Sitting in a café in Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim, my home for the past 8 years, it’s hard to believe that just last week I was in Warsaw, visiting all the sites that represent how Jews used to live and thrive in a country that largely accepted them and that they called home for centuries, and how that was all taken away during the Shoah in 1939-1945. In addition to Warsaw we visited Mezerich, Majdanek, and Lublin. We visited the cemetery in Mezerich to find the remains of my husband’s relatives only to discover that most of the tombstones had been removed, likely used by the Nazis as paving stones as we saw in Majdanek. It was gut wrenching to see this first-hand.
The primary purpose of my trip, wasn’t a heritage trip, but rather a medical conference for practitioners and sufferers of MRKH syndrome (a syndrome that renders a woman incapable of having babies naturally and that makes sex painful as she is born without a womb and a partially developed vaginal canal). I was invited to speak on the topic of hope and healing.
MRKH affects 1 in 10,000 women around the world. It isn’t unique to any specific culture or race. Little is known about why some women have it. Most women discover they have MRKH between ages 13-15 (some even later), when they either experience painful sex or discover that their period hasn’t begun, despite the fact that they have produce female hormones and eggs.
Speaking on the topic of hope to a group of medical professionals just hours after taking a walking tour with my husband and baby through the streets of Jewish Warsaw was surreal. It was as though I was being handed a reminder of how my own people’s entire existence was a result of the hope they held dear throughout the many pogroms and the Shoah.
And there I was standing in front of medical professionals, some who were young students, about to embark upon their careers, and other seasoned professionals who’ve had the misfortune of sharing bad news of their patient’s MRKH diagnosis as they sob in their offices…feeling complete despair at this new life changing information. Believing that they were, for all intents and purposes women like any other, but then in an instant robbed of the belief that they will be able to have children as easily and effortlessly as other women.
When I was first asked to speak at the conference, I questioned my ability to talk about hope. After all, I am by no means a world leading expert on the subject. Sure I work with couples, on trying to resurrect the hope they once had about being together forever and rekindling their feelings. I also worked with 100’s of single men and women who feel hopeless about finding love and work with them to overcome barriers and traumas so that they feel more hopeful and find love. But to then teach how to convey hopefulness to other professionals and to women born without a womb…and in Warsaw of all places…the task felt overwhelming.
Through researching the subject of hope, I revisited my own struggles that challenged my hope and drew upon what helped me during those times.
(For the rest of this blog post check out: www.gethelpisrael.com)