Surprise, Frustration, Hope, Grief, Anger, Fear

Today’s guest post is from Dalia Davis, one of the co-founders of Uprooted: A Jewish Response to Fertility Journeys. You can meet Dalia at the Minneapolis performance of “TRYmester”: Jewish Fertility Journeys Out Loud on Sunday, March 22nd at the Sabes JCC at 7:30 pm. I look forward to seeing you there! Everyone on the fertility journey is welcome.

When I first began my fertility journey, I was truly surprised.  I never expected to have any difficulty building my family. I was young, already had a toddler, and all of my friends seemed to have no trouble growing their families, such that I didn’t have any real exposure to the struggle.  I was also surprised at how deep my desire for a baby grew as I walked further and further down this path and how this longing pervaded every aspect of my life: social, religious, familial, financial, and professional.

For much of my journey, I felt very alone.  As the wife of a rabbi, I wanted to hold on to my privacy and did not share with anyone that I was on this journey. I found it challenging to be in the Jewish community as it seemed whenever I was in a Jewish space, I was surrounded by pregnant bellies and pregnant questions.  But, when I was at Kiddush at the conclusion of synagogue several years ago, and was asked by a curious congregant if I was pregnant–loudly and with hand gestures–I decided I needed to do something. I needed to find a way to share what this journey was like. I believed that if people knew, if they truly understood, they would be far more judicious with comments and assumptions, since at heart they all meant well.

As a choreographer and Jewish educator, my first thought was to create a performance piece that would share this journey in a way that evokes deep emotion in audiences and sparks communal change. The initial vision has evolved into Uprooted: A Jewish Response to Fertility Journeys, an organization which has a much broader reach and array of programming. The performance idea is one of its cornerstones.

After receiving a generous grant from the UJA Federation of New York, Uprooted in partnership with the InHEIRitance Project, was tasked with creating a performance piece.  We began with interviews, speaking with people across the Jewish spectrum and with varying fertility narratives. With those stories collected, we gathered in St. Paul and took a deep dive.  As we reflected on these stories, one common theme among all of them became quite apparent–they all contained a cycle of emotions. Linear fertility journeys are the exception, but more often there are ups and downs, just as one would experience in any emotional life journey.  We found that the same emotions surfaced in all of the journeys irrespective if it was a story of adoption, egg donation, pregnancy loss, male factor, or IVF. It didn’t matter if the story was shared with us by a man or woman, or by someone who’s journey ended in parenthood or not.  Everyone felt: surprised, frustrated, hopeful, grief-stricken, angry, and fearful at some point in their journey. And, from there, TRYmester was born.

TRYmester: Jewish Fertility Journeys Out Loud presents three cycles of these emotions that are a compilation of the stories we collected.  Parts of these stories are shared through song, others through monologues, and others still through dance. The interweaving of these pieces express the complexity of the fertility journey and leaves audiences with a true look inside the minds and hearts of those who know it personally.

As we were creating this work it became abundantly clear, that in any context, fertility journey or otherwise, loss is loss and fear is fear and hope is hope.  Though the loss in our show is connected to pregnancy and infant-loss, the feelings involved are the same for those who have experienced any other type of loss in their life. And thus, the particular becomes universal.

TRYmester has been performed in New York and Boston, and is now coming to the Twin Cities, to the Sabes JCC, on March 22nd at 7pm.  It is an incredible opportunity to learn, feel, and support those struggling to grow their families. It is a show for everyone–all genders, religions, and connections to this topic.  It is universal while it shares the particular. It is a way for our community to begin discussing this topic and ensuring that nobody on this journey should ever feel alone.

Dalia DavisDalia Davis is one of the co-founders of Uprooted: A Jewish Response to Fertility Journeys, and serves as its Arts and Education Director. She is passionate about helping people struggling to grow their families find support within the Jewish community. Dalia is a Jewish Educator, dancer, and choreographer, who uses Jewish text as the inspiration for her choreographic works. Dalia holds a BA in Dance and Jewish History from Barnard College, a certificate in Talmud and Halacha from YU, and a MA in Jewish Education. Her Jewish educational background include serving as Rosh Beit Midrash for Merkavah Torah Institute, and teaching for the Florence Melton Mini School, Heritage Day School, and Camp Ramah. In addition to her work with Uprooted, she is also the founder of Beit Midrash in Motion, a fully-embodied approach to Jewish text study.

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It Ain’t Hypnosis

I’ve just returned from the new movie, “Trance“, with James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson.  The plot:  An art auctioneer and some criminal types work with a hypnotherapist to recover a lost painting worth millions.  While it was an enjoyable way to spend a chilly afternoon, the movie came up short on how hypnosis was portrayed.  This is unfortunate because clinical hypnosis done by a licensed and trained clinician is very helpful with medical procedures, to help to resolve emotional problems, and generally, to figure things out internally.  I’ve been doing hypnosis since 1999 and many of my clients have benefited from and enjoyed their time in a hypnotic trance.  So let’s review some myths about clinical hypnosis:

  • A person in a hypnotic trance is in control of themselves and their own thoughts.
  • No one can “inject” ideas into another person’s mind.
  • You cannot be made to say or do anything against your will. (If you want to bark like a chicken, you are welcome to do that anytime you wish.)
  • Suggestions are offered but it is up to the person in a relaxed state to take them or not.
  • You cannot get “stuck” in a hypnotic trance.
  • A person who is in a hypnotic trance or altered state of awareness is not asleep.
  • There is no swinging watch.
  • And, a good reminder for all, it is always gauche and illegal for any therapist to have a sexual relationship with clients.  I so wish that movies would stop doing that!

In closing, clinical hypnosis is helpful when offered by a licensed and trained clinician.  I use clinical hypnosis all the time with my clients who are undergoing fertility treatment or working on their therapy issues.  The bottom line:  interesting movie but it ain’t hypnosis!

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