Please Don’t Try to Rescue Me
I am going to take a break from my regular blog posts about the latest research and developments in addiction treatment to write about something personal.
If you have read the book, “Ending Addiction for Good,” a book that quickly became a #1 Amazon bestseller, you know that I cannot have children. While sometimes I am devastated by this fact and sometimes I see it as a blessing because it frees up my life to pursue my work, which helps others in a way being a mother would have prevented, the most difficult part of the situation is not having a choice. I never got to have a conversation about family planning. It was not in the cards for me to decide whether or not I wanted a child, to sculpt my life in a way of my choosing. I was dealt a particular set of cards and I have to play that hand.
In my work outside of Cliffside, I write and speak about infertility, what it is like to be a “barren” woman and how we can develop more understanding and compassion toward one another in this regard. I recently published a book of poetry that addresses this issue, titled, “Meeting God at Midnight.” I write about the hope that an untenable situation will change, the fervent desire for a miracle, and the acceptance of knowing that while I watch the joy others experience about making choices regarding their families, my own dreams will go unfulfilled. I also write about what it is like to be part of a religious tradition that in so many ways values having children above all else, and how to find a place and connection in that kind of community.
Women around the world have resonated with this little poetry book. Women who have struggled with the inability to have children and finally tried to make peace with the fact that they will not have come to me in tears, thanking me for giving voice to their pain. They are at all different stages in their journeys. Some are still hoping for a miracle. Some are looking for less traditional means of having a family, such as surrogacy or adoption. Others have come to a place of peace with their bodies and their lives and are setting out on new paths, in different directions, taking advantage of the openings of time, money, and creative space that not having children can provide.
Universally, those who are unable to bear children, but may have wanted to thank me for the same thing – Thank you for saying, “Please don’t try to rescue me.”
After every presentation I give, several well-meaning individuals come up to me and say, “Well, you can always adopt!” In that simple phrase, they indicate to me that they are uncomfortable with my infertility and my distress over it. But if you’ve ever struggled with infertility, you know it’s not that easy. I am a single woman; now over forty; a Jew; and while I make a comfortable living, I am by no means well-to-do. Do you really think a scared teenage girl in a small Texas town is going to choose me to give her baby to when she has dozens of smiling, younger, Christian couples to choose from? Do you know what the requirements are for adopting a child in the US or overseas – because I can’t always meet them. Will you criticize me for knowing that I do not have the capacity to be the mother to a severely handicapped child and choose not to pursue that opportunity? Can you imagine how I cried when I learned that even in the Jewish adoption networks in the US, there are often five families available for each child? Do you judge me for recognizing that while I know people become single parents for a variety of reasons, I see myself well enough to know that to willingly make that choice would not be in the best interest of myself or a child?
Do not try to rescue me by trying to plant false hopes in my heart. You cannot save the day by saying there is plenty of fruit on the tree if only I look for it hard enough. I know more about adoption than you ever will, because I have looked into it several times and come to the conclusion that it is not for me. I have friends who have tried to adopt a child, only to be passed over again and again. And I have other friends who are perfectly capable of having children, but chose to become foster parents and/or adopt instead of bearing their own, successfully building beautiful families. We all have different paths. The point is you can’t make yourself comfortable by “saving” me any more than you can make a child take root within me.
What helped me accept myself and my life, and what I ask of you before you try to rush in and make things better, is instead of trying to find a means to motherhood for me, to simply listen and be present. When I crumbled in tears at the synagogue because a pregnant woman walked in to celebrate Shabbat two days before my hysterectomy, my friends did not tell me that one day, I might adopt. They followed me into the bathroom and held me as I wept. They called me by my Hebrew name, Ahuva – which means “beloved” – and they told me they were sorry that it hurt so much. I am grateful they thought not of their discomfort upon seeing my pain, but of supporting me so that I could work through the sadness on my own.
In addiction treatment, when we do an intervention, the message is, “I love you enough to want to see you overcome this problem,” – then the addict is sent to treatment to work with professionals who can help, because the family and friends cannot. Infertility is not so much different. It is your love that is needed, not your rescue.