Waiting 15 Years for Shimon Menachem by Chana Zahav

Waiting 15 Years for Shimon Menachem by Chana Zahav

This month Chana Zahav gave birth to her first child, a healthy baby boy after 15 years of marriage. Chana and I are both participants in Rabbi Nivin’s chabura, so for months, throughout her high-risk pregnancy, Rabbi Nivin was telling us to pray for her–and we definitely were!
After Chana gave birth, I was moved to tears and goosebumps by Chana’s account of her miraculous pregnancy which she recorded in her 28th week of pregnancy (in the recording below.) I’ve included a written excerpt as well:

If you are reading these words it means I have finally posted what I wrote and recorded at 28 weeks pregnant. B”H, I am currently more than 5 weeks pregnant for the first time in 15 years of marriage. And if you are listening to this then hopefully it means I have given birth to a healthy baby.

I promised Hashem during my pregnancy that I would publicize this miracle and it was very important to me that I be able to do that for both my pregnancy and birth separately because just this pregnancy has been such an incredible miracle and blessing!

I want to take this opportunity to thank Hashem for every single second of this pregnancy even while I am still pregnant and don’t have an actual child in my arms to thank Hashem for yet.

I also want to thank Hashem for every challenge I have gone through and for the mind-blowing miracles we have experienced this past year.

First of all, I want to tell you that last year was, literally, the hardest year of our infertility journey and that is saying something after years of failed treatments both natural and conventional and only having had 4 pregnancies in 15 years that each ended at under 5 weeks and never with a positive blood pregnancy test.

My most recent major infertility push, basically a marathon, started almost 3 years ago when I spent 10 months losing 95 lbs naturally in a major effort to do all I could to have children.

Then we spent several months doing various natural treatments. And then we spent the entire past year running around trying to be able to do yet another IVF cycle with fresh (rather than frozen) embryos, but this time with a new private doctor in Tel Aviv who is considered the best IVF doctor in Israel.

This meant doing a cycle with frozen embryos that we basically knew would fail and which did fail probably because of poor embryo quality. This was very, very difficult physically, hormonally and emotionally. But we had to go through it because our health insurance will not cover any part of a new IVF cycle if you still have frozen embryos elsewhere.

This meant getting up the morning after another failed cycle and instead of being sad about it or paralyzed by lack of hope, as has happened in the past at such times, instead it meant immediately jumping into action and doing whatever we had to do to continue quickly with our next hishtadlus, our next attempt to have a baby.

This meant doing and redoing test after test after test before even being able to do the required frozen IVF cycle and then running around between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, doing even more tests just to be cleared to see this doctor.

And then we had to hope that the doctor would even agree to start officially working with us as he only takes specific cases. And sometimes one test meant two more were needed and it felt neverending. Each test and appointment was a roller coaster in itself.

We literally were trying from July to March to get cleared to do a new (not frozen) cycle with this top private doctor, who was both expensive and hard to get appointments with.

Then finally, amazingly, we were cleared to start a cycle with this doctor in March.

And then I got the flu, but I started the cycle anyway because there was no way we were going to push it off. I pumped myself up with asthma meds and got up super early in the morning to go do a very painful procedure that involved heavy duty pain medications to start the cycle in Tel Aviv. And I did it even though I was literally falling over sick…

And then I got pneumonia. I pushed off going to the emergency clinic by one hour when I had an insanely high fever and it hurt to breathe so I wouldn’t miss my first shot of the cycle, which had to be at a specific hour because we were determined not to lose this chance.

At 37 years old, after 15 years of no success, and with my specific fertility profile, I was being told by askanim (lay experts) and doctors alike that I was running out of time and each month was gold and I knew it.

We prayed and prayed and I took off days from work and focused completely on healing and thank G-d we were so relieved when I was given a clean bill of health and would be allowed to continue the cycle.

Then on Thursday, the eve of the final day of Passover, I had left my house to go to Tel Aviv for monitoring at 4:30 AM after having worked until 1 AM the night before, as I did the morning before the seder and the Monday of Passover as well. And I did not get back to Jerusalem until 12:30 pm, and when I got back, I got a call from the doctor.

He said to me “Geveret Zahav, we have a problem. Because of how your body has responded we either need to do this procedure on Shabbos, or we need to cancel it.”

Getting off the phone we went into a tailspin trying to figure out what we would do. We called rabbis and fertility organizations and hotels to try and figure out what we would be doing in just a few short hours. We had no idea what we would eat for 2.5 days of holiday and Shabbat, never mind how we would pack and get back to Tel Aviv so quickly.

There was a back and forth and finally the halachic ruling came that we should keep Shabbos and cancel the cycle.

I was upset but I also felt OK. I felt like this was from Hashem and we were getting a chance to actively choose Shabbos. I kept saying, “Hashem, in the merit of choosing Shabbos and choosing You over this treatment, please help us. Please be our Doctor! Please let a miracle happen this month!”

I was so convinced the cycle would work because we had chosen Shabbos, and then I had some odd symptoms that seemed to indicate pregnancy. I was so so convinced I was pregnant that when the test came back negative, I was devastated.

But I picked myself up again, just as I had the day after our failed frozen cycle, and said, “OK, I need to keep moving and doing hishtadlus, making my effort. I ignored the emotional and physical effects of the failed cycle that in the past had been so debilitating to me each time and forced myself to just keep moving because I saw no other choice if I ever wanted to have a child of my own.

And then I went for my first ultrasound and blood test to get cleared to go forward, and they found huge cysts on my ovaries and that my blood test results indicated my body was hormonally completely messed up.

I was told I would need to wait 1-6 months to do my next cycle and, with Hashem’s help, the cysts would disappear on their own without surgery.

I was crushed. I cannot express to you how completely in despair I was. Imagine your own rock bottom like the bottom of the bottom of where you could possibly be emotionally… I was like 100 stories below that.

The marathon that I ran for literally 2 years to lose weight and try and have children suddenly halted. I could not do anything but feel, and I felt horrible. I literally gave up. I gave up on children and I felt completely lost on every level. You always hear about miraculous salvations from a difficulty after people hit rock bottom and gave up. And many, many times over those 15 years before that point, I thought I was there… But in retrospect, that was absolutely my lowest point. I was never that down before.

After a few weeks of intense prayer, we went for monitoring and I was given the green light again! B”H the cysts were gone and all was normal. Amazing.

A few weeks into the next cycle it looked like everything was going well. Until I went for an ultrasound one morning and they found 29 mm cysts on my ovaries that seemed to have popped up overnight!

This was not only bad news for that cycle, which I knew they would cancel if the cysts were confirmed by the hospital, but also potentially bad news for my health as anything that grows that big that quickly is not good.

I called ATime.org and they recommended I get retested in Tel Aviv at the Hospital the next day so I could get more specific information and confirmation.

We called and emailed friends to pray, but we did not tell them that they were praying for literally a miracle, as cysts are cysts, and when they are so big there is no such thing as an ultrasound mistake.

One of my friends mentioned that Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky would be in Jerusalem that day, and her son was about to go out to hear him speak. I quickly said, “Wait! Can he bring our names to get a bracha? A blessing from the Rabbi?”

That friend called me a few hours later very excited. Apparently, her son was the only one who had managed to get a blessing from the Rabbi that day. “Rabbi, please,” he said, “My mother asked if you could please pray for this couple who are without children almost 15 years.” The Rabbi took the paper, looked at our names, and said one word: “B’seder,” which means “OK.” And from that moment on everything was b’seder. I couldn’t believe it!

That same day, within a few hours of knowing we needed major prayers, Hashem orchestrated that we got a blessing from the greatest rabbi of the generation. Hashem was showing me directly how much he was with us in that moment, and it was overwhelmingly beautiful.

I got up at 4:30 AM the next morning to go get retested in Tel Aviv. I was so nervous the whole time, all I did was read Psalms like crazy. I was shaking as I walked into the examination room. But the technician looked and looked and told me, “I don’t understand, I don’t see any cysts at all. Everything looks completely normal.”

I should explain, cysts do NOT just disappear overnight! Especially a 29 mm cyst, and two of them no less. Without exaggeration, we experienced a complete open miracle.

I left the hospital crying tears of gratitude. I felt like I was walking in a bubble with Hashem, and I felt His love for me so, so much that I basically floated back to Jerusalem.

We had the operation a week later and when I came out they told me they had found double the amount of follicles (sacs that release mature eggs) than the doctor had predicted! The doctor said it was exactly the perfect amount. Hashem through Rabbi Chaim had said “b’seder.”

My recovery from the egg retrieval was my easiest ever, and B”H I felt like myself after 2 days when in the past it had take me weeks to recover, but Hashem through Rav Chaim had said “b’seder.”

Then when we got the call for how many embryos there were, again it was the perfect amount. Hashem through Rav Chaim had said “b’seder.”

Then when we went for them to place the embryos in me, the lab technician informed us that these were type A quality embryos. In 15 years of marriage and many IVF cycles we had NEVER had the highest quality embryos possible. But Hashem through Rav Chaim had said “b’seder.”

After 2 weeks I went for my blood test and on the way, I said the following prayer, “Hashem, I know I am not worthy. Please save me just because I am Your daughter.”

Last June 13th, I received my first positive blood pregnancy test in nearly 15 years.

I couldn’t believe it, but somehow I knew it would happen. Hashem through Rav Chaim had said “b’seder”…

People always talk about infertility from the female perspective but it affects men just as much. Here is a poem written by my husband, my partner in this 15-year rollercoaster, which he wrote in 2007 after several years of failed fertility treatments.

TEARS by Tuvya Zahav

We go out for Shabbos day;

My wife and his have much to say.

Her husband has not yet returned,

So I seek a sefer to learn,

When across the house hear I

The faint sound of a baby’s cry –

Even her mother does not hear,

But I hear it crystal clear.

In seconds I am by her side –

I sing to her, but her tears are not dried.

Her pacifier she rejects,

I make faces – what do I try next?

I cannot feed you, I think to myself;

I cannot change you, for I know not what shelf

Your mommy keeps the diapers on –

So she cries on and on and on.

The little girl I gently lift

And in an instant her mood does shift –

She’s fast asleep, she’s crying no more,

‘Til Father comes in through the door

And takes this precious jewel away,

For we must get the meal under way.

My dear sweet wife is crying again;

Another cycle has come to an end.

I know it’s not enough to say

That the answer’s not “no”, just “not today”.

How I wish I could hold her tight

Like that baby, who slept like night

In my arms, safe and sound

In the refuge she had found…

I choke back tears, as she asks sincerely,

“Do you regret being with me?

Do you regret the day we married?

A more worthy wife could surely have carried

A baby to term, to call your own,

Instead of that girl, who was only on loan!”

“No, I don’t regret it, not even a bit,

Even if forever alone we sit.”

A man must be strong, or so they decree,

And never cry – so sue me.

I, Chana Zahav am saying this now to the world. I have experienced a complete 100% undeniable miracle.

I have more reason now than ever to keep the Torah Hashem gave me as an instruction manual for how to show my love for him. Yes, Hashem loves me unconditionally as his daughter. He has given me so many gifts, I can never repay them

i understand now how salvation, both personal and national, can come in a second even if every other second before that was difficult. A year ago, I completely despaired of having children and I was pregnant a month later. Hashem is real and He listens and answers and saw i could not take one more moment of this test, so He took it away.

Hashem loves us so much. Thank you Hashem for the good and what looks like the bad and everything in between.

12 comments

  1. What a moving story!May you and your husband merit to bring him up together to Torah Chuppa and good deeds, and may you enjoy much true nachas from this child and from all of your future children.

  2. This story is so insanely amazing. I am speechless. Thank you for posting!

  3. Thank-you for this moving story of utter miracles.
    Thank-you Chana Zahav for sharing this incredible journey with us. What a special, strong woman you are.
    Baruch Hashem. This beautiful couple should merit to raise their beautiful little boy to be an Oved HaShem and to see so, so much nachat from him.

  4. Amazing!! reading and crying. Thank you for sharing, Hashem’s ways are so precise, so perfectly tailored to each Neshama.

  5. Thank you for posting this- I listened to it and cried toward the end. Listening to her speak and hearing her neis helped strengthen my own emunah- Hashem is really watching over us and orchestrating every single one of our lives.

    Thank you, Chana Zahav, for letting us experience that closeness vicariously through you! Wishing you lots of nachas from your son!

  6. Yona Rivka Kimelman

    Baruch HaShem from now til forever for your incredible miracle…OUR incredible miracle! Your joy is Klal Yisroel’s joy! Mazel tov! Good health and much nachas! Moshiach Now!!

  7. This gave so much chizuk! What a beautiful, moving and inspiring story. Thank you! You should be zoche to raise your son to Torah, chuppah and maasim tovim and have lots of nachas.

  8. I’m so glad you included the husband’s words as well. His experience is extremely moving, and important to keep in mind. When I finished reading Chana Zahav’s long, detailed, intense story I looked again at the title and was reminded of Megillat Esther. We all know the ending. But if you just read through the megilla without experiencing the despair the Jewish people were in, not knowing that the decree would be annulled, then you haven’t fulfilled the mitzva. A person is supposed to experience the megilla, not just read it through.So too, even though we knew from the beginning that the Zahavs finally have a baby, reading their whole story was truly a heart-wrenching experience. All the more so for them until the happy ending, not knowing when or if they would get to their personal geula.

    • JewishMom

      so true, we need to hear more about the experiences of men facing infertility

  9. Ziva Yafa

    Your baby is beautiful and a blessing. Mazel tov! Hanots can be notoriously negative so please take comfort in that yummy teenok. Wishing you much nachas and brachot and mazal from this child. May he grow the way toward the Torah and mitzvot.

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