Minal Mehta on Relinquishing Control
What moments in life shaped you and brought you where you are now?
There wasn't a lot of pressure on us as kids to be something specific—my parents were very encouraging of us going out for something big. I grew up in LA and was really into performing arts. I started producing Bollywood shows and won national dance competitions. I got into fitness and sports—and then I started putting the creative world of Bollywood and fitness together to make BollyX. Being active and taking care of my health has become a big part of my life. And it was a source of strength before and during pregnancy.
What was your intention around your career while trying to start a family?
When you're trying to conceive you think it's gonna happen right away and you plan your life around your future kid's arrival. And it turns out you can control a lot of things in your life but you can't control when you get pregnant. When it started taking more time to conceive than I'd liked, I had to shift my way of thinking and accept that there isn't an ideal time to build a family and manage my careers. So I decided to just go for it again and jump into a new venture. As luck would have it, I ended up getting pregnant right before I got a new job. So there was a lot of transition at once. What I've also realized over time is that our careers are super long. A single move here or there isn't going to make or break us—it's all a learning experience.
Why did you and your partner decide to start the road to parenthood?
I'm a really big fan of my husband. He has a really open, generous heart—and is really hilarious. I knew he'd transfer that generosity to his kid and be really good at taking care of another human. One of the things I really appreciate is neither of us have made any compromises with work or life because of each other. It's not to say we haven't gone through difficult things—we've just always focused on how can we work together toward a good end goal.
We're not big planners so we never really set out with a master plan and concretely discussed our futures. I wasn't ready to have kids for a long time and he never pushed it. I was enjoying our fun life in NYC, doing our own thing. If it wasn't for my biological clock, I could've waited another ten years.
What did you expect from yourself while getting pregnant?
My sister had no difficulty getting pregnant and I thought it would be the same for me. I mean, we have the same genetics, right? When we finally did start trying, it took me a year to get pregnant. Then I had a miscarriage after seven weeks. It was devastating because it took so long to conceive. With my career and fitness, I'm very used to getting a specific outcome when I put effort into something. But the thing about getting pregnant is you don't have the same control you're used to. I've always kept myself super healthy. I take care of myself, I eat well, I'm active, I was watching what I was drinking. It can really be a total mind fuck trying to get pregnant.
To keep my sanity, the most important thing I did was take care of myself and invest in a personal trainer before and during pregnancy. I was able to strengthen my new body in a safe way—and it's just really fun. When you're in the habit of taking care of yourself before pregnancy, it becomes really natural to keep doing so when you're pregnant.
How did your emotional experience unfold over the course of your journey?
It's really a journey. For the first few months you're optimistic and start trying when you think you're ovulating. After 5-6 months you start to take things more seriously and get organized. I downloaded a bunch of apps and inputted a bunch of information about myself. I got more paranoid about my body and the signs it was sending me. I started to watch what I was eating and drinking. After 8 months, I started buying things at the drug store, like sperm-friendly lube and ovulation predictor tests. But even after all those months I still felt ridiculous to me to do all of this—so I wasn't taking it seriously and testing on the right day.
During the eleventh month, I decided to follow the ovulation test instructions to a "T". I started using them right when they told me to—and lo and behold, I ended up getting pregnant! I mean, why I hadn't this earlier? And with my second pregnancy, I got pregnant pretty quickly because I was using the ovulation tests from the start. I found out I ovulated on a very different day than I did the first time I got pregnant—the time I had my miscarriage. It might be that I ovulate on different days of the month and wasn't hitting the days right. So while it felt ridiculous to start my mornings peeing on those drug store sticks—and pinning your sexual activity to a schedule, it worked both times I got pregnant.
What did your community provide you?
You hear stories of other women going through problems conceiving or going through miscarriages, but you start with an inherent sense of optimism and hope, so you don't think it'll hit you that hard. When it did, one of the most important things I did was share my story with my friends. I realized women are so resilient and our bodies go through a lot. The more we share with each other, the more we can draw moral support from each other. I had no idea miscarriage was so common—1 of 5 pregnancies. If I'd known, I would have tempered my expectations more. I felt silly for being so excited that I'd been pregnant and was excitedly envisioning my future. But as soon as I opened up abut my journey, I got strength that allowed me to move on. I realized this is a fact of life, it happens, and there are reasons it happens. That helped cut down the emotional side of the miscarriage for me.