Does Marriage & Baby Talk Set Feminism Back?
Rather than wishing my Amma on Mother’s Day, I was worried about whether I will ever become a mother. Well, I still am. Kind of…
At my last Pap smear test, I bled more than normal and the nurse found a cyst on my cervix. ‘Do you have children?’ she asked, as though the cyst posed a barrier to having kids. Fifteen minutes prior, the gynaecologist had mentioned polycystic ovarian disorder as an unlikely, but equally possible reason for my recurring acne at thirty. Though I didn’t exhibit most of the symptoms she listed, she suggested that whenever I decide to start a family, I should get tested for PCOS. It’s difficult to conceive if you have PCOS, she added.
From the 80s (the decade I was born) to now, a lot has changed for the socio-economic standing of women. What has also changed is the purported expiry date on our biological clocks. It no longer stops ticking at thirty. Every other day, I look at Wikipedia pages of independent successful women who have had children in their late thirties and forties. I feel a little hopeful. But then I think about my long-distance relationship, my successful partner who is not ready to be a father. That I cannot get pregnant even by accident because sex is a rarity and when we do have sex for the ten days we meet, the pills are consumed with clockwork precision. And then I start counting—how many years before he is ‘ready’?
If he is never ready, then how many years before I find someone whom I can love enough to have a child with? What if unknown to me, there’s something within me that will make it harder for me to conceive? Then how many years before the trying would bear fruition? Truth be told, I am scared to get my ovaries examined.
So then I read stories of women, some of them single some with partners, who have adopted. Being a mother is not just about the biology. I reason with myself that it doesn’t matter if I give birth or adopt, as long as I have a child someday to love and call my own. But then I come across a woman at the supermarket, or on the bus, or a colleague with their gracefully round bellies, glowing faces and a peaceful aura around them and the romance of the scene trumps reason.
My partner says I am more interested in the idea of being a mother than the reality of it; that I should focus on my career instead. Well-meaning advice or a convenient ruse to absolve responsibility? I don’t know.
My partner says I am more interested in the idea of being a mother than the reality of it; that I should focus on my career instead. Well-meaning advice or a convenient ruse to absolve responsibility? I don’t know. I tell him he doesn’t get to decide how I should feel, and yet, I find myself stacking up on the pill before seeing him. And I am sick of the constant emphasis on building a successful career.
Does marriage and baby talk set feminism back or what? Isn’t it about choices?
But then I look at my bank account and my one-room tenement in a shared house, and I am humbled. I am independent; I pay my rent, bills and taxes. Am I successful? Not quite and I won’t even get into the ‘what is success’ argument. Am I courageous enough to say ‘up yours’ and not pop the pill? Absolutely not. So then I count how many years before the bank balance says ‘successful’; before I can make a decision even if someone special is scared to make it with me. And I find myself with no answers.
So, I ask myself—how badly will the quality of my life be affected if I don’t become a mother? Pregnancy makes you fat, you could get post-partum depression, and your life comes to a standstill. For a few weeks, I roll my eyes at the women on the bus with their unfashionable baby buggies and crying kids, till I bump into my colleague in the restroom, touching up her lilac lipstick. She works part-time, drinks and dances with abandon at office parties, has two little boys and is trying for a third kid and my mind begins churning again.
The cycle continues…
Shyama Laxman works in London as a sales professional. She eats dal chawal and breathes Bollywood. The views expressed are author’s own.