On my cell phone is the friend of a friend of a friend.
We don’t know each other and she is already crying.
Here’s the story: She’s 45. Remarried after being divorced and alone for many years. She has an older daughter from her first marriage and a poopoopoo young son with her wonderful and very religious new husband who learns half a day in yeshiva.
They’ve been trying IVF unsuccessfully, they are considering a donor egg, IUI, etc, and they are very frustrated.
They really, really want another child.
The Rabbi said no.
The Rabbi said no?
It’s not the right time, said the Rabbi. Not for you all those treatments. Not now.
Fuck the Rabbi, I say.
Did you ask him his opoinion when you got divorced? Had your first child? Had your second?
She laughs softly, No.
Her husband learns in one of those kind of yeshivas.
We’re not in that place, she says.
Not in that place not to ask, she means.
I remember my urge to talk to my shul Rabbi when I got divorced. But he had been to my house many times with his family, and us to his. He’d been out with my then soon-to-be new husband and me for drinks. And talks.
Although he was Orthodox, he was enlightened and he knew that his fiats could really affect people. He counseled, he didn’t coerce.
He also knew that a breezily given yes or no isn’t helpful. It’s cruel.
I ask the woman if there was another Rabbi she could ask. You know, one that comes more from her side of the family.
She says yes, that she actually already has an appointment to see another Rabbi in the new year. With my husband, she adds, gently.
I am cheered.
That rabbi also said not now, but that was 5 years ago.
I am floored.
It was too bad, she goes on, too matter of factly. Then, when I was 40, it would have been easier. That’s what the doctors say.
That’s what the doctors say because it is TRUE.
I’ve been through IVF. I saw those charts where my age was at the very bottom next to 3% chance.
I had a lot of help—a lot—and poopoopoo my beautiful twins are 21 months today.
I went to the doctor first. My Rabbi friends gave me blessings on the way.
I bite back the urge to rail against the arbitrariness of it. The misogyny of it. That this kind of orthodoxy has become a cage, a club, and a wasteful way to live. That she isn’t the first woman, or even the second or third who I’ve heard come up against a Holyman who doesn’t have the courage to say yes. Show me one orthodox Rabbi these days who says yes!
But here she is, on the phone with me, still crying, but less so.
I carefully spell out my doctor’s name and give the number.
True she asked the Rabbi. But she also called me.
There is a chance.