From the Mailbag:

Dear HaDassah,

In one month and one week I will be turning 38. I’ve never been married and so far there are no prospects. I’m getting to the point where I have to accept the fact that meeting my soul mate might not be in the cards for me. Worse, I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I may never be a mother. I love my friends and family, but it’s getting harder and harder to see their facebook posts and tweets about their kids, or pregnancies. I love them and I love their kids. My nieces and nephew are like my own. But they’re not.

I’ve explored other options such as insemination by donor. My mother is very against it, and she said so using the strongest language, I don’t know if I’m strong enough to really do this completely on my own. I can’t explain the pain I feel. Every time I get my period I mourn for a potential child I have just lost. Yes, I know it’s my “biological clock,” but it’s more than that, I resent my friends and family who do have kids, I’m getting to the point where I try avoid social and family events.

In addition to the birth of my nephew, in the course of one week among my cousins there were 7 births. I should be happy, but all I am is sad. Sad because I probably will never experience pregnancy and the joy of childbirth and the “nachas” of my own children. It kills me that I feel this resentment towards others when they’ve done nothing wrong.

Being single, especially being of a more “advanced” age, I’m treated like a second-class citizen. I don’t know if people realize how much it hurts. And it isn’t just about not getting married. In fact, I can handle the fact that I might not ever get married, but that I may never be a mother, that’s just devastating.

“Chava”

This letter tugged at my heart. I feel Chava’s pain. What can we tell her to help soothe her soul? How can we make her feel included and not shunned? How can we help her with her pain? What options are available to a religious woman whose fertility is ticking away and is not yet married? Can we religiously endorse Donor Insemination and provide a support system for our sisters who decide to take this route?

I am so curious to know how you feel after reading this letter, and how you would counsel Chava, or even what you would do in her place.

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40 Comments

  1. This will sound ridiculous, but she should consider moving. As far away as possible. Sounds like she’s exhausted all her opportunities wherever she is and needs new horizons.

    • Mark says:

      I agree with moving. Moving far away changes ones perspective on many things, and at a minimum opens up new opportunities to meet different people. And even if it doesn’t solve the “problem”, it still makes you a more interesting person with a background of more varied experiences.

  2. chickymara says:

    I’m confused. Why would an unmarried woman be shunned? Would she not be able to adopt? Is the religious proscription against insemination? Every woman, religious or not deserves to have a fulfilled and happy life.

    • shorty says:

      depending on where she is and where is adopting from, she may not be able to adopt as a single parent.

      • chickymara says:

        That’s too bad. There are so many children who need to be loved by someone who wants them. Wouldn’t it be better for her to be able to have a child and bring them up in a happy home than worry about breaking halacha and leave a child in a bad home?

  3. shorty says:

    My heart aches for every type of infertility there is, including “life circumstances” infertility. She does have options one is to become a single mother. There is also the painful choice of moving on. I found this website dedicated to inspiring women, http://www.yerusha.com/

    One woman who really inspires me is Pamela Claman and her husband Abba. They have no children of their own but they have MANY children – they have opened their homes to Israeli soldiers. The love and generosity that they show their guests is amazing.

    • Z! says:

      Pamela is truly an inspiration and an excellent example of someone who married late in life and was not able to have children of her own. Her home is always open to anyone needing a meal, support, attention… Does this replace having children of her own, no, but it probably does help to ease the pain of that fact. Also, the support of her husband and her love of G-d probably has a lot to do with it.

  4. I know of no religious prohibition of artificial insemination. Anyone who claims otherwise is guilty of bal tosif.

  5. Fille says:

    I think it is an illusion to believe that artificial insemination is more “halachically acceptable” than actually having sex without being married.

    One important aim of the torah is that everyone knows who their parents are, in order to avoid incest by coincidence.

    therefore, I cannot imagine that artificial insemination could be a halachically acceptable solution.

    On the other hand, there are all kinds of heterim for sex without being married.

    So if someone really, really wants children so badly, I think the way to go would be: find a boyfriend, go to mikwah, have sex.

    If you want to be completely kosher, get married in secret and divorce once the child was produced…

    At least, the father of the child will be know and identifiable.

    It causes quite some anguish to young adults when they don’t know who their father is.

    This said, I think it is quite hard to bring up children alone, so one should think about it twice: less time to work, more expenses for child and childcare…

    If someone wants to do artificial insemination: fine with me, but not in order to circumvent the prohibition of having sex without marriage.

    • Just an FYI- I don’t know my father, have never met him, and I’ve never felt “quite some anguish” over that fact. I have a strong family, a loving mother, fabulous grandparents, and some pretty great aunts and uncles. I was curious about my father for about 6 months in second grade. It was mostly a “why do some kids have dads and some don’t?” situation. Now, at 29, and in previous years I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on someone who wasn’t around.

      • fille says:

        I am very happy for you, and whish to all the children out there that it should be the same for them when they do not know the identiy of their father.

        However, there are children who have a problem, especially in the passage to adulthood.

    • Leah Sarah says:

      Sorry, I think this is kind of ridiculous… If she had no problem getting a willing boyfriend to have sex with before marriage for the purpose of producing a child, she would probably be in a different situation(you know, like married with children…). There is no guy in her situation and THAT is the issue. The idea of getting married in secret and divorcing after the child as well as potentially lying to a ‘boyfriend’ before hand to get pregnant are completely dishonest and horrible… How would it benefit the child to come into the world through complete deception?Knowing who your father is and knowing that he wants nothing to do with you and didn’t even want you to exist, or in the case of the false marriage, knowing he was conned into conceiving you is incredibly traumatizing and painful. It doesn’t matter who the father is if the father isn’t in the child’s life!!

      • fille says:

        I don’t think so. There might be enough men who would have sex, but who don’t want to commit. Or there might be men she would like to have sex with, but who she would not like to commit with.

        This is a problem.

        • tikunolam says:

          Fille,
          Let me get this straight A frum woman having an affair with a married man, potentially being a home wrecker is good. Making a baby with a noncommital guy is good.

          Raising a child who does not know his father is better than knowing mom was a adulterer homewrecker? Fostering to adopt is too problematic?

          This is a *frum* woman thinking of having a child in a way that fits with her belief system. Being a single mom or foster/adopting or adopting one of the millions of orphaned children in the world seems far more in line with her lifestyle than making a baby via an affair cause that wouldn’t be problematic in the frum community?

          • fille says:

            I’m saying that the casual sex that shocks you so much is not really worse than the artificial insemination.

            As I said in the beginning: I think it is an illusion to believe that artificial insemination solves all the halachic problems.

            As far as the affair with a married man is concerned: no, I am not recommending this, because it means that the wife will be betrayed. But for the person who has no problem betraying others, it has advantages compared to artificial insemination.

          • fille says:

            OH, and by the way, the home that was wrecked by the woman I mentionnend happened to be mine…

            Actually, I don’t think that her son feels guilt about mom’s homewrecking.

          • tikunolam says:

            I am putting myself in the place of a *frum* woman. I am not frum myself nor advising what *I* would do given the situation. Casual sex is not acceptable in the frum world. That is *her* world.

            That is nice for her son. I don’t think you can generalize from your story any more than you can generalize from the negative foster/adopt stories. And if you think anecdotal evidence is sufficient to promote an idea my family is certainly a successful foster/adopt one and there was no affair involved or anything that would go against a frum belief system.

          • fille says:

            Reading blogs like yours and the ones I linked to and others, I came to the conclusion that successfull fostering/adoption very much depends on the expectations and skills of the foster/adoptive parents.

            If they have good skills and realistic expectations, I suppose that chances for success for both – parents and children – are higher than if they lack one of them or both.

            So I concluded that it is not such a good idea to look for foster parents among those who want “a normal family just like everyone else”, but for some reason (infertility, etc). I have a feeling that it is preferable to place foster children with people like you, who know what they could be getting into and have a skill set to deal with it.

        • Leah Sarah says:

          That is still incredibly dishonest and SO not a good idea. Do you think it would go over well if she told these random hook-ups that she was just trying to get a baby? Seriously? This is exactly what sperm banks are FOR.

  6. Fille says:

    I think that being unmarried and childless is particularly painfull in the religious jewish society. Many girls are brought up with the only perspective of marrying and having children. Everything else is deemed secondary.

    It is easier for women who do not attach all their self-worth to family and children.

    On the other hand, in the orthodox jewish world, there are so many mothers who cannot give the attention they need to their numerous children that any unmarried woman craving family contact could do a lot of good, to those mothers and their children…

  7. Case for having more than one ishti

    • fille says:

      You are not completely wrong. Actually I know a woman who had a child from an affair with a married men (who never got divorced), and I think the solution is better for the mother than artificial insemination on several levels:

      a) she gets child support
      b) the child gets to know the father
      c) the father babysat regularly

      The only disadvantage is for the betrayed wife of the child’s father. She has to pay the price: some of the family income goes to support this child, she has to accept the child in her house, plus the absences of the husband when he deals with the child, plus the nagging suspicions that the affair might not be completely over (which was wrong, he had found a new mistress meanwhile)

    • fille says:

      OH, and I forgot the most important adavantage:

      They had a nice affair and enjoyed it.

  8. At 35 ishti moved 3000 klm’s became more observant and married me all within 6 months of moving! That was 2 years ago she was a mother 11 months after the Hatunah. Moving is a good idea just do it with wisdom.

  9. tikunolam says:

    Have a baby by whatever means is right for you. At 38, if people can’t support your life dreams they should no longer get a say.
    Foster/adopt does not descriminate against single women if adoption is an option. There are over a hundred thousand children in the U.S. waiting for someone to become their parent.

    • fille says:

      Foster/adoption is not that easy, and just to have the whish to have a child might not be enough of a motivation to deal with the difficulties that sometimes result from it…

      Here is an example of a mother who adopted child and would like to go back and throw her out:
      http://thefinalmaze.blogspot.ch/

      Here is a frum single mom who fostered, it was not easy, not what she dreamed of:
      http://frumfostering.blogspot.ch/

      Dealing with the children around her might be more gratifying and more usefull…

      • tikunolam says:

        Fostering and adopting via foster care isn’t for everyone but instead of sending her to those who did not have a good experience, feel free to to send her to my blog.
        Fosterparentingadventures.blogspot.com
        For some of us, the children who entered our lives via that route is more than a dream come true. It’s a dream I never knew I had.
        Telling a woman to surround herself with children is dismissive of the very real desire to parent that many people have.
        Plus it could save a life. It’s tikunolam. It’s right in line with religious values a values. Parenthood is not easy but it is the most fulfilling job most of us will ever have.

        • fille says:

          @tikunolam

          Your blog is good example to prove my poitn: You are a professional psychologist who works with difficult children and knows how to deal with them. You deliberately chose to foster/adopt rather than having one more child: It was not a solution of last recourse, it was a deliberate choice.

          You are my hero as far as foster/adoptive mothers go, together with “last mom”.

          But a woman who just longs for a child is not you. So I recommend fostering/adopting for people who have your skills or are ready to aquire them, but not for people who think it will be just as having their own child.

      • If the adoption is Jewish raising a nonjew as Jewish is problematic to say the least and I say that as a convert.

        • tikunolam says:

          Yitchak,
          Jews raise children who weren’t born Jewish all the time. The children are converted and reaffirm their acceptance of their Jewish identity at their bar/bat mitzvah. I grew up with adopted Orthodox children. I am adopting a nonJewish child who I will convert. There are whole support networks for Jewish families touched by adoption. Jews have been adopting since forever.

          They all have right of return to Israel. They can marry in Israel if their conversion is accepted and they have an opportunity to convert again if it is problematic.

  10. Leah Sarah says:

    I really have no advice, only love and support for women in difficult situations such as Chava’s. While I doubt there is anything innately wrong with artificial insemination, I feel for her situation because despite no apparent issue, I still feel that many people will judge her anyway. It’s awful and totally not right. That being said, I grew up with a single mother, and I ended up just fine. I had an amazing, loving, devoted mother(and a father who wanted nothing to do with my brother and I, really). She’s still a huge part of my life now as an adult, and I am so so thankful for her. Really, she was so amazing to us that I never even consider that life would have been better with a father in the picture; it didn’t matter, she was more than enough!!

    I will say about fostering(rather than adopting) though, it’s not quite the same as adoption and can be very difficult emotionally for very different reasons. Some foster kids have severe psychological issues based on the situations they are pulled away from, and sometimes they don’t stay with you very long. That constant idea that the child may be given back to the parents at any point or to another relative and taken away from you, the foster parent, requires a really strong personality to deal with… I don’t think it’s a replacement for someone who wants a lifetime of nachas and the enjoyment of parenthood. Fostering is surely very very rewarding, but in an entirely different way.

    • tikunolam says:

      You can foster children who are already free for adoption and adopt them. I don’t understand “but it can be hard” logic. Guess what, biological children is no guarentee that your child will be free of problems. You can say no to a placement that isn’t right for you. I have done it many times.

      How about giving the gift of a family to a child instead only thinking of giving yourself a gift of a child? Why is promoted all over the Christian community but in the world of frum blogging commenters?

      • fille says:

        “Why is promoted all over the Christian community but in the world of frum blogging commenters?”

        I’m not so sure it leads to good results all over the christian community… This christian love for others can be very, very suspect, I’m sorry.

      • Leah Sarah says:

        Wow, I’m kinda surprised at the seeming harshness of this comment. I have several friends who are foster parents and I think it’s a huge, wonderful, amazing thing they are doing! However, even they will tell you that it is difficult at times. Not only do you have potentially difficult children to deal with(and yes, of course, your own children may come with their specific challenges), but you also have to deal with DYFS or whatever other state-run foster care agency of your personal state, which can be a whole lot of… not so fun. It’s huge and incredibly rewarding, but it is not for everyone. Having children of your own is not for everyone. Adoption is not for everyone. Having any type of kids from any source is not for everyone, and plenty of people choose to live a childless “lifestyle”! Obviously not everything will work out for every personality type… :)

        • tikunolam says:

          yeah. . .I am a foster parent currently adopting my foster daughter. I was bringing it up as a possibility for the writer. It was being dismissed by a commenter. Perhaps this woman is right for foster parenting. Many people don’t consider it. I specifically introduced the idea as a possibility.

          I know first hand how difficult fostering is. I also know I am not the only one on Earth that believes it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I said it not not for everyone. But who knows, perhaps it is for her.

          No one seems to blink when frum families have 6+ children and say it is “too hard.” Sometimes “hard” is worth it. I am sure my life is easier with my two bio kids and my one to be adopted child, Sytem and all than my childhood friend’s life with her 10 children.

  11. Becca says:

    I was exactly where Chava was. BaruchHashem no longer, but I undertand her pain in ways I cannot begin to express. Many of my friends still are in her place — desperate to be a parent, and stuck in limbo through no fault of their own. Some of them froze their eggs in the hope that if they met someone in their 40s, there would still be hope. It has psychologically eased the pain for them somewhat. My understanding from having spoken to people who actually asked these halachic questions to respected Rabbonim is that it’s not entirely clear that all of this is entirely assur. I remember 25 years ago when everyone assumed IVF was automatically assur — and it isn’t. The same with gestational surrogates (another option…with her genetic material)– you would be surprised what is actually a halachically viable position. My heart goes out to Chava — and she ought to look in the deepest ways re: what can be done…

  12. rachelli says:

    why don’t we all use our heads and if we know a suitable partner for her, hadassah can try to set her up . to the person who wrote the letter, I personally know 4 women who got married very recently in their later 30′s. we must never give up.

  13. Ariela says:

    There was an article about this issue in a magazine in Israel. One potential solution is to freeze her eggs. The technology is much better now, she should do it ASAP.
    also, she should see this website about a frum single jewish mom by choice:
    http://jsmbc.blogspot.co.il/

  14. Avi says:

    Letter writer: your feelings are legitimate. If you can’t be happy for the bounty of children in your family, don’t be. At some point, you’ll be ready to do something to change your situation: adopt/inseminate despite parental objections, move, focus on career, focus on travel/chessed/hobby, get a pet… Or not. I’m sorry your personal situation isn’t better and I’m embarrassed on behalf of our community that you feel shunned.

  15. "chava" says:

    I just wanted to thank everyone for their responses. I am currently exploring donor insemination. Fostering/adopting might not be as feasible in my situation – but I will definitely look into it, as it was something I hadn’t considered as a possibility. And, believe me, the thought of going out for a one-night stand has crossed my mind, I just don’t think that option would be right for me. My deepest wish is for me to meet someone (ASAP!) though I do think I am suffering from “dating fatigue,” and blind dates have become such a chore. I just wonder where the time went. At what point did I let my life slip away from me for me to end up where I am? Did I waste my time in my 20s and early 30s? Thank you, HSM, for publishing my letter and giving my plight a voice.

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