Last week I had the honor and privilege of speaking during Rosh Hashanah services at my synagogue, The Beacon Hebrew Alliance. I'm sharing the text of my speech here.
I want to thank Rabbi Brent Spodek for his incredible support and understanding in lending the bima - a sacred space - to the voice of Hannah and all of the infertile women in our tribe. And, special thanks to everyone in the congregation who has since shared their own story with me. We are not alone.
Every year on Rosh Hashanah we read 1st Samuel.
The story of Hannah.
A story that I dread every year. And a story that I need every year.
Hannah’s story is my story. I was diagnosed with infertility at the age of 29. Like Hannah, I longed for children but had none. Like Hannah, my womb was closed - because of severe endometriosis. Like Hannah, I have been questioned by my peers, I have felt mocked, I have been ignored as a childless woman, and I have cried in public. Oh, how I have cried in public. On the subway. At my desk. In shul. At the bodega. I’m pretty sure that I cried in public so much that some people in my neighborhood thought I was a drunk. Just like Hannah.
I never thought that I would dread Rosh Hashanah. What’s not to like? It’s sweet. It’s the new year! Apples and honey, right? But in the midst of our darkest days of trying to start our family, hearing about Hannah’s struggles overwhelmed me. I knew it was coming. I could see the families and babies all around me in shul. I could feel the tears building. Even today, with my own darling daughter running around, I feel a pang.
But then, every year, I remember that I am not alone in this. My story is literally a tale as old as time. Women have been longing for, praying for, working for the blessing of having children for as long as we’ve been a tribe. I guess this is why this scroll (the Torah) has triumphed over time, and why we read these stories year after year. Our life experiences and struggles are here in these pages. Even the story of the barren woman. Yes, hearing this story has hurt me, but it has also healed me. Instead of ashamed, I feel awed. Instead of alone, I feel accepted. Instead of crushed, I feel comforted.
One in eight adult women who try to get pregnant will struggle with infertility. One in eight of us is a Hannah. As we welcome the new year, let’s make space for all of the Hannah’s in our midst. See that their pain and grief are real and true, and pray for only sweetness for them this year. And if you see her crying, ask only for forgiveness if you do not understand her tears.