I didn’t even realize I was crying. I was in temple during High Holy Day services years ago, listening to the Rosh Hashanah Torah portion of Sarah’s pain and anguish about not being able to get pregnant-the lament of a barren woman. Then came the Haftorah portion about Hannah’s anguish about not being able to become pregnant. I was feeling the same bewilderment and pain as the Matriarchs from the Torah. I was moved and empathized so greatly with Sarah and Hannah’s plights about not being able to conceive. In my life so far, being able to become pregnant was my greatest struggle, as it was Sarah and Hannah’s struggles, and unbelievably to me, the struggle of so many other women in the Torah. Listening to the struggle of Sarah, the chosen Matriarch of the Jews, then listening to Hannah’s story of desperately crying and praying was too much to bear. God had promised that the Jewish people would be fruitful and multiply, so why was this happening? Why were we women, Sarah, Hannah, me, and so many others, suffering so greatly to have a child? Why wasn’t this easier? I never imagined trying to have a child would be so difficult and become such a test of my faith.
Family and friends close to me advised me to “Ask God.” After all, our matriarchs in the Torah, also struggling with infertility, asked God for help. During the time that I was trying unsuccessfully to conceive, I took a trip to Israel to visit my sister and her family. My sister suggested that I go the Kotel, the Western Wall. I went on a drizzly, chilly day during the Passover holiday. I gave tzedakah (charity) and a Rabbi gave me a blue string. He said to me, “You will have a boy.” Really, did he just say that to me? There were not many people at the Wall that day, just group of Haredi (ultra-orthodox) women sitting on chairs studying Torah, and me. Being right at the Wall with these pious, studying women made me question whether I was religious enough to speak with God. Would God hear me? I remembered Sarah’s strength and Hannah’s courage, and put my hand on the Wall. I prayed to God for a child, and the Haredi women disappeared. I was completely alone at the Wall, in the presence of God. And I prayed. I prayed just as Hannah had so desperately prayed for a child. At that moment at the Wall, I experienced an incredible connection to God and I was spiritually moved and changed by my experience.
I often wonder if my incredible spiritual experience would have happened had I not had the opportunity to go to the Wall and pray to God in such a personal way. During the years I have worked at Mayyim Hayyim, I have seen many women, also struggling with the pain and anguish of infertility, come through our doors. These women come to immerse and pray for a child. Mayyim Hayyim is a unique, sacred space where women can have the opportunity to be alone in the presence of God. Alone in the mikveh, Mayyim Hayyim offers a beautiful, peaceful and sacred sanctuary to connect to God. Mayyim Hayyim offers a sacred space, similar to the Wall, to remember and be strengthened by our Matriarchs’ struggle with infertility, and to know that we not alone in this pain.
Mayyim Hayyim continually offers art exhibits and education programs related to the struggles of infertility. A recent gallery exhibit in the Paula Brody and Family Education Center featured Drawn from Life: Graphic Art and Illustrations by Phoebe Potts and Hilary Price which featured personal experiences with infertility and emotional distress about not being a mother. Currently, in the Mayyim Hayyim reception room are flyers for Rachamim, a support group for those experiencing pregnancy loss or pregnancy challenges. Mayyim Hayyim offers women struggling with infertility support, education and community-a place not to feel alone. Mayyim Hayyim, located not in Jerusalem, but right here in Newton, MA, is a unique and special place to be in the presence of God.
My struggle with infertility taught me to trust in God. I prayed and knew that it would be in God’s time, not mine, when and if I should become pregnant. I was ultimately blessed with my two beautiful children, Amanda and Brandon. I became pregnant with Brandon shortly after I prayed at the Wall. I know God heard my prayers and remembered me, just as he heard our Matriarchs’ prayers about infertility. Mayyim Hayyim is a place where God can hear and remember so many women struggling with infertility. I hope they come to Mayyim to pray and be in the presence of God.
Sherri Goldman, Administrative Director, joined Mayyim Hayyim in May, 2007. Sherri is responsible for managing Mayyim Hayyim’s financial and office operations, including accounts payable and accounts receivable, financial reporting, and building management. Sherri holds an M.B.A. from Suffolk University and is a registered Notary Public in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.