This piece was presented to mikveh attendants and rebbetzins at Atlanta’s Infertility Sensitivity Training run by the Jewish Fertility Foundation with the goal of helping them better empathize with women that come to immerse. This “empathy” exercise is one of many ways that The Eden Center helps is partnering to make the mikveh a more welcoming place for all women, with attendants that are well trained to serve women at all stages of life.
Imagine carefully preparing and then immersing in the mikveh, heading home feeling clean, renewed and hopeful. Imagine reuniting with your husband and praying that it will result in pregnancy. Imagine the disappointment you feel when you get your period and discover you are not pregnant. Imagine this- month after month after month for six months to a year. Imagine how much the pain and disappointment increase each month when you feel the menstrual blood trickling out, when you see the telltale stain on your underwear. Imagine how mikveh night becomes more and more fraught as your growing disappointment mingles with your waning hope.
Imagine you are put on a tiny little hormone containing pill that takes over your formerly rational emotions. Imagine mikveh night with soaring newfound hope pinned on that tiny little pill. Then imagine when you, once again, get your period, this time with huge hormonal mood swings. Imagine months of mikveh nights on the little pill that takes you on the roller coaster from euphoria to devastation.
Imagine that you and your spouse are going through rounds of examinations, blood work, surgery, to determine why you haven’t conceived, or maybe why you have conceived but haven’t been able to carry a pregnancy to term. Imagine the stress of mikveh night now. Imagine that mikveh night does not culminate in going home to reunite with your husband in the traditional way, but in going to the doctor the next morning where your husband will produce a sperm sample alone in a private room and you will be “artificially” inseminated in the presence of the doctor and nurse on the exam table.
Imagine months or years of various treatment methods that wipe out your savings account. Imagine your family and friends offering unsolicited advice. Imagine them conceiving and bearing children. Imagine attending brises and baby namings and birthday parties. Imagine your Rabbi reminding you to be fruitful and multiply, strangers patting your bloated stomach and asking when you are due. Imagine the dreams you had as a newlywed couple. Imagine mikveh night now.
Imagine arriving at the mikveh on “your” night and the woman waiting there being frazzled and stressed out, pointing you in the direction of your preparation room while chatting on the phone. Imagine she casts a cold, cursory glance over you, noticing your hormone-induced adult acne and injection bruises before taking your towel so you can immerse. Imagine when you emerge she hands you your towel and leaves the room without a word. Imagine when you leave to walk out into the dark night she is busy dealing with another woman and doesn’t say goodnight. Imagine walking through the dark to your car and driving home to reunite with your husband.
Then imagine arriving at the mikveh on your night and the woman waiting there greeting you warmly, asking how you are doing, and if you have any questions or concerns. Imagine she escorts you to your preparation room and tells you to enjoy this time you have for yourself. Imagine she treats you gently and caringly as she takes your towel. Imagine while you are immersing she is praying for you under her breath. Imagine when you emerge she tells you she hopes your prayers are answered. Imagine when you leave she wishes you a wonderful evening. Imagine walking through the dark to your car and reuniting with your husband.
Imagine having the power to affect someone’s faith, marriage and life. You have that power.