With so much to bear, the need for community.

Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler
October 20, 2014
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Infertility sounds like a unilateral and conclusive word. It sounds like a permanent state, an identity, predetermining a single possible outcome to the challenge of trying to conceive a child.

But those struggling with infertility know that there are as many diagnoses as there are individuals bearing the label. And the conclusions to the shared challenge of trying to conceive are equally diverse.

I know folks who identify as infertile who, after many years of “trying”, are ultimately able to conceive without any medical interventions. And I know others (myself included) who conceived with the help of expensive and invasive technologies, drugs administered orally or through subcutaneous injection, and/or a range of medical procedures. There are those whose struggles with infertility end when they are able to become parents using a surrogate; donor eggs, sperm, or embyos; or through fostering or adopting a child. Some continue with medical interventions, ever hopeful that the next procedure might yield the desperately desired outcome. And others work hard to accept the reality that they will not be parents.

Infertility is not limited by religion, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, marital status, or age. It’s not only “older” folks trying to conceive who find themselves visiting a fertility clinic: I know people in their early 20’s who’ve been otherwise unsuccessful becoming pregnant and seek help.

And so to discuss “infertility” as if it’s a unilateral problem faced by an easily discernible patient with only one type of solution or outcome is misleading. And yet, there is a special kind of kinship I feel with every person whose heart has yearned for a child and whose body hasn’t cooperated. Ours is a silent and often invisible community of extraordinarily different people. And too frequently we never find one another because of the internalized shame and/or stigma that prevents us from “coming out”.

But if we all “came out” - willing to share our stories, our struggles, and our faith - imagine the possibilities: support for those in treatment; support for those who choose to stop treatment or change treatments; support for new parents trying to integrate years of yearning with the realities of the first few months of parenthood.

This is the outcome for which I fervently pray this year, 17 weeks pregnant with my second child conceived using IVF. I pray for a community of those, who, like me, are “out” and willing to embrace others on this crazy path toward that which their hearts most desire.

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Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler works at the Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. She also serves as the Director of the Berit Mila Program of Reform Judaism. She received master’s degrees from the University of Judaism and from Harvard Graduate School of Education and was ordained as a rabbi by Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion in 2006, where she found deep meaning writing and researching her Rabbinic Thesis on the Book of Job: "Talk to Me: (Or, When More Bad Things Happen to Good People)." She is married to Rabbi Amitai Adler (also an S Blog contributor) and this year became Michael Zachary Joel Adler's mother.


  1. You are so right about umbrella nature of the word infertility. Through my own personal experiences and my work with Hasidah, I have been hearing infertility experiences from others for a while now. Very early on I stopped being surprised by the difference in the stories. There is always another twist or circumstance. Not only are the circumstances of infertility expansive, so our the ways people deal with the situation. The sadness, the longing and the silence may be themes, but they belong in a list of words like frustrated, overwhelmed, pained, financially stretched, emotionally drained, and physically exhausted, as well as realistic, determined, optimistic, open, and even hopeful. Two commonalities are the feeling of being denied and the lack of control. The more we share stories and listen to each other, the more we can help those struggling with infertility maintain a sense of self and purpose. The need for support and comfort through community is real and Hasidah is working to become part of that shared community with you and others.

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  2. Late to the discussion — new to this journal — but here’s my contribution anyway.
    After several years of trying, running out of medical options and then running out of money so we couldn’t afford to adopt, my partner and I stopped trying to have children. Most of our friends had long disappeared down the rabbit hole of child-rearing and had left us behind; a few have remained truly faithful friends and for that we are grateful. Much of the worst of our deep depression and sorrow has begun to lift, but the pain continues to pop up, in sharp little pangs, here and there. Last year, I decided to write a song to work out some of my feelings around not ever becoming a parent. This was the result. Someday, when I can raise enough money to record another album, this song will be on it. http://www.reverbnation.com/bethhamon/song/22257482-daughter-of-mine-demo

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