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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Birth of Baby Brings Joy, But Takes Its Toll

Hey, Tanya -- how's Grisha?" Yet another neighbor approaches the open window of Tatyana's first-floor kitchen to ask about her baby.

"We're sleeping now," says Tatyana, smiling for no apparent reason.

But for Tatyana -- a plump, attractive brunette -- the reason for the smile is simple: Grisha -- her healthy, 18-month-old son sleeping in his crib in the living room while his grandfather snores on the couch -- was a long time in the hatching.

"I was a healthy, strong woman. I never doubted I could have a baby," says Tatyana over tea in her kitchen, where tiny clothes have been hung to dry over the stove.

But in 1991, during her first pregnancy, Tatyana miscarried. "For me, of course, that was a shock," she says. Soon afterward, she conceived again -- and miscarried.

"Then I started looking at this with different eyes -- about how difficult getting pregnant can be. I decided to see some specialists, see what kind of treatment I might need and make a decision: Is this accidental or is there some reason for it?"

Over the next four years, during which she was treated for infertility, Tatyana faced two bitter ironies. In a country where abortion remains the most widely used birth-control method and where the birth rate has dropped as many families decide if they could afford children, Tatyana was horrified at her inability to carry a child to term. In her job -- as a midwife in a birthing clinic -- she saw children born every day to mothers who brought them forth effortlessly. Eventually, the stress was too much, and Tatyana left that job.

"I couldn't work there. I saw how women were giving birth, how happy they were -- I can't explain it. You have to go through it."

By 1995, Tatyana was frantic. Both she and her husband, Sergei, had been analyzed and examined. Tatyana lost 10 kilograms as part of her treatment. She tried everything: vitamins, herbal remedies, cleansing cures, homeopathic treatment. Then another disaster struck: Tatyana's father was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

In three months, he lost 20 kilograms. In May, the doctors operated. "At that moment, I was all wrapped up with Dad," Tatyana says. "The doctors were talking metastasis. It was a catastrophe. He's the closest person to me. He's always supported me, in happiness, pain, sadness. Then I realized at any moment I could lose him." But she didn't lose him. And in June, she and Sergei got good news: Tatyana was pregnant. Nine months later, she delivered Grisha.

The cost of bearing Grisha was high, says Tatyana. Between 1991 and 1995, she and Sergei spent one million rubles -- then an exorbitant amount -- to have their son. But Tatyana laughs off the financial burden. The greater cost was borne by her marriage. Both worried that she would miscarry again, and Sergei started drinking heavily. His alcoholism eventually resulted in the ultimate irony: The two divorced, though, for financial reasons, they still live in the same apartment.

If she were to do it again, Tatyana says, she wouldn't do anything differently -- Grisha was worth it.

"In spite of all our difficulties, I don't think we can live without them."

Helen Womack is on vacation.