parenting, appreciates parenting, is a parent, has a parent. Add in anyone who cares about having babies or appreciates children. Make that just anyone.

Dolce said, “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”

A New York Times article shared some of the comments,  reactions, and eerie silence that ensued.  As an organization founded to support those who want to be parents and can benefit from IVF, Hasidah is very clear about who we serve, why and for what greater good. Here are some of the problems with D&G’s comments:

1) Unenlightened – Do they know that sometimes IVF is due to chemotherapy, genetic diseases, or other instances when the “world as it should be” has shown itself to be cruel and unforgiving?

2) Highly insensitive – Many of the couples who undergo IVF have experienced numerous losses, financial strain, and deep emotional pain in their paths to become parents. This is not political incorrectness. This delegitimizes their yearning for parenthood, their authenticity as parents, and the trials they went through to bring a real living soul into this world. And on that note…

3) Even more highly insensitive – It is extreme thoughtlessness and its own form of cruelty to suggest that these children are “less than” in any way. Those parents who have been through IVF would have a case to argue quite the opposite.  Would they look at an 8 year old boy along with his desperately grateful parents and tell him he was synthetic? That he is somehow less a child of God than any other?

To backtrack and say this is their opinion and it’s fine for others to feel differently does not undo their characterization. It is not an apology in anyway and cannot repair the insult to the parents and the children they offended.

The upshot? We just received our first contribution to help fund couples in need of IVF “in honour of Dolce & Gabbana.” Feel free to join.

 

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Rabbi Idit Solomon spoke recently at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. Giving a drash about the Torah portion “Toldot” that begins with a brief mention of  Isaac and Rebekah struggling to conceive, Rabbi Solomon showed how we often miss the significance of infertility in the lives of men and how it can cause a person to act in ways never imagined. In this week’s Torah portion “Beshalach,”  we read of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt. Rabbi Solomon will be speaking at Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley connecting the Israelite’s path towards redemption with the struggles towards fertility.  See post below from Rabbi Cohen and an article about the need for more support for infertility in the Jewish community.

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Many articles are written about what to say and what not to say to someone experiencing infertility. Sadly so many of the “what to say” lists get it mostly right and then there is that one piece of advice that just does not fly.  Here is one list that holds strong because it is nuanced and recognizes that each person’s experience can differ. Please read for yourself if you are experiencing infertility or for someone else if you have a support role. It comes from BabyCenter.com.

Therapists’ top ten tips for coping with fertility problems

The pressure to raise a family can be enormous, and the thought of not being able to have children can make many people feel something is wrong with them. We talked to respected psychologists who work with couples with fertility problems to find out which coping strategies really work.

Recognize that a fertility problem is a crisis. A fertility problem may be one of the most difficult challenges you’ll ever face. Acknowledging this is a key to coping, says Kate Marosek, who’s counseled couples with fertility complications in the Washington, D.C., area for more than ten years.

“It’s normal to feel a monumental sense of loss, to feel stressed, sad, or overwhelmed,” says Marosek. “Don’t chastise yourself for feeling this way.” Facing and accepting your emotions can help you move beyond them.

Don’t blame yourself. Resist the temptation to get angry at yourself or to listen to the little voice in your head that’s saying, “I shouldn’t have waited; I’m being punished for having that abortion; I should have lost more weight or taken better care of my health; I shouldn’t have assumed that I could have children when I wanted” or whatever negative thoughts you may be having.

People can get caught in negative thinking patterns that only make matters worse, says Yakov M. Epstein, a psychologist at Rutgers University and co-author of Getting Pregnant When You Thought You Couldn’t: “Instead of berating yourself, look forward to how you and your partner are going to manage the situation.”

When you start feeling like you “should have” or “could have,” remind yourself that your fertility problem is not your fault. Even if you could have made different decisions in the past, they’re behind you. Concentrate on your future.

Work as a team with your partner. You and your mate should help each other through this time (and definitely not blame each other for your difficulty getting pregnant).

This doesn’t mean you need to feel the same thing at the same time — that’s one of the most common pitfalls for couples facing fertility problems. It does mean paying attention to what your partner’s going through. “If you’re taking care of each other emotionally, you can unite to fight the problem,” says Marosek.

Work together to find practical ways to share the burden. If you’re undergoing treatment, he can take care of the insurance papers. Or if he needs injected therapy, you can administer the shots.

Educate yourself. Read as much as you can about fertility problems and ask questions of your doctor and other couples in your situation.

Staying educated is especially important when you’re dealing with a fertility problem because the technologies behind the treatments are complicated and change quickly. “You’ve got to understand what’s happening medically,” says Epstein, “or you won’t be able to make informed choices.”

See our resource guide for a list of books, Web sites, and organizations that can help. Learn the basics by starting at the beginning of our Fertility Problems area.

Set limits on how long you’re willing to try. Some couples decide from the get-go that they won’t go to extreme measures to have a baby. Others spend years and thousands of dollars exhausting all of their treatment options.

No one can tell you when to stop trying to conceive — that’s a decision you need to make with your partner and doctor — but you’ll feel more in control of your life if you start thinking in advance about how far you’re willing to go to get pregnant.

Start by discussing your medical odds of getting pregnant, which treatments you’re not willing to try, and your end goal. (For more help with this choice, read about making the decision to end fertility treatment.)

Decide how much you’re willing to pay. With in vitro fertilization (IVF) averaging $12,400 a cycle, it’s no wonder couples feel anxious about money, especially since women often need to go through multiple cycles before becoming pregnant.

To cope with the anxiety caused by the high costs of treatment, sit down and develop a financial plan. Start with your insurance: Find out exactly what it does and doesn’t cover. If it covers some or all of your treatments, decide which one of you will monitor the paperwork and negotiate with the insurance company.

Then look at all your assets and determine how much you can spend and on which treatments. “You should always have a plan B,” says Alice Domar, a psychologist and assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard University Medical School who specializes in helping couples with fertility problems. “Because nothing, especially with fertility treatments, is certain.”

Get support from professionals and others with fertility problems. Society often fails to recognize the grief caused by infertility, so those denied parenthood tend to hide their sorrow, which only increases their feelings of shame and isolation.

“Finding other people who are going through the same thing can help you see that fertility problems are widespread and your disappointment is understandable,” says Linda Klempner, a clinical psychologist and mental health consultant at Women’s Health Counseling and Psychotherapy in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Share stories and advice about fertility Problems with others in the BabyCenter Community.

If you’d like to talk to a therapist, look for one who understands reproductive medicine. “Fertility problems are very complex, and if a therapist does not understand the medical issues, he or she won’t be able to help,” says Epstein. Look for a referral through RESOLVE, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, or the InterNational Council on Infertility Information.

Just say no to baby-focused activities. If certain gatherings or celebrations are too painful for you — if all your siblings had babies in the last two years, say, or you keep getting invited to baby showers — give yourself permission to decline the invitation or at least to have a good cry afterward.

To avoid hurt feelings, send a gift but choose children’s books or an online gift certificate to save yourself a troubling trip to the toy store or baby boutique.

Balance optimism and realism. “You need to be optimistic to go through a procedure,” says Epstein, “but if you’re too hopeful — if your hope is unrealistic — you’ll be setting yourself up for a huge fall.” By keeping current on the technology and your diagnosis, you can get a good handle on what chance of success you have with each treatment.

The array of medical technologies available today leads many couples to keep trying month after month, year after year. But about a third of couples treated for fertility problems won’t go on to have a biological child, and often they must make peace with that before they can move on with their lives. Staying realistic can help you make smart choices as you work your way through the emotional minefield of treatment.

Take care of yourself by pursuing other interests. Being treated for a fertility problem can feel like a full- or at least part-time job, so it’s important to keep up with some of the activities or hobbies that bring you pleasure.

“It won’t be easy,” says Marosek, “especially if you’re doing something like going in for a blood test every other day, but look for ways to take care of yourself.” She recommends that people get a massage, have a manicure — anything that can give them relief from the focus on fertility treatment.

If your old activities are painful — maybe all your friends are parents now — look for new diversions. If hiking sounds appealing, do that. Or take a class — painting, dance, or something else that’s always tempted you.

And remember, laughter is one of the best healers. See a funny movie, head out to a comedy club, and reread your favorite funny novel.

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A recent article in the Washington Post focused on the relationship between the down economy, the decreasing American birthrate and the struggles of couples experiencing infertility. We meet Melissa and Rick, a couple who experienced job losses, financial insecurity and infertility. Feeling frustrated with the costs of infertility treatment, Melissa asks, “Why should the economy play into my family planning?”

On one level the question is startling. The economy plays into having a baby because everything from infertility treatment to raising children is expensive. The current declining birthrate is the likely due in part to some people feeling they cannot provide adequately for their children. They are delaying childbearing or downsizing their family planning until their paycheck is upsized or stabilized. The situation is ironic (painful?) in light of those who do not have the economic means to raise children by most standards and actively continue to have them. But the question and the situation are simply sad for those with good intentions and an unstable paycheck.

When infertility treatment is involved, conceiving children is absolutely an economic decision. It’s expensive.  Unfair? In many ways yes, for others arguably not. And that gets to the true pain that Melissa is articulating with her question. Why are there financial factors in Melissa’s family planning? Why are anyone’s dreams of having a child – something that is what most people take for granted, something we think is just natural and the universe just works that way, something that everyone does – why should it be so hard to do or to afford? Those are not economic questions at heart even if they are in reality. At heart they are questions about shattered dreams that we never knew where so tenuous or complicated. The question points out the unfairness of infertility compounded by the economic reality of the situation.

The article continues: “What if we never have children?” Melissa asks her husband as they sit at the kitchen table. “What are we going to do, go on vacation all the time?”

The article provides good information about infertility and more of the story of Melissa and Rick, but there was no need to read any further. The vacation question hits one of the most fundamental issues that infertility raises. Children heighten are awareness of everything – our mortality, the future, our morals, the context of our lives, our limits, our hopes and fears. And many of us need that reminder. Taking part in the living chain of life that we imagine childbearing to be taps into our deep seeded humanity.

For sure there are other ways to link to that chain, to determine our future, to keep our moral compass in check and ultimately to provide a context for giving our life meaning. However for many people, having children was going to do that. Naturally. And when children are not there and not coming, everything else comes into question. So what now? When the direction for our sense of purpose, the next generation, is not there, do we just not have purpose? Do we project onto other children? Do we just go on vacation and have a self-fulfilling fun time? Perhaps the question represents the craving for simplicity and answers when infertility uproots lives. Dealing with infertility in the long run is a process that often includes big questions about life and meaning. The process can lead to deeper self-knowledge and purpose, but it is uninvited and often painful.

I have heard many stories of infertility and the two questions in this article highlight reoccurring themes of people’s experiences. Infertility and economics are indeed related and infertility hits our sense of life purpose and meaning. Most of us grew up thinking the process of making children was supposed to be free and fun. For those who have experienced infertility, we know quite well it is far from a vacation.

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