‘Isn’t It Time To Plan On Completing Your Family?’ Who Decides?

While the whole world was more than eager to give her unsolicited advice on motherhood, nobody wanted to pause and hear her concerns.

Sneha had just taken her place on a chair in the corner of the crowded room and picked up her teacup when the question was flung at her. “So, Riya is going to turn 4 soon, isn’t it time to plan on completing your family?”

This dreaded question was the reason she had been avoiding family gatherings for quite some time now, she had hoped today would be different but alas, seldom do hopes come true. Sneha knew as soon as she heard the question, who the busybody was.

Sumitra Mausi seemed to have just one goal in life to ask unmarried people when was D-day and soon after their wedding ask for the “good news” and as soon as that happened, when is the “family going to be completed.” Sneha often wondered what did Mausi do with all the data that she collected but today she wanted to ask Mausi “Why was she so bothered, how would knowing the answer impact her?” But she knew better and just smiled at Mausi in response and continued sipping her tea.

“Girls, these days want everything in life to function as per them. The people around you can obey every command of yours but nature doesn’t. You are 32 already, you realize your biological clock is ticking away.” This was Alka Didi, Sneha’s eldest cousin.

Though she had never been very close to Alka, she had looked up to her as an inspiration. She was a medical professional and Sneha had expected her to know better, but on second thoughts Sneha was left wondering if was she expecting too much. Sneha could see several other women nodding their heads in agreement with Alka. Sneha got up from her place, walked to the balcony, and perched on the bench there, cupping the teacup in her palms.

She remembered that August evening nearly 4 years back. She had been feeling very ill since the last couple of days. Nimesh, her husband was seated with her at the doctor’s chamber, and seeing the pained look on her face, he was seriously worried. However, the doctor was telling them her delivery date is still a good fortnight away and there was nothing to worry about, the last few weeks before the delivery can be a little uneasy, “you need to be strong. If you start complaining now, how will you go through labour?”

Those words made Sneha feel like she was being unreasonable and creating too much of a fuss. After that doctor’s visit, Sneha decided to stay quiet about her discomfiture. Barely a week after the incident, Sneha was rushed to the hospital when she started getting contractions. But she was kept on observation as the doctor informed them that she was not fully dilated. Her agony continued for full 12 hours, she remembered pleading with the nurses and doctors but all she got in response was their looks of irritation. But she had not been aware then, that this was only going to get worse.

Sneha had been joyful seeing her little girl but there was exhaustion and anxiety that came with it. She had never held such a tiny human in her hands. She did not know how to hold the baby and breastfeeding seemed to intimidate her. She reached out to the nurses with her dilemma, but all she received in return was scorn. When she spoke to her doctor, all she got to hear was “Should we be spoon-feeding you everything, you are expected to know the basics.”

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She was left wondering from where and how? While the whole world was more than eager to give her unsolicited advice on motherhood, nobody wanted to pause and hear her concerns. She had expected her doctor to be empathetic and guide her, but she realized she had expected too much. The agony had only continued when she was slow in losing her pregnancy weight and the doctor had linked any problem that Sneha would mention to her weight and brush it off. She was shamed when she told the doctor about discomfort in breastfeeding and insufficient lactation.

Sneha could feel the tears streaking her cheeks and as she sipped the tea which she realized it had grown stone cold. She had read and heard from other women about the beautiful memories they had of the early phase of motherhood, but her memories of that phase of her life were nothing like that. She only remembered being stressed, constantly belittled, and feeling inadequate. She could only associate that phase of her life with darkness. Could it have been postpartum depression? She would never know the answer as her concern was brushed aside as overthinking.

“Why are you sitting here, all alone?” Sneha turned to see Alka standing there. Alka could see Sneha’s tear-stained face and for a fraction of a second Sneha felt like she could see a hint of remorse on Alka’s face, but her doubts were cleared as soon as she heard Alka’s words “Do you always have to be so dramatic? Think practically. We were only making you see reason.”

Sneha had had enough now. She got up from her seat and looked paused for a minute before asking “Didi, I am curious to know, do hear out your patients or they are also instructed to be practical?”

Leaving Alka perplexed at this question, Sneha walked off from there.

Editor’s note: Women regularly face #MedicalMisogyny from health care professionals. For the WHO World Health Day 2023 theme of ‘Health for All’, identifying this misogyny and ensuring #Equity in healthcare is essential. All of April, we will be sharing stories with you on this these, either personal stories or fiction. Find them all here.

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About the Author

Parvadavardini Sethuraman

A dreamer by passion and an Advocate by profession. Mother to an ever energetic and curious little princess. I long to see the day when Gender equality is a reality in the world. read more...

89 Posts | 330,363 Views

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