Society

Waiting for the stork

An emotional Arun Oliver waves around a peculiar framed document for the audience at Backyard to see: it is the receipt from the laparoscopic surgery his wife had to undergo, aborting her baby, in one of the couple’s many failed pregnancy attempts. Oliver, along with two others, was sharing his tumultuous journey to have children at the recent ‘I want to have a baby’ story-telling event held by Story Corner At Bookmine.

“That laparoscopic bill is a bitter-sweet testament to pain as well as hope. Hope because that was the first time my wife ever got pregnant, pain because we lost the baby,” says Oliver, who after six years of attempts and medical treatments was finally blessed with a boy.

Story Corner At Bookmine founder Sudha Umashanker wishes that Oliver’s story would resonate with the several couples who are going through a similarly tough time in their lives, unable to have a baby. Having studied infertility for several years now, she says, “One in six married couples is affected by infertility in India; our lifestyles, biorhythms, cellphone radiation, pollution and stress — all are leading to a rise in infertility.”

Oliver narrated how Indian society and families rarely let a problem of such personal nature remain personal. “Right from when you get married, everybody in your family wants to know when you will have kids,” he says. For men like Oliver, it even becomes a question of manhood. “That’s what all the movies teach you. If you can’t give your wife a kid, you are not man enough,” he says.

Such ideas of toxic masculinity affect women too as men attempt to shift the blame on to them. Another speaker at the event, IVF specialist at Chettinad Hospital, Dr Puvithra Thanikachalam recalls an incident in her own family, “One of my relatives is 50 now and childless. Through all these years, she was the one who had to take all the heat from her family and in-laws; all because her husband was too worried about his image to undergo treatment for his infertility.”

Along with the emotional labour of battling with infertility also comes the physical and financial strains of the multiple medical procedures the woman has to go through; the most common being the intrauterine insemination (IUI, placing the man’s sperm inside a woman’s uterus to facilitate fertilisation). “The UK has studied both IUI and in vitro fertilisation (combining both egg and sperm outside the body). They found that the success rate for IUI is 10-15% but for IVF it is 45%,” says Dr Thanikachalam. “Since the NHS pays for medical treatments there, people prefer IVF. But in India, most still go with IUIs.” The low success rate of IUIs however, means more the amount of tries and subsequently, more pain the woman goes through. “It is especially difficult for a working woman, she has to put so much of her life on hold,” she adds.

A tiring search

The search for the perfect hospital and doctor can also be quite exhausting in itself. Umashanker tells the story of her friend. She had to go to three different hospitals. One, in which she was stripped of all privacy and another in which given a follicle tablet that was banned three months after. There came a point where she just stopped trying and started to enjoy life instead, immersing herself in yoga, cycling and reiki,” says Umashanker. Her friend eventually resorted to IVF which worked successfully for her. Dr Thanikachalam also talks about a case in which a woman with only 25% of her ovaries remaining post multiple surgeries to treat her endometriosis, gave birth to a child through IVF.

Umashanker, however, warns against being brainwashed into having children. “For all our liberal ideas, when it comes to children, very often, our society reinforces the notion that without them, our life is incomplete,” says Umashanker. Adds Dr Thanikachalam, “There have been times women, tired of all the medical procedures, told me they didn’t even want a baby that badly, in the first place. I’ve seen couples who would much rather adopt or even choose to go childless.” As heartening as it is to hear stories of hope and perseverance, it is important to remember that bearing a child should always be out of choice.


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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 10:04:41 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/society/i-want-a-baby-story-telling/article24087349.ece