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How are women's choices on career and home made? Why is it that only women need to make these choices?
I log in to my Facebook account and am urged to ‘lean in‘. Another article tells me how I can’t have it all. Another talks about what regrets await me should I leave the work force.
I type away dissecting, analysing, weighing in on all of them.
I should be clear in my mind by now. But I am not.
I am stuck on the word choice. Choice. It implies I am in control. Perhaps I am. But if I am, why do I feel so conflicted? I look back to the point when I had just finished college. A fire burned in me. I was ready to take on the big, bad adult world. I marched in to my dad’s boss’s office, a single sheet resume in my hand and walked out with a job. A couple of years later, the incessant talk of marriage and what it meant to be a wife filtered into the recesses of my brain. As I started a new project, thoughts strayed. “Would I be there to finish it?”. “Perhaps I will be married by then.” “What if I had to move away?”
Nobody placed me under duress. I was acting as I was supposed to. As family and prospective in-laws expected me to. Happily trading my identity for his. I would start anew. Build a career from scratch. And I did.
Then the stirrings started again. “What if I became pregnant?”. “I would like to stay home for the first year after the baby is born” “Will we be able to manage on a single person pay?”
I turned down challenging assignments. I lived in a world of perpetual what-ifs.
“Perhaps we will conceive if I took a break?”
Few more years flew by. “What if we got the call about being matched with the baby when we are on vacation?” “Should I take a break once the baby comes home?”
Babies came and they thrived. The guilt came uninvited and unobtrusive.
“Perhaps they will eat well if I fed them.” “I want to be home to see them off and be there when they are back”
The voice in my head is all mine. It is shaped by the role models I have had. The silent messages I imbibed watching people around me. The verbal and non verbal messages I received watching media and the society around me.
I wonder why I am conflicted because my decisions are being judged by the voices in my head. Because they do not fit the mold I want to belong to. The choice we are speaking of here only seems to apply to me.
As the spouse and equal partner in this adventure called life, these questions and what-ifs did not plague my husband. Quitting or not was never an option. He did not have to uproot himself when we got married. I did. He did not have to be worried about getting pregnant. I did. He did not think taking a break to raise kids or nurture them was expected of him. If he lent support it was lauded.
So, as I grapple with the ‘to work or not work’ choice. I find it loaded. Unfavorably.
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Calling a vaginal birth a 'normal' or 'natural' birth was probably appropriate years ago when Caesarian births were rare, in an emergency.
When I recently read a post on Facebook written by a woman who had a vaginal birth casually refer to her delivery as a natural one, it rankled.
For too long, we have internalized calling vaginal deliveries ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ deliveries as if any other way of childbirth is abnormal. What about only a vaginal birth is natural? Conversely, what about a Caesarian Section is not normal?
When we check on the health of the mother and baby post delivery, why do we enquire intrusively, what kind of delivery they had? “Was it a ‘normal’ delivery?” we ask.
Many women have lost their lives to this darkness. It's high time we raise awareness, and make maternal mental health screening a part of the routine check ups.
Trigger Warning: This deals with severe postpartum depression, and may be triggering for survivors.
Motherhood is considered a beautiful blessing. Being able to create a new life is indeed beautiful and divine. We have seen in movies, advertisements, stories, everywhere… where motherhood is glorified and a mother is considered an epitome of tolerance and sacrifice.
But no one talks about the downside of it. No one talks about the emotional changes a woman experiences while giving birth and after it.