A Woman’s Pregnancy Is Not The Only Good News She Can Give You

No matter what an Indian woman does, no matter her achievements, all our society is interested in is her marriage and birthing babies. Why?!

How many of you are sick and tired of being faced with the question “So, when is the good news?”

I’m a 31-year-old woman, working as a drug discovery scientist in the pharma sector.

It’s taken me 10 solid years with blood, sweat and tears to get to where I am today.

I’m highly educated, yet…

Yes, that’s 3 years of my undergraduate degree, a 1-year masters, another 4 years of Ph.D., followed by 2 years as a post-doctoral researcher in Cancer. Recently, my work has helped to push anti-cancer drugs for pre-clinical development. Right now, I’m leading a whole new avenue of neuroscience research to identify new therapies to control demyelinating diseases that occur from damage to nerve cells. Trust me, it requires a lot of hard work! Despite these achievements, the people around me make me feel like an unaccomplished and incomplete woman. In our patriarchal society, there is only one form of good news in a woman’s life – the news of pregnancy.

In recent times, I have found it suffocating coming face to face with my own family members, particularly at weddings and other family gatherings. They couldn’t care less about the challenges I have had to overcome in life.

Often I get asked, “So, when can we expect your Seemantham (meaning baby shower in our tradition)?” I then think to myself, why should I live my life to meet anybody’s expectations and, more importantly, to satisfy their selfish needs? Each of them gives me a judgemental look that says – “You’re STILL not pregnant?” Without even thinking twice, they will question me like I’m a failure in life. The funny thing is, many of these individuals play no role in my life apart from bumping into me at social gatherings, but are somehow immensely curious about MY personal life.

Even worse than being questioned, is being instructed. Once, a person came up to me and said, “Task number one, Kalyanam (meaning marriage) finished! Next, task number two, baby!” Some people have also said, “Just pack up your work, your husband is there to earn, you just stay at home.” During these moments, I’ve felt like my life is nothing more than a tick box exercise.

What if a woman:

  • Does not want to have a family at all?
  • Wants to wait for a few years because she and her partner may not be mentally or financially ready?
  • Is dealing with health problems, meaning that her chances of a successful pregnancy is slim?
  • Wants to go traveling before having a family?
  • Wants to reach a certain level in her career before childcare responsibility begins?

None of the above is a crime. That is the reality! They are all scenarios that either arise from choice or circumstance.

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I now actively avoid 99% of my family members, to look after my mental health

Just two years ago, when I was just 29 years of age, my mother was diagnosed with a horrific auto-immune condition after which, the outcome did not go in our favour. Even during my grief, some family members did not give me the space to recover. They have no clue about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There was a period of time when I would go to sleep with repetitive and distressing images every single night. On several mornings, I woke up with a sensation of intense anxiety. On many days, I have gone through sudden moments of loneliness, severe mood swings, and outbursts of anger.

One person’s grief is not the same as another, and we must acknowledge and respect that. Moreover, PTSD can cause severe imbalances in hormones, which can lead to changes in our body’s physiology. Recovering from those changes does not happen overnight. It takes time. So how can I possibly go through a pregnancy when I am not fully healed?

A woman should get the support she needs during pregnancy

A woman’s journey to and during pregnancy is meant to be a stress-free and joyful experience and not one filled with immense pressure and anxiety. A woman should have every right to allow her life to take its own course and that entirely depends on her personal circumstances. Let me reiterate. Pregnancy is not a race! Moreover, times have drastically changed. The current era of working women has to shoulder the responsibility of both work and home and therefore, forced to stabilise their career before planning for a family.

Let’s not forget about the attention, love and care a woman requires during her pregnancy journey. In addition to their partners, the only other person who can give that kind of attention is her mother. Not a grandmother, or an aunt, or a mother-in-law, or some other female caretaker alternative. However, in my case, I have gracefully accepted the reality that I’m not going to be able to experience that and as a result, may need to take an early and longer than anticipated maternity break. For that, appropriate measures need to be taken. Such as, reaching a certain stage in my career which will then allow me to take a comfortable career break without any return-to-work anxiety.

I have the best mother in the world, so why wouldn’t I want to be the same for my future children? I absolutely want to experience motherhood, but I will do so when I am mentally and physically ready and not upon anybody’s instructions.

Dear toxic and insensitive human beings, you are not in my shoes so I definitely don’t need your free advice. My pregnancy is not part of your agenda and my life is most certainly, not your business. Thank you!

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About the Author

Dr Shalini Moorthy

I'm Dr Shalini Moorthy. I was born in Chennai, India. I moved to the United Kingdom during my childhood as a first generation immigrant with my parents. I finished my PhD in 2019 in read more...

8 Posts | 4,776 Views

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