Trying to Conceive & Infertility

This Seder Kabbalat Akharoot--a seder for accepting the loss of the dream for a biological child--expresses this couple's movement from despair to hope.

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We ended the seder with a responsive reading of a new Rosh Hashanah prayer about the qualities we hope God will help us develop in response to various life crises. For example, "If we must face sorrow, help us to learn sympathy ("To Face the Future," A Tapestry of Prayer)."

Sheheheyanu and Havdalah

Everyone recited the Sheheheyanu, which thanks God "for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season." We explained that our Havdalah [service that separates the Sabbath or a holiday from the weekday] separates the dark years of our infertility from the upcoming lighter years when we will either adopt or choose to be childfree. We read a passage about no longer considering ourselves infertile because from now on, we would define our lives according to what we do and can have, rather than according to what we don't have (Jean W. Carter and Michael Carter, Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again, pp. 14-15).

We performed the Havdalah service, lighting the double braided candle and declaring:

"We must distinguish between the heartbreak of infertility and the joy of transcending it. We must separate our pain and grief from the new generative opportunities that lie ahead of us."

We raised the cup of wine and everyone said the blessing over it. We held up the spice-box and smelled the spices to invigorate the new spirit we now possess as we look to the future. Then everyone sniffed it and said the blessing over it. Everyone recited the blessing over fire and the final Havdalah blessing as the candle was extinguished in a full cup of wine that overflowed like the full life we hope to lead.

Conclusion of Ceremony

We confessed that our struggle with infertility initially had strained, but subsequently had strengthened our marriage. In this regard, we read a midrash [biblical interpretation] that tells the story of a man who planned to divorce his childless wife. His rabbi commanded him to throw a party to celebrate the divorce. At the party, the man told his wife to keep whatever item in his house was most precious to her. After he drank too much wine and fell asleep, his wife ordered her servants to carry him to her father's house. When he awoke, she told him that he was the most precious thing to her. Moved by her love, he remained married to her (Song of Songs Rabbah 1:4).

We related how people always ask whether we have a family. We now reply by telling them, "Yes, we have each other! If we have learned anything from this ordeal, it is that love is far greater than reproduction." We removed the keriah ribbons and replaced them with red rose corsages. Then we played Debbie Friedman's, " Arise My Love," whose lyrics are from the Song of Songs 2:10-13. The guests shared relevant readings or their own personal thoughts after the service.

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Bonnie Baron is a licensed clinical social worker. She runs a support group for infertile couples for Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

Lawrence Baron

Lawrence Baron is a professor of history and the director of the Lipinsky Institute for Judaic Studies at San Diego State University.