Hating the Mikvah: An Infertile Mother’s Spiritual Journey

Hating the Mikvah: An Infertile Mother’s Spiritual Journey

Here is the story of my friend, Chana bat Leah:

A month after my husband and I got married, I had a dream that I gave birth to a baby boy. The next night I had another dream that I attended the bris of our son. The dreams were incredibly vivid, and I had never dreamt about babies before. So I told my husband, Gedaliah, “Either Hashem is playing tricks on us, or we’re going to have a baby boy in 9 months.”

And 9 months later, sure enough, I gave birth to our son, Aryeh. I had been really scared of the pain of labor, but in the end I had an incredible home birth, and I loved the experience and felt really empowered by it. I dedicated my life to mothering. I was passionate about nursing, making homemade baby food, and reading about parenting and children’s health.

That was over 6 years ago. And Aryeh is still our only child.

I nursed Aryeh for 3 years, and only started ovulating again when he was 2. I was excited about the prospect of getting pregnant and having another child. I was really looking forward to the prospect of having a little girl, and naming her after my beloved grandmother. Yet month after month, my long-awaited daughter did not come.

I soon figured out the reason I wasn’t getting pregnant. I was ovulating before I went to the mikvah, which meant I was “halachically infertile.”

For me, having a child wasn’t just something I wanted, it was something that I yearned for on a physical level, like a starving person needs food. My body yearned to carry another baby within me, and to nurse another child. After I discovered that I was experiencing halachic infertility, I did many different natural treatments to try to get to the mikvah earlier. I also took hormones for four months, but I felt extremely uncomfortable with it, so I stopped.

One of the hardest aspects of infertility is that, in order to get pregnant, I need to be taking my temperature and checking my cervical mucus every day, and I need to meet regularly with doctors. And that constant hyper-monitoring throws the issue in my face all the time. It brings stress to what should be a very beautiful and natural process of two people meeting in love and affection and, through this love, bringing life into the world.

Having more children became something I had to work very hard to do. And it felt like if I didn’t make a huge effort, it was as though I didn’t deserve to have child. This, of course, is incredibly ironic considering how many people make a huge effort not to have a baby.

Another very difficult aspect of halachic infertility was how it made me hate the mikvah. I had totally connected trying to have a baby with mikvah night, because it was the one night a month I had even a slim chance at conceiving. I almost always ovulate before I go to the mikvah, so I know most months that I have no chance of getting pregnant. The mikvah, therefore, became a total slap in the face. Many nights, after immersion, I found myself bawling in the bathroom of the mikvah, feeling totally broken, physically and spiritually.

The mikvah ladies got to know me and my situation very well over the years. Maybe it was my imagination, but I felt like they were being extra nice to me because they pitied me. And somehow their being so nice made the experience even worse.

About 2 years ago, I reached the point where I just couldn’t stand going to the mikvah anymore. The mikvah was a place where I felt embarrassed and humiliated and grief-stricken. It always felt like the mikvah ladies were thinking, “Oh, it’s you again….” It also felt like having to go through all the required checks and preparations made this monthly slap in the face sting even worse. I hated that I would come home from the mikvah month after month and fall weeping into my husband’s arms. Not exactly violins playing in the background.

And that was the point when I realized that I had to do something to somehow alleviate the suffering going to the mikvah was causing me. So I did two things.

The first thing I did, which really helped me to feel more positive towards mikvah, was write a song about it. You can hear me singing my song here: Waters Rush Over Me by jenny18

The second thing I did was study to become a Kallah teacher, to teach brides the laws of Family Purity. Since completing that course, I’ve never actually taught a bride, but the experience of studying these laws was totally transformative for me and my attitude towards mikvah.

There were difficult points in the course, like when the lecturers would talk about having children for example, and I would feel so upset that I would have to leave the classroom. But the course as a whole enabled me to see the mikvah in a more positive and spiritual light.

Our teacher, Rabbanit Esther Levanon of Binyan Shalem, taught us how holy Jewish women are, and how Family Purity is the key to the spiritual and physical continuation of the Jewish people. She taught us that when God commanded us “Kedoshim Tihiyu” (You shall be holy) that He was referring in large part to the holiness we attain through the Family Purity laws.

Most importantly, Rabbanit Levanon made me understand that mikvah has three aspects:

1. It’s something I do for God.

2. It’s something I do for my husband.

3. It’s something I do in order to have children.

And that made me understand that a big reason I was getting so depressed at the mikvah was the fact that I had been focusing nearly exclusively on the third aspect— my unfulfilled desire to have children.

So, instead of focusing on my disappointment about being infertile on Mikvah night, I forced myself to focus, instead, on how performing this important mitzvah was strengthening my connection with Hashem and my husband.

One of the challenges of halachic infertility is that it can make you resent the halachic system. We have a mitzvah from the Torah to have children. And yet the halacha itself says we must wait seven extra days to go to the mikvah, which puts a number of women in my situation: ovulating before mikvah night. I decided not to put my energies into getting upset and frustrated with the halachic system. I really believe the halacha changes the way the world works for Jews, and that Hashem works within the context that halacha creates. I believe that the Jewish people exists above nature. I have a friend who has never ovulated in her whole life, and she is now expecting her third child. All the doctors agree that I am fertile, and that at this point there’s no physical reason I’m not getting pregnant. Additionally, last year we received a halachic ruling from an important rabbi that has enabled me to get earlier to the mikvah. And I’m hopeful that this will finally enable me to get pregnant.

But the truth is that deep down I agree with a Kabbalist we met earlier this year who told us that there’s some tikkunim (spiritual fixings) that my husband and I need to make in order to have another child.

It’s far from easy for me to be going through this, but I do try to see the blessings in our current situation. Not having another child means that we are able to learn with our son and play with him and give him a lot more attention than we would be able to if we had other children. And maybe he is a special child who needs this extra attention in order to prepare him for his role in life? We are also able to invest time and energy in other projects and into enriching our marriage.

I know that if Hashem wanted me to get pregnant, I’d be getting pregnant. And I’m just waiting for that day when I will be blessed with another pregnancy and baby. And I’m praying that that day, please God, will be very soon.

Please pray for Chana bat Leah and Gedaliah Yechezkel ben Bracha that they should be blessed with a healthy child.

Listen to Chana singing a lullaby to the baby she dreams of: Lullabye by jenny18
A Passover prayer sung by Chana bat Leah and Meira Dorfman (Music by Yonatan Razel)
V’hisheamda by jenny18

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Third Eye aka Tree Netra D Basu


  1. Have you heard about a plant called shepher’d purse? Rabbi Brody on his site explains it makes miracles (together with God ‘s help!) to shorten periods and to go earlier to mikvah. You can see this on his blog. May the renewal of pessah brings you a blessing for a wonderful baby!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. It is an important, and all too common one. Please feel free to contact me – I would be happy to share with you our mikveh immersion ceremonies for pre-conception, and also for dealing with infertility. They contain beautiful kavanot (intentions) that I hope you may find meaningful.

  3. I’m really inspired that even with your pain, you are doing so much to change your attitude! May you be zoche to be an “eim habanim s’maicha” very soon!

  4. JewishMom

    Somebody sent me this link to an article by Rabbi Brody about a natural remedy for halachic infertility. Sound interesting. Have any of you JewishMOMs been helped by this or another natural remedy?

  5. Carrie – how common is “all too common”?

    To each individual woman with such a problem, it is a big, big deal and she should get all the support and help possible whether spiritual, medical or otherwise, regardless of how usual or rare it is.

    Every teacher I have studied with, whether lay teacher or Rabbi, has said there are only a handful of such cases they see each year.

    I think we should be careful not to mix up the magnitude of the individual’s (or couple’s, or family’s) suffering, which I would not try to quantify, with the statistical dimensions of the problem.

    • AR – you are right – whatever prevalence (or lack thereof) does not change a woman’s experience in dealing with halachic infertility – as Mrs. Belogski says.

      It takes great courage to speak or write about a topic like this. All too often (and for understandable reasons) couples feel alone when dealing with issues of infertility.

  6. I think it is quite a common problem, which in no way minimizes the pain felt by anyone experiencing it. There are a few different halachic solutions, including AIH and taking hormones to extend the cycle, which seem to be pretty successful generally. Other natural rememdies include dong kwai if you are under 40 and agnus castus if you are over 40.

  7. Beautiful, Chana. Kol hakavod for sharing your story and your songs. Sending you love and blessings.

  8. Chavelamomela

    I too suffered from Halachic infertility. An incredible wise woman helped me conquer that with herbs: she is a holistic fertility consultant who works with herbs, FAM, and halacha to increase your fertility.

    After over 4 years of infertility after my first son was born (and infertility before then too, I got pregnant after only 3 cycles with this incredible Shaliach.

    And I too love mothering, pregnancy, birthing, nursing, etc.

  9. Dear Chana, I’m not a rebbe and I’m not a rebbe’s wife. I’m not even Orthodox. I’m someone who cares a lot about mikvah, and about healing women’s pain and came across this blog post. I’d like to suggest that you think about how mikvah is for you, and not only for God, for your husband and for having children. Now, when I say that, I don’t mean it superficially, or like “mikvah’s are us” in a self-serving or commodity way. I mean it this way. I would suggest that you look deep and think about what your pain is about. I don’t mean what you think other people think your pain is about or what you think they think your pain should be about. I mean quite seriously, what you feel pained about – where it’s hurting you. Be honest with yourself about that. Then I would suggest that you let the waters of the mikvah go into the cracks of that pain, to fill you in those broken places, and let the mikvah heal you that way. Don’t think about the calendars of time, or others’ views of what is “late” and what is “early.” Connect the mikvah waters to your own strengths and your own pain. I say this as someone who never got to have children (and wanted to), and who spent 7 months being poked and prodded by doctors during treatment for breast cancer (thankfully am healthy now, pooh-pooh, and grateful for what the doctors did for me). For me, mikvah, including at times that are difficult, is the place of self-acceptance at the deepest level. Mikvah is there for you and in the love you have for yourself on your unique path. I know I sound like a mikvah junkie, or spiritual nut. I hope it makes a little sense to you, too. Be well, Shirah

  10. I can only imagine how difficult this was to share, and more so to experience regularly, but the chizuk is unmistakable, and sadly, so necessary for so many. May you be blessed soon with another child!

  11. You don’t know this, but I have been praying for you ever since I met you. I prayed for you at my son’s birth seven months ago and I mention you every Friday night when I light candles.

    You don’t know me very well and I was never chutzpadic enough to ask about these details. Thank you so much for sharing them. I can’t listen to the songs right now because my heart is broken enough just reading this; I will do so when I pull myself together a little. But I want you to know that I admire you so much for your courage, your commitment to Hashem and His people, and your charisma, and I wish there was something more I could do for you.

    In the meantime, I will keep praying and hoping to hear b’sorot tovot from you soon.

  12. If she is in Israel then maybe she can contact a doctor by the name of Dr. Schreiber..she is very good in this area.

  13. Thank you for publishing this. For all the women who will write in saying it gave them chizuk, trust me, there will be countless more whom you may never know of.
    And the timing was magnificent, as we are preparing for this children-focused yom tov. We all, even those of us not struggling with this issue, need to be reminded to tap into the totality of every mitzvah we do. (And might I suggest – not my chiddush – that we also not neglect the child within us, the childlike wholesomeness that enhances our lives and mitzvah performance.)
    May Hashem be memaleh kol mishalos libchem l’tovah, and for the obvious good

  14. Chana, I know that you have tried everything and are not looking for tips and tricks. But if you have not tried this simple remedy, please give it a shot – many years ago my Kallah class teacher taught me it…………HOT BATHS – that’s it! Just take a hot bath once or even twice a day from day 2 of your period – you can also add Epsom salt or dead sea salt to help move things along. I have personally been blessed to have this method work and have seen it help others. You have my love and tefillot…..and I thank you for sharing. With this season of everyone kvetching about how their kids are underfoot, I really needed this reality check to help me appreciate what I have!

  15. Yoni Schlussel

    Thank you for sharing your story. I do want to mention that it is very important to speak to a Rav who has expertise in this area. My husband referred a couple with similar issues to Rabbi Furst from Chicago (773-539-4241) and BH they recently had their first child after many years of marriage. Much hatzlacha!

  16. You are amazing! Hashem should give you strength, AND another child or more. I wish the title could be changed. By labeling yourself as infertile, or by allowing others to label you that, you are allowing that label to be accessible to your fate, which is NOT sealed. I am sorry about your struggle.

  17. Kineret R

    I also had the same problem and it is so frustrating. And even though I was told to focus on the same two other aspects of going to the Mikveh rather than just procreation…it was practically impossible. I dreaded the Mikveh, along with getting my period monthly. It was so hard not to be completely absorbed by the idea of having another baby (I too got pregnant the first time relatively quickly). Even going out I could spot a pregnant women a mile away! Once we found out why we weren’t conceiving, we started on herbs and we went to a Rav and thank G-d he gave us guidelines how what to do to be able to go earlier – some months I ovulate almost a week before I’m to go. Now, we have been able to conceive again. I wish you the same results. I know how extremely difficult it is. Believe me, I know.

  18. to chavelamomela:
    Can you share your holisitic fertility specialist?

  19. thank you for sharing your story with us. you will be in our tefillot.

  20. First of all – what strengh of EMUNA! Chana you are amazing for telling this story, and much more for the spiritual journey and changes you made so far, despite all the difficulties. May Hashem answer all your prayers, KA’ET CHAYA.

    I want to use this to ask: we see other couples in the neighborhood, that we suspect are dealing with infertility in some form. I never know whether to raise the subject so they can talk about it, to just ask for their names to daven for, or to keep quiet like I’ve done so far, never knowing if they want someone to breach the circle of silence.

  21. If anyone wants sheppard’s purse it grows wild all over Jerusalem and is currently in full bloom. Google a picture of it and you will probably recognize it because is has very distinctive heart-shaped seed pods. If you use a cloth or approved tea strainer, you can make it into tea without worrying about bugs.
    It is also sold in health food stores in Israel – it’s called Yalkut HaRo’eh.
    Also it happens that I have a two unopened boxes of high-quality Sheppard’s Purse tea from chutz la’aretz. If you would like them for free, just contact me via my website.
    That said, I don’t have any experience with Sheppard’s Purse for fertility but I have found it useful for reducing heavy bleeding after birth/miscarriage.

  22. Hadassah Aber

    It was beautiful to read the comments and feel all the love and compassion from others to you for this situation. May Hashem grant you all a Kosher and freilachen Pesach and all your wishes fulfilled. That is you in the plural sense!

  23. Dear Chana,

    I remember you when we were learning at the same school for women over 10 years ago. I was struggling very much then with the various body- and emotion- and time- consuming (in)fertility treatments that I’d been undergoing for many years, but I held it very much too myself. You were single then.

    Now, thank G-d, my husband and I are blessed to have amazing twin daughters who are the love of my life.

    I met you again this past year when I had the privilege just once to teach your beautiful son Aryeh. When we met, you seemed so comfortable and joyful in your motherhood, so relaxed and in tune with your son. You seemed like such a seasoned mother.

    I saw you again at a later time. After a brief chat with you then, I realized that I’d made the imposing mistake of asking you about your other children. I wrongly assumed that you, as the seasoned and confident mother, must have lots of experience with children older than Aryeh. When I heard your response that Aryeh was your only son, I felt a horrible gulf between us. And it’s been weighing on me ever since.

    I feel particularly badly, because I’ve always been sensitive about questioning someone about their children. I can bring to immediate recall the precise circumstances when people inquired of me, with seemingly innocent questions like “oh, and where are YOUR kids in school?” and I’d answer that I didn’t have children, and I’d have to hold back the tears so that I could shed them only when I was away from the view of the inquiring person. So, here I caused you that same pain that I know is so raw. I’m really sorry.

    I’m also sorry that you’re considered an “infertile” woman in this blog entry. That pains me. Yes, you might be having some fertility issues, but that does not mean that you are infertile. And I would hope that you’d never let yourself or others classify you that way!

    I also want to thank you for sharing your story and especially your songs. It takes a lot of courage especially to let us hear your voice in song. It’s almost as if you’re giving us the opportunity to hear your heart pour out in holy davening. Your voice is so pristine, and your son (and husband) are so blessed to have an imma (and wife) that can share such a beautiful gift of heartfelt music with them. Also, you should know that by hearing your voice, that’s how I knew it was you.

    You have a lot to be thankful for, so far, Chana. And my wish for you, is that your life will continue to be enhanced and your prayers answered in the ways that you and your family need.

    Chag kasher v’sameach!

  24. I read this and thought, “Thank G_d I’m not the only one!” I have been hating going to mikvah for years for this reason, and felt guilty because I should love this mitzvah that is special to women. Seeing the mikvah attendants every 3 weeks and feeling like I’m putting in all this effort just to be with my husband for one week, it just fills me with dread. I recently heard about another trick not mentioned here: Rav Shiknazy says to leave English pepper to soak overnight in vermouth, and take one of these (swallowed like a pill) twice a day throughout the cycle. He says it warms up the body so the menstrual blood comes out faster and you can do a hefsek earlier. Also, it’s important to mention that Sefardim can do a hefsek from the fourth day, so maybe an infertile Ashkenazi woman could also get such a kula from her rav?

  25. Dear Chana,

    Since I commented yesterday, I’ve been doing some research for you to find out how you can (and b’ezrat hashem will) get pregnant even if you’re considered “halachically infertile” but not medically so.

    I just got off the phone with a religious medical authority who confirmed that numerous religious women have been helped to this aim. Is it possible to talk to you by phone? Then, you can decide if you’d like to personally use these amazing resources (in Yerusahalyim ir haKodesh), and whether/how to discretely publicize them to other women in your same situation.

    It’s a pleasure to take a mini-break from Pesach cleaning and Shabbas cooking so as to help you and your husband in your p’ru and r’vu mitzvah! Wishing you only good things!

  26. Try chlomid. This pill can be prescribed by your gynocologist. It regulates your ovulation so that it happens on mikvah night. Also, I strongly recommend that you and your husband read the Perek Shira every day for 40 day cycles. You should have good results!

  27. On Pesach, during the 4 questions, ask for a child. This has worked for many people I know.

  28. This is so sad. I will iy”H daven for you. Waiting for the 2nd child can be so, so, difficult. 🙁

    I have heard that in your case, some rabbeim say that you can count one cycle of 5 & 7, not go to the mikva that month, wait till the next month, and just wait the 7 days till after your period and then go to the mikva (since you have already done the 5 the prev. month without the mikva in the middle)

    Good luck and iyH you should have your 2nd soon!!

  29. Firstly I think you are inspirational in your approach to this very delicate issue you are facing and I think your positive attitude is to be admired. I also fell pregnant very quickly with my first child and she is now two years old. My cycles changed after she was born adn when we started trying again I too was experiencing this problem of ovulating before Mikvah. I was told to go see an acupuncturist who specialized in fertility. So I did go see her and she helped regulate my cycle with herbs and weekly acupuncture treatments and within two months I was pregnant. Unfortunately I miscarried at 8 and a half weeks. I am going back to see her this week and I wanted to let you know about acupuncture as a form of delaying your cycle. Best of luck to you and I pray that you should fall pregnant very soon and be blessed with many healthy children.

  30. if there are all these ways to reverse this trend, using holistic approaches, etc…What makes you think “God” has anything to do with this at all? This is just science…

    • Chana bat Leah

      Who created “science”? Who created holistic approaches? Who says holistic approaches always work for every woman in every case?

      Our goal as a Jewish People is to bring light into the world. Just like physical light helps us to see the physical world, spiritual light helps us to see the Hand of G-d behind, within, and beyond the physical world. So, really, every moment in our lives can be seen as purely “science” or as an opportunity to engage with Divinity. The choice, ultimately, is ours.

      I think that the creation of life is amongst the most physical of things, and yet, when a child is born, most parents experience this as miraculous. “I did not create this baby,” we often say or at least think. And for this reason, the raising of children and any challenges in fertility, pregancy and childbirth, in my opinion, demand a conversation with our Creator. For just as Hashem fashions the babies, so too he fashions the empty space, the pain, the loss, and the struggle.

      May we all be blessed in this month of miracles to see, hear, taste, and touch G-d’s presence in our lives.

  31. I just love your lullaby song. you should do this for the public. I am pregnant now for the first time and it meant so much to me.

  32. We each have our challenges. Some people who have been blessed with fertility have tremendous poverty beyond anything you can possibly imagine, or shalom bayit problems, or terrible disease. Everyone has his or her challenges.

    Chana, I bless you that you should have more children at the right time and season for your family.


  33. Medicine can do a lot to delay ovulation and the like. Is there a point that halacha should be able to answer to the reality of a woman’s body without requiring her to change?
    If we say v’chai bahem, shouldn’t halacha have room for the woman who ovulates on day 9?
    Should we in the Orthodox community be discussing differentiating between zava and niddah?
    I can understand that we should be willing to change our social constructs to fit halacha and so I dress in a manner that makes me stand out from much of society around me. Why should we have halacha that requires me to change my body as God gave it to me?

    • There is room — people are given heters for everything – all you have to do is ask.

    • Perhaps you ARE already changing the body Hashem gave you. Your choice of food, coffee, sugar, artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors, exercise habits, irregular sleep patterns, and even artificial light are all changing your body’s cycle.

      If the concern is more “Why should Halacha require me to do something unhealthy?” there are other options for regulating cycles. Google “lunaception” for one (medicine-free) method.

  34. Wow, that was inspiring and I’m in total admiration of the author’s strength. Thanks so much for sharing.

  35. Sara Menashe

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, and hopefully B”H you are already being blessed with more children.

    I would love to hear about the resources for others who have gone through the same sort of problems.

  36. Why can’t women themselves decide when to go to the mikveh, in order to conceive.
    Why do you need a male authority? You are in charge of your own cycle… You know when you are “clean” enough to ovulate.

    • The mitzvah of toveling in the mikveh is completely unrelated to ovulation.

  37. Wow! Beautiful music and songs. I hope Hashem answers your dreams.

  38. Shmuel Tzvy

    The Torah has a wife visiting the mikvah on the eighth night after the start of menstruation, provided that the flow has stopped by the seventh day. The extra days now added were because women were unsure about other sources of bleeding so “hichmiru al atsmam”… they were stringent for themselves, and added days. It was never a rabbinical edict. Many totally observant, orthodox wives whose window of opportunity comes in the ninth through thirteenth day have gone to the mikva on the eighth night and there were gedolim, major decisors of Torah, who gave private rulings permitting this. Read the Torah itself and may HaSh-em guide you to having as many more children as you want.

  39. I am shocked and I have to say angered. SIX YEARS? A perfectly fertile woman? I am observant Gd-fearing woman and I KNOW this is wrong. Of course primary purpose of counting days and going to the mikvah IS to get pregnant. We are commanded to multiply! There are 70 faces to the Torah, there are different answers for different people and different cases and my heart is screaming that you are just not getting the right guidance here. – for example I saw the post of skipping one month then just counting 7 days, or counting 4 + 7. There is also a western medicine that can push off your ovulation – lomiphene citrate (known under the trade names of Clomid, Serephene, or Ikaclomin). – I read about it here: http://www.yoatzot.org/article.php?id=63
    I am a mother or two beautiful, healthy children, Thank Gd and have been trying for a third for a year, only to just now realize I too am ovulating before I immerse in the mikvah (but never didn’t with my previous children). I will do everything in my halachic and medicinal power to change this. The thought of this going on for years is too much to bear right now.

  40. “I know that if Hashem wanted me to get pregnant, I’d be getting pregnant”
    If Hashem didn’t want you to get pregnant, you wouldn’t be ovulating! I am so grateful you received a halachic ruling to go to the Mikvah earlier. You need the right guidance for your case within Halacha, which you were not getting prior. May Gd answer your prayers and bless you with all things good. You are a holy and beautiful sister.

  41. Another Hannah

    Another Hannah prays for a child… Another Hannah hates the mikvah…
    3 years after I got married and still, every month [I cant really go to the mikvah every month because sometimes I will bleed more than 2 or 3 weeks]
    I feel sadness when I go to the mikvah. My intimacy with my husband has changed.
    I have been to doctors, made treatments, and as a chassidic woman I have been to kivrei tzaddikim many times, I have done pidyon nefesh and all the segulos, brachos… to not avail.
    My heart is broken as we have Purim and Pessach ahead… I am so sad to see all those children with costumes and I think I will never be able to have a child 🙁
    I hope Chana have already conceived.
    May all the Jewish women be fruitful and multiply…

  42. Just published a post on what helped me to conceive while experiencing halachic infertility. Hope it will help someone:

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