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Infertility: A Crazy Roller-Coaster Of Emotions

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Life takes a beautiful turn when it enters the immortal bond of parenthood. The reason I use the term parenthood as opposed to motherhood is that it’s a mutual need that becomes exponentially painful when it’s not fulfilled for both the partners. Touching the topic of infertility is somewhat a topic of failure as if you as an individual couldn’t meet a certain score to pass the happiness test. For any couple wanting to become parents, dealing with this dilemma is faced with judgemental remarks, mean comments, and somewhat invasion of privacy. 

This problem occurs in all the strata of the society regardless of educational and/or financial brackets. In the lower classes, a woman is subjected to ill-treatment, constant abuse (both verbal and physical) with the severe threat of a second wife.  In the middle classes, the same continues with the additional threat of a divorce which is considered a huge social stigma in itself. In the lower and the middle classes, the wives go to immeasurable lengths to fulfill this need.  From unlimited prayers on shrines, visits to pirs, fakir, pirnis, flowing cash like water to whatever the price, they are all willing to pay just to hold a baby (preferably a boy) in their arms. Women in these classes suffer abuse, neglect, on a daily basis and yet they never ever give up. Imagine how difficult it must be to “keep trying” with an abusive husband. 

 In the upper classes, all of the above may or may not exist in some forms with the addition of emotional trauma as well. It may seem unfair to say here that the severe brunt is being given to the upper classes but my point is that when we are educated, we may get socially and morally more aware of our own personal (emotional and psychological) needs because our most basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing are all met. This is the segment where physical abuse or a threat of divorce is not that prevalent but the need for emotional and psychological support is very much there and sometimes not fulfilled at all, thereby, leading to severe psychological damages like depression. 

Our society’s psychological genetic makeup is marred by severe financial burdens. While speaking to a fertility specialist in Lahore, I discovered that a young [20 something] energetic man’s sperm count is horrifically low, primarily because of financial constraints and stresses. That’s quite unheard of in the West. Another thing we as a society have automatically decided to do is, make it a woman’s problem as opposed to a couple’s problem. It’s still considered a taboo act to ask a man to check his sperm count which is considered an ultimate blow to his manhood. In the West, that’s your standard protocol of treating infertility. They need to rule out the sperm count first before they start investigating a woman’s reproductive mysteries. 

Even with low sperm count, in the end, it’s the woman’s body that goes through all kinds of the final invasive or non-invasive treatments, starting with Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and ending at In vitro fertilization (most commonly called the IVF). The chances of conception in IVF are almost 45%-50% per cycle if a woman is under 35 of age. And this rate goes further down to 26%-40% chances of conception per cycle if the woman is between 35-40 years of age. Above 40 years of age, the chances of conception oscillate between 4% and 13% per cycle. A woman’s psychological and physical state is quite fragile and after going through a line of treatments when she sees that painful (one can’t reiterate it enough) menstrual flow it puts another dent on her happiness month after month. Unlike IUI, IVF is a very expensive medical treatment that takes about a month of constant visits and procedures to achieve a positive pregnancy result. Imagine the kind of strain it adds to a couple’s financial resources.  

From a marriage standpoint, as the couple goes through this turbulent process of trying, both the partners are facing demons on their own different levels. While a man focuses on logic and doing everything by the book, a woman’s mind and body don’t always work in a very fluid synergy. For instance, a husband may ask his wife to lose some extra weight or to give up her morning tea to improve conception chances. For some women, these are minor hiccups, but for some these are hard obstacles to overcome.

A woman needs love the most in this dark phase, reassured that she’s complete and not a failure. And the same goes for the man as well. But this may appear as a utopian fantasy as our ecosystem is somewhat not very sympathetic towards an infertile couple. Cribbing in-laws, intrusive families and judgmental friends never give a couple breathing spaces, especially if you are living in a joint family system.

So what exactly is the best mixture of the magic potion that would fix the problem for good? A loving and nurturing support system for both the partners is needed that should be provided by the partners as well as their friends, families and in-laws. 

For men, rejection or should I say failure results in anger and frustration. Women mostly cry and at times express anger and frustration too. Both the spouses need their internal privacy and when it’s invaded by asking personal questions, their vulnerability is exposed. As a society, we just need to be more sympathetic towards them. So don’t invite them to your children’s endless birthday parties or even talk about your children too much. As they continue to try, and or seek alternative treatments, perform unlimited wazeefas, pray endlessly, days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and before you know it,  you tend to grow apart as a couple. 

In this day and age when ovulation kits are somewhat accessible to some, or a more conventional way of counting days of your menstrual cycle and tracking the biochemical properties of the vaginal mucous to determine the most fertile days, it still adds a huge strain on a couple’s intimate performance. Sometimes it adds so much pressure that you want to run away from this act of intimacy, making you even more frustrated at missing a viable and precious fertility window that lasts barely 48 hours. Ironically, what is initially termed as the organic way of conceiving is actually turned into a somewhat mechanical way too.  It erodes closeness, mutual trust, sometimes even respect (in some cases also). Therefore, infertility whether explained or unexplained can totally test the strength of marriages and characters as well. It can literally bring a towering marriage to crumbles. It leads to several difficult choices like a second marriage, divorce, adoption, surrogacy etc. 

So when I see couples struggling with this problem for years and years I feel immense respect for them. If they are able to not only sustain but make it all the more happier and rosier for each other, they are emotional warriors who are already winners in their lives. When you rise above this unfulfilled need and embrace life in its entirety and decide to live it to the fullest, that’s when you have passed the Happiness test with flying colors.

PS: This article is very close to my heart because we endured “unexplained infertility” for 6 years until Allah granted us with 2 beautiful daughters – Alhamdulillah!  

 

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