L ong before our children were shidduch age, my husband and I knew of the words shidduch crisis.

Scary words — only we weren’t so scared. We had wonderful children, and although we were not super rich or super important, we considered ourselves to be nice, normal, good people. Surely, our children would be desired and quickly matched up. We thought we’d be spared.

Then our son and daughter returned home together from their year in Eretz Yisrael. Reality pounced and held us in its grip. The things we had read about were actually true and happening to us. For our son, the deluge of girls’ résumés was overwhelming. For our daughter, the trickle of suitable names was disheartening. We secretly started doubting if we were truly nice (or normal, for that matter). We felt sick to our stomachs about the system we found ourselves in.

Night after night, I spent hours on the phone researching girls for my son and networking for my daughter. The result was dates for my son and an occasional date for my daughter. None of those were fruitful in any way. Months passed. We were getting nowhere fast.

One evening, I went to be menachem avel an old classmate. When I arrived I saw a few familiar faces, and we sat together in the comfortable companionship that old friends bring. At one point, a woman unknown to me asked one of my classmates how many children she had. A flicker of hesitation crossed my classmate’s face. In that moment I tensed, sensing that that wasn’t a good question to ask.

“Four children,” my classmate finally answered, adding, “Four gebetene kinder.”

Seeing the woman did not understand the expression, someone explained: “Gebetene — it means that the children were asked for.”

A lot got lost in that translation. I knew because a woman I carpool with recently confided in me. As she strapped her kids into their car seats, she told me she’d been told by doctors that she would be unable to bear children.

“You don’t know what my husband and I did to have children, the things we took upon ourselves as a merit, the tefillos,” she said a little tearfully. “I wouldn’t want to take that back. We became different people from it.” Every child born to her was a child who was longed for, prayed for, and cried for by her and her entire extended family, friends, and neighbors. Gebetene kinder.

As I drove home that night from that nichum aveilim, I thought of my own children with a sudden pang. My children came to me soon after I got married, easily, and close in age. Did I pray for them? It was hard to remember. How intensely could I have prayed if I couldn’t even remember? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 551)