March 26, 2010

Passover and the Infertile Jew- A Fresh Take on the Four Questions and the Four Children

In my previous post, I go into great depth about the focus of fertility at Passover and some ways to cope. In this post, I'd like to focus on two very specific parts of the Passover seder.

The Four Questions

The Four Questions are asked by the youngest at the table, and sung to a delightful melody that is often a chance for the youngest to show off their mad skills learned in Hebrew school. Essentially the questions boil down to: Why is this night different from all other nights? They each highlight unique aspects of the Passover holiday: why do we double dip our food? Why do we eat matzo instead of leavened foods? Why do we eat bitter herbs? Why do we recline while eating?

I present the Four Questions, retold in the context of infertility, to highlight the very unique aspects of our struggle: Why is our path to family building so different from all others' paths?
  • On our path, why do we pay to have a child when all others are conceived for free?
  • On our path, why do we choose careers and places to live based on healthcare availability and not career goals or regional interests?
  • On our path, why does baby-making involve more needles and/or paperwork and less lovemaking?
  • On our path, why do we still worry even after we find out we're either paper pregnant or actually pregnant?
On Passover, the Four Questions are answered with the telling of the story of Exodus. So we too must tell our stories: sharing our paths to family building, however we may get there. 

The Four Children
While the Four Questions address the uniqueness of Passover, the story of the Four Children (traditionally the Four Sons) address the meaning of Passover. The Four Children are represented as the Wise Child (what are the laws/customs of Passover?), the Wicked Child (What does Passover mean to you?), the Simple Child (What is Passover?), and the Child Who Does Not Know Enough to Ask. Think about your own journey through infertility: I'm sure you've all encountered some versions of these "Children" in trying to answer our favorite question: "So, when are you having kids?"

I offer up infertility's approach, and call it the Four Friends:

The Compassionate Friend asks: "What can I do to help?" We tell them to let us cry, to provide us with plenty of distractions as we wait for test results, to get us out of the house when we are mopey, to be respectful of our need for space or when we don't want to hear about their children, that we don't always want advice and sometimes we just want an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. Most of all, we want them to know we're not contagious and we don't want them to cut us off b/c infertility is isolating enough.

The Inconsiderate Friend asks: "What did you do wrong to deserve being punished?" We tell them that cancer patients don't deserve cancer, that the Haitians and Chileans didn't deserve an earthquake, that infertility is just as random as any other disease or disaster and they are both comparable in the scope of emotional crises. We tell them we don't deserve to be treated or spoken to in this matter, and that we will exclude their negativity from our social circles.

The Naive Friend asks: "Why don't you just adopt? Why don't you just relax?" We tell them that if infertility was indeed so simple to cure, it wouldn't affect one out of every eight couples. We also tell them that adoption is not a simple decision, and turn the question back to them: why don't they just adopt if it's so easy?

And what do we tell the Friend That Doesn't Know Enough to Ask? We tell them that we have a prior commitment the same day as that baby shower, we congratulate them on their news but would you excuse us- we have to run to the bathroom, and that we don't have kids yet because we're just having so much fun "practicing" right now. Or we tell them simply that we're going through a hard time and it's just too complicated to get into the details, but we'd still love your support and if you'd check in on us once in a while.

. . .

A good Shabbos and a wonderful Pesach to you this coming week.


Phoebe Wilde said...

I'm stopping by from the blog hop. I love this post. I'm not Jewish but I love this post. I know some things about the passover and this really spoke to me. This was wonderfully written and I thank you for it!

Karen said...

Hi I'm here from the blog hop! I really like this post (enough to link it on my own blog!). I wish I had the way of words that you do.

R. said...

I'm here from the blog hop. I am loving your posts and the connections you make to Judaism.