By Team DAP
Mahhi Vij is an Indian model and actress who primarily covers Hindi soap operas. Along with her career in modelling, she has appeared in several music videos and is best known for playing the role of Nakusha in Laagi Tujhse Lagan and Nandini in Balika Vadhu, among others. Mahhi married Indian actor Jay Bhanushali in 2011 and in 2017 they started fostering Rajveer and Khushi, as a way to extend their family. In 2019, after many attempts, they became biological parents to Tara – a gift they can’t thank God enough for! Mahhi revealed they had been trying to have a baby through IVF, and Tara was their last attempt. Going through IVF is not an easy journey. It takes a toll on you, but what kept her going was, “When you don’t do anything bad, you are always positive that whatever will happen, will be good!”
Birthing: A Journey of Love
One of the biggest stigmas surrounding IVF is the perception that the child born out of this process is not our own. Our society has seen infertility as a matter of shame and disgrace. Whether a normal or IVF birth, birthing is, after all, nothing but a journey of love. It is a shared experience and a joy to behold. Speaking about her journey, Mahhi shared, “I tried IVF when I was 32 (in 2014), but it didn’t click. Then, at a certain age, many doctors told me I should opt for surrogacy. But Jay wanted to enjoy those nine months. IVF is not an easy journey; emotionally, you feel drained, and your mental health goes for a toss.”
Birthing is a beautiful journey, but beautiful things also prick. Being pregnant with Tara was one of the most treasured experiences of her life, even though the numerous injection shots she received drained her from the inside. “I knew I had to be strong… after all, it’s for my baby,” Mahhi says this was the only thing that kept her going. The journey of parenthood, though exhausting and overwhelming, is euphoric. After all, it’s about the journey and the child, and eventually, the pain will subside.
Team DAP: We know a lot of women get shamed about having to resort to non-natural methods such as IVF. As someone who has been through this several times, were you ever subjected to this stigma? What do you think will help women feel less shame around it?
Mahhi: There’s nothing to feel ashamed of if you choose the process of IVF and can’t reproduce naturally. You aren’t doing anything wrong. Yes, a lot of people say, ‘acha IVF kiya hai apne?’ as if you have committed a crime but, excuse me! I have spent my own money to get an IVF, I didn’t ask you for it and now after all the time and patience, I have a beautiful child. It’s not like going through IVF is easy. I struggled with my journey at many points and even wanted to give up. When I started with IVF, I was very new to the process and I had no one to tell me what it was all about. When I was told that I can’t have a child naturally, which we had been trying for a while, I thought let’s go with IUI which didn’t work out either. I next went for IV and then I chose to go for IVF. I had a few failed IVFs before we actually had Tara. There was a time when I had to transfer the eggs and store them and I was bleeding and had to be admitted to the hospital. There are a lot of things that a woman has to go through from emotions and mental health to body changes. The number of injections and medicines that you have to take also doesn’t make things easy.
Team DAP: You talk about hope and patience surrounding IVF. What is your advice to other couples on the same journey?
Mahhi: I just want to tell everyone that we are lucky enough to have a child whether it’s through IUI or IVF or surrogacy. Don’t feel ashamed, and as long as you love and want to have kids, go for it! In today’s time, there are so many factors that affect childbirth, with intense chemical use in all products, pollution, lack of sleep and more. Jay and I were trying to have a child very late in our marriage, unlike earlier when people used to have kids in their 20s. Unfortunately, I tried very late, and that created some problems in my journey but I was also fortunate enough that another method worked for me. So, I would just say, go for it, don’t be ashamed and don’t think that you have to feel bad about IVF or IUI. As long as you can have a child, that is all that matters.
Team DAP: Would you like to talk about the process of freezing your eggs? It’s something that is still relatively new and not yet explored by many women. Tell us about the challenges you went through.
Mahhi: I would like to tell everyone who’s busy with their work and doesn’t want to have a child as of now to please freeze their eggs at the right age. That’s what I did at 32, which was late, but I feel that everybody should freeze their eggs because it gives you the option of having a child when you want. Saving my eggs, even if late, was the best thing I did! Doctors say you should freeze your eggs before you turn 35, as that is safer for both you and the child. At the beginning of our journey, I tried IVF twice, but it didn’t work out, so I told Jay that I wanted to take a break and give my body some time. But then I switched my doctor to Dr Sadan Desai and I told her that these are the last eggs I am left with and this is the only hope and I’m not going to try after this because I’m tired. More than physical, IVF and this whole process take a toll on your mental health and make you very emotional. This time, at the age of 36 when we tried again, I became pregnant with twins. Both the eggs clicked, but the other embryo was a little weaker than Tara, and it got dissolved on its own. I was hoping that the twins work out. It would have been the best thing. But we are still very happy and blessed to have a healthy and joyous child; like Tara.
Team DAP: Talk to us about how the success and failure of the IVF process have affected you.
Mahhi: A lot of women get affected by the failures and the general process of IVF as it can take a toll on you. I went into this journey with a very open and positive mind. For me it was like ‘chalo yeh nahi hua toh next option try karenge’ and not ‘arrey yeh nahi hua abhi hum kya karenge?’ Even though there were many failures on our journey, I didn’t take it too hard and just wanted to see what was next with the hope that this new method would work for us.
The day I got Tara home was the best day of my life, and I feel that she is a blessing not just for me but for a lot of people. I get so many calls and DMs from people saying they have dreams of her. Recently, I met a pilot at the Bangkok airport and she told me that before she lands and flies, she sees Tara’s video which makes her very happy! So many people don’t have their kids and grandkids living with them and they tell me that they watch and discuss Tara and she has become a part of their families. I feel that this child is a total blessing to us and to everyone who loves her, near or far.
Team DAP: Even after becoming pregnant, your worries didn’t stop. How did you feel when Tara was born prematurely and was in the ICU?
Mahhi: Tara was prematurely born and was very weak. I gave birth to her at 10:20 at night and the next morning I asked my doctors if I could go and see my child. By then, they had not told me that she was in the ICU and said that she was fine, but I can’t meet her yet. This was quite scary for me. I insisted and was devastated when I saw her in the ICU. I thought about what I had done wrong that I had to see my child this way but the doctors assured me that it’s normal for a premature baby and we would soon find a solution for her to be okay. Every time I saw her, I used to just cry and pray for her to become okay soon. There was a time when all the other babies had come out of the ventilator other than Tara who was on it for a very long time. I started talking to her and saying, ‘Tara, your mom is not that brave and not emotionally strong, please leave the ventilator; this is all I want from you. You are my daughter, and you have to be brave.’ Thankfully, the next day, the doctor informed me that it was safe for her to be off the ventilator.
Team DAP: What are some challenges you faced after Tara was born?
Mahhi: When Tara was born, the biggest challenge I faced was breastfeeding because my body was not prepared to feed her due to her premature birth. I would also worry about how much milk I was producing in comparison to other mothers. Tara had to latch one day and couldn’t as my body and breasts weren’t prepared, and that made me feel just miserable. Everyone told me that it was okay and it wasn’t my fault, but I couldn’t help but blame myself. Thankfully, things soon changed and you won’t believe, but it was God’s intervention because whenever they said we need 5ml, I would produce exactly that amount! Once Tara was shifted out of the hospital, she needed 20ml of milk every day, and I would literally only be able to produce that much. This really made me believe that there is somebody up there blessing me.
Team DAP: You’ve talked a lot about doing good in life as it reflects on your children. What are some values that you want to inculcate in your children?
Mahhi: The one thing I always want Khushi, Tara, and Rajvir to be is kind towards others. But at the same time, I want them to be street-smart. I don’t want anybody to emotionally wreck them for being good people who want to help others. I want them to have a really good heart, they should feel for people and for elders and respect everyone, but at the same time not get taken for granted or used in any way.
I want Tara to be very smart when it comes to making emotional decisions. I don’t want her to get hurt but as human nature goes, that is inevitable. But yes, I would like to tell her that you should have confidence in yourself, have confidence in your decisions, and most importantly, love everyone around you. I would not like to tell her “love yourself first” because I believe respect and love for others around is very important. Today, I can’t say I love myself first and my daughter is my second priority.
Team DAP: How do you make sure your kids become the people you’ve envisioned? What is your view on that?
Mahhi: I think kids learn from their environment, from their school, from other kids and people they meet. This is why I have made sure that I am surrounded by people who give good vibes, who have good thoughts, and who can influence my children in a positive way, allowing them to be better people when they grow up. Every child goes through different phases as they grow up, and I too am facing all these issues. Luckily, Tara is a very happy-go-lucky child because she sees that both her parents are very quiet and not aggressive or hyper. Jay and I are very very very kehte haina shaant.. shaant mahaul ghar mai, TV bhi loud nahi dekhte hain. Kids learn from their parents, and so Tara understands that getting loud or aggressive doesn’t take you anywhere. Keeping good company and ensuring a positive and nurturing environment for your kids is very important to influence them correctly.