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Pregnancy…… her choice

Pregnancy…… her choice

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Pregnency test

This narrative reflects on the profound life-changing moment when the author, who once prioritized physical appearance and personal freedom, discovers she is pregnant. It explores the societal pressures and expectations surrounding pregnancy, highlighting the importance of a woman’s right to choose motherhood.

A fit, toned body….an enviable figure (citing the general opinion!)… washboard abs… a blessed metabolism….enough leisure time to do as l wished, go wherever, whenever l wanted to….sleep late…sleep till late….all precious assets and extremely valued liberties…were relinquished in just that one moment…when the pink line showed up like a star on the horizon, on my pregnancy test. In that one instant, my life changed. Just like that. No great shakes, quietly, with great promise, l had outgrown a certain period of my life. Nothing would ever be the same again. Ever.

I had spent a better part of the three decades of my life thinking only and exclusively about myself ….l did not know to put anyone or anything else before me, not in the real sense…or so l thought.

And here, staring at the obstinate pink line, which was only getting bolder every minute, my first thought was that “l hope she (was always sure l wanted a girl!)will be healthy and safe”! Where did that come from?! My own emotions caught me unawares!

pregnancy. A promise. A legacy of love. Lifelong responsibility. Unconditional everything. No ifs, no buts. You don’t back off, ever. You don’t get to. You cannot. No matter what. And you never come first for you, ever again. Period.

Now, l was not born with what you would call a ‘ peaches and cream ‘ complexion. No. But neither could you place me at the other end of the skin-colour spectrum. I came somewhere in-between with pretty pedestrian looks. My only claim to fame was my height, which was a little above the average Indian girl’s, and my lanky frame, or what people liked to call ‘an enviable figure’. I was quite vain about it.

Being blessed with a good metabolism, l could eat like a glutton (which l did!)but not show it at all! Hence no paunch or hump or tyres or saddlebags for me. I was always fit, toned… and was conscious of being so with no intention of letting anything change that!

Ever since my childhood days, l had overheard(not eavesdropped, no!) several whispered conversations between family elders about ‘X’ getting pregnant, ‘Y’ getting rid of a pregnancy, so on and so forth.

What puzzled me back then was that both instances seemed to outrage and scandalize my parents, uncles and aunts alike! If so and so got pregnant, they would turn up their noses and look at each other with covert expressions of utter disgust and if someone else got rid of one, the noses would turn up higher in the air and the creases of their frowns grow deeper. They would sigh and cluck their tongues in sharp disapproval. I had not a clue as to what exactly this ‘pregnancy’ could be but from keenly observing all that went on in my small world, l came to the conclusion that anything to do with the word ‘pregnancy’ must be a great offence!

The Hindi film industry too contributed its bit to my excitement and piqued-curiosity around the forbidden word ‘pregnancy’. Those days, very select households had colour television sets and hence it was commonplace for a few families to gather at a neighbour’s home and watch their favourite movies or soap operas together. Such gatherings by default would consist of kids as well. If the movie dealt with ‘adult’ themes like pregnancy, then we kids would be barred outright at the beginning (as was the case with the runaway hit, Julie!) …..but the real trouble was when such ‘evil’ stuff turned up in unexpected places, like the film Masoom, which had the most misleading, innocuous poster showing an adorable little boy and 2 adults… whereas the movie dealt with the issues of infidelity in marriage, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy etc. In those days of poor dissemination of information, our parents had no idea of the storyline and the film poster certainly gave nothing away! When the film got to its discomfiting, moment-of-truth part, we kids noticed our parents squirming, exchanging looks that clearly said “Oh my God! What do we do now?!”…and then, in a flash they turned around and promptly shooed us all away! So much for movie watching!!

Adolescence brought its own enlightenment! Like with so many other niggling issues, the cloud lifted somewhat from the shrouded mystery that ‘pregnancy’ was! My 13 year old mind struggled to grasp the concept of one complete human-being inside another, growing over a period of so many months, dependent on her for its survival! Though science tried its best to educate me comprehensively, l seemed inclined towards the ‘education’ imparted by my elder cousins and wiser peers in the matter! It also came to my notice that there was an entity known as ‘unwanted pregnancy’ and a word like ‘legitimacy’ that mattered much in such cases. It seemed too complicated to delve into, at the end of the day, and my lazy self was only too happy to let matters rest!

Soon however, as l entered my twenties and thanks to medical school, my visual acuity became a perfect 6/6 or 20/20! I finally saw things for what they were…and one interesting vista that opened up to me along with many others was that once married, girls/women were expected to get pregnant, almost as if the very act of marrying would make them so! There seemed to be immense societal pressure, apart from that within the family.

Suddenly the woman’s fertility was everyone’s business! Distant relations and even total strangers felt free to walk up to her and impart unsolicited advice on ways to increase fecundity, unabashedly! Not able to conceive? Oh, don’t you worry! Go to such and such temple and make a generous offering….or observe a fast for 16 Fridays in the name of such and such goddess….or try the fruit/ leaves/ roots/ flower/ stem(l am running out of parts!!)of such and such tree/ plant….even detailed advice regarding extremely private moments of intimacy…name it, and you have it!! God bless the Indian society!

The one thing that the world missed in its earnest endeavours and still does, is that often the timing of the pregnancy or even the pregnancy itself is a matter of choice. For the prospective mother, for the prospective parents.

In our country and its diverse communities, oftentimes the girl does not have a say in matters of marriage, more so in the choice of pregnancy. In many societies, they are married off at ridiculously young ages, with no knowledge of contraception. Hence not getting pregnant is a choice unavailable to them! Whether they want to or not, whether they understand all that a pregnancy entails or not, whether they themselves are mature enough and adult enough or not, pregnant they become. With disastrous consequences, ever so often, for both child and mother, physical and emotional.

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Yes, bearing an offspring is a beautiful thing, a wonderful way to perpetuate the love between two individuals and the ultimate act of selflessness on the part of the woman, but only and only when she gets to have a say, only when she chooses or gets to choose to undergo the journey.

It is the woman’s body, her womb that houses the child for 280 days. It is her hormones that go for a toss and play havoc with her emotional state. It is her body and its beauty, youth and perfection at stake. It is her career that is put on hold, that needs restructuring, rebuilding afterward. It is her time, her freedom, her peace of mind that is sacrificed at the altar of motherhood. Not only does she physically bear the growing fetus inside her, but also becomes solely responsible for its nutrition and hence survival both before and after birth!

Pregnant Woman

Should she not have a say in all this at least? Should she not have a choice in the matter?! A woman might choose not to conceive at all…and it is for nobody to question or judge that.

When l conceived my babies, each time it was a conscious and well thought out choice. I was willing to pay whatever price l needed to, in terms of physical appearance, my career, my freedom, my time, everything, in order to bring into this world two souls that were borne and born out of deep and meaningful love, who carried something of the both of their parents, in them. I have not regretted it since. Not once did my vanity come in the way. Whenever l have chanced upon my bodily ‘imperfections’ in the looking glass, I have reminded myself that l have two priceless treasures to show for them. All my scars and laxity of skin and muscle are worth it!

To my mind, the best part of my being a woman is my being a mother. And l wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my choice. And a very personal one.

 

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