I was brought up to believe that I came from a lineage of extremely fertile women. Somewhere I thought that my only problem in life would be to make sure I didn’t pop out more munchkins than I could juggle at once.
5 years into my marriage, I started planning. I announced it to the world, suffering from a disease called being “overly honest”, whenever anyone would inquire (and in India, everyone inquires!) Obviously, the time bomb started ticking, more loudly in my head than in anyone else’s.
After two years of no luck, my gynaec gave up and asked me to get our tests done. Both our tests came out fine. I felt so depressed as I spoke to friends, hearing one line repeatedly: “We conceived on our first try! We were so surprised!” I wanted to stuff a sock in some of their mouths because I clearly remember their baby planning time frame being much longer. Maybe every woman needs to view herself as a Fertility Goddess due to some innate psychological need to feel good.
Then started the long ordeal of scientific intervention. I went through a total of 9 IUIs (non-assisted and assisted) but to no avail. Every time I saw women with babies, I felt like a failure. Despite all the fancy degrees I had accumulated, I could not even do the most natural thing any illiterate woman could do! I flinched during poojas, when people sang “Jai Ganesh” when the part “Baanjankoputradeth”* would come. It didn’t disgust me for the same reasons as before (being a feminist, I can’t stand this Indian obsession with sons) but also because I felt like everyone singing was talking about me- pitying me! Let’s just say this was my melodramatic, Bollywood avatar!
I remember when a very close pregnant friend, who knew about my struggle, proceeded to take me for all of her baby shopping. It’s amazing how intimidating little baby clothes with furry bears smiling up at you can seem when you’re in that situation. I remember running into the changing room, on some ridiculous pretext, and crying.
Finally, I gave up on the less invasive IUIs and went in for an IVF procedure. The days at the infertility clinic were interesting, to say the least, sitting in the waiting room with so many aspiring girls. As the days in each fertility cycle would progress, we would compare notes. We would discuss how many eggs we had produced this month, and how good the quality was, according to the doctor. Over many such conversations, I started realizing that I was the “Pappu” of the class- always last! You remember Dairy Milk’s ad where Amitabh Bachchan is elated when a balding Pappu finally passes his 12th standard exams, and BigB sings in shock, “Pappu pass hogaya”? I was that Pappu- the big fat andaa** who couldn’t produce good andaas! I had the least eggs, and even if I managed a satisfactory basket, the quality was not up to the mark. My eggs were stamped as factory rejects, and the doc labelled my ovaries “that of a 40 year old!” (when I was 30).
My in-laws and husband had always convinced me to stop all treatments, explaining to me, that we were fine as we were. My parents never pressurized me but felt like I should at least give science a chance.
After 2 unsuccessful IVFs, I was ready to give up! I had had enough. The injections were probably the worst part of the treatment because when you have to take one every day, even the doctor administering it no longer sympathizes with you. You feel like a cow on a dairy factory line up, being inhumanely poked with hormonal injections and then they’re onto the next cow waiting in line. I even started resembling a cow! The mood fluctuations were bugging! I was DONE: I had accepted that Pappu hadn’t passed but perhaps he had come to realize that he wasn’t academic after all. Maybe he could be a professional mechanic instead, or something like that?
I spent 6 months feeling depressed and wondering how Nandy and I could ever be complete without a child. Then I had my first little miracle. My sister told me that she had discussed it with my brother-in-law and they were willing to have a child (theirs) and give it to me. I didn’t even know what to say. I knew I didn’t want her to do that, but the fact that she was willing to, was the biggest gift that anyone could give me. That was a game changer.
After this incident, I started to feel some peace because I finally understood that I had been holding onto one thing for so long that I had neglected appreciating all the blessings God had showered upon me. I didn’t want to have a “sour grapes” mentality but I definitely needed to appreciate the positive in my life: that I could travel as often as I wished, that I didn’t have to share my husband with anyone (Nandy-obsessed me!), that there was less noise in my life, and that no one was wiping their snotty nose on my “dry clean only” dress every time I got ready. Let’s just say- I pulled myself out of the “have-nots” and started focussing on what I had: I started loving the silence and my space!
There was also a spiritual realization that occurred. I had studied at a Convent school, and we often sang the hymn “I surrender all”. My father-in-law explained to me that when Vaishnavs say “Shri Krishna sharnammamah”, it means the same thing: “Krishna, I take shelter within you. Do with me as you think best.” I surrendered all to God: trusting that he had better plans for me, I was stress-free!
6 months later, as I packed for my room-mate’s wedding in Santorini, I sensed I might be pregnant. I told my husband that maybe we should cancel the trip but he dismissed it, saying that was impossible because if all the treatment hadn’t worked, how could we suddenly be pregnant naturally? I got on the flight, and spent my entire trip in a daze of severe nausea and exhaustion! To the extent, that till now, just mentioning Greece or waving a gyro in my face, is the best way to see me double over in nausea. 5 days into the holiday, when I peed on the stick, I wasn’t surprised that it came up positive. It had finally happened and I was happy but I can’t say I was ecstatic. I had truly surrendered everything to God and whatever (S)He had chosen for me, I was up for the ride!
Although, I must admit, my spiritual serenity left me the moment I came back and rushed to get a sonography. As I saw that little kidney bean on the screen, and heard her heartbeat, my heart soared. I could no longer think “higher” thoughts. My mind was fluff and the only jingle that kept going through my mind was Amitabh’s voice singing to me, “Pappu pass hogaya!”***
* Bless all infertile women with sons.
** Andaa literally means egg but is also used colloquially to mean zero.
***Pappu Pass Ho Gaya (Pappu has passed his exam!)