Dealing with infertility is tough for most Indian women. A first-person account on coping with fertility treatments and IVF.
By Charu Katira
I always wanted three kids. I had no explanation for this wish. I just did. And I wanted my kids to be no more than two years apart in age. I ended up with two kids eight years apart in age. Talk about God disposing of your plans. Mine were disposed of in a grand, “Take THIS!” kind of way. My husband and I suffered from a very common condition called “Secondary Infertility”.
As per Resolve, the U.S. National Infertility Association, Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children. The birth of the first child does not involve any assisted reproductive technologies or fertility medications.
It took us years to realize that we needed help, mainly, because we had had no trouble conceiving the first time. We kept trying to explain our inability to conceive with “We have been very busy”, “We have been tired” and other such reasons. Initially we thought we had time, so we didn’t get too concerned. But slowly, as the years passed by and our older daughter turned 6, we grudgingly admitted that something was wrong and we needed help.
It took me another year to mentally prepare myself to go through assistive reproductive technique/treatment (ART). In particular, I was really afraid of what In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) might do to my health. My husband made it clear to me that he was perfectly fine with just one kid and it was totally up to me if I wanted to go for infertility treatments to have another baby. And for a long time, I obstinately resisted the idea.
But, I was getting tired of the yearning. And the insensitive questions. Well-meaning friends started telling us to relax. One friend said, “Well, when I wanted a second child, I just put my mind to it and kept at it. I was pregnant within the year.” Family members started asking us for “good news”. Baby showers became excruciatingly torturous. Don’t get me wrong – I was happy for my friends, but even the most innocent banter from friends about “Get on with it now” would throw me into days of self-pity sessions. The last thing that broke my resolve not to go for IVF was when my older daughter broke down at the dinner table one night, crying, “I hate being an only child”.
Fortunately, I worked for a company that managed infertility healthcare for a big medical insurance company. Caring and knowledgeable co-workers helped me figure out things to look for in an infertility clinic. They were also the reason I did not feel ashamed of having to go for ART. It was much later, when a whole room went silent during my account of how tough IVF had been, that I realized how people still view IVF or infertility. I had no idea, really. I have been socially clueless most of my life.
I was lucky in many respects. I had a husband who supported me through it. I had loving friends who rejoiced with me and never made fun of me; if they did behind my back, they never told me and I am thankful to them for that. I had a wonderful group of co-workers who supported me all the way through 5 Intra-Uterine Inseminations (IUIs), one failed pregnancy, two IVFs and a pregnancy. I did not have to live with extended family or tolerate taunts from family or neighbours.
…when a whole room went silent during my account of how tough IVF had been, I realized how people still view IVF or infertility.
But, IVF is an emotionally and physically draining process. I got through the whole process with the help of the following things:
1. Humour: My husband and I went through a battery of tests to find out that nothing was wrong with us but I still couldn’t get pregnant. This is called “Idiopathic (secondary) infertility”. I defined it as “infertility that results when two idiots cannot figure out how to have a baby the SECOND time around”. Humour helped dissipate any feelings of discomfort people around us were feeling upon being told that I was going through IVF.
2. The Royal Ignore: There WERE people who were ignorant or unsupportive about infertility treatments. They just weren’t on my radar. I ignored them. That was tough, but my husband and I were a team through it and that made it easy.
3. Communication: IVF can be tough on relationships too. My husband and I had a rule – we never blamed each other. And we tried to talk about anything and everything that bothered us. I understand it might not happen for everyone. In that case, refer to the first point. In our case, talking really helped.
4. Support: Nobody can, or should, go it alone. There must be at least ONE person in your life who understands what you are going through. Use their shoulders. If you cannot find anyone, email me at gettingtherenow at gmail dot com. I am serious. The least I can do is provide a sympathetic ear.
One thing that I would recommend for everyone going through ART is to believe that it is not your fault.
One thing that I would recommend for all Indian women going through ART is to believe that It is not your fault. I realize I have been very lucky because I got a baby out of this whole process. Not everyone is that lucky. I can’t imagine what I would have done if my second cycle had failed. So, I have no witty observation for that. Just hugs for whoever needs them.
Photo credit: kenziepoo (Used under a Creative Commons Attributions license)