#InfertilityNotATaboo – Brave it out, You are not alone

Write Tribe has come up with a topic not many discuss – Infertility. Couples are reluctant to talk about it because they feel depressed and hopeless. They also want to shield themselves from prying eyes which only want some food for gossip. Yes, it is our society that has made it impossible for couples who are struggling to have kids, to live peacefully. There are expectations everywhere, and there is always talking behind the back.

Years ago, with lack of knowledge, it was always a woman who bore the brunt of it all. It was always ‘her’ mistake. There was something ‘wrong’ in her if a couple could not have kids. No body questioned the husband or the son-in-law. Just like Eve had been held responsible for Adam’s eating the apple, it was as if only the woman was at fault always.

Not much has changed despite education and medical advancement. Woman is still held largely responsible for childlessness. Men with their inflated egos, and their mothers with their flawed and misplaced prides, refuse to even consider male infertility a possibility. The result is that many marriages break, couples are torn apart and ignorance prevails.

Infertility is not a bane. Just like any other ailment, it too is a medical condition that can be corrected through expertise. But to be cured, it needs to be first recognized. In many cases, it is left un-diagnosed owing to superficial pride and bloated egos. Statistics reveals that male infertility is difficult to diagnose and cure due to various reasons, despite the fact that it is the underlying cause of couple not bearing children in almost half of the cases. Men wear this thick cloak of masculinity and become touchy when asked to be tested. “Nothing’s wrong with me”, is all they can say.

But it does exist. And in order to seek help, one needs to come out and talk.

 

सींचा कोमलता से मैंने 

क्यारी में न फूल खिला 

सब बगिया को दोषी कहते 

माली को क्यों भूल गए ?

 

Infertility Dost

 

Image Source

Gitanjali Banerjee’s Infertility Dost is there to help you #OpenUp. A “regular, middle class woman” who struggled through a long and tiring period of infertility, Gitanjali has decided to bring it out in the open and discuss. She is blessed with kids now but her journey has not been easy. She realizes how important it is to be able to confide in someone, to be able to get the right help and the right care. That’s why, the name may sound like an oxymoron. Infertility has not many ‘friends’ (dost) but a whole lot of nosy critics. Gitanjlai intends to reach out to those in need to give them love, care and the required medical assistance.

You can help Gitanjali too.

Share, write, discuss.

Be an Infertility Dost !

In my circle of friends and family, there are a few who have had trouble bearing children. Some were successful and some were not. But in most of the cases, they have kept it quite. A relative of mine underwent a long and painful surgery without even confiding in her parents. I often wonder why she did so. Perhaps, she did not want to raise their hopes because she had already struggled with this for almost her entire married life. Now in her forties, she must have felt that is would be even more difficult to conceive. Or perhaps, she wanted to protect herself and her husband from unwanted questions. Whatever the reason, I respect her need for privacy on the matter.

The need/desire for children is something natural. But I feel strongly that as a human being, we have no right to pass judgement on the lives of others. We ought not to comment, criticize, give unwanted and often senseless advice to others, especially on personal matters. If someone confides in us, we ought to respect that decision and act in their best interest. Often, with lack of knowledge, we can kill someone’s hopes. We have no right to do that. The best solution is to help the friend in need be seeking appropriate medical help when necessary rather than just trivializing the issue or spreading rumors about it. Words and mentalities hurt in unimaginable and irreparable ways often.

Representing Infertility – Letting it out

For my post, I have picked the issue of ‘representation’ of ‘infertility’ in literature and film. I have chosen a short story written by a writer whose thinking was way ahead of her times and a movie that is contemporary to us. In the former, the saga is one of despair and anguish, and in the latter there is humorous rendering of the issue and lots of hope. Both try to bring the topic out for discussion. To solve a problem, one first needs to see it, accept it. Progressive minds often help in exposing and articulating a subject that others will usually try to hide. And therein lies hope. When writers and film-makers pick up controversial topics, they are doing much more than just seeking attention. They are coaxing people out of their comfort zones to think, and interrogate.

Female Infertility – Depicting Injustice through Irony in Amrita Pritam’s बू (Stench)

It would have been a cozy night if I had not decided to read anything. But my kids were sound asleep and I yearned to read something thought-provoking. Looking through my collection of books, I came across Amrita Pritam’s collection of short stories in Hindi, titled सत्रह कहानियाँ  (Seventeen Stories). I randomly selected a story titled बू (Stench). As I flipped the two pages of this short story, my heart broke. It was fiction, yes. But it was a fiction that was a reality for many many couples out there – childless couples.

The story revolves around a childless couple Guleri and Maanak. Seven years into marriage, Maanak’s mother has given up hopes on her daughter-in-law. As Guleri goes for a visit to her parents’ village during harvest time, Maanak’s mother brings in another woman to replace Guleri. Maanak’s protests are feeble, voiceless. He has tried to stop his wife from leaving but is incapable of standing against his mother. He marries again. A few days later, Maanak’s friend announces the death of Guleri. She has set herself on fire after hearing about Maanak’s marriage. Maanak is shattered. In the meantime, his second wife gives the much-awaited news. Maanak’s mother is blind to the agony her son is going through. Guleri’s death has had no impact on her. She places Maanak’s new-born son in his lap, hoping, in fact almost certain, that the child will knock in some ‘sanity’ in his son’s mind. But the moment Maanak stares at the little bundle lying in his lap, he screams in despair, “Take him away….take him away….he stinks of kerosene…”

The story ends.

Pritam’s story left me pondering on the many aspects she had touched here. She had picked up a topic that not many would be comfortable to discuss or even acknowledge. The male protagonist was depicted powerless and the woman in the house was, ironically enough, a heartless mother. She wanted her son’s child so badly that her own maternal love was overshadowed by her greed.

Who was the culprit here?

The mother?

The society?

Or Maanak?

Or all of them?

Yes, all of them. Maanak was not a man enough to brave the storm. Or perhaps, secretly he too yearned to have a child and thus gave in to his mother’s demand. His mother was a victim of the society she lived in, which looked down upon childless women with disrespect and hatred. The society considered woman only as a child-carrying vessel. She ought to be discarded if she did not function well.

Pritam’s story highlighted the rampant injustice of our society through a flawless use of irony.

That a woman was instrumental in bringing about the death of another woman, was a significant element of the story. It reflected what actually happens out there to countless women who are unable to give birth, who are unable to fulfill the greedy desire of carrying the lineage.

It highlighted one more thing – #Silence.

Had Guleri and Maanak been able to talk about this to someone, and also to each other, the ending would have been hopeful. But the inability to confide even in your partner pinpointed the extreme helplessness of living in a callous society.

Male Infertility – Talking Taboo through Humor in Vicky Donor

Vicky Donor was an instant hit. Audience laughed heartily. Everyone seemed to celebrate the ‘Aryan’ boy’s immaculate intelligence and good looks and the doctor’s discerning eye. Babies came. There were smiles everywhere. Was it just a feel-good movie meant to earn bucks for the film director? No. There was much more happening. Director Shoojit Sircar had managed to bring a #taboo topic out of the closet. In a society which failed to even concede to the fact that male infertility existed, the movie managed to make people laugh and accept it as a reality. The last scenes were meant to drive the point home. There was hope for everyone. And for those who could not bear children on their own, there were alternatives like artificial insemination and sperm donation. Interestingly, the protagonist who made parenthood a possibility for many out there, ended up having no child of his own. But the movie ended not on despair. It gave the message of hope and happiness.

Children, or no children, a couple could still find happiness and love in each other. One had to just be ready to accept.

And that was for me the most beautiful message from the movie.

For some, it may not work but still…..

There are so many little kids, who for some reason or the other have been separated from their family. They yearn for love. They long to belong. They ache for that gentle affection that only parents can give. You can be their parent. One does not need to bring a child biologically to the world to feel that love and sense of belonging. That attachment can come from being together, living the high and low moments of life together.

Please do not give up hope. Adopt a child. Sponsor someone’s education. Give someone a reason to smile. Become someone’s reason to smile. Don’t care about the society which frowns upon your decisions. It is just not worth it.

दूर कहीं पर पनप रहा 

एक फूल अकेला गुमसुम-सा 

बगिया छूटी जाने क्यों उसकी 

जाने क्यों उसका माली रूठा 

तुम प्रेम स्पर्श से पुलकित कर 

उसको गर फिर से महका दो 

मदमस्त सुगन्धित हो जाएगा 

सूना आँगन भी तुम्हारा 

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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36 thoughts on “#InfertilityNotATaboo – Brave it out, You are not alone

    • That would be awesome Gitanjali ! …..I didn’t realize that….but yes, by all means use it as your slogan…..I am so happy to have written for this although I didn’t have any personal experiences to share. But the fact is that the more people accept and discuss, the more readily solutions will be found. It is often lack of proper and timely diagnosis that leads to failure even after treatment. I hope that changes and in future, people are able to seek expert help. You are doing a great job at this by talking about it. I wish you good luck for your initiative.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The era in which Amrita Pritam’s story was set in makes it a bold move on the writer’s part. It is a tragedy how infertility is treated in patriarchal societies. The blame is solely on the woman and the torch bearer of the exploitation is also a woman, who assumes power by the virtue of patriarchy. The educated women of Urban India may have a slight advantage in terms of the effects of taboo but rural India continues to be time-trapped.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Although I agree with most of the things you said here, I just want to add one thing – Male infertility is a more taboo topic owing to this very patriarchy….Female infertility is openly accepted, and ridiculed. Male infertility is completely hushed. Males don’t accept or concede to this because their ‘masculinity’ will be put to test owing to the norms they live by.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow… that story (Bu) really was hard hitting… scarily, the practise of just replacing the wife as though she were a deck of cards is actually still rampant in India in 2016. And I agree, Vicky Donor was one of the best movies that year… there was such a wide scope for it to turn vulgar with that theme and instead, you had such a beautiful take on the theme of infertility

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, yes…even the so-called ‘educated’ people fail here. They are prejudiced, un-informed, and superstitious. Vicky Donor was just superb. Shoojit Sircar was targeted by his own fraternity, I read somewhere, for choosing a ‘gross’ subject to ‘gain attention’….Kudos to him that he didn’t listen to all that non-sense and finished his project.

      Like

  3. Infertility is only a relative term nowadays…it just reflects how long you took to conceive because with today’s medical facilities…it is only a matter of time and money. I would like to highlight a few points here
    -There are govt. setups (at least in Delhi- that I know for sure) which provide free consultation.
    -Most common problem is usually erratic and poor clinical work-up.
    -Tuberculosis and other treatable infections are a common culprit and in India it is way too common than you can imagine.
    – Proper work-up can beat it with ease. Consult a Doctor ( I mean a real doctor with a degree. A specialist would be better. Go to a govt. hospital if no money or still confused) asap.
    -it is still a taboo and it is as bad as performing sati on a female but she continues to live with it.

    Your posts are always a league apart Sunaina. Loved both the Hindi poems (1>2). Nice initiative and a great post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this valuable feedback. You mentioned TB and I remember how one of my close relatives struggled owing to this very problem which was diagnosed only after all the other tests had been done. It took almost a decade for her to deliver. It was heart-breaking to see this happen to her. And the cause when diagnosed shocked me since I had not even the faintest idea that this could be the reason for her inability to conceive. Do pitch in Doc if you can for this initiative.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. In this patriarchal society, infertility is always looked upon as ‘woman’s fault’. It is women who are always at the receiving end. I’ve seen quite a number of instances where the in-laws have made it a hell for the girl and, later, further investigation revealed that it was the man who lacked. A very sensitive topic and you have dealt with it pretty well.

    I think of writing about it sometime… thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Such a lovely post Sunaina! Nothing sounds more comforting than having an #Infertility Dost 🙂 I can only feel from a male perspective on how the society preys on such victims, I wont even try to pretend to know what a woman goes through. To me its always a surprise that my condition which really only only my immediate family and loving partner, yet I get treated as I am willfully disgracing my relationships. The constant taunt of “why am I not doing anything about kids” is as painful as if all they want to hear me scream out loud “I am infertile and thats why! Leave me alone”. Maybe that will work and stop the guessing game. It is not easy to pretend not being affected when close friends suggest comfort by asking if I am struggling with my sexuality or worse even assume I must be gay. Is it really that hard to be compassionate and be respectful of others condition?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Dee….you said so much in this comment…..being gay, questioning sexuality, poking noses into someone else’s business….if you have no kids – why?, if you have one kid, why not have another one?, if you have three kids or more – did you plan or it just happened? If you have two girls, why don’t you try for a boy? Endless questions of a shamelessly prejudiced society…..I feel for you and I just have to say Don’t give a damn. No need to answer useless questions.

      Like

  6. Sunaina, what an absolutely brilliant post! Amrita Pritam’s haunting story ‘Bu’ that you briefly summarized shall stay with me forever. The stigma around infertility especially in India is so sad. Male infertility is atleast being acknowledged and investigated widely nowadays. Imagine the miserable plight of the ‘barren’ woman especially when it is her husband who is the ‘barren’ one! Totally thought-provoking Sunaina, kudos on helping spread awareness on this subject.
    (Btw, I didn’t realize you’d shifted to WP, congrats on that!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kala….Yes, male infertility is out in open now, but not for all who still try to take cover under false pride. Things will change over years…but in the meantime, a lot are suffering and will suffer owing to lack of knowledge and man-made norms. (I didn’t shift to WP…this is my other blog….the one of blogspot if my fist child…..:))

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  7. It is time now that such articles reach every small town and village and people start accepting that men too need to undergo tests to prove they are normal rather than blaming women for not bearing a child.
    the story is very hard hitting and needs to be told…the more awareness the more eradication of such practices.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A powerful post Sunaina. I wonder whenn people will grow out of the so called societal pressures and expectation and live a life they want without reluctance. While it’s sad that fingers are pointed at women usually, it’s equally sad that fingers are pointed to begin with. A lot needs to change. A lot has to be accepted. A lot of us need to let others live and not dictate stereotypes for those fingers and expectations have many a times eaten away many a lives.
    Powerful post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. https://intrudesite.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/only-pelvis-revived/ Not all women who reproduce are happy.
    Women can choose not to reproduce and adopt a child instead even when they are fertile , does it make them in fertile ? Many women reproduce just to keep the marriage intact, moment there is a fight between the couple and threat of infidelity they even get a surrogate to reproduce.
    If women continue to value their reproductive capacity to be more important than their need to be respected and loved in society , it is tragic.
    If every woman becomes a mother by merely giving birth to a child there would be no children in the orphanages.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You definitely have a point there…but this post was part of a contest that supported fertility treatments….I had to write it keeping in mind the women and the men who wish t have kids of their own…..Women are not reproductive machines….they have much more to them that defines who they are….Thank you so much for bringing in your point of argument. Really appreciate that!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Indeed we are no one to pass judgement on childless couples. We don’t know how much they must have gone through to hear that one news. I absolutely loved reading your post… so delicately you have discussed the subject. Manak’s story is gripping … I should look for the book. Loved the movie Vicki Donor and how it raised an important point on male infertility.

    Liked by 1 person

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