I search for the ripest and best watermelon for my family to enjoy. I hear a voice from behind with a friendly greeting and a compliment on my outfit. I turn around, smile, and thank this acquaintance, answering a few more standard pleasantries about my life.
“How is your private practice going?”
“It’s great thanks. Really growing.”
“And how did your talk go the other night?”
“Also great. Excellent crowd.”
“And how are the girls liking school?”
“They love it. How was your summer?”
This is the woman that everyone sees. The woman who leaves her house with a fashionable, carefully-chosen outfit and glowing face of makeup. The woman who loads her twins into the car with perfectly coiffed pigtails, adorable coordinating outfits and lunches neatly packed. The woman who drops her kids off at school and then runs to her office to get to her appointments on time, helping her clients in need- couples in crisis, anxiety-stricken individuals, battered women….
The woman who stands up in front of her community and speaks about coping with anxiety, dealing with divorce, finding your soul mate, becoming a new parent…
Empowering women, strengthening individuals…
The woman who carefully selects produce at the supermarket, in order to cook nutritious meals for her family and their guests (everyone knows her cooking must be delicious)…
The woman who manages to fit in phone calls at all hours of the day from young adults and their mothers looking for their soul mates, suitable marriage prospects. Perhaps she knows someone for them? And she gives them the best time and attention she can, knowing how challenging this stage of life can be.
The woman who made a double portion of dinner last night, in order to send over a full meal to the neighbors who just had their sixth baby- neatly packed with a note with a smiley face on top, saying “Mazel Tov!”
The woman who the community sees walking home from shul on Shabbos mornings with her gentle-faced husband, pushing their double-stroller, dressed to the nines, laughing together. Happy.
This is the woman that everyone sees.
But. That’s not it.
Because this woman is not the woman that everyone sees. Not really.
Because after she dropped her kids at school this morning, this woman fought crazy traffic to get downtown on time for her appointment. This woman had her blood drawn, hormones shot into her leg and met with an ambivalent doctor about the “next step.” This woman sat and cried in the car before going into the supermarket to buy her groceries because she was overwhelmed with her emotions, and everywhere she goes, she is constantly reminded of what her body is supposed to do but for some reason, cannot.
This is the woman that nobody sees.
Nobody sees this woman who answers awkward questions on a weekly basis.
“So how old are your twins?”
“And how old are your other kids?”
“These are my only ones.”
Nobody sees when this woman’s beautiful, adorable four-year-olds ask her when they will get to be “big sisters.” Or when this woman sits with her adoring husband late at night and cries on his shoulder, not knowing what their future will hold.
Nobody sees this woman drinking bitter dandelion root tea, swallowing down herbs and supplements and boiling up bone broth. Anything to get rid of these headaches. Anything to calm the mood swings.
Nobody sees when this woman stands in her community, surrounded by friends and neighbors and yet feels completely alone.
This woman is grateful. So grateful for everything she has and everything the One Above has given her. No moment in her life was ever as great as the one when she held her first-born children, and stared in disbelief at how two such beautiful creatures could have emerged from her womb. No reward in the world could ever be as great as watching these creatures grow and develop and learn to love her back, unconditionally, just as much as she loved them. Not once, did this woman ever take these precious gifts for granted.
Infertility doesn’t just go away. In a community where even the mannequins are pregnant, painful reminders simply cannot be ignored. Insensitive comments are unable to be swept under the rug.
Women are supposed to be able to reproduce. You shall be fruitful and multiply. This is what we are supposed to do.
Why can’t my body do what it’s supposed to do?!
Telling myself that I am a tough mama, that I’ve done this before, carried twins, given birth to twins and that I can handle anything, just doesn’t cut it.
Infertility is raw. There’s no way to sugar-coat it. No way to avoid it. Everywhere I look it’s in my face. Literally in my face.
I give my daughters an extra kiss tonight when I put them to bed. And cuddle them a little longer.
Nobody sees this woman.