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IVF and surrogacy have become popular in the broader scene only now in India. However, Supriya Jain‘s story of embracing motherhood through IVF goes way beyond the generic procedure. Supriya lost her husband, Gaurav, in 2015 at a time when they were undergoing the procedure of IVF. Her hope to bring him back in some form led her to undergo those IVF treatments for years and then use surrogacy to bring her child in this world, three years after the child’s father passed away.

Supriya, with all her memories, grief, strength, and commitment, has penned down a detailed account of her journey in the form of a book – A Piece of Him – a journey of fighting to bring her husband back; to have his child. This is her story of love, loss, hope and conviction. SheThePeople.TV spoke with Supriya Jain about her book, the process of her treatment, and how she went down the unconventional path with sheer conviction.

What led you to write A Piece Of Him?

Writing was cathartic for me. When I was struggling to deal with the loss, it was a way to vent my grief. When I wrote about something, it helped me cleanse that emotion and perhaps look at it more objectively for a moment. When I started writing, a book wasn’t what I had in mind. It’s just through the years, it came together as a story, and I thought I’ll share it with people who are dealing with loss and grief and see if it helps them in some way. And that’s how the book came into being.

It’s also something tangible for my baby boy when he grows up – a story of how he came about and how important it was for me to bring him into this world. It’s also a glimpse into who his father was and why he was loved and cherished by so many people

Your story is about a miracle of faith and science. Do you believe in signs that destiny offers?

Even if I didn’t earlier, I am now totally convinced that we follow our destiny. And, that the universe is constantly sending us signs that we are perhaps too oblivious to understand in the present, but they are always there in hindsight. I talk about this in my book. There is a particular segment that deals with the signs that the universe was throwing our way — sort of telling us that we don’t have much longer together — and that a lot of chapters are coming to a close. But we never understood them.

I think destiny had a big role to play in our story from day one. It was at play when we met – the odds we met against, and how we stayed together all these years. So yes, I am a believer now

Supriya Jain
Supriya and Gaurav

The journey was not only long and expensive, but also emotionally, physically and mentally draining. Please tell us about the process and treatment

I’ve had a chance to speak to many women who’ve undergone the IVF process now, and they all agree it’s draining. In fact, my sister went through one cycle to donate eggs for my procedure and she wondered how I’ve done this so many times, and alone! It’s basically a hormone therapy, so your system is stimulated using a combination of drugs — mainly the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). The injections (2-3 per day on your abdomen) start on the first day of your period and continue till day 11 or 12 — this depends on how well your follicles are growing. The follicle is ultimately what releases the egg and the objective of this stage in the IVF process is to get as many eggs as possible. So, while in a normal day-to-day life, a woman will produce 1-2 eggs in her regular cycle, with this treatment, you can produce multiple eggs — sometimes as many as 30!

In my first retrieval, I’d managed 17 eggs. So, after five five days of injections, you also start daily transvaginal scans and blood tests — to check the follicle growth and hormone levels. There is pain and heaviness in the lower abdomen, from day 6 onwards. Once the follicles have matured anytime after day 11-12, you are given another injection that will help the follicles release the eggs. You are scheduled for retrieval 35 hours after you take that trigger injection. 

The egg retrieval itself is a surgical procedure and is done under general anaesthesia. They put a catheter and suck out the eggs from the ovaries. The collected eggs are then checked and the healthy ones are mixed with the sperm to produce embryos. The embryo transfer timing differs. Depending on the doctor’s discretion, the embryos are either transferred after three days of retrieval or five days. I had all five-day transfers. Often, if your uterine lining is not strong enough, there won’t be any embryo transfer. Instead they will be frozen, and another attempt would be made once you have your next period. If the embryo transfer is done, you get a blood test (BHCG) done on day 14 after the transfer and that tells you whether you are pregnant or not. 

Of course, the actual treatment is much more complex and I am not an expert to give any sort of medical opinion. I’ve documented my experience with the treatment in my book that details more of the emotional aspects — the highs and lows you go through. The hormones make you especially susceptible to mood swings. It was like an extended two-year PMS for me.

The treatment also sort of puts your life on hold — it’s very timed, the medications, tests, procedure — so, for an extended period it’s difficult to concentrate on anything else. My case was also unique as I was doing this alone, and in the book I talk about how that takes a further toll on your already fragile emotions

Do you think our country has become more acceptable of couples opting for surrogacy?

Honestly, I don’t think people understand what it is. And some movies and daily soaps that depict surrogacy through an ancient lens (the man must have sex with the surrogate) doesn’t help either. People have at least started acknowledging that a large number of couples opt for fertility treatments and that’s definitely gaining acceptance. But surrogacy is still shrouded in dark. In fact, they think a gestational surrogate is the genetic mother — which is not the case. There are different types of surrogacies and I’m trying to write about such things and help clear some confusion on my blog. Again, I’m not an expert, but just my 2 cents on making this process more understandable. And now, with the ban on surrogacy, the dialogue will further stifle.  

Except for some recent high-profile cases of celebrities opting for surrogacy, there is barely any knowledge about it

In what ways do you believe the book will help couples, single women, or men, who want to opt for such treatments, and understand the process better?

In the book, I’ve dedicated a whole section called “The Baby Project” on what I went through. It details the physical, emotional and, to an extent, financial implications of the process. There are several segments that talk about how when something looked absolutely great, it can just go down the drain in moments. When you read an IVF treatment brochure, it sounds pretty simple, but when you go through it, you realise it takes a lot more than a few shots in the belly and some medication.

I think the book will help people going through or contemplating the treatment understand it from a person’s perspective and not just the clinical aspect of it

A Piece of Him 

While your story is about love, it is also about a woman’s journey of overcoming hurdles, fighting perceptions, and attaining companionship in the form of motherhood. Looking back, what do you have to say about your journey and what is it that you learnt the most?

Actually, a lot of people have told me that they think what I did was a very brave thing. When I started on this journey, I wasn’t thinking about being brave or doing something unique — it was just something I had to do. I had lost something valuable to me, and I had to bring it back in some form or shape. That’s all I had in mind. That focus helped me overcome a lot of hurdles that otherwise might have broken me. Our families were very supportive, so that helped. There were the usual doubts on “are you sure you are doing the right thing”, and “how will you bring up a baby alone”, and “you have to let it go” – but knowing what I wanted kept me going.

I had lost something valuable to me, and I had to bring it back in some form or shape. That’s all I had in mind

There are many lessons I have learnt along the way — good, bad and ugly. My attitude towards life has changed completely. I’m more inclined to spend time with people, but I don’t depend on anyone for help. That’s another lesson — everyone has to go through their journey alone. 

I no longer run the rat race. I strongly believe we have one life and we need to make the most of it, especially since we don’t know what tomorrow brings

What do you believe makes women far more tolerable and passionate about their responsibilities in life? What is that one driving force that can help them go past prejudices and live for themselves?

I think a lot of tolerance comes from our upbringing. Gender discrimination is still very prevalent globally. So, when you are deprived of certain things in life, or not treated equally, you start tolerating things more. You learn to let go and not dwell on injustice. The passion I think comes from our emotional make-up. We are wired that way — to get involved in things very deeply. I think the one driving force is the belief in yourself and in your beliefs. If you come across as confident and utterly sure of what you are doing, if you are unapologetic about it — then people accept it. In my case, I never for a second gave anyone a chance to second guess me. I never let it be considered that a single woman having a baby is “not done”. I talked about it normally — as if everyone did it. And so no one questioned me. 

I never let it be considered that a single woman having a baby is “not done”

The society intensively judges women who move on and also those who don’t. What would you advise women when it comes to moving on with their lives despite all odds?

Have you heard the story of the man, his son and their donkey? We all grew up hearing some version of it. Basically, no matter what the father-son duo did, someone had criticism to offer. Isn’t that the story of our lives? No matter what we do, there are always people who’ll pass judgement. I’ve learnt there is no getting away from judgmental people. To save your sanity – just shut them out. Ignore them. They will shut up ultimately.

More stories by Bhawana

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