Jewish Fertility Foundation (JFF) brings you thoughts from a native-Atlanta gal and now Israeli resident of Jerusalem who shares what it’s like to struggle with infertility in Israel. You might ask, isn’t the infertility experience the same anywhere? As someone who has experienced infertility in both Israel and America, I can tell you that, yes, the emotional ride is comparable in both countries. While I was living in Israel and beginning to experience infertility in all it’s glory (sarcasm), Stacey was literally the only person I knew who went through IVF (in general and in Israel). I remember talking to her and feeling really awkward sharing that I’d been going through a year of IUIs (think turkey baster method of fertility treatments) and was just told that IVF was our only option, but really reassured that she had had successes conceiving. It was the first time that I felt like someone “got it.”

Today, we both continue our infertility ride — Stacey in Jerusalem and me in Atlanta. I’m glad that she will be participating in our efforts as JFF ventures to Israel. Oh, I forgot there is one main difference between treatments in Israel and in America and that is cost — Want to hear more about our exciting new idea and what JFF has up their sleeves?!? Please contact me (Elana Frank) at elana@jewishfertilityfoundation.org  

Challenges of the Fertility Challenged by Stacey (Zebrak) Hess

Stacey with daughter Eliana (6.5) not pictured son Eitan (3.5)

I love seeing pregnant women walking through the streets of my city. Beautiful round stomachs proudly poking blouses, sweaters, and dresses forward, announcing to all that while she may just be on her way to the supermarket or to catch a train, an amazing miracle is taking place inside of her.

I wonder as I watch these women whether they’re having one or multiple babies. Will it be a boy or a girl? Will they look like her or take after her partner, somewhere behind the scenes?

But more and more often, since I’ve begun IVF treatment, I find myself wondering about something else: When was this baby made? On a quiet weekend maybe. Or after date night one Tuesday. Or possibly early one morning after he brought her a cup of tea.

I am jealous of these scenes that play like a movie in my head as my eyes follow these women to the bus or to the entrance of some building. I am jealous because my babies can only be made in a laboratory between the hours of 7:30-10 am sharp, Sunday through Thursday.

For the fertility-challenged, there are no loving Saturday mornings or random Wednesday evenings that turn, weeks later, into moments of hope around a store-bought pregnancy test. Instead there are pokes and prods. Pills and suppositories I get up at 5:00 am to take so that they’ll have time to soak into my body before I need to get out of bed and start the day. Then, already 10 minutes late to work, I run to the nearest medical center for my daily injection of progesterone (in my rear, no less). Afterward I try desperately to sit through a two hour meeting (or even a half hour meeting) while the welts on the aforementioned rear burn and make sitting all but impossible. Twice a week, I wait in line at the hospital to have my blood drawn and tested, followed by an internal ultrasound. Of course, there are mood swings, terrible headaches and a melancholy that comes with being pumped full of hormones for months on end (without the accompanying pregnancy to explain them away). And amongst all of this, remain many other silent degradations that stay hidden from those around us.

There are innumerable humiliations and dashed hopes throughout my attempts to achieve that proud round stomach. Yet I am resentful of only one thing that these women have which I do not. These women have the power to choose. They may not get pregnant right away or exactly when they want, and it may not always work out as they had hoped. But they are able to choose the time to try.

My friend or colleague can choose to try to start or grow her family at any time of the day that is convenient to her and her partner. She will never have to tell her supervisor that she’s running late because she’s trying to make a baby; that she needs to leave early because she’s trying to make a baby; that she needs to leave now because trying to make a baby did not succeed this time.

As willing as my manager would be to let me work around visits to the hospital and clinic, I feel it’s a violation of my privacy that I would need to ask for her permission. Why should I have to tell anyone that I’m trying to get pregnant when other women have the choice to keep that to themselves?

Any woman who has undergone pregnancy and birth understands that she will need to let go of any sense of modesty and even shame through the process. But I simply cannot stop thinking about this particular aspect, the utter loss of privacy so specific to women undergoing fertility treatment.

I do not have any answers to the questions that I pose to myself. And I don’t know how much longer I can lie to my supervisor about my mysterious latenesses and absences. The pain and isolation that women undergoing fertility treatment feel is so much larger than the simple fact that they are unable to conceive without medical intervention. It also stems from the complete loss of privacy surrounding such an intimate process.

So, until I am numbered among those expectant mothers I see crossing the street in front of me, I try to remain optimistic and gather courage to deal with the shame and the pain I am experiencing. Because I know that somewhere ahead of me awaits a proud protruding stomach with a tiny miracle inside, who may look like me or may look like my partner, but who certainly doesn’t give a darn how he or she got there.