When I was 18 years old, I knew I would be challenged to get pregnant no matter what age I decided to begin.  I was diagnosed with Stein Leventhal Syndrome, now Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.   

When I met and married Dan Wander at 38 years old, I shared with him that having children would be a challenge, but he was there to support me. We began our fertility treatments shortly after our honeymoon.  

Ruth Ann Freedman and Dan Wander

I was lucky to live in a state where fertility treatments were an insurance law for any company with more than 50 employees. Although the next 18 months were an emotional experience for us, it was not a financial burden.   

Throughout our treatments, I counted on the miracle of our Jewish faith.  Fertility treatments are a rollercoaster of emotional ups and downs both hormonally-caused and just a reaction to the stress.

In November, 1999, I began my final set of fertility treatments while in Israel on Hadassah’s 6th Young Women’s Mission to Israel.  

My nurse friends on the mission were there to support me and even provide my first injections.  I knew I wanted as much support as I could get.  Our beloved “BG”(Hadassah volunteer Barbara Goldstein) took me to Kever Rachel, the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem. It was one of the most meaningful personal moments in my life. I left my handwritten note at the Tomb and tied the red ribbon I received there onto my wrist. It was a powerful, spiritual experience.  

Tomb of Rachel

Two weeks later, I had my 10th fertility procedure, my 2nd IVF. Our 7-week ultrasound showed identical twins sharing one placenta, a baby from IVF and a baby from G-D.

A few hours before our genetic testing results came through, my red ribbon broke and I burst into tears.  But Dan, my partner, just told me that I didn’t need it anymore. He was right!

On August 7, 2000, my daughters were born and we chose the names Rachel and Hannah to link them both to strong Jewish heroines whose stories would become theirs.  

Today, I am involved with Hadassah, which advocates for women’s health issues, including Infertility. Its new initiative  reConceiving Infertility, will raise awareness, destigmatize and confront prejudices and misconceptions on this once-taboo topic, drive policy change at the state and national level, and empower patients to advocate for their own health. 

Ruth Ann Freedman

reConceiving Infertility will feature a series of videos narrated by Amy Klein, author of The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind (April 2020, Penguin/Random House). Klein’s powerful story involved nine rounds of fertility treatment, 10 doctors and four miscarriages – in just three years.

The first video, “How to Help People Struggling With Infertility During COVID-19,” is available at www.hadassah.org/infertility. “What Not To Say About Baby-Making” and “Infertility: Costs, Coverage, and Creativity” are next in the series.  

reConceiving Infertility builds on Hadassah’s work empowering patients to take charge of their own health as it also encourages staunch advocacy engagement around women’s health policy in the United States. To further demystify infertility, Hadassah is organizing community programs, hosting trainings and empowering individuals to speak openly about their infertility journeys and pathways to parenthood – or their decision to live childfree. The initiative considers the whole family – parents who may never be grandparents or siblings who may never be aunts or uncles, who are equally affected.

The inability to have a child affects 6.7 million women in the U.S, according to a Centers for Disease Control study, or about 11 percent of the reproductive age population. Given limited access to insurance coverage and the high cost of treatments, including assisted reproductive technology (ART), many families incur substantial debt or are prevented from seeking treatment due to the financial burden. 

Freedman-Wander Family

Listen to Ruth Ann’s story here

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  • Dr. Ruth Ann Freedman of Highland Park, IL is a Vice President and an elected member of Hadassah’s National Board. Previously, she was Midwest Area Region Resource Chair and Past President of the Hadassah Chicago Chapter. During her tenure as a president, she oversaw the merger of two Illinois chapters, Chicago and North Shore, after 40 years of separation, to form Hadassah Chicago-North Shore (Hadassah CNS).  As an active member of Hadassah Chicago Chapter, she served in a variety of leadership positions. In her local community, Ruth Ann served in an educational capacity over the years. She has a doctorate in Reading and Language Education and recently retired as an Associate Professor of Elementary Education in the Teacher Preparation Unit at National-Louis University (NLU) for over 28 years. She is the co-author of “Facilitating Interpersonal Relationships in the Classroom: The Relational Literacy Curriculum” and various chapters in peer-edited publications.