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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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From The Greatest Heights (Chapter II)

Given the laws of Taharat Hasmishpacha, I was obviously aware that each passing month did not bring a pregnancy. Perhaps it was seeing friends holding their children in shul, sharing their talis with their children during Birkas Kohanim or dancing with their children on their shoulders on Simchat Torah that I first felt the longing for a child.

Being much more aware, my wife began looking into fertility treatments. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go that route, but I had no objections to her trying. I will never forget my wife calling me on my very long train ride home from my new job telling me that she had set up an appointment with a fertility specialist. I agreed to come along for that first meeting.

Many people do not understand how expensive fertility treatments can be. We were barely making ends meet, so expensive treatments were really out of the question. We were fortunate that fertility treatments and medications were covered by our insurance with a very low co-pay (years later I would joke that our HMO had a dartboard with our faces on them).

I was more than a bit surprised when we arrived at the clinic to find that the windows were tinted. I understand that this was done to protect the privacy of the patients, but all medical procedures should be private. I had to wonder if the message was that there was really something for which we should be ashamed.

I was very uncomfortable in the waiting room, peering nervously at the other patients and for the first time feeling a real sense of empathy for what they must be going through. I did notice that I was the only husband in the room (while my job was far away, I had some flexibility in terms of the hours I worked).

It was incomprehensible for me at the time, but for some strange reason a pediatric office shared the same waiting room as the infertility clinic (years later, after my daughter was born three months premature, I discovered that the waiting room was for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) follow-up, and the doctor told me that they shared the waiting room because a large number of their patients began their journey in that very room).

All of the staff were very nice. They were closely in-tune with the fact that most of their patients were apprehensive and had no idea what to expect. They tried to be reassuring, and the doctor outlined the basics of the tests he wanted to order.

Suffice it to say, halachic considerations aside, the test protocol is much more invasive for a woman than for a man. On the way out, after he described what my wife would have to go through, I asked her if she was 100 percent sure she wanted to go through with this.

She had no doubts, and she was 100 percent determined. I had no objections, especially because there really wasn’t much for me to do aside from being supportive (that would become a theme in our long ordeals).

It didn’t dawn on me at the time, but when we left the doctor’s office, our lives had changed forever. We had gone from a happily married couple who just couldn’t seem to get pregnant to a couple suffering from infertility. It took me some time to truly understand what that meant and what kinds of ramifications it would have on our lives – which would truly never be the same.

About the Author: Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed is a freelance writer, public speaker and social media consultant. He is currently working on a book about his collegiate experience. He welcomes comments and feedback at chaimshapiro@aol.com or on his website: http://chaimshapiro.com/


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Just a few months ago, I was having a difficult time getting a refund for a missing product processed via the customer service call center at a major retailer. After spending hours on hold and having my request denied, I sent a Tweet to the company’s Twitter account.

I have a background in counseling, and I can say that the biggest mistake that I ever made was refusing psychological help after we lost the twins. I was trying to keep my tough-guy facade going, and convinced myself that I could deal with the pain.

We had suffered through an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. My wife had to go through labor and deliver our children to their deaths, and I was unable to save them or even give them a little warmth while they died.

Special Note: It is an unusual phenomenon that many bereaved parents share. We can almost see our age-adjusted children in our sukkah or running up to us during a family simcha. As quickly as they come, those visions seem to disappear as we go through the life cycle. They are hard moments made harder by the thoughts of not only what could have been, but what should have been.

I had to believe that things were going to be ok. They just had to be ok. We had gone through so much, had sacrificed so much and were doing everything the doctors told us to do. I remember speaking to a hesitant professor in my Ph.D. program about getting an incomplete in her class. The conversation stands out in my mind because, looking back, I can see how odd it must have seemed as I matter-of-factly told her I was too busy for coursework because my twins’ amniotic sack was bulging through my wife’s cervix.

On our first day in the antepartum unit, one of the nurses mentioned how critical every moment of pregnancy really was. “One minute in is worth two minutes out (in an incubator).” We weren’t really expecting a premature birth, but her comment put a fine point on the importance of the care my wife was receiving.

The best way to describe our emotions the morning of our major ultrasound was nervous excitement. We had survived a serious scare with a threatened miscarriage a few weeks prior. My wife was on bed rest at home, but we had no real reason to assume there would be any new problems.

It was only after we celebrated the great news that we were expecting twins that we saw the first sign of problems. First of all, my wife was losing, not gaining weight, even as the babies continued to grow normally. Soon after, routine blood work revealed that my wife was suffering from gestational diabetes.

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