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First Person: How Sharing A Story Can Help Build Community

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As part of our First Person series, Nanda Mehta describes how speaking publicly about a taboo subject made her stronger and led her to encourage other South Asian women to share their own stories on stage.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Sharing a personal story of loss with others can be healing. It can help forge connections and encourage others to reveal themselves. As part of our first person series, Nanda Maita describes how speaking publicly about a taboo subject made her stronger and let her to encourage other women to share their own stories on stage.

Speaker 2: 00:21 People around me, close friends, they knew what I was going through. We tried to conceive for um, about 10 years from the time we started. And then IVF was very new at that time in late eighties, early nineties. It was still considered experimental and it was such an amazing process to go through that I would share that and emotionally I would get support from friends and family and so I spoke about it openly. I will, I wasn't afraid to talk about it. The reason I decided to share it is because there was a lot of secrecy amongst friends that would come and ask me, oh, are you talking about this? I'm like, why not? So that's when I decided to come out and literally talk about it openly.

Speaker 3: 01:18 Ooh,

Speaker 2: 01:20 my name is [inaudible] and I am the founder. And director of Ohana, which is a nonprofit organization that creates and cultivates awareness and acceptance of the South Asian culture. You oniki but is actually translated as talk off the Vaginas, which is vagina monologues. Evens Lear is a phenomenon that it was started decades ago. Some ladies in San Francisco calling themselves South Asian sisters, got the blessings from events later and said, we'd like to use that platform for our South Asian community because these are things that people don't talk about in our community. When I moved to San Diego, I said, this area doesn't have the South Asian communities is a very close knit community. It's a very closed community. So I wanted to bring that out and encourage women to come forward and talk about it because they don't know it at that time. But once they go through the process of the workshops for four months, it is amazingly transformative. So my story starts with where the third IVF attempt ended, where the doctor said, you know, they had five fetuses that they had put back in me and they said, no, I'm sorry. It's um, you've lost all five.

Speaker 2: 02:51 I think I know the exact moment when the one drag the others with it as if cajoling them to come out and play. I was devastated. I don't know what went wrong. I had also followed every bit of advice on baby making, one o one solicited or otherwise as dished out by all well meaning aunties. Maddie bought Samba Beta it. Holly with jaggery every morning it will make your womb fertile. Said one wise Auntie la, no, no, set another specimen. Gotti Putta lime and ginger with a bit of honey is best. My sister's brother in laws, daughter's friend had the same problem and after taking this mixture, she gave birth to triplets. I was in the presence of founding mothers of old wives' Tales. Obviously. I imagine the next step would be to practice and pop out that baby instead. It was seven stressful years of doctor's visits, specialists and hormone drugs.

Speaker 4: 03:55 Hmm.

Speaker 2: 03:56 The more you talk about it, it triggers memories and you do get emotional. And there were plenty of times where I did break down and cry while I, we were discussing it in the workshops, the writer's workshops, because I was talking about finding out each time that, uh, the IVF was not successful, that the, uh, the um, uh, losing five, five embryos at the same time was, you know, very hard. That was hard for me to share. But once you start writing, and the whole process of just sharing it with the women who are also sharing their own stories, that whole workshop is very cathartic for us. It's very, it's a nonjudgmental space and that really helps to talk about your story. But at the end of it, you'll come out strong and you're able to stand up in front of strangers, you know, 200, 300 strong and share your story.

Speaker 3: 04:54 Oh Oh

Speaker 2: 05:08 three stressful hormonally yo-yoing emotionally draining in vitro later came the epiphany of adoption with blessings of all family and friends. The adoption process of my first child took as long as human gestation nine months exactly with this. Remarkably coincidental timeline. I realized that inception was no different than joy or effort from conception. Now imagine two columns. Conception, inception, decision to conceive, decision to adopt our violation and copulation paperwork and applications, ultrasounds and checkups, social worker, interviews and references, gynecologists at hospitals, orphanages, Ostrom's, baby showers, baby showers, mad rush to the hospital, mad rush to India, birth of child, get custody of child. That magical moment when you first hold your baby, that magical moment when you first hold your baby. Homecoming, homecoming, stretchmarks, no stretch marks.

Speaker 2: 06:37 I've spoken to a lot of women that want to go through that process. You know, what does it take even as much as asking, well what if you don't bond with the child and you know, things like that. Um, so that has helped a lot is just talking and connecting and, and, and letting women know that it's, it's fine and it helps me a lot to speak about it as well. My children have always known from the beginning that they were adopted once a four year old nick hill asked me, mom, you must've been very sad when you lost five babies. I told him, yes, of course I was very sad, but if I had not lost them, you would not be in my life and I would not change a thing. Nina was more curious. She wanted to know why she was given up, why her birth mother did not want her. I carefully explained, I don't know my Betcha, but perhaps she was too young and unmarried. Many people believe only married couples can have babies, but you know what, Nina, I think she did a very brave thing to give birth to you. You are special because you were chosen that seem to satisfy her immensely. In fact, should even use it to her advantage and playground pissing contests. I am special cause my mom chose me. You were just born hours was a miracle family. We were brought together when we didn't even share one atom of common DNA.

Speaker 3: 08:06 Okay.

Speaker 1: 08:13 That was Nanda Maita, founder and director of Ohana. The fourth Ohana festival featuring a play in English by South Asian artists. Inspired by Eve. Ensler is the vagina monologues takes place on Saturday at 5:00 PM at the Joan be crock peace and justice theater at the University of San Diego. More information is on our website.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.