Selected news stories from the international press relating to Asian (In)Fertilities:
Faith made Om Mani Nepal's 1st test-tube baby - Republica
(10 December 2009)
Kathmandu: While setting out to meet Om Mani Tamang-- Nepal´s first test-tube baby --this scribe, like every other person, wondered what he would look like. With my pre-conceived image of a ´different kind´ of kid, there was an element of surprise in finding that he was absolutely normal.
“He is a perfectly normal and healthy kid,” his mother Sandhya Syangbo says and goes on to relate how everyone asks the same question: “How is he different from other babies?” Born on March 3, 2005 through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), Om Mani was a milestone in Nepali medicine. But Om--so named by his mother both for the religious significance of the word and recognition of the effort put in by Om Hospital and Research Center--is your average five-year-old next door. Shy before strangers but completely at ease when left to himself. He is the apple of Sandhya and Rajendra Tamang´s eye and the doting parents have high hopes for him. He is different in that expectations of him are much greater, having been born in such a fashion. There is also a small matter of Sandhya suffering three miscarriages before trying IVF. Married in 1998 in their late 30s, the couple suffered their first blow the next year. “The doctor had advised me to be hospitalized for delivery on Monday. But I suffered a miscarriage two days earlier on Saturday and lost my daughter,” Sandhya says, recalling the first miscarriage. After the third miscarriage her fallopian tube was blocked and doctors pronounced that she would never conceive again. Hope against hope “The doctors had given their verdict and our only hope was a miracle,” Om´s father Rajendra admits. The couple turned to astrologers and fortune-tellers for solace. “We went to every jyotishi (astrologer) and mata (sorceress) we had heard of. Wherever we went, they said I would have a son,” Sandhya recalls. One such mata said Sandhya would not conceive again until she went to Rajendra´s ancestral home in Bakhim-2, Bhojpur and appeased the family gods. They obliged. They did everything they were asked to do just to feel satisfied that they had done their best. One particular jyotishi even predicted that 2061 BS was auspicious and she would have a son that year. It was one thing to hear a favorable prediction but quite another to see it come true. One day, Sandhya´s friend Nirmala Acharya, a journalist at Rastriya Samachar Samiti, called her to say that Om Hospital was starting IVF treatment and she should try it. The couple contacted the hospital but they said the quota of 16 was already filled and they could not take a 17th case. Combination of fate and technology The couple then went back to the jyotishi, who warned them not to miss the opportunity as they would otherwise never become parents. The couple couldn´t afford to go abroad but their hopes for a miracle came true. They got a call from the hospital which asked them to come with Rs 200,000 the next day. Sandhya, a non-gazetted first class staffer at the Tourism Ministry, drew upon her provident fund and came up with the required amount. “Though we were the last to be accepted by the hospital, we turned out to be the first to make the payment,” Sandhya says. “Others were hesitant to put up such a huge amount. But we were sure it would work for us,” Sandhya argues, revealing her spiritual bent. The couple again went to the jyotishi for his go-ahead and he said the date Om Hospital was scheduling for the IVF was auspicious. “The menstrual cycles of all 17 women were manipulated and the fertilizations were done on a single day,” Sandhya informs. She was the last in the queue. he embryo was transferred to her womb after 24 hours and thereafter it was all natural. The couple understood the gravity of the situation and didn´t want to take any chances. Sandhya left their rented apartment and moved in with her youngest sister Sarita Syangbo, who took complete care of her. “It was as if I had gone underground. I didn´t take any phone calls and didn´t go anywhere except the hospital,” Sandhya says. They didn´t tell anybody that she was trying IVF. “Sarita, Nirmala and the jyotishi were the only other persons who knew, apart from the doctors. Even my mother came to know only after seven months,” Sandhya quips. Doctors had warned that the technology was not foolproof and success depended upon God´s grace and pure luck. Seven out of the 17 women conceived and four of the seven had miscarriages. Om was delivered by cesarean section at 8:52 a.m. Dr Sushil Koirala´s wife had twin sons the next day while film producer Keshav Bhattarai´s spouse had a son a couple of weeks later. Sandhya says she has referred other women to the same jyotishi and 10 of them have succeeded with IVF while two others delivered naturally. “One woman succeeded through IVF at the age of 50 at the third attempt, adhering to the timing the jyotishi advised,” she goes on in his praise. Auspicious Om Every kid is auspicious for its parents but Om´s parents believe he is even more so. They point out that he has became the first test-tube baby in Nepal although the egg was the last of the lot to get fertilized. Firm believers in fate and destiny, the couple further says that according to the jyotishi the date for the fertilization was also auspicious. Biologically also the egg was medically refined for the IVF, Sandhya argues. “We bought this house (at Bhrikuti Chowk, Banasthali) after I conceived and I entered it with babu (our son) in tow. I also got promoted to section officer after he was born,” she adds to support her argument. She says Om, who is in Lower KG at Graded Education Merit School (GEMS) at Banasthali, is pretty sharp and comes second in his class. “Considering the travails I went through, I would ideally wish him to become a gynecologist and help women in need. But I´ll be satisfied with whatever he chooses to be,” Sandhya confides. Om already has a sense that he is a little different from others because of regular visits by media persons. “We have kept all the newspaper clippings about him and he has seen them,” Rajendra says. The couple says he responds ´Om Mani Tamang´ when asked what test-tube baby means. He, obviously, doesn´t yet understand the meaning of IVF and the parents wish to explain it to him when he grows up. Despite all the attention, they believe Om is just an ordinary boy. Just a few extraordinary feats from him would suffice for them.