Infertility: Where do we draw the line? (Part II)
The following commentaries are in response to a letter by “Is tznius not the hallmark of our lifestyle?” (featured in Chronicles of 6-18-10). The first part of the letter below appeared in last week’s issue.
Dear Tznius, (cont’d)
In your letter you ask, “What do attempts at producing a life in a lab say for our belief system? How does taking all sorts of extreme measures, while being monitored and supervised by men and women in white coats no less, translate to acceptance of our G-d-given lot?”
As for our “G-d given lot,” we do our best with what we have and who we are – frail and imperfect human beings – to accept His will and to do so with a complete trust and happiness, knowing that G-d is taking care of our every need as only He can.
Having said that, why should anyone who needs medical treatment, whether for depression, an ingrown toenail or infertility, not seek the ultimate in medical help in order to live the best life possible and serve G-d with a glad heart? With each attempt and every new day comes the proof of our acceptance, along with the absolute belief, that G-d can perform miracles, and does, and that it is He who grants success in the operating rooms and in the laboratories and pharmacies of our world, not the men and women “in white coats.”
Should it be said that cancer-stricken patients who receive revised treatments based on new findings in continuous research have missed the boat since their protocol had not been perfected when they first became ill? Does that mean that new patients should disregard the newer and possibly life-saving treatment?
The organization you most likely refer to is a powerhouse of brotherhood – a model of effectiveness in helping people, of trust, compassion and sheer determination. My entire family is extremely grateful for the love, the caring and warmth they’ve shown us, along with a steadiness of focus and aid in reaching our goal.
I am sorry for the pain you feel which drove you to write your letter based on your personal experiences. I can certainly imagine, and I certainly recall quite vividly the trauma, the discomfort, the fear and hopelessness I felt throughout the many years I struggled with infertility.
Still, I know first-hand how many hundreds of thousands of dollars fertility treatment costs, and I fully understand that the organizations that assist and sponsor such costly treatments must do what they can to maximize their fundraising success. (Legitimate personal concerns of advertising strategy should be addressed with the people behind the posters; debasing the entire community of volunteers and counselors, patients, family members and fundraisers alike is pointless.)
As for how parents explain such ads to their children: Firstly, it is often the children who notice first (as they are more perceptive than the credit given them) that a particular couple has no children. Explaining sadness and difficult situations to children is part of every parent’s responsibility. Childlessness is but one example.
As for the poster, getting back to my original suggestion of possible eye-catching campaigns, I believe a smiling, healthy-looking infant is by far the classiest way to go.
Grateful beyond words
As I read the letter written by Tznius (Chronicles 6-18), I could feel her pain – a pain that I think has skewed her view on the subject of infertility treatments and organizations that assist couples in attaining parenthood.
While intimacy is the natural lead-in to procreation, intimacy and procreation are not interdependent. Lack of intimacy (due to medical intervention in a sterile environment) does not preclude procreation; it enables it. Hashem in His kindness has given the chochma (wisdom) to mankind to devise medical methods to help Yidden be mekayem the mitzvah of pru u’rvu, even when there are infertility issues involved. There is no contravention of tznius here.
You ask, “What do attempts at producing a life in a lab say for our belief system?”
It says that our gratitude to Hashem for the miracles He does for us by providing the refuah before the makah (the remedy before the onset of the malady) is endless. It says that we accept his munificence with much gratitude. Even with scientific technology, only Hashem can create life.
To your question, “If one were meant to have children, wouldn’t G-d grant them in the natural way?” – not necessarily. Hashem has His reasons, known only to Him, and we cannot and dare not second-guess Him. Following your reasoning a cripple would have no right to interfere with G-d’s plan by using braces or crutches to walk and a parent would have no right to repair a hole in a baby’s heart through surgery, etc.
Everything is in Hashem’s hands, but that does not absolve us from making our best hishtadlus (efforts), while recognizing that, ultimately, it is in Hashem’s hands to either allow our efforts to succeed or not. It would be wrong to sit back and just “accept our G-d-given lot.”
The wonderful organizations that assist infertile couples need funding, and there is a pressing need to get their message out there for everyone to see. Nothing therein is inappropriate or mortifying for children to see. The littlest don’t read ads and older children are already aware that mothers go to the hospital to have babies and that sometimes a mother might need a doctor’s help to have a baby.
As far as the picture of a smiling baby in an ad, if a childless woman has trouble with that and actually finds a picture painful, she had better not leave her house, because she will encounter many real babies being wheeled in carriages and in the arms of their mothers. Imagine how much pain a real, live baby would cause! I think that a sense of proportion is called for here.
I feel your pain
* * * * *
We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.