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Going outside helps me journey inside my mind and soul. The stillness of nature allows me to tune in and listen to the thoughts and feelings that are buried under the chaos of everyday life. Several months ago I had the blessing to spend a few quiet moments in a nature reserve with majestic redwood trees. I expected to be overcome with awe while witnessing these tremendous trees, but was caught off guard by what the trees brought out in me.

The gigantic redwood trees invited me in, protected me and made me feel small and humble. In particular, I was called to the large cavities that exist at the core of some of these ancient trees. I climbed inside one tree’s cavernous hole and noticed the temperature drop slightly. The silence inside the hole was noticeable since the wooden trunk surrounding me prevented echoes from journeying into the forest. I felt the bark inside the tree, some parts smooth and some parts rough,different layers from different generations of the tree’s lengthy life. I noticed the parts of the tree that had been scorched by fire into a deeper shade of brown than the rest of the tree.

“She is a tree of life for those who grasp her…” (Proverbs 3:18)

I sat within the stillness of that tree, grasping the wisdom of life it had to offer. I identified strongly with this tree in all of her majesty and strength, in all of her presence, and all that she lacked. Deeply rooted, yet with a gaping hole at her core. I sat in the core of the tree and felt my own empty core, the space that remained after an excruciatingly long and drawn out miscarriage. A miscarriage that came after an intense year of appointments, injections, and procedures. A miscarriage of our last existing frozen embryo. A miscarriage process that began the day we found out we would soon be sheltering in place due to the pandemic raging around the globe.

I am not a stranger to grief, pain, and trauma. This was not the first time the fires of the universe scorched me at my core. And yet as time passed, this particular loss expanded, and the space that was supposed to nurture the newest member of our family instead became a cavernous hole that grew inside me. The lack was immensely present and I questioned what to do with the Empty Space. While inside this tree, I wondered how it continued to grow even while its core was empty.

After spending some time within the Empty Space, I crept out of the redwood tree and noticed a sign that read, “Due to their remarkable fire resistance, most redwoods are able to survive fires…When a fire does reach the heartwood (core) of the tree, it creates a cavity….the tree adapts to its hollowed trunk by strengthening its base on either side of the cavity. This additional growth is referred to as a buttress and provides the tree with additional stability.”

This sign reminded me that comfort isn’t about filling the emptiness. Comfort is allowing myself the space to feel the lack at my core and to integrate that loss into my identity as time goes on. But the emptiness doesn’t go away. I just keep growing.

“Hamakom yenachem etchem” (May the Space comfort you)…

I turned to the redwood tree for one last time. I took in her beauty and her pain. I admired that even with her scars, she continues to grow, and becomes stronger. I thanked her for comforting me. For providing a Space for me to be present in my own emptiness. For reminding me that strength, beauty, and rootedness can all coexist with emptiness.

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Many find mikveh to be a place of healing and rejuvenation. Being part of the practice of for married women to immerse in a mikvah after menstruation before have relations with her husband, mikveh is intimately tied to fertility. However, for those experiencing fertility challenges, it can be a painful reminder that conception has not occurred.

Our partners at Yesh Tikvah have recently worked with the Eden Center to produce a booklet called “Birkat Emunah: A Mikvah Resource” (the title means “Blessing of Faith”), which provides prayers (in Hebrew and English), practical suggestions and personal stories to help women gain more control over their mikveh experience while facing infertility or pregnancy loss. Read more about the launch as published in the Forward or download the booklet.

 

 

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On the last night of Passover, the participants at the retreat I attended shared reflections on Passover themes. What were our journeys? What made us feel liberated? One woman, while describing the diversity of participants in our newly formed community, referred to me as a nursing mother. Me? Ironically, moments earlier I had leaned over to my husband and recalled how the first of many IVF treatments in our fertility journey occurred the day before Passover Seder. Our Seder that year was minimal but hopeful as I lay on the couch on bed rest. The hope ended when I had a miscarriage several weeks later on Mother’s Day.  The experience was a hard one and my identity will always be connected to years of infertility. Nursing mother, even just mother, is not an identity I wear easily or take for granted.
 
On this Mother’s Day, if you are a mother, please take this day to appreciate the gift you have been given. Not everyone gets to share in the experience. Consider making a contribution to Hasidah (www.hasidah.org/donate) to help those who yearn for that identity and are struggling along the way.
 
If you are not a mother and are hoping to become one, please know you are not alone, that others have been on the journey, and that we care and want to support you along the way.
 
Wherever you are on the motherhood journey, may Mother’s Day come with blessings for you.
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Hasidah’s founder and CEO, Rabbi Idit Solomon,  has an article published in Kveller. Many people assume that once someone is pregnant the pain of infertility is gone. This well received post explores how the effects of infertility continue even after pregnancy is achieved

For more information on the topic and additional support resources, see this wonderful article at OurBodiesOurselves.

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Breaking news in the infertility and pregnancy loss world: Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife Pricilla Chan are expecting a baby girl after having endured three miscarriages. Almost unanimous support came pouring out for their impending parenthood and for their speaking out on the issue. The story has been getting traction across the media world from CNN Money, and Forbes (with an amazing list of stories to share) to Time (focusing on men!). And there are many more.

A couple of these articles cite a research study that indicates 28 percent of women who had experienced a miscarriage and learned about a celebrity’s pregnancy loss felt less isolated with that knowledge. All the more so, when learning about a friend’s miscarriage, 46 percent felt less isolated.

For many of us who have been through it, this is no surprise. Letting the world know about pregnancy loss – and Mark Zuckerberg did an amazing job of making that happen – is a tremendous gift.

Stigma is sometimes attached to infertility and pregnancy loss.  Even when stigma is not externally imposed, the experience leaves people feeling like something is wrong with them. On top of the sadness and loss they may feel deficient, defective, disgraced even. With the advances in technology that tell us that the experiences are normal, the outcome is often the same – a feeling of isolation. Many people are isolated by feelings of guilt.  Could I have done something to prevent this? Others think that nobody else can understand the pain, which can be physical, emotional and spiritual. This is so painful how can I cope with this? Nobody else must have been through it like this or I’d know. Surely I’d have heard about it. I should just get over it. It must just be me…

The feelings are all terribly normal. Doubt, guilt, fear, pain and sadness are common and one important form of treatment for moving through them is removing the stigma and the resulting isolation. Sharing stories let’s people know that our experiences, as horrible as they feel, are possible to survive. The stories build awareness in general about this important issue. They build a culture that encourages seeking help and supporting others. For that we are immensely grateful to Mark Zuckerberg for coming forward and sharing his story.

Besha’ah tova to Mark and Pricilla – in good time, may they be blessed with a healthy baby girl.

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Sharing your story can make a difference. If you have an infertility or pregnancy loss story, please consider writing about it to help Hasidah in our missing to support those struggling to build their families. You can submit here or contact us at info@hasidah.org. 

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