Infertility and Covid-19: 5 Steps to Deal with the “What If’s”

Well folks, all the “what if’s” you have ever had may have come to roost in the last couple of weeks. The worst scenarios that you have never thought are here now. Bad things were happening that we didn’t even know were options. Now, the Covid-19 coronavirus is spreading uncertainty all around the world, causing huge changes in people’s personal and work lives. For many of you, you have already been living with the uncertainty of infertility and its treatment. Read More

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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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Are You THAT Girl Now?

It is not unusual that women will tell me, “I never wanted to be THAT girl.”

Have you ended up being THAT girl? How you feel about that? Who is THAT girl?

Is she the one who fears pity from others?

Is she the one with a medical problem but she blames herself?

Is she the one who is grieving her baby and her dreams?

Is she the one who feels judged by others and, in turn, judges others?

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Fertility Drugs and the “F” Word

Let’s uncover a truth about fertility treatment: fertility drugs make a lot of people feel crazy, anxious, angry, and out of control. They can cause people to cry for hours over nothing.  It’s not just because you tend to be anxious or a planner.  It’s a thing, even if your doctor says it’s not. Fertility drugs and the “F” word belong in the same sentence.  Can I get an amen? Let your “F” word fly!

As one of my clients said during one of our sessions, “Don’t mind me. I need to put on a fresh estrogen patch. What fresh hell is this?”  She described asmorgasbord of feelings on this and her other fertility medications. “So. Many. F*cking. Feelings.” she said, as she put the patch on her belly. She was serving up “F” word realness.  While her descriptions were making us both hysterical—this adorable human being can curse like the crew on a Navy ship—we were having a serious discussion.  The drugs negatively affected her work, her ability to think, her ability to sleep, and her ability to have a civil conversation with her husband and her clinic. She did not recognize herself at times. “I feel sad, crappy, and bloated, with nothing to show for it,” she added.

I was able to assure her that I had known her before and after she started fertility drugs and the “F” word was not nearly as prevalent before she started her meds. I also assured her, because she was really worried about this, that she was not losing her mind and she would re-find her real self when she was finished with the drugs, when she was pregnant, when she delivered, and when she was living her real life again.After the battles and wars of fertility treatment were behind her.

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Hurry Up and Wait on Your Infertility Journey

I wrote this post at the Atlanta Airport on the way to my favorite beach.

I ran through the huge Atlanta airport, which is like the Olympics of travel, and got to the gate with just enough time to spare. I had the opportunity to be bumped for a nice amount of money, so I sat.

And waited. For about six hours.

A lot of life is about hurry up and wait.

I think about this every time I listen to Tom Petty’s “The Waiting”

The waiting is the hardest part.
Every day you see one more card.
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart.
The waiting is the hardest part.

In the infertility treatment world, there’s a great deal of hurry up and wait.

Waiting to see if you get pregnant on your own and stay pregnant.

Waiting to get scheduled for your initial consult with a doctor to talk about why this is happening.

Waiting to stop crying so you can digest and process the information you just received.

Waiting to come up with the money to pursue treatment.

Waiting to get scheduled for procedures, from a little bit to the biggy of IVF.

Waiting to find helpers in a sperm or egg donor, or donor embryos, or a gestational surrogate.

Waiting to proceed once you’ve found your helpers.

Waiting to see if you feel anything after each try. Are you pregnant? Is this different? Or is this just progesterone messing with your mind and body?

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