A grandparent perspective on infertility

By Jeanine Bekerman, Mother of Infertile Daughter

Grandparents Susy Kaiser-Blueth, Rachel Nelson, and Jeanine Bekerman at a recent Fertility Buddies training. Did you know that Jewish Fertility Foundation now offers support to intended grandparents. Click here to sign up for a Fertility Buddy.

I struggled through delivering a stillborn baby boy as a young mother. I had a very close group of friends that were due right around the same time as me. Suddenly, I was a pariah, and although these friends tried everything they could, I couldn’t be around them. We escaped, with our almost three year old to Israel to heal physically and to recuperate. Well, my sister-in-law was due the same month as me. There is the picture of her smiling with a huge belly and me beside her. This was in 1982, and it still brings tears to my eyes.

People do not intentionally mean to hurt us. They think they are helping us. I followed the Jewish tradition of not preparing my house for a baby until the baby is born. At least I didn’t have to come home to that. But going to the grocery store and hearing over and over again – So what did you have? This lasted for months and was more than I could handle. I really had no one to talk to when it happened and I avoided my friends. Thankfully those women continued to remain by my side and are still some of my closest friends today.

Now, I have watched my child suffering with infertility for the past ten years. As with other grandmothers to be, I felt helpless, my arms ached to hold her and make it all better. We have to live with the fact that we cannot take a bandaid and fix this. We can take our feelings and multiply them a thousand times, and we still won’t know the suffering our children are going through. What is it like to sit at the Passover table with siblings and cousins either pregnant, or holding their babies? I’ve seen my guests look at my struggling child with sadness and my daughter, although broken inside, try to smile.

How can we help our grandmothers understand the journey called infertility? Your child’s body becomes a science project and her emotions and those of her spouse, are hard to perceive. The years of torture, the losses, the attempts at conception all while trying to lead a normal life. However, if an attempt fails, we have to watch our children go back to square one and try again.

We as the grandparents worry. How do my son and daughter, daughter and son, survive this emotionally, financially, spiritually?  We are lucky in Atlanta where we have the Jewish Fertility Foundation to assist with workshops, mentoring, buddying and financially helping the couple attempt to conceive. We grandparents can be educated in how to be with our children in a positive, nurturing way. If we as grandparents are taught what infertility means, we can stand up with our children as they take this personal journey.  We can advocate for them while learning to be listeners and have compassionate shoulders to cry on (and refrain from listing what we think needs to be done). We can shed tears with our children while remaining strong as their support system.

We were blessed with two more children of our own after our loss. You don’t have to give up, keep going until you get yourselves heard and understood. You are not alone.

About the Author
Elana Bekerman Frank, MPA, is quite vocal about her fertility struggle and her desire to help others. Elana has over 15 years of experience working with non-profits (in America and in Israel) in fundraising, marketing, community outreach, volunteer recruitment, training and program development. She is the Founder and President of the Jewish Fertility Foundation and resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband Jason and their two children, Levi and Avidan.
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