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From The Greatest Heights (Part III)


While I certainly don’t speak for all infertile couples, I feel a brief introduction to some of the challenges that couples face would be worthwhile before I describe our treatment protocols.

It can be hard for people to understand how drastically infertility changes a couple’s lives. Suddenly the most intimate and private part of your life transforms so completely that it is almost unrecognizable. The spontaneous and carefree suddenly become frustrating and clinical. Hopes and prayers overtake love and affection. Failure and futility are confirmed every month at the very time that the physical comforting that could help soothe some of the pain is strictly forbidden.

The first feeling is of being alone.  Everyone else seems to have no problems as you watch friends and neighbors welcome yearly additions. Smiling and wishing a hearty mazal tov becomes second nature, as deep down you shudder in fear that you may never have the chance to enjoy those same blessings. 

I don’t recall who made the recommendation, but fortunately, someone pointed us to the resources of ATIME—an Orthodox organization that assists families dealing with infertility.  ATIME opened the door to a community of peers facing the same challenges and dreading the same fears. 

One of the most important lessons I learned from ATIME was one that I least expected.  While I found their discussion boards very empowering, providing a much needed outlet for my thoughts and feelings, my wife did not share my passion for written expression. Couples are forced to deal with infertility together, but people are individuals who may deal with their frustrations in very different ways.  It was an important insight that became a very integral part of our family dynamic over the challenging times ahead.

While I was fortunate to receive some good advice about ATIME, the vast majority of advice we received was anything but helpful.  Let me preface this by saying that most people mean very well, and I believe that they think that they are trying to help, but they don’t understand how hurtful their comments and suggestions can be.

I once heard a comedian say that the only time it is EVER appropriate to ask a woman if she is expecting is if the baby’s head is crowning and you need to assist in the delivery.  He was right.  Nothing good can ever come out of that question.  In the best case, you have revealed what a couple had wanted to keep secret or deprived them of the chance to make the announcement as they see fit.  In the worst case, you insulted a woman about her weight and reminded her of her daily suffering.  Simple advice: NEVER do it.

Purportedly trying to be helpful, some folks liked to ask who was at “fault” for the infertility.  Don’t be shocked that people asked that.  I fielded that question more times than I can count.  Aside from prying into the most personal parts of a person’s life, could anyone think it is actually helpful to remind either a husband or a wife that they are the cause of their suffering? 

I always answered that question by exclaiming that I believe my wife and I are bashert, and Hashem chose to give us this challenge together, so the physical means of the problem are completely irrelevant. 

Then there are the folk remedies, sure-fire segulos and ideas that worked for someone’s cousin’s best friend’s sister-in-law.  It doesn’t matter if it is to give tzeddakah to this cause, say that kapital of tehillim, get a red bracelet or dance around the room on your heads every Saturday night.   Desperate people may be willing to try many things, but none of them actually work, irrespective of the stories you may have heard.  Even worse, it can change the focus and imply that the real issue is that the couple isn’t doing something right.

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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