My Own Stroller
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My Own Stroller

My Own Stroller

In my eyes, others stand astride a mountain while I look from a valley below. She wheels a baby, while I walk empty-handed.

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Our brisk walks are a nightly routine. My sister-in-law coos, talks and giggles to her precious baby while she pushes him in the stroller. She beams with gratification at her son's glowing, sunny smile. Every now and then she pauses to offer him another toy, readjust his seat or fix his blanket. Of course she has to relate her precocious child's newest and cutest feats.

I walk right alongside. But in my eyes, she stands astride a mountain while I look up at her from a valley far below. My sister-in-law, considerably younger than I, is a mommy and I am not. My sister-in-law has an adorable extension to herself, while I only dream of one. My sister-in-law is wheeling a bundle of joy, while I walk empty handed.

Oh, how I feel like a small child as I counter her personal baby stories with advice I only know from watching my mother care for younger siblings. And as my sister-in-law discusses the annoying wake up calls of the previous night and the terrible mess he made that morning, I can't help but notice how mothers live in an entirely different realm than non-mothers.

It is more than just the vast magnitude of mothers' responsibilities that creates my hang-up of inferiority.

While non-mothers often have a hard enough time finding enough hours in the day for themselves, mothers somehow manage to care for entire families in that same time. While the rest of the world enjoys relaxing nights of sleep, mothers spend a considerable portion of their nights comforting crying babies. While many non-mothers expend all their energy disciplining themselves, mothers simultaneously discipline and raise all their children.

While others find their own food preparation too time consuming, mothers cook for large families. While others can come and go on a whim, mothers must take into account their little charges. Whether it is the need for gentle guidance, some TLC, someone to take the brunt of a child's frustration, assistance with homework, chauffeuring, birthday parties... a mother's job is truly never done.

It is more than just the vast magnitude of mothers' responsibilities that creates my hang-up of inferiority. It is the nobleness of the job that was granted to them and restricted from me. It is the clarity of their purpose in life and the lack of mine. Mothers fulfill the ultimate role of women and bequeath the world with the greatest contribution possible – another living soul. They are the exalted partners of God in the creation of a new being. And they are the royal caretakers, appointed to provide for the child, to see to all its needs and to teach it to lead a good life.

Suddenly, I stop in my tracks. I seize the debilitating thoughts that infiltrate my mind and chase away the beliefs that crush me. I begin to reevaluate my situation. I reflect upon all the experiences I encountered on the roads of infertility and begin to appreciate the positive impact of those experiences. I recall the grave disappointments that followed fleeting moments of hope and understand how the pain helped me grow. I think about all the inner battles that I fought and continue to fight, and realize that those are the precise factors that provide my life with meaning.

How many heartfelt prayers did I pour out in my desperation? Prayers for myself and prayers for others. How many tears did I shed to the One above – tears that would have never otherwise been created? Who knows what affect those prayers have on me, or the rest of the word for that matter? Who knows what power those tears wield up in heaven?

How much closer to God have I grown over this period? How many extra times do I think of God during a typical day because of what I lack? How far have I come in internalizing the notion that even seemingly terrible situations are for the best? How much better have I become at overcoming those constant feelings of disappointments? How hard do I work on overcoming my natural jealousy to share in others' joy? How much more do I still have to accomplish in all these areas in order to become a truly righteous individual?

To the world, I may appear empty-handed, but I know that I am not.

How many extra undertakings did I take on as a merit for children? How much extra precaution did I begin to exercise in my mitzvah performance – mitzvot which bring blessings down to the whole world? How much more do I concentrate on my husband and his needs? What kind of special kindnesses have I been able to volunteer for? My life may not be as clearly defined as a mother's life, but there are certainly important jobs for me to accomplish, and I was given the added task of discovering them.

My sister-in-law and I continue walking – she wheeling her stroller and me walking alongside. And to the world I probably still appear empty handed. But I know that I am not. I walk with my head upright and my shoulders straight as I joyfully push my own invisible stroller. My stroller is filled with all those cherished prayers and precious good deeds that I have accrued, as well as the painful feelings I have overcome. My stroller is weighted down by all those challenges that still face me, the trying emotions that still gnaw at my nerves and the vital acts of kindness that are still calling me. As I walk, I beam at accomplishments I have brought to the world, while I lovingly tend to those challenges that still face me.

I continue to pray and beg God to allow me the opportunity to fulfill the unique role of being a mother. And when that happens I will ask God, "Please envelope the physical stroller I will push into the spiritual stroller that I have so painstakingly created. Allow the bond I have forged with You, together with all my prayers and undertakings, to serve as merit that my children grow up properly. That they learn to serve You in the path You set out for them." Because that is really the true purpose of every life.

Related Articles:
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Adopting Ilana

Published: November 4, 2006


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Visitor Comments: 16

(16) Anonymous, November 9, 2006 4:36 AM

Hashem has many shlichim

Hashem has many shlichim
Thank you Avigail, for sharing with us your sensitive and insightful response to your situation. Your portrayal of true Jewish hashkafah about one of life's most difficult challenges and about suffering in general is inspiring to us, your readers.
As for myself, since a close family member of mine suffers from infertiltiy,I was prompted to take a course in "Hypnofertility." As the name implies, hypnosis is the therapy used to attain fertility. My instructor, Lynsi Eastburn in Denver Colorado. is not Jewish, but she definitely beleives in God and in His myriad ways of helping people. And she has been gifted by Hashem to be an incredibly successful therapist in achieving fertility for countless women, some who have been infertile for many long years. Her book on the subject is being published very shortly. Additionally, anyone in Israel who would like more information about this healing modality can contact me at neshamalehs@yahoo.com. I will be happy to provide whatever information and help that I can offer.
My sincere brachos to all of you that find yourselves facing this trying challenge.
Bracha

(15) RachelWise, November 7, 2006 1:10 PM

Yasher Kochaych

Kudos to Avigail for a beautiful and inspiring message.

I view Avigail's words as an honest articulation of her emotions. I don't believe she is seeking suggestions, and she most certainly does not deserve any judgmental opinions. I believe her goal is simply to convey her honest feelings and to share with the readership the struggle involved in attempting to overcome her challenge. This struggle, as I recall (mine lasted 12 years), is a rollercoaster ride of emotional ups and downs. Some hours or days the spiritual component keeps you going and sometimes the pain is just too intense.

It would seem to me that the crux of Avigail's article was to demonstrate to others that when pain is channeled into a positive venue, it gives meaning to the pain; it doesn't, however, totally take it away. My takeaway is that Avigail took her challenge as a learning experience: how she was able to personally grow, how she is able to help others through her inspiring story and message of chizuk, and how her growth has generated a new level of value to her life.

I also would like to comment on all the well-meaning advice: When people share their honest feelings, it does not mean they require answers or suggestions to solve their challenges (unless, of course, they ask for it). Feelings should be validated, and to that end, Avigail, I do feel for your pain and can imagine some of what you are feeling. "U'mocho Hashem dimah ma-al kol ponim".

May your spiritual growth keep increasing as you continue to hope, daven and do your hishtadlus. And in the zchus of the compassion and concern you demonstrate toward others, may Hashem shower His compassion upon you and your husband with bonim hagunim.

(14) Meira, November 6, 2006 9:53 AM

Don't give up and try the spiritual route

As the sister of an infertile woman, while I can't relate to the infertility I do know the pain just from seeing my sister who has been trying to have children for 20 years. Finally, she did decide to adopt and when that didn't work after a year or two totally gave up. While she has gone to all the fertility doctors, done IVF, gone through the whole adoption process with absolutely none of it working she still does not want to go the spiritual route. I have many times spoken to her to do even the most simple things, like go to a Rabbi who is known for this sort of thing just for a bracha, try to find out if there is something spiritually that she is doing wrong, she and her husband will not do any of this but are frum jews. If you have emuna and bitachon it will happen. But you still have to examine why it is not happening and endeavor to correct it. I did that, not to have children, but to find out why I was not finding my bashert. After I decided to go the spiritual route, I met him within the year. I did get married what is considered older, but once I thought to correct what was spiritually wrong the blessings have not stopped

(13) Anonymous, November 6, 2006 9:48 AM

It seems to me that many of the comments, however valid in their own context, miss the very important point made by this beautiful essay.
The fact that adoption is a real and fullfiliing option for childless couples does not in any way lessen the instinctive yearning of women - and men - for their own genetic offspring. Nor is this instinctive yearnig diminished by the fact that others have less, or suffer more.

Given that fact, the issue discussed in this essay is how one reacts to the state of yearning for what one doesn't (yet) have.

What makes this so critical a topic is that infertility is only one manifestation of this issue. We all yearn for many things, some "legitimate", others less so. Umfortunately, all too often, we become more and more focused on what we lack and on what we aren't, and less and less focused on what we have, and on what we are.

Taken to an extreme this tendency becomes paralyzing. But even when not taken to an extreme this tendency strips people of their joy in life and cripples them. We stop living the life they were given and finding fullfillent in our accomplishments, because we are too busy wishing for and chasing a world that isn't ours.

When the "yearnigs" are for things that are insignificant maybe we can tell people "just forget about it". But what can we say to those whose yearnings are real, significant, and "legitimate". Should we tell them to stop yearning? Should we tell them to stop davening? But if they continue yearning and davening, how can they prevent this yearning from overpowering them?

Mrs. Rosen offers a beautifuuly insightful approach to this dilemna. If we realize that what we lack makes us who we are, then we can simultaniously continue yearning, and davening, and still remain completely focused on being who we are, and on, happily and proudly, living the life that Hashem has given us.

(12) Anonymous, November 6, 2006 9:28 AM

Chazak to you!

I was so touched and moved at "Avigail"s article. Yearning, yes, but accepting and growing from her challenge at the same time. I'm also impressed that she is not bitter about her situation, and talks about her nisayon, but with out complaining.

I cannot see why she shouldn't make her own decision regarding adoption with out help from commenters on her story. Perhaps she is applying for adoption already. Why all the negativity from commenters?

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