Exemple
This column originally appeared in The Jewish News of Northern California , November 12, 2019

 

Several months ago, I was asked to speak at an event for Hasidah, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that “raises awareness of infertility, connects people to support resources and reduces financial barriers to [fertility] treatment in the Jewish community,” according to its website.

I so wish my family had known about this agency’s work when we were struggling with these issues.

I care about helping build Jewish families. So many of us take for granted that when we are ready to build a family and have a child, it will happen. I know from my own family’s experience that it doesn’t always work so easily, or economically.

Topics such as infertility were rarely spoken about until recently.

Growing up, I knew our past generations had hard times, but my life and the future seemed simple. College, career, get married, have kids, be a mom, then a grandmother.

Fast forward. It was not so easy.

Seeing one’s children struggle with their health or struggle to create a family — it was not easy at all.

One of my daughter’s struggles began in high school with severe abdominal pain. Today we see commercials on TV about endometriosis, but 20 years ago I had never even heard the word. Many years went by — years of tests and surgeries and different doctors — with no diagnosis. Finally, one doctor was able to give her an experimental drug that took away her fertility for five years (ages 20 to 25) with the hope that it would just “pop back.”

Through all those appointments, shots and bone-density scans, the fear of “what if fertility doesn’t come back” was always looming, And there was no place to talk about it. Yes, her fertility returned, as UCSF had hoped, and she and her husband went on to have a family.

Then my other daughter married and learned she had issues getting pregnant. With her wonderful husband’s firm support, they tried many options, talked over all the possibilities, the what-ifs.

One day a friend of hers who knew the situation asked me, “How are you?” Seeing the dark cloud hanging over me and being a mental-health professional, she shared that the dark feeling isn’t just over the couple but over the whole family.

My husband and I were in a dark place, but we came to understand this was our daughter’s journey, and we were there to support her.

We tried not to show our pain to her when treatments failed and as she felt more and more isolated. Through many very expensive processes, a woman’s enormous generosity and modern technological miracles, we were granted two more beautiful grandchildren.

Every day we thank HaShem for those beautiful children.

I began to see how so many others could use this kind of support.

My daughters were fortunate that our family could help them financially. Not everyone is in a position to afford fertility treatment or to help their own children. There hasn’t been anything in the community to help.

I have since become involved with Hasidah, which provides “financial, spiritual and emotional support for people experiencing infertility or fertility challenges, and build[s] awareness about fertility,” according to its listing in the 2018 Slingshot Guide of outstanding Jewish organizations. Hasidah, which means “stork” in Hebrew, was founded in 2012 by Rabbi Idit Solomon.

Hasidah.org is packed with information, such as the average out-of-pocket cost for one in vitro fertilization treatment being $24,000, with a $61,000 total for “a successful outcome from IVF.”

People need so much support when they are facing infertility, which is why it was so important for me to step up and help. Not only for my own family, but I could help others overcome their fertility struggles, too.

It was imperative for me to help each of my daughters become a mother.  It is imperative upon all of us as a community to help others who are facing infertility and other family building challenges.

We need to replenish those lost during my parent’s generation. We need to support the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying. And it is the Jewish way to help others in need.

Jewish children are the future of the Jewish community. I have endless joy from each of my grandchildren. I hope our community can prioritize this issue for our sake, and for our future.

 

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In the US, we pride ourselves on the American dream of working hard and earning based on our merit. Our economy today, however, shows that many people who work hard are earning less and are not as well off as their parents. Truth be told, the real old fashioned way of earning money still works – inherit it. In addition to younger generations earning less, another difference that is becoming more evident is when having babies the old fashioned way doesn’t work either.  People are now turning to their parents to pay for infertility treatment.

The Future Grandparents Club

In vitro fertilization (IVF), which now accounts for a percentage of births in the US, is becoming more common. However, its affordability is not. The average out of pocket expenses for a round of IVF exceeds $24,000 and the average spent on treatment over all exceeds $60,000. So where are people turning to get this kind of cash to fund their IVF? Hopeful grandparents. 

One of the remaining stigmas of infertility is that it is mostly older wealthier women who are likely to have infertility treatment. However,  at least half of the women seeking IVF are under 35. Infertility has many causes. Hasidah has had clients facing PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), premature ovarian failure (at age 27), genetic diseases, cancer, recurrent pregnancy loss, and one of the most frustrating situations, unexplained infertility. Infertility affects young and more mature, rich and poor alike.

What’s A Parent to Do?

Hopeful grandparents seem motivated regardless of the situation. When it is a late bloomer, they want to help. When the couple is young or maybe doesn’t have any savings yet, the future grandparents are often there. One hopeful grandparent called Hasidah for help because she had already dipped into her retirement savings to help her daughter and still wanted to find additional ways to help. Not all parents have the financial capacity to help their children, and not all children are comfortable or able to turn to their parents. However, the vast majority of people Hasidah has seen that have spoken to their parents get some funding from them. When it is their own child looking for help to have the same blessing of having a child, it is a pretty sensitive heart string to pull.

To be sure, funding from grandparents has it draw backs. It is complicated to have financial ties to family members and IVF has no guarantee. However, one thing is for sure. More and more grandparents are going to have earned their title the new old fashioned way. They will have paid for it. 

Check out this article in Fast Company for more about IVF funding from grandparents featuring Rabbi Idit Solomon.

 

 

 

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Exemple

A recent article in the Atlantic gave a wonderful introduction about advice for grandparents who want to ask their children about their family planning activities. The summary was don’t ask.

It’s worth stopping here to read this if you are a hopeful future grandparent or are currently facing fertility challenges and thinking about your parents. Here is it again.

One premise of the article was that the would-be grandparents are wannabe grandparents and that the asking is therefore self serving. When am I getting grandchildren? In that circumstance, the asking amounts to pressure and of course is completely unwanted. However, maybe this is coming from a place of wanting to care and support your children too.  Maybe the grandparents-to-be have fertility losses and challenges in their own past, often which children don’t know. It’s eye opening for children to think their parents may have some awareness of what they are experiencing, but it still doesn’t make it welcome.  It’s worth thinking about if you have that kind of relationship about anything with your children before asking. It’s up to the kids if they want to talk about this or anything else.

To be sure, there is scientific evidence that no grandchild has been born as a result of a future grandparent asking. It doesn’t work that way.

Many grandparents are in the loop and do work out how to talk to their kids about it. Many people also know that future grandparents are a likely a percentage of the source of funding for IVF outside of patients. Hasidah is lucky to have support from many of them! Hasidah has also received called from grandparents looking to help their children. One such call was from a future grandparent that had already used her 401K and was looking for other ways to help her daughter. She had been through infertility herself and it was heartbreaking to watch her daughter’s experience. She sincerely wanted to help and that was one thing she could do. She wasn’t even so heart set on having a grandchild, but she was committed to supporting her daughter’s dreams of being a mother.

If you have the kind of open relationship with your children, then asking about grandchildren just needs a check – is it about you or about them? Consider the relationship you have with them. Some of that awareness of your relationship will guide you in how to approach the conversation.

Would love to hear your thoughts or experiences on talking with parents about fertility issues. Please feel free to share!

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