The Blessings of Our Fertility Journey
by Scott Anklowitz & Sarah Ashton
Scott: When Sarah and I met as colleagues at AT&T, we clicked right away. We dated for a year and a half, and when we married, Sarah was 36 and already concerned about her ability to conceive. We knew we had to get started trying right away. Little did we know there would be fertility issues on both sides. We began to see fertility doctors in Atlanta and for the next year it was bad news after bad news.
Both of us turned out to be cystic fibrosis carriers. I had a rare chromosomal translocation, so we were both infertile for multiple reasons. After two unsuccessful rounds of IVF we did not produce healthy embryos. Our doctor was frank: “You can keep doing this, but the costs and emotional and physical stress are going to be intense.” It was. We took a break for a few months.
The unexpected turning point came when our financial advisor, Elie Engler, shared his personal experience working with the Jewish Fertility Foundation (JFF) to build his family. Elie was absolutely pivotal in directing us to JFF’s Fertility Buddies program. Connecting with JFF, especially as an interfaith couple, introduced us to other wonderful resources and opportunities in the Atlanta Jewish community. JFF partners with PJ Library, 18Doors, and with organizations that help build families. It has reconnected me to Jewish life and given our family a deep appreciation of Judaism we never imagined.
Sarah: Ultimately, we went the egg donor route and had success right away. Oliver was born in 2019 and then came Rosemary in September 2020. We are so thankful that JFF and Elie pulled us into something warm and embracing. Elie guided us that being Jewish is different for everyone and it was up to us to define what that means for our family – this made us feel embraced.” JFF found us, and it has become a real source of passion and strength.
During COVID we hosted a JFF virtual wine and cheese tasting with 18Doors, which works with interfaith families. Our gathering included other interfaith couples, couples dealing with infertility, gay couples, and other nontraditional families. Rabbi Malka, who leads 18Doors is now part of our life. We’ve talked about trying to make this gathering an in-person event, a couple of times a year.
I’m not super religious but everyone has made me feel welcome. Scott became a Fertility Buddy and joined the JFF board. We’ve been to JFF CEO and Founder Elana Frank’s house for Shabbat dinner. I’m enjoying exposing Oliver and Rosemary, and my own parents, to this tradition. We read PJ Library Books every night to Oliver. None of this would have happened if not for our infertility journey. We have finally found a community of people that feel like “our” community through JFF.