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Infertility and a Crisis of Faith

May 9, 2009 | by Rebbetzin Feige Twerski

When one's faith wavers.

My wife and I have been trying to conceive for the last six years. We have had numerous IVF treatments and IUI treatments. During this time, I became observant and tried hard to maintain my faith. After this past Rosh Hashana, my wife and I finally conceived. We were pregnant with triplets. Sad to say, we lost two of them within the first two weeks, and then we lost the third at 17 weeks.

We just completed a fourth fresh IVF cycle and found out that once again we have had a failure to conceive. Everything is "unexplained infertility."

I have to say that my faith is wavering. I prayed, I learned, I received a blessing from a very important rabbi, and I put all of my faith that God would help us, and He hasn't. I am not sure where to go from here.

Rebbetzin Feige responds:

My dear reader,

The pain and feelings of disappointment that you describe resulting from your, thus far, failed attempts to conceive are totally understandable and the concurrent crisis of faith that you are experiencing is likewise a normal and reasonable response to dashed hopes and dreams.

Personally, I have found that on the occasions when I have importuned the Almighty for Divine Assistance, it was helpful for me to frame the requests in the context of first giving thanks for the blessings that He has, in His infinite kindness, already conferred upon me. The tendency that all humans have, especially in needful moments, is to focus exclusively on what is missing in our life, irrespective of so much that we should be grateful for. This is significant because gratitude, appreciation and a positive perspective create a healthy energy that becomes a virtual magnet for abundance and good things in the universe to be drawn to us.

A second observation is that when we move away from the intense preoccupation that accompanies so consuming an effort, we, in a sense, make room for God to step in and play His role. Consider, Gail, a young woman, whose every waking moment was devoted to exploring options and interventions to conceive. It all came to a halt when she, quite suddenly began to suffer terrible tooth pain and was diagnosed with a serious case of impacted and abscessed wisdom teeth that required immediate attention. In this state of extreme agony, she was distracted and could think of nothing else but getting relief from her excruciating pain. In a sense, when she temporarily let go of her obsession with infertility, to her amazement, she found herself pregnant.

Clearly, I am not suggesting that medical interventions and protocols be ignored, but there are amazing stories and anecdotal evidence out there that defy conventional explanation, pointing to the intangible mysteries in life that transcend our ability to reduce them to cause and effect. Opening ourselves up to those possibilities require invoking the maxim of "I do my best and let God do the rest."

God runs the world from a vantage point of knowing the broader picture and, hence, what ultimately is in our best interest.

Relinquishing the illusion of control and placing ourselves in God's hands speaks to our understanding that He alone runs the world. Implicit in that understanding is that He does so from a vantage point of knowing the broader picture and, hence, what ultimately is in our best interest. The human perspective, informed and knowledgeable as it might be, is at best, limited in its scope.

This posture of faith can provide a sense of inner peace which gives us the wherewithal to embrace and celebrate the existing opportunities for joy in our life. The absence of perspective robs us of the present, the here and now. We become so preoccupied with what we desire for our future and what has eluded us in the past that the opportunities for the "now" are missed and forfeited. It is truly sad that with so much to enjoy in our lives we become totally oblivious to the myriad of blessing that surround us, i.e. a loving spouse, parents, health, the beauty of the world around us, the gift of friendships, etc. Clearly, this is not intended to marginalize the admirable desire and effort to have children. God willing, you and your wife will yet be successful in your attempts, but life must be fully embraced in the moment, quite apart from what tomorrow will bring.

Abby, a young woman, married for five years and grappling with her infertility issues, sought my counsel. I advised her to relish this season in life, where husband and wife have only each other and no distracting responsibilities. While children are certainly a blessing, when such happens, this particular season comes to a close, the dynamic in the relationship changes and a new chapter ensues. Many years later, with two babies in tow, she thanked me for that advice, grateful that she hadn't missed out on the ness of that particular time in her life.

Rita had undergone many conventional interventions without success. Discouraged, and after much research, she turned to a natural approach that focused on building up the health of the woman through a combination of diet, exercise, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, etc. She worked with a health professional who coordinated all of these various disciplines. After a period of about a year, Rita, to her great delight, found that she had conceived.

Annie tried for many years and finally chose to adopt. Her life was enriched by two beautiful children, to whom she devoted all her attention. She was quite shocked by the unexpected pregnancy that came when she had, in effect, given up on that possibility.

Dr. Heather, a recent guest in my home, shared that in her practice as an OB-GYN, she advised patients who had experienced many miscarriages that theirs might be a mission. They alone, she advised them, were in the position of understanding and giving counsel and strength to others who had suffered similar losses. Their contribution could be invaluable.

We need to pray for the recognition that no matter what, our Heavenly parent is holding our hand and will see us through our life's journey.

Shirley was determined that her contribution and investment in the life of others would not be denied to her simply because biological children didn't appear to be an option. She became the "Aunt" of many of the neighborhood children who found her home to be an oasis for nurturing, caring, counsel and fun. She had many "children" who loved her and whom she loved. She chose to become an integral part of so many lives. At the end of the day, her contribution to this world will certainly be no less than that of a biological parent.

Prayers to the Master of the World, consisting of both our fondest dreams and expressions of our greatest frustrations, should never be abandoned. Ideally, we would want our wished granted as stated. But simultaneously, there needs to be a humility, a deference to His will. We need to pray for strength, for the recognition that no matter what, our Heavenly parent is holding our hand and will see us through our life's journey.

In the final analysis, we don't write the script for our lives. There will be the inevitable bumps and potholes along the road we travel. We need to remind ourselves constantly that our mental and psychological well being cannot be dependent on external circumstances. The only variable for well being comes from the inside out -- from the thoughts and the attitudes that we choose to embrace. We are the choosers and the thinkers and, ultimately, we are the ones that color the images that appear on the screens of our lives.

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