When we first fell in love, my husband and I had very similar ideas of how our life would look. We would travel the world, eventually settle down, buy a house and have a baby. After seven years of courtship and a year of marriage, we were on track and ready. When it came to trying to have children, we were somewhat naïve. We thought we’d stop using contraception for a bit and boom, nine months later we’d have a baby.
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After trying for more than a year we suffered two early miscarriages.
Each time, the doctors reassured us that miscarriages were common, and one in four women experienced one. But I kept wondering why no one was talking about it in society or in my social circles if it was indeed so common.
What will people think?
We’re both British-born Indians, and while we had very different upbringings, our families shared one common trait — a general inability to discuss real life. There has always been a taboo around the issues that truly matter. We don’t like to broadcast any of the bad or difficult things in life. Instead, we sweep them under the rug for fear of judgement from others.
‘We don’t want people to talk,’ they say, even when I really need to.
‘What will people think?’ they ask, without thinking about what I’m thinking and how it’s making me feel.
It’s often instilled in us, sometimes unconsciously, that the more productive we are, the more we’re worth. The homes we own, the cars we drive or the careers we’ve chosen — these are the metrics by which we are judged within South Asian communities. So when I struggled to have a baby, I began to feel worthless, almost as though I wasn’t fulfilling my duty in giving our families a child.
[Read Related: I Froze My Eggs: A Confession Disbanding the Cultural Stigma]
Finally, after this year of trying, we were referred to a fertility clinic at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. I was not in the best place to begin fertility treatment. I stepped into that clinic with a lot of anxiety, still feeling the lingering pain of two miscarriages, increasing isolation of the experience and slight disbelief that this was happening at all.
Our consultant didn’t find anything medically wrong with us and we were told we had ‘unexplained infertility.’ Due to previous miscarriages, they believed I was unable to keep a pregnancy without medical assistance during the first trimester. They advised us to proceed with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
A new option: IVF
IVF was the most challenging experience I have ever been through. The fertility clinic was at the furthest end of the hospital and on the top floor. I dreaded each appointment, the long walk through the cold corridors felt neverending. There were countless appointments, my body was tested, poked and prodded so many times. My expectation of how I would have children did not match my reality. IVF almost destroyed my visions of becoming a parent. The whole process was cold and clinical when all I really wanted to feel was the way I had imagined it would be — full of joy, excitement and love.
Just when I began to question my ability to endure this, physically, mentally, emotionally, we got the news — our first round of IVF was successful. We were finally having a baby! Our elation was unparalleled. During the sonogram, my husband and I looked at each other and burst into tears, but this time tears of joy. The due date fell on my birthday, which felt like a special sign. We started to plan how we would tell our families. Since we both love Christmas, we decided to tell them on Christmas Day.
We were finally giving our families the gift we all wanted.
At ten weeks, we went for our scheduled scan. There was no heartbeat. Our baby died. Sitting in that dark room with the sonographer and my husband, I burst into tears of disbelief. This couldn’t be happening again. We’d made it further than we ever had before. We had done everything right and we had the doctors on our side, this should’ve worked. A few days later, they removed our baby from my body. This loss broke me. It made me feel like I would never become a mother.
Swept under the rug
We were transparent with our families throughout the entire process. They knew every time we lost a baby, and they knew that we were going through fertility treatment, but we met with silence at every disappointment and loss.
While at home recovering from the procedure, I received a pregnancy announcement from a family member. It was an excruciating reminder of our loss. I wanted to be happy for them, but it was too soon, and I didn’t have the energy to pretend. I’ve always considered myself to be a strong person, but a miscarriage is a death we experience in our bodies. It’s incredibly intimate and traumatic.
At the time of our third miscarriage, we lived with my husband’s family, waiting for the purchase of our home to be completed. While we should have felt embedded within a support structure, instead we felt completely isolated.
[Read Related: Miscarriage and Mourning: a Perspective on Community and Healing]
We, along with the bad and difficult things in life, were swept under the rug by our families. Nobody knew how to talk to us; every time we entered a room we were met with silence and awkwardness. During those moments we knew we were in it alone.
We decided to take a break. Two years of heartache and three miscarriages meant we just couldn’t do it anymore. We took some time to celebrate the life we had built together.
Do it all again
Almost eight months passed before we decided to restart the process. We were in a much better place; settled into our new home and enjoying being us again. Having already been through the IVF process and knowing what to expect, we were more informed and ready to make this work. Our diets were healthier and after reading that applying acupuncture alongside IVF had produced positive results, we booked in sessions to coincide with my treatment.
During this round of IVF, we exceeded all of the statistics. The doctors retrieved 21 eggs, 15 were fertilised, 10 got to day five and we transferred two embryos. Those two embryos became our beautiful boys, Krish and Bodhi.
Krish and Bodhi are IVF babies. They are only three years old but already know they were made by science and love. They call themselves “science experiments!” Krish and Bodhi are everything we hoped for and so much more. The four years it took for us to have them were some of the most difficult and darkest moments of our life, but we would do it all again for them.
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Krish and Bodhi are our happy place.
Being Indian is something I am incredibly proud of, but I do understand my culture has its blind spots. There are certain topics that just aren’t up for discussion, and miscarriage and fertility treatment definitely felt like a couple of them. But I am here to remind those who may be experiencing this now, or have experienced it and felt silenced, or feel that no one held space for them — you are not alone.