“You can see your baby in a few minutes,” said the reassuring voice behind the white mask. The voice belonged to the anesthetist just after he administered the epidural and declared me ready for my c-sec, to deliver my second child.
During my first delivery, they had knocked me out using general anesthesia and consequently I was the last person to see my daughter (let’s call her A1). I had been in too much pain, groggy and horizontal so when they finally brought A1 to me, I think I grimaced (forgivably so). But this time I was prepared, my epidural worked and I was awake in the OT, I would be the first to see my baby.
And then there was a tiny feeble cry and all the chatty nurses and docs fell silent. I was fighting to stay awake by then but mustered enough strength to ask, “Is that my baby“? One of them found their voice and said, “Yes yes, that’s your baby, everything is fine“. I waited, why wasn’t anyone speaking? Then…bless her wherever she is, a nurse standing by my head patted my cheek gently and said, “It’s a baby girl“.
Now we are the emotional sort, we like to turn on the tap at the whiff of an emotion and this was more than a whiff surely. So, the tears came and I smiled through the tears, then I began sobbing and smiling and sobbing some more. And then they brought her to me and she met my eyes the first time while I whispered my love to her. And then one of the white masks wanted to know…”Was I crying because I was happy or because I was sad?” My feisty gynecologist jumped in…”Of course she is happy, we have discussed this, and she wanted a girl“. It had begun.
My hubby would later recount how the neonatologist brought A2 to the waiting room with a nervous and glum expression. He feebly called out to the hubby and mumbled “It’s a girl” and when my man flashed his dimpled smile (the one I swoon over all the time…sigh…am digressing here) and scooped up our little one, the doc finally relaxed and looked like he could do a Caribbean jig himself. I don’t blame him; maybe he got bad mouthed by bitter irrational relatives in the past.
Across caste, creed, social strata, educational qualifications, financial background, nine times out of ten, when I am asked, “You have kids?” And I say, “Yes, two girls“, they will repeat my answer in the form of a question “Two girls?”, “Both girls”? And I smile and say, yes you heard me right the first time! The tone varies of course, some smile brightly and go on about pink bedrooms, dolls, hair clips and accessories. Others keep mum, almost embarrassed I should think, some are sympathetic (WTH), and one royal idiot asked me so when I am ‘trying’ for a boy. And then there is that .1% who congratulate me on my very blessed life!
I try not to be judgmental …for example, who am I to judge my household help at her disappointment when she just had her third granddaughter…fact of the matter is that today she lives in a world where she will have to scrounge every penny to accumulate ‘dowries’. Fact. Sure we are all hopeful of social change, but if it hasn’t happened in her world in a long time, she has to assume that she will have to go along with the system. But what about all those educated women out there? I hear stories about how my friends were left alone in the delivery room with the baby while the extended family grimaced outside. An acquaintance on hearing the news about A2’s birth reacted by saying, “It’s ok…you have another princess now“. Really? It’s ok? I am blessed you fool!
The one person who had it right was my 102 year old grand aunt, may she rest in peace! I was in my eighth month of pregnancy and was on the phone with her (she was healthy with all her wits about her till her time came) and she asked me, “So you are expecting again“? When I responded in the affirmative, she muttered a blessing and said, “It will be a girl“. I grinned and told her, “But you do remember A1 don’t you granny“. She said, “Yes, but I hope it’s another girl” and then went on to tell me the Malayalam equivalent of “girls rock”! Really, she came close to discrimination against boys I should think!! She lived long enough to bless my littlest one in person.
Alas, there aren’t many like her out there. What I run into more often is the moron in the elevator “Hello, how are you? Your kids? Two girls? Oh! Both girls ah?” As A1 watches me closely I smile and say, “Yes you heard me right the first time”
*Photo credit: Charles Street Bakery (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)