Janine Worlikar

Photojournalist and Documentary Photographer
   
Wunderkind
Location: Berlin
Nationality: German
Biography: Janine Worlikar is a published photojournalist and freelance photographer from Berlin. She holds a Master’s degree from University of Leipzig in Languages and Cultural Studies and attended Ostkreuzschule for Photography in Berlin. She speaks... read on
Public Story
Wunderkind
Credits: janine worlikar
Updated: 06/22/20
Location: Alewa, India
Rajo Devi Lohan had her first child at age 70. "I became a real woman“, she says to me, she is 80 years old now. She is the birthmother of Naveen, ten years of age. Balaram Lohan, Naveen’s father is 81 years old. Proudly he announces: „Before the birth of my daughter, I was nothing. Today I feel like a king“. The salvation for the Lohan’s came in form of In-vitro-fertilization, an egg donor and heavy hormone treatment for Rajo Devi. Naveen was conceived by a doctor, in a petri dish—a so-called „retort baby“, in Hissar, the next town close to their village Alewa in the state of Haryana, India.

Rajo Devi became pregnant ten years after her menopause had ended. She bear her daughter in her womb for twenty-nine weeks. At birth, the baby weighed 1,500 grammes. After the birth, Naveen spent more than two months in an incubator. Her mother would breast feed her for three consecutive years. Rajo Devi says, she finally found dignity by conceiving and bringing her own child into the world, caring for her.

Childless woman in India are often stigmatized by their communities. Before her pregnancy, women in her village would avoid eye contact with Rajo Devi, fearing her inability to conceive a child would be infectious. They called her „bange“, Hindi for „empty belly“. Her husband, Balaram, would start drinking heavily, then, finally take a second wife, trying to conceive, but could not either. India is one of few countries worldwide with no legal regulations on IVF conception and/or egg donation, neither is there an age limitation for IVF treatment or consecutive hormone treatment for women. Theoretically every woman at every age, if she can afford it, can undergo the treatment in India. The country counts an estimated 20,000 fertility clinics. Few of these follow the recommendations of the Indian Council of Medical Research to refrain from treating women over 50 years of age.

Rajo Devi fell ill few years after giving birth, she suffered from uterus cancer. The doctor who helped her to become pregnant finally helped her to pay for the cancer treatment. Today she believes to be healthy again. Still for Rajo Devi and Balaram Lohan their daughter Naveen is a miracle send from the gods, and the doctor who made her happen, godlike.Naveen is very lively, intelligent, said to be one of the best in her class. She goes to a private school. I wonder, what will become of her should the parents die and she should become an orphan. „We made provisions.“, the parents answer. An uncle will take Naveen in. Her mother only wishes to see her daughter getting married, before she dies.

(Commissioned work for German magazine FOCUS.)
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By Janine Worlikar —

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