Gender Parity,  Popcorn Zone

#InfertilityNotATaboo- When it is Only About Her Womb

She bears the brunt of infertility……almost always! A test in every way!

It was a hot afternoon in the month of April when I reached Poonam’s house in Raja Ka Tal- a small farming village in district Firozabad. The warm breeze gently swayed the trees, as their yellow leaves collected by her feet. Her body lay on the ground, a thin sheet covering from head to toe. It had thinned down considerably since I had first met her. Her husband Rajbir sat a distance away, quiet and somber.

A year back, I was part of a Rotary Club health camp that travelled across the state of Uttar Pradesh, to spread awareness about health and hygiene. It was here that I first met Poonam. “Bibiji, bachcha nahi ho raha he. Dawayee dijiye” (I am not conceiving. Give me some medicine). The treatment of Poonam’s primary infertility was beyond the scope of the mobile camp and also the tiny village Raja ka Tal. She was handed over a referral slip for a check-up at Firozabad’s Government Hospital. She faintly nodded when I communicated this to her. I saw a tear drop down her eye when she left the camp. But something in her moved me that day and I decided to follow up on her case with the village and district hospital. However, once I got back to Delhi, so caught up was I with my schedules that I just let it be, hoping that eventually things would fall in place for Poonam. A year later, I got to know about her death.

“Bimar pad gayee, khana hajam nahi ho raha tha, mar gayee”, said her mother. (She fell ill, couldn’t take food anymore and passed away). I couldn’t hold back anymore and had to get the entire story. I chatted up with Poonam’s childhood friend that afternoon, who tumbled it all out.

Poonam was married three years after puberty. A year into matrimony, and she still had not shown any signs of pregnancy. The taunts started, and soon her in-laws and Rajbir took matters into their own hands. He decided to marry again. It was for the want of a baby. The bride was none other than Poonam’s younger sister. For Poonam’s parents it was a win-win situation. Both daughters married at the cost of just one. Within a few months of this marriage, the news of her sisters impending pregnancy reached Poonam.

That was when the first signs of depression were noticeable. She would cry often, have temper tantrums, and develop low degree fever. For those around her, it meant, she had gone mad. No efforts were made to treat her. It wasn’t really a priority. She after all could not produce a baby. Within a span of four months, Poonam lay dead.


Cut to Bangalore
I was meeting my school friend Anusha in a plush coffee shop after five long years. The first thing that I noticed was the disheveled hair and sullen eyes. “I have started my IVF and it’s taking a toll, physically and mentally”, she said.

A long silence followed. This wasn’t the same energetic woman I had known five years back.

“Ashok works late and travels often. But he still manages to be around for the IVF schedule. His presence is required, medically. Otherwise, life seems to be just going on, where we both lead our own separate lives.”

“Why don’t you adopt?” I asked. She glared back at me.

“My in-laws had been against our love marriage and, Ashok would not go against them a second time. They wouldn’t accept a baby that is not their blood. I hope God blesses me with a baby soon. I feel void and empty. It is killing me”.

Signs of depression yet again?

Whether it is Raja ka Tal or Bangalore, the brunt of infertility is often faced by women. There exists in society, a certain element of stigma when a woman is unable to conceive. At a time when she needs mental support, she gets the taunts and bears the blame.

Much as it is important biologically, for a woman to conceive, not being able to should not be the end of the road. Adoption regulations in India are getting easy, with even single women going in for one. A baby is all that matters for a childless couple. And adoption may well be the answer. It would reduce the mental trauma on the woman and provide a home to a child. It would bring about happiness in more than one life.

*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.

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  • Maria

    You know, this is true(: … I don’t know why people kill themselves to have their own baby. They can adopt as well. My friends brother has done that(: … they did love marriage true, close to 10 years over, they choose to go for adoption(: … there is population problem in India, if we don’t give birth its ok, we have enough homeless to take home. Keep them like you take pets, pets are like our kids too… why make this so complicated?… its sad.

  • Jayanthi

    The pressure and taunts are almost always on the woman and hardly about men. Like i have said in my blog post women sometimes prove to be women’s own enemies. Most women who taunt get away saying they were only giving advice out of concern for the well being of that woman.

    While men derive their sense of identity from the money, property, fame , designation they possess, a woman without a child is almost treated like her entire existence did not matter.

    Infertility clinics takes advantage of this situation and aggravate the situation by playing up on that disappointment and insecurity.

    Your post is very true and depicts reality that plagues India today.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Thanks Jayanthi. The taunts scar the heart and mind of the woman causing irreparable damages. Wish society understands!

  • Bellybytes

    How beautifully you’ve captured the pathos of a barren woman. While PDA is taboo, talking of having babies is not considered rude and even strangers feel no shame in asking about the ‘good news’ and freely discuss matters of reproduction giving advice on how to tackle it.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Thanks for your comments. I wish the taboo and stigma disapperas and socirty actually showers some love and empathy on the couple.

  • Dorothy Johnson

    Although the culture is different in the USA, I know some people who have lived with feeling like they are second class citizens because they are childless. So cruel. I’m so sorry about your friends. May God give this woman a child for her sake not the family’s.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Dorothy, it is indeed. I pray too that the notion about infertility changes sooner making the world a better place for the couple.

  • Rachna

    I have seen friends who went through a terrible time because they are unable to conceive and like your stories pointed out it is across class barriers. I can only hope and pray that thinks get better with time.

  • Shilpa Garg

    It’s really sad that infertility is still considered a taboo in our society. There is intense pressure from family and friends on women to have children. And this is additional to the psychological pain the woman has to go through. I read somewhere that the psychological impact of a diagnosis of infertility is equivalent to a diagnosis of cancer!! I wish, our society understands that the inability to have kids is not the end of the world.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Oh yes, it is eqivalent to the diagnosis of cancer to many. Its as though their world has doomed… Hope we are able to bring about a paradigm shift in our thought processes.

  • Gitanjali

    Beautiful contrast and yet the same appalling situation. Your story resonates with what a lot of women face while undergoing infertility treatments.

    Thanks for participating. I will be sharing the story on the Facebook page of InfertilityDost so that women know that they are not alone.

  • swati bassi

    Having issues with fertility brings in lots of pressure and depression in the life of a female. Primarily because society kills you with a stern look. There are embarrassing questions from every known person on this earth.
    Couples should be strong , take decision and bring home the beautiful tiny angel

  • swati bassi

    Not being able to conceive brings in lots of depression in the life of a female, primarily because society gives you a stern look. There are embarrassing questions from every known person on this earth.
    Couples need to be strong, go for adoption and bring home the tiny angel.

  • Shailaja V

    I have known too many Anushas and Poonams. I myself developed secondary infertility after delivering Gy. And you’re right, infertility is not a taboo and neither is adoption. I do know, though that there are circumstances which may not allow for adoption (beyond the social and financial implications). I hope couples can come to terms with this and choose a healthy alternative that will give them peace of mind.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      I can understand… Yes adoption does have its issues- waiting lists, eligiblity etc… however the procedure are streamlined and far more transparent these days . But yes we have bigger battles of fighting out the taboos…And as you say, couples must choose a healthy alternative for that peace of mind.

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