My story may be unusual for the readers of this paper, but like it or not it’s happening. I am Modern Orthodox, attended yeshivas, and have been religious my entire life.
I started dating in college and each relationship ended in heartache. By the time I was 35, I swore off dating and men, and just concentrated on my career. When I turned 39, I got scared as I realized that my biological clock was moving fast ahead. Seeing all my siblings have children, I became depressed by the thought that I would die one day without being a mother.
To make a long story short, and with the approval of my rabbi, I gave birth to a child through medical artificial means. My daughter is healthy and beautiful. I was the happiest woman in the world, even though there was no guy ever in the picture–until recently.
At my nephew’s wedding, I met a guy, and we really hit it off. When he saw my daughter and that I am single, he assumed that I am divorced. I didn’t say anything. We started dating, and after a while I started hinting to him about women who did what I did to have a child, and he responded that it’s not normal. So I never told him of how my daughter came to be, and he continued to believe that I am a divorced single mom.
The dating progressed and he proposed to me. I told him that I have to think about it. I am scared that if I tell him the truth, he will think I am not normal. I’m thinking of breaking off the relationship. I don’t want to get dumped again like I did so many times years ago. I finally found some peace, and now this chaos. What is your opinion about all this, and can you give me some advice?
By Baila Sebrow
While many people may be aware of this phenomenon becoming common today, you are correct that most have little inkling that it has now seeped into our society. There are older unmarried frum girls who feel compelled to have a child via artificial medical resources.
From the time a girl is little, playing house is usually an all-time favorite. Little girls can spend hours pretending that their dolls are real children by primping them, showing affection, and speaking in soothing tones like a mother to her baby. That fantasy play never goes away. Regardless of how academically and professionally successful a girl grows up to be, her desire of being a mommy never dissipates. On the contrary, it grows stronger, to the point where it can take over her entire being, and she can focus on nothing else except having a child.
Desperation of any kind can cause the most practical-minded person to act in haste without reflecting on future consequences. By your account, you gave it your all when it came to getting married and having a family in the traditional manner.
Dating while still in college and beyond, you–as many in the parashah, regardless of hashkafic intensity–were unsuccessful in achieving the goal that is socially acceptable in the frum world and fulfilling the dream that every girl wishes for herself.
At the emotional state you were in at that low-down point in your life, you did not believe that a future with a husband was on the horizon. So you sought to gain control in an area that could bring joy to your life–a precious child.
After all those years of being alone, submitting yourself to medical procedures, pregnancy, and childbirth without a husband to comfort you, you finally met someone of significance. If circumstances were different, you would undoubtedly have agreed to marry without hesitation when asked.
I understand that you did attempt to break the news to him during the course of your dating relationship. But, when this guy remarked that it is not normal to have a child through artificial means, you backed off. You did not continue to remain on the topic in order to reveal the truth. Instead, you allowed the status quo to persist. That was unfair to a guy who was serious about you.
Unraveling the twists to resolve this dilemma would mean for you to take a few moments and emotionally remove yourself from your feelings about this. There is a major aspect to this saga that you need to focus on. You do not seem to even realize that there is something more serious than the mere fact of how your daughter came to be. This guy believes you to be a divorced woman! My dear, you deceived him–big time.
One might give you the benefit of the doubt because this guy assumed that you are divorced and, being caught off guard, you did not respond. However, you allowed this deception to go on for a long time, even past the point where he proposed to you.
Being frum, as I deduce he is, he considered this to be abnormal. An unmarried woman undergoing such a procedure is not in the usual scheme of things. He cannot even fathom such a notion, because it is not on his radar.
When you attempted to discuss your situation with this guy, you did so as though asking his opinion about current events. Had you presented it to him in the same demeanor as you did in this letter while still early on in the relationship, you would have perhaps evoked in him compassion, understanding, or even admiration at what you needed to do.
Breaking up with him before he “dumps” you is the reaction of your defense mechanism. However, it would be a sneaky and hurtful thing to do to an innocent man who chose to develop feelings for you and ask you to be his wife. He does not deserve such unkind behavior.
Yes, you went through major hardship, but that is no excuse to punish a person who is not responsible for your past hurts.
My advice is for you to sit down with this man and explain to him that there is a reason why you responded that you needed to think about it when he asked you to marry him. At that point, immediately begin relating your entire tale, including the most minuscule detail. While speaking to him, do not allow stoicism to take charge. If you feel the urge to cry when appropriate, then do not be afraid to do so. Stress to him that there are countless stories that we sometimes hear about where life and luck can change. Explain that this time, with heavenly intervention, he came into your life. Tell him that what you assumed to be the impossible became a possibility.
Anticipate that he may initially react with anger-like emotion. Allow him to vent his resentment at such major deception by the woman he proposed marriage to. Do not use his moments of natural reactive antagonism as the excuse to break up with him. Bear in mind that it feels bad when someone deceives you, but it feels even worse when it comes from a close person. Just like the feeling you get when a close friend betrays you, deception can hurt badly. That said, he is entitled to say what he needs to get off his chest.
He will in all probability need some private time to absorb the shock. There could be a cooling-off period, and that would probably be therapeutic for both of you. It would be a good idea to tell him to take a few days to also think about what this relationship really means to him.
If he does not contact you after a few days, make the initiative of calling him first to tell him that he has been on your mind. Ask him to tell you how he feels. Put your best efforts forward to slowly and cautiously work on rebuilding the bond you have been sharing. In conclusion, I believe that your relationship stands the chance of weathering this storm. You will hopefully emerge stronger than ever, and realize that happiness is finally yours and here to stay.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v
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