To tell the truth, I never really knew the whole story of Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, all of whom suffered from infertility, but eventually gave birth to the founders of the Jewish people.
But I knew exactly how author Jessie Fischbein felt. Wanting a child and not being able to have one can be a devastating, demoralizing and highly depressing experience.
Fortunately, both Fischbein and I overcame the odds, and became parents. And now Fischbein — a graduate of Queens College with a degree in science writing and the mother of two — has written about her infertility experience and that of the biblical matriarchs in her book, Infertility in the Bible.
Fischbein says that she needed a book like this one that dealt with the spiritual aspect of infertility during her own bouts with the problem, but couldn't find one. "I looked around and found some books that talked about it a little bit, but there wasn't much. So gradually, whenever someone would mention something to me, whenever a rabbi would talk about it, whenever anyone would bring the subject up, my ears would perk up, and I would take notes mentally," she recalls.
Fischbein says that she became like a sponge, soaking up everything she heard: "I had lots of notes about infertility. For example, how did Sara cope? How did Rebecca cope? How did Rachel cope with the problem? I would take all the little tidbits I gathered and carry them around with me in my heart."
Finally, because of her strong Jewish education — she was a student at the Masoret Institute of Advanced Judaic Studies for Women, and a teacher at the Torah Academy of Long Island — Fischbein turned to her religion for help.
"One thing that my Judaism taught me was that the Torah is there to help you achieve your goals and be a source of inspiration," says the author.
"Naturally, when I had this struggle, I was looking at a way the Torah could help me through this. I was looking for guidance, for a book that discussed the topics of infertility specifically, but couldn't find what I was looking for and needed so desperately."
Pen to Paper
So Fischbein did the next best thing: She wrote one herself.
Using the experiences of the matriarchs' struggle as a starting point, Fischbein's book openly and honestly discusses her own battle with infertility, and how others might benefit from her experiences.
To help others find their way, the author focuses on such things as:
· Divine Intervention — the key to understanding yourself and your place in God's plan.
· Introspection — How to work on yourself and perhaps alter your "fate."
· Prayer — why it sometimes works, and sometimes does not. And how to remold its force within you.
· Leah and Rachel — how their sibling rivalry wound up affecting their ability to have children, and why refocusing certain emotions serves as a hidden tool for change.
· Hannah — how the prayers and actions of Samuel's mother helped her conceive.
· Spousal Relationship — Important insights on the husband-wife relationship when infertility becomes an issue, and how to better understand the sensitivities of a woman who has trouble conceiving.
Says the author: "I'm hoping that a person who is facing infertility — which is defined medically as being unable to conceive after trying for one year — does not start feeling lost or despondent. That they will be able to read my book and, most importantly, realize that God is not out to get them.
"The matriarchs — the people He supposedly loved the most — went through infertility so no one else should feel unworthy. Truly this did not happen because you are bad."
But, adds Fischbein, you can get through infertility, and feeling guilty just makes it much more difficult. "The matriarchs finally had their children. I now have two little girls, and am trying for a third," she says.
"Nobody knows the end of their story. So whatever happens, try to be content and don't despair. A person has meaning and a purpose in life — with or without children."