I was about 6 years old when I went to the bris of my friend’s baby brother. Standing at my mother’s side I noticed that people were wishing her a mazal tov which made no sense to me, it was not our baby. My mother explained that at a bris it is a custom to greet other people by saying “mazal tov” since it is a happy occasion for the entire community. From that point on, I walked around wishing everyone a mazal tov because I loved the idea of sharing in the simcha.
Thirteen years later, at my older brother’s wedding, I was introduced to a different greeting which would accompany me through my years as a single woman: B’karov etzlech or “soon by you.” This is commonly said to singles at a Jewish wedding, essentially blessing them that they soon experience the same joy as the couple getting married. Of course I was only 19 years old and I don’t know if at the time I considered this to be a blessing or a curse. By the time I turned 30, I was the single older sister of the bride and knew exactly what to expect; a “mazal tov” here and there but mostly I would be greeted with, “B’karov etzlech.” This greeting is so prevalent that it makes for a great drinking game at any wedding with an open bar!
With the end of my single years, I assumed that I would say goodbye to this phrase and return to good ol’ “mazal tov.” Unfortunately, I soon discovered that my husband and I would face infertility and just like that, at a baby naming, I was told “soon by you.” In fact, I have heard this a few times since deciding to be so open about our fertility treatments and I know that people want to be supportive and wish only the best for us.
While I recognize that it is said with the best of intentions, I take exception to this supposed “blessing.” There are rare moments of reprieve for a person who is struggling to meet a life partner or dealing with infertility; it always seems to be there. Still, at another person’s simcha with a healthy combination of luck, strength, and wine, it’s possible to escape these challenges and simply enjoy. Then it is said, “Soon by you!” and in that moment all the surroundings morph into a reminder of all that is missing. The word “soon” serves as a painful reminder of the long road ahead–this especially for someone facing fertility treatments.
Some people probably say it without giving it much though and at times it is hard to know what to say so it is comfortable to defer to the accepted norm. My inner 6-year-old suggests sticking with “mazal tov.” The person will understand all the accompanying sentiments.