Struggling With Infertility? You Are Not Alone
In her new book, author Rohini Rajagopal recounts her experience with humour, candor, and empathy.
Infertility is India’s open secret. In 2014, All India Institute of Medical Sciences reported that 10 to 15 percent of married couples have trouble conceiving. To put that into perceptive, this would apply to one in seven individuals. Now, imagine the number of families who are struggling with infertility today. Yet, infertility is only whispered about.
What inspired you to share your story? Why now?
One of the reasons is that infertility is rarely discussed in public discourse. Even among friends and family this topic rarely surfaces because of the shame associated with it. So most couples treat it like a top-secret mission.
I began writing, in June 2018, three years after I gave birth to my son; he had just started going to playschool. Before that I didn’t have the time or the help.
I didn’t intent to write a full-length memoir, I hadn’t imagined that it would take this shape. I thought at least I’ll share my thoughts somewhere in the digital world. Maybe it would provide solace to another couple or woman who is going through the same thing.
Now that you’ve had time to reflect, how do you view your journey?
My book is wrought with humour. In the retelling of my story, that is the tone that occurred organically when I started narrating gritty details. I can’t say that now I look back at those events with humour. It is not a funny or a fun experience in any way. It was definitely an experience that brought a lot of pain and trauma. The book is birth from those feelings, especially from the feeling of being unseen.
When you have experienced this kind of emotional trauma, be it a miscarriage, IVF, or an infertility treatment—there is no recognition of it anywhere. Not among your family or your friends. Not in any form of popular culture. Normalising the conversation around infertility is needed. The taboo around infertility is so much that the conversation around it is minimal.
Do you think there is a lack understanding for people going through infertility?
It is not only one person’s issue but this is largely how society is. That is the kind of messaging and our cultural conditioning is. The cultural conversation is missing. There is also a need to address all these ideas about what is the purpose of a women’s life, what she must do with her body, at what age must she do a certain thing—all these images and ideas are shelved into our brain from an early age. While we do end up questioning them, we do unlearn them, a lot of it so deeply ingrained and conditioned in us that in this area definitely more support and more conversation is needed.
After writing the book, I have had so many women who don’t know me at all write to me on Instagram and Facebook privately. They have shared their stories because they have nowhere else to share. They feel a kinship with me because I’ve shared my story. It is really a sad state that someone rather share a personal experiences with a complete stranger, because there is no one in their day-to-day live with whom they can share this. I think that is a really telling commentary on the state of affairs.
What was you experience like with doctors?
I have spoken about this in detail in the book because the infertility treatment is very demanding on the body—the number of injections, the blood tests and the procedures are every invasive. The title of my book comes from a particular instrument that is used during the process.
Maybe it’s the volume of patients, not everyone is in the healthcare system will offer their empathy or concern. It is part of their every day. There is nothing special about you. I have spoken about how mechanical it can be and how dehumanizing it can be as an experience. When you lie on the examination table you have to lie with your knees bent, legs wide open, half naked with three or four people peering at your private parts. This is one of the most vulnerable positions a woman can find herself in. As far as the doctor is concerned this is just one case in a long line of cases.
More and more women need to come out and share their story because the healthcare system needs to be sensitised about the psychological toll that infertility can take.
When I was undergoing treatment there were no counselling, I am told now there is pre-IVF and post-IVF counseling but we need more measures that take the psychological or emotional trauma into consideration.
For instance, there was a nurse who was very compassionate towards me when I was undergoing treatment. She was almost my best friend. I would look forward to going to the hospital if I knew that she would be on duty.
All sort of people make-up the medical establishment but I would say over all there needs to for sensitivity, empathy and compassion towards people who are at the receiving end of this treatment.