The One Who Doesn’t Know How to Ask

Families around the world have just been sitting at their Seder tables and retelling stories of oppression, liberation, and freedom. We’re taught that even if everyone at the seder is a learned person or knows the story, we are still obligated to tell it and to hear it; to serve as witnesses to a journey fraught with uncertainty and challenges.

Coinciding with Passover this year, April 21st-27th was National Infertility Awareness Week in the U.S., where one in six people struggle with building their family. In my practice, RVT IVF, where I support people emotionally, spiritually, and ritually as they pursue IVF, IUI, surrogacy, or other assisted reproductive technologies, I see that while there are shared themes and threads, every story is unique. Even if we think we’ve heard it all, we must continue to make space for the truths of those who spend months and, more typically years, attempting to create the family they dream of.

I went through much of my own IVF treatments during the worst surges of the Covid pandemic while serving as a front-line healthcare worker in a large New York City hospital. It was a doubly isolating time, with the world turned inward and terrified of an unknown and deadly virus, and me, going to the fertility clinic most mornings for blood draws, sonograms, and testing before showing up to care for patients and staff. I even had an egg retrieval the same week I received my second-ever dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. As you might imagine, my stress and anxiety were through the roof, and the results of the retrieval were abysmal. I was at work when the nurse called to give me the results, and I was so taken aback that I sobbed hysterically. 

This incident is just one in a long series. It took several years until we successfully gave birth to a baby boy. We had waiting and setbacks, physical, emotional, and mental difficulties––everything from figuring out injections and medications to the horrific financial strain this put on our household. This week, during Passover and NIAW, I invite you to learn or read something about those one in every six people. Be the child who does not know how to ask, but is the one who listens. Educate yourself. Learn how to better support those around you—your friends, your community, all those who depend on these technologies to build their families–whether they are straight, queer, or infertile. 

As a rabbi and a chaplain, part of my everyday work is to normalize all of our emotions, doubts, questions, and stories. To help people say things aloud that they have never said before; to draw on their own wisdom and resilience in the process of seeking wholeness and healing. One way to liberation and freedom is through this act of hearing. 

This year, may we find ways to move from our narrow perspectives into wider, more spacious places.