In an ideal world this post would be one sentence long where I would just say “Because I don’t want to” and we could all be on our way. Sadly in real life that is somehow never a good enough answer.
I don’t know much about other parts of the world but there has been a proliferation of infertility clinics here in India (in the big cities at least). There are innumerable hoardings or print ads with white people or incredibly fair skinned Indian couples hugging while looking shyly at the growing pregnant belly with clichés of completing the family or motherhood. With ads taking the place on multiple inside pages or advertorials in business newspapers, every other person now believes they can suggest this medical process like they would suggest you buy a washing machine during the Amazon or Flipkart sale.
The process of IVF includes multiple ultrasound procedures, followed by follicle stimulating injections, harvesting the eggs on specific dates and another procedure of putting the fertilized eggs (yes multiple!) back in. This could be further supplemented by more injections and pills to support implantation.
But this just tells you the half of what really happens. What I describe below is an IUI, it is when they fail that an IVF is recommended by the doctors.
The scans (TVS) typically happen on every alternate day to check the growth of follicles so every other day you are sitting in a crowded clinic for about two hours to be told of a half millimeter growth in your follicle size. Alongside begin the injections. Now US based websites and YouTube videos will have you believe that your spouse/partner can inject these drugs into you after practicing a few times on an orange. In India we have too much manpower and we do not place this level of responsibility or pressure on our spouses/partners, therefore you visit your doctor’s clinic and the nurse there will give you the injections. These injections are typically oil-based making the needles thick and rookie nurses will struggle. You will develop a strange sense of empathy towards the aforementioned orange.
With each passing day, your back will hurt and so will your stomach. You will put on about 4 kgs in 3-5 days and your boobs will hurt like they are taking revenge for every bra worn. You will burst into tears seeing a cover slide of a presentation template because it has pictures of kids on it. You will experience rage when you realise your jeans no longer fit. In that fit of anger, you will go shop for clothes that are one size too big and justify to yourself that you will grow into them when you get pregnant. You will feel sadness when someone asks you if you are already pregnant because your face looks puffy and you are wearing loose clothes.
You will yell at your partner for not having to contribute anything beyond a sperm. You will then cringe knowing who is being the real pain here. There will be awkwardness because there are days for prescribed sex and abstinence. You will be embarrassed when you realise that sex is the last thing on your mind and then be struck by the irony of this situation. You will say mean things to people you love even when you know you shouldn’t.
You will go to the clinic with hope on the day of implantation/insemination. You will feel wistful about how it needn’t have been this way – you on the bed of a clinic and him in some grimy bathroom with a broken window sill. You will squeeze your doctor’s hand for a second longer than needed when she wishes you luck. You laugh the hollow laugh when she says it could even be twins while secretly being terrified. You will get off the bed as though there is a seed of hope you are already carrying. You will be sore and crampy and convince yourself that you should be prepared in case this is how the next nine months are going to be. You will wipe after every pee and look for traces of blood. This will become a habit that will stick with you for much longer than you’d like to acknowledge. You will start being nicer to your partner and without saying it you both will stop planning for holidays in the following year.
You will go for a HCG blood test and not know what you could have done better when you get a negative result. You will get angry when you watch the Mothers’ Horlicks ad because the bitch had it so easy (and which fucking clinic gives you a report with POSITIVE written in such a large font size). You will cry for something you never had and will find it hard to explain the loss. You will not know what to say when the doctor says you can always try again but the success rate is less than 10%. You will be crushed when you get your period because there was some forum where one person posted in 2012 about how her HCG levels were reported wrong and you held on to that as the last hope.
The decision to stop fertility treatments is a tough one. Which handbook tells you how many attempts are good enough? Who can quell the voice in your head that wonders about if you are being a quitter? How do you say with confidence that you are not passing up on a chance every time someone suggests something new? How do you explain to friends and family that you are tired of trying? How do you truly know that your partner is okay with this choice and not saying it to save you the trouble?
When people constantly told me it would all be worth it in the end, I didn’t have the courage to tell them that I think otherwise. I am doing it now. I am placing myself and my most precious relationship over this pressure to procreate. I am intentionally choosing to not put myself and those around me through the cycles of hope and rejection. I have immense respect for women who are able to do otherwise. I don’t pretend to understand what motivates them but I don’t lie about wanting to be them either. When I am told I will forget all of this when I hold that little bundle in my arms, I struggle to explain how I am not that magnanimous and know that I can be resentful. I find it hard to place myself at the center of these struggles month after month when there is so much worse happening in the world around me. Whether it is biological or not, I find this level of self-centeredness after a point, distasteful.
Sanity doesn’t come easy. Sometimes it’s a choice and therefore I choose.