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Everyone and their aunt thinks they can advise you on having children as soon as you declare your intentions of getting married. Shouldn’t it be up to the couple? A short story.
She woke up to the constant beeps from her phone. Whatsapp messages wishing Season’s Greetings! were streaming in. Veni opened the ‘Family Group’ to see pictures of her nephews and nieces decked up in colourful clothes. She loved each one of them, and went through the pictures with a smile on her face. It had brightened her ordinary day. Living far away from home, the festival was just another day for her. Her celebrations happen only on the weekend, and the pictures made her feel better.
There was, as usual, plenty of discussion on child-rearing, the kind of advice that veteran family members think is their duty to dispense of, unsolicited. It never failed to amuse her. As she continued to scroll, she saw a message referring to her that said “Veni, all these will be useful to you after you get married.”
Veni was getting married in a few months and it wasn’t the first time someone mentioned about kids. She ignored them initially. As the discussion continued on the group, she couldn’t help but send “Hey ! I am getting married and not pregnant. And I don’t intend to be so soon!” End of conversation.
The same day, a good friend from her hometown called to wish her. While she was talking about her four year old, the friend casually asked “Now that you are getting married, do you notice yourself observing children more ? Are you reading child-growth books? Have you spoken to your doctor about your health?” She struggled to answer. She wanted to say “No, I am still thinking if I want kids,” but couldn’t.
Her mother and to be mother-in-law had already begun hinting about grandchildren. She did nothing but keep her thoughts to herself. It was so surprising, and vexatious. Here she was, not yet married, only the date was set, but everyone was already asking her about her having children! Didn’t people understand that there was a choice? That it was between the couple? IF they want a child. How many. How soon or late. And who is to be primarily responsible for child rearing. Should she be judged by her child-bearing/rearing decisions? Why can’t the couple decide to just be for each other and travel the world? Or adopt one of the million children who need parents? Or just help hundreds of children have a good childhood/educations rather than raise one of their own?
She started wondering, “Is there something abnormal with me? With my expectations for myself? I love kids, but does that mean I have to have them?”
As she experienced the taken-for-granted conversations, it also made her wonder about the struggles she had heard women go through. That neighbor who lost a fetus thrice and had IVF and went through mental and physical pain for many years. That couple who lost their new born. This couple who couldn’t conceive at all. The friend’s friend who .. the stories go on. She was sure every one of these women would have heard a painful story themselves. It scared her.
As her mind reeled under these thoughts, she heard her phone ring. It was her fiance. She couldn’t hold all her turmoil within her, and blurted out all of it to him. He listened patiently and said “Well, maybe you should tell them that you haven’t decided if you want a child and have not discussed with me yet. Why do you hesitate?” Veni had no answer to it. “How is it that nobody has asked me such questions or even hinted anything to me about children when I said I am getting married?” he continued.
“It is because you are a man, and people suppose that you have nothing to do with taking care of children, or probably that they think you are too young to have children,” she replied with a sigh.
He was quiet for a few seconds and said “Hey, remember, it is OUR decision IF we want to have children or not and I wouldn’t let you or myself go through anything because of societal pressure. And also please be bold and tell that to people if they ask you such personal questions again. Nobody has any right to question our decisions. Remember, we are in this together.”
All Veni could do was grin with happy tears, and wish that he was there in person, so that she could give him a big tight hug!
Image source: woman saying STOP by Shutterstock.
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