Divorce and Infertility: One Woman’s Struggle to Overcome it All
“My parents helped me leave him at 13 weeks pregnant because he was being so violent. I was so depressed at the time and my mother forced me to get a job.” Sophia Qureshi* still shudders as she reflects on the journey that began when she was almost three months pregnant, after being married for three years, attempting to escape an extremely violent marriage. Her mother, she says, kept reminding her it was not her unborn baby’s fault.
“She would force me to get out of bed. I was jealous of anyone around me who was happily married and having children. I was labeled a single mother and at that time, it was as though something was wrong with me.”
She knew what she had to do and knew the road to escaping her husband wouldn’t be easy. She recognized the stigma of divorce, even within her own family. When she did leave, she didn’t look back. Sophia escaped one snowy night after a physical blowout, at almost three months pregnant. She went to a nearby pay phone, called her family and never went back to him again.
“I was the first person to get divorced in my family so when my cousins were all trying to get married and people were coming to see them, my grandmother would insist that no one should tell them I was divorced. People always thought I was a bad influence because I was the divorced one.”
She slowly began to put the pieces of her life back together, focus on her daughter and start her own thriving business.
Sophia* never thought that six years later, she would meet her husband Sameer* and take the plunge for a second time. She had become a very different woman from the naive young girl who had first gotten married. She now knew what she wanted out of life and for her daughter. This marriage was quite different in that Sameer was patient, loving and understanding. He wholeheartedly accepted her daughter as his own. However something was missing; they both wanted more children, which was a far cry from how Sophia felt in her first marriage.
“I was never a maternal person. I would never pick up anyone else’s child.
However, once Sameer and I married, I knew he was a completely different person from my ex-husband so that desire actually woke up to have children.” So they began to try to conceive.
The first time Sophia and Sameer became pregnant, they were elated. Then, at seven weeks in, she miscarried. “I was devastated after the first miscarriage. My parents were devastated too. We couldn’t understand it. It was the first time it happened in our family,” said Sophia.
She remembers her mother being at a loss for words in explaining it to family members. When Sophia and her mother began sharing her story, they realized how many women in their family had miscarried but never told anyone. Her grandmother did not want any of the other young girls associating with her because she was convinced something was wrong with Sophia.
During her second pregnancy with Sameer, she miscarried at 12 weeks and this time, her mother’s lack of understanding angered her greatly.
“My mother kept trying to find reasons why it was happening. I told my mom that she’ll never know how I feel unless she’d lost a child herself. Since then, she’s had a new attitude and treads very carefully around this subject.”
After the second miscarriage, Sophia’s doctor referred her to a specialist. The miscarriages had taken their emotional toll and both Sameer and Sophia were left feeling mentally exhausted. The tests came back normal so their specialist suggested chlomyd, a fertility drug. Both were against it and decided to try the every other day method. After the first month, they found out they were pregnant.
Sophia remembers being on edge during those first three months.
“I was terrified. I had a lot of spotting and with every sign of blood, you could see the worry written on both of our faces. My parents were incredibly supportive through all the trips back and forth to the hospital and helped in any way that they could.”
They were blessed with a healthy baby boy six months later and after his first birthday, they began to try for another baby because she was 38 years old.
This time, nothing happened so they returned to the specialist who informed them that there was a blockage in Sophia’s tubes. They removed the blockage and after some more testing, realized that Sophia’s egg count in her egg bank had significantly reduced due to her age. They began to try again, and this time, became pregnant right away. Both Sameer and Sophia were skeptical. It had happened too easily this time. Sophia began to get very excited as the weeks went on, however, at nine weeks pregnant, she went into the hospital and doctors could not find a heartbeat.
She had miscarried again. She says, “I was upset but we managed to cope with it better. I accepted it and knew that I had to carry on because I had my son and daughter to take care of. When you become a mother, you have to be much stronger in every way.” Both Sophia and Sameer have come to terms with their experiences and after this third miscarriage, Sophia has decided to begin her journey of fertility treatments. Due to her age, her first step is to receive injections that help with producing more eggs.
According to her doctor she would need to do cycle monitoring which keeps track of when you ovulate and the injections you receive keep you at your peak. Her next step was artificial insemination where Sameer and Sophia go to different locations, the clinics do a sperm wash and take the best sperm. Hours later, Sophia is inseminated with the best sperm. Although they are both hoping for the best, Sophia admits it’s been an exhausting journey.
“It’s very hard because you can’t talk to people about it. People don’t understand. Especially people who live the ‘American Dream’. You know, house, cars, children, work, happy, good relationship with in-laws…all of that.”
“We both find that people in the South Asian community are very judgmental. When I tell people I’m going through fertility treatments, it’s a real eye opener for them. They ask me if something is wrong with me and begin asking the silliest questions. So you just stop telling people.”
Sophia says her mother is her only confidante however this experience has really changed her relationship with her husband.
“It’s made us a lot closer. We are much more open. We talk about things we never talked about. I slowly started opening up to him about my first marriage and he’s never asked me any questions or pushed me to tell him anything. I feel more comfortable now telling him about myself and certain experiences. There’s nothing left that
Sophia says she could not imagine being where she is without the love and support of her daughter.
“It’s because of her, I am who I am. If I hadn’t had her, maybe I would still be a spoiled brat. It changes your outlook when bad things happen to you. She has made me think of things to do that I would never have thought to do before, like owning a business. She is my strength.”
She adds that for any woman thinking about trying fertility treatments, one big lesson she’s learned is the importance of talking about it.
“They can’t isolate themselves. It may make you feel inadequate at times, however the road doesn’t end there. When I go to the fertility clinic now, I see so many new desi immigrants, wearing saris or shalwarkameez and ready to try however they can to conceive. They need to know they are not alone. We are all in this together.”
*All names have been changed to protect identities.
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