The common expectation from any couple in India is marriage and babies. While we understand that this is the only way to take our race forward, haven’t we come a long way from blind belief? We live in a world full of solutions and yet we stick to the problem as if our identity depends on it. Let’s reconsider the faith that babies are the solution to all our problems.
Related reading: We don’t want kids, but people don’t understand. What do I do?
Here is such one story that may give you some perspective.
My friends Raman and Shaeli were childhood sweethearts, school friends turned lovers. After a long courtship, they got married and recently celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary. At the party we all enjoyed ourselves but sensed an underlying tension between the otherwise jovial couple. Having known them long enough, we brushed aside our doubts, thinking it was a regular couple’s fight. But last week I ran into Shaeli in the market, and talking to her realised something wasn’t right. So I dragged her to our favourite coffee shop to chat.
As we spoke, she revealed what was bothering her. They had been trying for a baby for over a year and had been seeing a gynecologist for some problem. I knew that much. But I never guessed that not being able to conceive was pushing her towards depression. I tried to reason with her.
“You are an educated, independent woman. Singlehandedly you set up your own business. You know this is a medical condition and there are hundreds of ways around it now. Why are you allowing yourself to be tortured with a false notion like this? And what about Raman? He must understand all this, being a doctor himself.”
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Related reading: NoBabyLand: Why we chose to be childfree
The hidden truth
After much coaxing, the actual truth spilled out.
“Over the years the spark in our relationship was missing,” she confessed.
“Owing to our professional commitments we were drifting apart. The romance between us was lost. We quarrelled frequently and were having huge fights over trivial matters. When I confided in our family, all the elders advised us to have a baby. They said that this will give a new life to our relationship. You know my business had just started to take off and a baby wasn’t actually on my mind. We had married early due to family pressure and I wanted to take my own time to be a mother. But now our relationship was at stake and I also felt maybe a baby could help us renew our connection. Even Raman agreed. But then on testing we found out that I have polycystic ovaries and it may be difficult for me to conceive.”
She cried her heart out about how she now feels culpable. She believed that because of her incapability, their relationship was not getting a chance to revive and I wondered what was more wrong – that she was feeling guilty for not being able to conceive or that they want a baby only to rejuvenate their dead relationship.
Related reading: Had to sport a fake pregnancy bump, thanks to our society
Increased social pressure
Now that she has decided on motherhood, the societal pressure has increased on her. So she continued, “Every other person in my family now has advice for me. ‘The clock is running out and I should not have delayed so much to decide on motherhood.’ ‘What will society say?’ ‘All my couple friends had started their families at the right time.’ All this is affecting me very negatively. And Raman has only one advice, ‘Ignore them’. But what can I do? It is not easy for me to face the guilt and criticism. And this is affecting our relationship adversely.”
Her words stayed with me. Having a baby is one of the most personal decisions of a couple. However, in India, children are an easy solution for any problem a couple may face. Some estimate that 50 per cent of marriages work because of children. The relationship between husband and wife is strained? Have a baby. Your husband is straying? Have a baby and tie him to you. Your career is not working out? Leave it and have a baby.
Isn’t it high time that these beliefs are changed and couples sort out their problems more practically?
P.S. Raman and Shaeli have decided to take the help of counselling from experts and give their relationship a fresh start.