Getting pregnant for a male child is a phenomenon that is unique to patriarchal societies like India. If your firstborn is a male child then you’ve hit the jackpot. If you bring a daughter into the world, then a few years down the line, you are encouraged to “try” again by those around you. As a mom to a daughter, my only child, I have endured this push to try for a male child again and again over the past few years and I often wonder, what’s the best response that I could give in such a situation.
As a mother, I have never felt the desire to opt for a second pregnancy, for any reason. I feel the cup of my life is full right now and there seems to be no need to add more to it. However, there have been multiple occasions where several people, even some of my female friends have subtly told me to think about my situation. That I need to try for a male child, because how else are we supposed to ensure a happy and comfortable old age for ourselves, right? How else can we ensure that the family’s lineage continues? Like it or not, but women who give birth to sons enjoy a special status, at least in the heads of people who consider male children to be superior progenies.
As a result of this, women are often encouraged to keep having children till they hit the jackpot. If you have budget constraints, you are told to at least try once more, or twice. According to the Economic Survey of 2018, there are over 21 million “unwanted” girls in India, which means that their parents opted for a pregnancy in the hope to have a son. The report further claimed that India is missing 63 million women due to its obsession with sons, perhaps due to practices like sex determination, female foeticide and infanticide.
The gender of a child is a fact- it’s neither a matter of pride or shame. But a patriarchal society never lets us forget who is its favourite.
Being part of a progressive urban family, I have never faced the pressure to give birth to a boy and I know that’s a privilege that many women don’t have. However, no matter how loving and progressive your family is, there is no dearth of people in our society who would constantly remind you that your life isn’t complete since you don’t have a son. It is easy to see worry, pity and horror swim in their eyes, as you tell them that you don’t plan to have another baby (thus giving up your chance to have a son). I have seen women on the other side of this ordeal closely too. Women who have opted for a second and third pregnancy to have a boy, and what it does to their lives and mental health when they are blessed with daughters.
I am often tempted at getting back to people who tell me to try for a son that I always wanted a baby girl, but then isn’t that discriminatory towards boys? Shouldn’t we simply be grateful to have a happy and healthy child, giving no power to gender over how we feel about our own child?
Maybe I should tell people that I am content with what I have, but then it comes across as if I have made peace with my destiny, in a sad way. The problem is that my child’s gender had never mattered to me, so I simply don’t know how to react to people who want me to believe that I haven’t been dealt a good hand by the almighty.
Right now it feels like a smile followed by a curt reply about not wanting any more children is the best strategy. You have to pick the battles you can fight in your lifetime, and misplaced concerns of people simply doesn’t feel worth the time and effort it needs.
Views expressed are the author’s own.