Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The indignity of Infertility

I grew up in India and moved here as a teenager. I was lucky because even though I was born a girl in India, I was spared some of the deeper indignities of being just that, a girl in India. My family never seemed progressive to me but it amazed me as I grew up just how progressive they were in things that mattered. 

Imagine getting your period, its a rite of passage, isnt it? from being a girl to a woman. Well in India it is Step 1 of shame, since most religious ceremonies, places, etc do not allow women to enter or participate during their period. You have to declare, often to family members, friends, and teachers that you have your period and you cannot participate in something. You have to sit out, as you stand out with your lack of participating. 

Imagine not being able to go near the christmas tree on christmas morning because you have your period? Yeah something like that.. 

It wasnt till a few years after starting my period that I learned, that my friends endured a deeper hell of their own in a ritual that my family had abolished. They were in essence untouchable during their period, had their own seperate utensils and bedsheet they used to sleep on the hard tiled ground, couldnt use their own bed even. They couldnt touch anything in the house and no one could touch them. It was horrifying. My grandparents explained to me that it was a ritual, designed to help give women a break during a painful period that had been turned into something so corrupted and abhorring. 

It was years later that I realized, I was very lucky to be born at all, since such a large percentage of girl children even today are aborted in female infanticide in India. 

Becoming pregnant, giving birth are all such miraculous experiences that infertility corrupts for us. There is deep indignity in Infertility as you go week after week, for invasive procedures, for trans vaginal ultrasounds, hysteroscopies, hysterosonograms, hysterosalpingrams, inspections, pap smears. I lose count but you get the idea.

Once I read an article in Huffington Post where a woman talked about the horrifying experience that was a trans vaginal ultrasound. She was newly pregnant and likened it to being violated. 

Is it violating? maybe.

There is some deep resignation as you walk in week after week, undress from the waist down and get ready for the ultrasound. Some days I have an audience at my RE's office as they seem to be trying to find a new ultrasound tech and training them. 2 or 3 people were present when they thought I had an ectopic pregnancy because 2 eyes are better than one. Do I mind they ask, I shrug and say do what you have to.

 From the physician assistant that did my pap smear to the nurse that did my iui, the medical assistant that assisted during my d&c. They have all had a first rate view of my private parts. 

Some days I get frustrated at having to "spread my legs" again and again. DH was shocked once when I phrased it like that, but that in a nutshell is infertility. You do it again and again because you dont have a choice, & I dont mean what you might think. No I m still talking about getting ultrasounds and other invasive procedures, spreading your legs for them. 

I took for granted the indignity of being on a school trip and having to sit out because you cannot attend that ancient historical site that just happens to be religious in nature. I accepted the indignity of infertility with the procedures day in and out. Where do you draw the line though? Where is the fine line between sharing and not being ashamed of your infertility and your right as a woman to discuss bodily functions to privacy? My decision, that fine line lies in my decision and my choice. It has to be my choice to share, my choice to broadcast my treatments or lack of, my choice to discuss my infertility, MINE. 

Yesterday in a misguided attempt at worrying about me, DH shared details of my upcoming hysteroscopy with both sets of parents. I was appalled, it wasnt his to share. I suffer enough indignity with infertility without my private parts becoming dinner conversation. PRIVATE, not for public discussion.

Isnt it hard enough already without losing my choice in the process too?

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