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The only mother we respect is she who has given birth ‘normally’ to a biological child, in a socially approved marriage. Other mothers are deemed not ‘worthy’ enough.
“Mere paas maa hai” said Shashi Kapoor in the one of the most iconic dialogue ever, sealing the role of mothers as the epitome of love and sacrifice.
Mothers are respected universally but Indian men and women lead the race. The meanest of onscreen villains or the most chauvinistic of off-screen men go weak at the mention of word mom. However, we are also extremely judgmental when it comes to a mother’s life choices. No I am not talking about being judgmental about the choices mothers make regarding the upbringing of kids, but the way a women attains motherhood and the attitude of people towards such ‘lesser’ mothers.
Society and ironically most often women are obsessed with how a baby is born, and don’t even care about what happens to women in the process. I want to talk about such mothers –
The common perception is that women who opt for a caesarean are lazy, cowardly, and probably unprepared for bearing the hardships of motherhood.
I know what labor pains feel like and immense respect to those who go through it, but there is so much social pressure for women to deliver ‘normally’ (normalising only vaginal birth). It’s crazy the pressure women put on other women.
There may be reasons for a C-section, such as a threat to mother’s or baby’s life, or a risk of future complications, or any other thing. Whatever is the reason, these mommies deserve equal respect. Getting your tummy cut open, sewn up and bearing the scar for life is not an easy deal. After every other kind of surgery, the doctor’s first recommendation is resting but not after C-section. Despite stitches, pain and IV lines, these mommies nurse and feed the baby from the very first day, and once home we all know how life is with new baby. Resting is a far-fetched dream.
Most people get naughty under the sheets and a month later a pee stick confirms the pregnancy. For some people things are not that fun.
If a woman has undergone IVF be assured that she has undergone countless tests, and painful poking and prodding before she was deemed fit for undergoing treatment. In roughly half of the cases infertility is solely due to a male factor, but still it is the woman who has to bear not just the physical pain but also the emotional stigma as she is termed as incomplete, barren or not woman enough.
The treatment itself is quite traumatic with countless injections and procedures before a woman can actually become pregnant, but people don’t give two hoots when they come to know about IVF and proclaim it’s not the real thing. Well yes but it’s only the fun quotient of the ‘real thing’ that is missing for these moms.
And oh, by the way contrary to what Vicky Donor showed, donor eggs and sperms are used in a very small number of cases only. For the majority it is the parents’ own egg and sperm that create an embryo which is then transferred to mother’s womb for it to come into life. Even if it uses a donor, the IVF mom grows the baby inside her womb for 9 months before she brings the baby in this world. Is she a lesser mother? Are a set of chromosomes really that important? Apart from a small chance of similar looks the only other thing which may be transmitted through genes are genetic or hereditary diseases, and unless you are Aishwarya Rai or Hrithik Roshan having similar looks should not be that important an issue.
Now this is a controversial topic, whether surrogacy should be or shouldn’t be allowed in first place, and I don’t want Maneka Gandhi ji issuing a summon against me so I won’t delve into that. I am also not talking about celebrities like Shahrukh Khan or Karan Johar; I will only talk about mothers who had to choose surrogacy to become mothers for medical reasons.
There are women who have gone through distressing situations, miscarriages, or lost their new born babies due to medical reasons. Some suffer from deadly diseases or are at risk of losing either their own or baby’s life if they conceive. But they do wish to see a mini version of themselves thriving in this world. Just like we can’t control how our pancreas or lungs work, women can’t control if their reproductive system works or is conducive for growing and delivering baby after 9 months. It is then that they go ahead with this treatment of growing embryos in labs from their eggs and sperms and transferring it into another brave woman’s womb known as a surrogate.
I am all for strict regulations and laws pertaining to rights of a surrogate but that will require a separate discussion. Here I am talking about judgmental behavior which mothers who opt for this method face.
And for god’s sake, the husbands don’t get cozy with surrogates as happened in that stupid movie ‘Chori Chori Chupke Chupke’! It all happens scientifically in a lab, usually with the wife’s and husband’s own genes only!
Is Yashoda maiyya in any way a lesser mother to Lord Krishna even though they don’t share the same blood? A mother who takes care of and nurtures the baby from day 1 is in no way any less. She definitely knows the value and meaning of motherhood having achieved it after such difficulty.
This is a very special class of mothers, as I feel one should adopt if they wish to share their love and life with a child; being born out of their own womb notwithstanding – this is just one way of creating a family! But from my limited understanding I can think of a few reasons why one goes ahead with adoption, especially in India.
Infertility: One needs to empathize with these women who undergo intense emotional and often physical distress before deciding to adopt.
Altruism: We can’t ignore the explosive population situation as there are far too many innocent children needing home in our country. If someone decides to provide loving care and home to a child in need then there is no kinder deed.
Single mothers/fathers: Not getting married is a personal choice and I applaud the government’s decision of allowing single men and women to adopt and create loving families.
Whatever be the reason for adoption this is one extremely kind-hearted class of people who deserve utmost respect from everyone and are in no way lesser parents.
All that I wish for is more awareness regarding various choices, with sensitization and acceptance of society towards mothers of all kinds.
Most important thing here is to remember ‘biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.’
A version of this was published here earlier.
Header image is a still from the movie Deewar
Dentist, writer, corporate healthcare professional. In my earlier avatar, I taught budding dentists and published
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