A close cousin is no longer staying in touch as she used to. An aunt who was a housewife, had a midlife crisis, went back to studying and is now working abroad. A friend who was at the top of her career is now a stay at home mother running after a toddler. While another friend, spends her time in spirituality. She is always there to help other friends as a backup, helping with shopping, carrying your bag. Another woman silently cries every time she is asked about her children. While another one will abuse you if you so much as mention children.
Since I am in the topic of infertility, the only common thread among the women above is that they do not have children. In our society, most of the time, the woman bears the brunt of infertility. Though we know scientifically, it could be either the man or the woman’s issue, it is always blamed on the women. They are taunted, insulted in their marital homes, kept away from auspicious events. It is as if the woman had wanted and brought it upon herself to be infertile. Then comes the rituals which are sometimes as simple as fasting to some bizarre ones. I know of a family member who participated in all these rituals but also got herself treated at a hospital. It helped and she had two children in rapid succession.
Let me elaborate on the above stories one by one.
The cousin I mentioned above has two children. But her married daughter has not got pregnant in the three years she has been married. She is a homely girl. She gave up her job prospects and was happily looking forward to her married life looking after her family. They are staying away from everyone and wallowing in self-pity. Wouldn’t it help if they were more open and ask for options to help her? But they think of the condition as a disgrace, a failure on the part of the woman to bear the child.
The housewife aunt, got so fed up of the in-laws’ and even neighbours’ taunts, with the husband away in the Gulf, she was an easy target. She went back to studying some professional courses in her early thirties and is now settled in the Gulf with her husband. She has a good job and earns better than the husband. Money is talking now, and no one is now nosy enough to ask her questions.
A friend whom I used to meet everyday during my train travels used to tell about her ordeal at the treatment hospitals. She and her husband had been seeing multiple doctors and underwent many treatments. She was fed up of the medicines, probings and proddings. They were on the verge of giving up when she finally became pregnant. She left her career at the top to look after her child.
Then my another friend in train has made peace with herself. Since she belongs to a religion which does not allow medicines and scientific interventions, she says God has punished her for some sin. Again the focus here is on the woman. She is accepting. A dear friend, she will offer her train seat to any young mother so they can rest for some time before reaching home.
But best is a family member who retorts right back with ‘Mind your own business’.
I feel it is really none of our business to probe into anybody else’s lives. And even if we probe, who are we to judge. If we stop judging people and help them with information or just have a heart to heart talk, it will be more beneficial to the couple.
One of my favourite books ‘One Part Woman’ deals with this issue. Set in a village in the early 19th century, it is about a couple Kali and Ponna. Everyone harries the couple including their families. Ponna follows all the rituals and medicines prescribed by her mother-in-law, mother or even a passer by. In one of the scenes, Kali is advised by an older friend while looking at Ponna,
”That is just how some cows are. No matter what you do, they never get pregnant. Just quietly change the cow. If you say yes, I can fetch you one right away.”
To get away from the humiliation they finally choose a radical way to have a child. Ponna is not happy about it and neither is Kali. The below lines sum up the entire book and the despair of infertility.
Will you listen to your mother and mine and go on the day when the gods retreat?’… His heart was thumping, waiting for her reply. She murmured: ‘If you want me to go for the sake of this wretched child, I will.’
More recently, I had read another book which dealt with the same issue but set in modern times called ‘A House for Happy Mothers’. It was about surrogacy but it was more like a ‘rent-a-womb’. With the government clamping down many draconian conditions like the surrogate should be a relative, the law defeats itself. Instead of safeguarding the rights of the surrogate, the child and the parents, the law has made it more difficult to have a child through surrogacy. Soon it will be the next ‘kidney racket’. Did I tell you that all infertility treatments cost a bomb?
In this cacophony, as society, the real issue remains unsolved. That is of having an easier way to get reliable and accurate information without prejudice and taboo. Let the couple be. Let them make their own choices and follow their decisions while everyone else can stop being judgemental right now.
This blog is to #SpreadAwareness about Infertility through Infertility Dost, India’s first website that facilitates couples to brave infertility with support and knowledge. You can find other links on Write Tribe.