South Asian Communities Don’t Always Talk About Miscarriage — Which Is Exactly Why The Block’s Sharon Johal Is
That's why The Block: Tree Change star Sharon Johal is adamant in speaking up about her own experiences. The 34-year-old Indian Australian actor — who is competing on the renovations reality TV show with husband Ankur Dogra — froze her eggs earlier this year after having a miscarriage in September 2020.
The decision to tell people about what she's been through is a huge deal because she and Dogra grew up in South Asian communities that still often view miscarriage, infertility and even mental health as taboo.
"We've come from backgrounds where our families keep their secrets, they don't tell anybody and they hide shit from other members of the community," Johal tells Refinery29 Australia.
"They don't go and get counselling and they don't see therapists because they're like, 'We don't want people to know what's going on in our family.' That's definitely the family I grew up with."
The aim of talking about her experiences is to help normalise these conversations so other women, and especially South Asian women, don't feel so isolated if they go through a similar ordeal.
"Everything I share is for a reason, because miscarriages aren't spoken about, the fact that I froze my eggs and I'm in a happy marriage is not spoken about, and also I believe married or not married, you can do what you want and you should be supported by your community," she explains.
It was less than a year ago that Johal penned a moving piece about losing her baby in September 2020 when she was 13 weeks pregnant.
She had experienced spotting and intense cramping while working on the set of Neighbours, and while subsequent scans at a hospital indicated everything was normal, she later had contractions and miscarried at home. Johal and her husband were forced to deal with the grief alone as the miscarriage occurred during the height of Melbourne's strict COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
Earlier this year the actor spoke about freezing her eggs, explaining there were multiple factors that contributed to her decision to do so.
"Both my husband and I feel robbed of the past two years of our life, career-wise and emotionally, so we want to make sure that we're both in the best mental health space before we bring a child into this world," she told Body & Soul. "We just need a bit more time to think, and that was the driving decision behind freezing my eggs."
"There shouldn't be stigma attached with you being wanting to be ambitious career-wise," she tells Refinery29. "There shouldn't be a stigma attached with you changing from being a lawyer to an actor.
"I married an Indian guy, but he's not Sikh. So that was a big issue as well. I spoke about that and how I had to keep that relationship under cover for a bit because the community wouldn't understand it, even extended family wouldn't understand."
Everything I share is for a reason, because miscarriages aren't spoken about, the fact that I froze my eggs and I'm in a happy marriage is not spoken about...
While she's not a huge fan of social media, the actor enjoys using it to spread messages where she "can contribute or help other people, especially young Indian women, ethnic women or just young women in general, to own who they are and not be embarrassed about it."
After speaking up about her miscarriage, Johal says other young women and even "aunties in the community" have reached out to her and shared their similar experiences.
It's this vulnerability and openness that she promises to continue sharing on The Block: Tree Change this year.
"Even though it's a building show, for Ankur and me it was to really back each other and stand up for ourselves. You'll see moments like that happening throughout the season — owning your emotions, being upset when you're upset, admitting that 'I'm finding this really hard' and asking for help — because I would really love to be in a world where all of that sort of stuff was normal."
Johal and Dogra are one of five pairs competing on the show's 18th season in Gisborne South in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. The other teams are Sarah-Jane and Tom, Dylan and Jenny, Omar and Osman, and Rachel and Ryan who've replaced Elle Ferguson and Joel Patfull who walked out of the show after 48 hours.
The Block: Tree Change airs on Sunday at 7pm and Monday to Wednesday at 7:30pm on Channel 9 and 9Now.