Embracing All Seasons #A career after marriage.

At the tender age of eleven, I experienced my first seizure. My life took a dramatic turn. The onset was abrupt and shrouded in mystery. I awoke feeling drained, my head pounding with pain. My usual zest for play, and the outdoors evaporated. Even school, a place I once approached with eagerness, now felt like a distant world. Thankfully, within a few days, my spirit and energy returned.

The subsequent attention from my family was comforting, yet the restrictions imposed were stifling.  This newfound concern was comforting, yet I couldn\’t help but feel suffocated by the overprotectiveness. The freedom to roam outside, engage in carefree playdates, was stripped away.  I was forbidden from the rooftop or visiting relatives without parental supervision.

The seizures, once a singular, terrifying incident, became an unwelcome, recurring guest in my life. Each episode was a jarring reminder of how much had changed. My aspirations, particularly my dream of becoming a doctor, now seemed like distant fantasies. The words of my beloved Mama Jee, although tinged with humor, echoed the doubts festering in my mind.

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\”You can’t be a surgeon, dear,\” he\’d say, half-jokingly. \”Imagine if you had a seizure during an operation? What if you aimed for the stomach and ended u

p at the heart?\”

Mama Jee’s words, meant to lighten the mood, but they only deepened the shadow over my dreams. Laughter would fill the room, but it was laughter I couldn’t share. My father, my pillar of strength, responded with a sternness that was both comforting and empowering.

\”That’s enough,\” he\’d say, his voice firm yet gentle. \”Neha\’s condition doesn’t define her future. Medicine is advancing, and so will her options. She\’ll be free to choose her path, without her illness dictating her limits.\”

My father’s unwavering belief in me was my anchor. At fourteen, these exchanges were more than mere conversations; they were lifelines thrown into the turbulent seas of my doubts and fears. Despite my father’s reassurance, the idea of pursuing medicine, particularly biology, filled me with trepidation. Yet, it was this very fear that steeled my resolve.

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Over time, the seizures became less frequent, an evidence to medical advancements and my family’s tireless efforts. My family and I became adept at managing their onset.

As I grew into a young woman, my ambitions only strengthened. My personal journey with illness fueled a desire to pursue a career in medicine, a path that seemed predestined. The shadow of Mama Jee’ long-ago conversation still loomed over me, nudging me away from surgery, but it didn’t deter me from the medical field. Instead, I found my calling in Pediatric Neurology and Epileptology. Specializing in this field felt like a homage to my younger self, a promise to aid children who, like me, faced the uncertainties of seizures.

By my late twenties, I had established myself in my chosen field. My days were filled with research, consultations, and the smiles of little patients whose lives I touched. Yet, as my career flourished, societal expectations began to weigh heavily on me.

My Mami\’s words, sent in a late-night message, were a poignant reminder of the perceived dichotomy between professional success and personal life.

\”Neha, time waits for no one. Don\’t let your profession take away your fertile years,” her words read, echoing a traditional viewpoint that saw education and family life as mutually exclusive for women.

In my modest apartment, surrounded by medical journals and research papers, I pondered her words. Typing a response, I tried to convey my conviction that my profession was an integral part of my life, enriching it in ways that were not immediately apparent. \”Mami, my profession isn’t a thief of time. It’s a giver of purpose and fulfillment,” I wrote back.

Yet, this wasn\’t the first or the last time I would face such questions. My Mami’s concerns were a reflection of a broader societal mindset. I had witnessed many friends succumbing to societal pressures, shelving their aspirations for marriage and children. There was also a faction that voiced opposition to my potential motherhood due to my medical history. Despite reassurances from doctors, some viewed me as a \”disabled\” woman unfit for motherhood.

At work, amidst my dedication to my patients, my thoughts often wandered to my personal sacrifices and lingering health concerns. I knew that my academic and professional pursuits might delay, or even preclude, motherhood. Yet, my passion for my field had been an unwavering driving force in my life. Years of focus on my career meant that I had crossed into my mid-thirties, a time when the reality of my diminishing fertile years became increasingly difficult to ignore. My work was deeply fulfilling, yet it couldn’t completely fill the void of my maternal desires.

It was in my late thirties when Raghav entered my life. A fellow researcher, whose understanding and gentle nature drew me in. Our relationship, nurtured by shared interests and mutual respect, blossomed into love. As we embarked on the journey of marriage, I shared with him my innermost dreams and fears, including my past desire for motherhood and the challenges posed by my seizures.

Raghav, with his innate empathy, listened intently, his support unwavering.

Married life brought new perspectives and challenges. Post-marriage, an encounter with Raghav\’s relative Meera Tai, who expressed concern over our potential for parenthood was hurtful. Her words pierced the air, “Oh, Raghav, I heard about Neha\’s epilepsy. How will you have children? And at her age, isn’t there a risk of genetic disorders?” Her concern, though perhaps well-intentioned, felt like a sharp reminder of the judgments I had faced all my life.

Raghav’s response, however, was an attestation to the strength of our bond. Holding my hand firmly, he addressed her with calm certainty, “Meera Tai, there are many ways to build a family. Neha and I are exploring our options, and whatever path we choose, it will be right for us.” His words, spoken with such conviction, were a soothing balm to my anxious heart.

Despite our best efforts, conceiving a child remained elusive. As I journeyed into my early forties, the longing for motherhood persisted.

One evening, as I sat in our living room lost in thought, Raghav came in with a gentle knock and a warm smile. In his hands, he held an envelope, the contents of which were unknown to me.

“What’s this?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.

“Open it,” Raghav encouraged, his eyes sparkling with a mixture of hope and excitement.

Inside the envelope lay information about a local fostering program. The documents detailed the process, the children in need, and the profound impact fostering could have. As I read through, a flood of emotions washed over me. Here was an opportunity to embrace motherhood in a way I had never considered.

Raghav, sensing my hesitation, spoke softly, “Neha, I know you\’ve always wanted to be a mother. Fostering could be our way of fulfilling that dream, in our own unique way, while you continue with your incredible work.”

The idea resonated with me deeply. For so long, I had believed that my academic pursuits  and my health condition meant sacrificing my personal desires.

We delved into the process with open hearts and minds. Attending workshops, meeting with social workers, and preparing our home, we embraced this new chapter. Simultaneously, I continued my medical practice, my days a blend of working with children suffering from seizures and preparing for a child who would soon call our house a home.

This exploration led us to Lata, a bright and curious girl in need of a loving home. The day she entered our lives marked the beginning of an extraordinary chapter. Her laughter and inquisitive nature filled our home with a new kind of joy, a stark contrast to the silent halls of the hospital and wards I was accustomed to.

Juggling my role as a foster mother and a medical professional was challenging, yet it unveiled in me a resilience and adaptability I hadn’t known.

During a lecture on pediatric seizures and their management, I shared my personal story, weaving in my journey towards delayed motherhood and how it led me to Lata.

“Our journeys are often nonlinear,” I reflected. “We make choices, sometimes hard ones, and those choices lead us down paths we never expected.”

After the lecture, a young woman approached me. Her eyes, filled with a mix of hope and uncertainty, spoke volumes. “Your story gives me courage,” she said. “I’ve been worried about balancing a career in science with motherhood. But seeing you do it, in your own way, is inspiring.”

Another lady inquired about any regrets I might have had, “Do you ever regret it, Dr. Neha? Choosing your clinical practice and your research over starting a family?”

I paused, reflecting on my journey, “I have moments of wonder, but no regrets,” I answered. “My research might change the world. And who knows what the future holds? Life has many seasons, and each brings its own joys.”

My mother, once concerned about my choices, now saw me as an inspiration in redefining motherhood. “You’ve taught me that there are many ways to be a mother, Neha,” she said, her eyes shining with tears of joy.

As the day drew to a close, the warm evening sun illuminating the room, I realized that while some opportunities had passed, others had blossomed, leading me to a life rich in love, learning, and the laughter of a child I had come to cherish as my own.

 

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About the Author

Sharda Mishra

I am a photographer and an avid reader. I am not a writer but I like to give words to my emotions. I love to cook and hike. I believe in humor and its impact read more...

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