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Prelude To Birth
|by Ritesh Jhamb|
My father and everyone else in our family were delighted and extremely excited as my mother gave the news that her pregnancy test is positive. My grandma even distributed sweets among the relatives. As the good news had come after a series of disappointments for the last two years. Before conception my mother had undergone tremendous mental distress, married for two years, she was striving to get pregnant as society in which we live has a very poor view of barren and childless woman. Unless she gives proof of her fertility, she does not have respectability and the fate of her marital status hangs in balance tilting towards the negative. As soon as she becomes a mother, she moves up on the social hierarchy and her place in the family is secured.
Both my parents left no stone unturned to see this day - consulted all the reputed doctors in town'had sessions of counseling'visited all the temples praying for a child - infact even consulted 'Tantriks' and did whatever they said. And at last, the day came that made everybody happy especially my mother who used to have sleepless nights and mind full, of all the stuff that the relatives, especially my Grandma had said accusing her for not bearing a child. And that is how, finally I got existence - perhaps still, it was very far away to get to the world - but I was happy that I had brought joy to the lives of the family.
Although my mom was happy and excited to have me in her but there were bouts of nausea, extreme fatigue and breast tenderness. The hormones of pregnancy intensified the feelings and moods swings of my mom, which were vacillating from great joy to deep despair. Each feeling seemed quite intense and overwhelming. One moment she was happily planning a nursery and the next, she was crying wondering if my dad would remain attracted to her or not as she was gaining weight and not looking as good as she used to.
These doubts were quite natural. Despite an excitement about the future, the reality of a pregnancy awakened anxieties about the changes that were on their way. She was worrying about becoming "fat'. This situation was very unsettling for my dad, causing him to feel confused and inadequate. Because he was feeling unable to handle her tears, he often reacted by withdrawing and ignoring the problem. Since she needed more love and affection she sometimes perceived her partner as unloving and non-supportive. But, overall both were blissfully happy though.
And my Grandma was equally happy. She was now enjoying the company of my mom and also sharing her experiences with her, like the birth of my aunt, who is the eldest in our family. She told my mother that she should work less and take more rest at least for the first trimester so that the chances of miscarriage should be minimal. She seemed very supportive. While my mother also understood that, the mind and body are one, so as her body had undergone significant changes during gestation, so did her emotions. Understanding the effects of pregnancy on her frame of mind helped her ride that emotional roller coaster.
Everything was going exceptionally well. My dad brought a very cute poster of a child and fixed that on the wall of our bedroom. My grandma started knitting small blue colored cardigan and a pair of shoes for me. My uncle brought a toy gun and other stuff for me. Our room was full of small toys, whirligigs, and pram etcetera. I too was very happy and was developing in my mother's uterus and I remained in constant dialog with the surrounding environment. I used to respond to tastes and odors by abrupt behavior changes showing pleasure or displeasure; reacting against strong light, noise, pressure, or pain by gestures of defense or escape; while reacting to music by wild kicking or by calming down to listen or rest. Although concentric series of barriers buffered me from the outside world - amniotic fluid, embryonic membranes, uterus, and the maternal abdomen - I lived in a stimulating matrix of sound, vibration, and motion. Whenever I punched or kicked the uterus and there were fluctuations in my heart beats, then my mother used to share her experience with my dad. I was growing inside the womb with close association of my mother.
Then one day my dad's sister came to our home with lots of kid's stuff, which were ostensibly for me. She suggested to my grandma to get the ultrasound test done of my mom's uterus, but my mom was having no problems for she used to get herself examined regularly as and when her gynecologist advised, so she told my aunt that her doctor has not advised her to do the same. My aunt left, but she left my grandma's mind occupied with the idea of getting the sonogram done. So she started pestering my parents to go to the local clinic, as that test was now available in our village too. Giving in to my grandma's pressure my father took my mother to the Sonographer. My mom's heart was palpitating, so as of me. The Sonographer took her inside and the ultrasound scanning was done on me - then we all sat in the lobby of the clinic, waiting for our turn to come to have consultation with the Doctor. Doctor called us and to my mom's endless joy, told us that the baby is healthy and everything is normal and my mom can have a normal delivery - but my dad was more interested in knowing my gender as that was the only motive behind the Sonography. So he asked the doctor about that'.and to his dismay the doctor told that I am a 'girl'.
When the news of me being a girl broke out, a pregnant silence spread in the house and everybody's felicitousness was snatched away by that news, but my bold grandma broke the silence and instructed my father to get me aborted. The murder of me...prelude to my birth. And that was the unanimous decision of everybody in the family except my mother who wanted to retain me and to give birth to me being her first offspring and she was enjoying the pregnancy. Perhaps dowry, the worst-case scenario of greed in the Indian community (specially the Hindus and the Sikhs) was the reason which I was going to be killed. A boy means "income" and no one cares that it is unearned. A girl means "outgo" and therefore a loss. Desperate remedies are called for to eradicate the cause. Better, take pre-emptive action. Feticide (sex selective abortion) became the answer. Modern science had come to the rescue of the Hindus and the Sikhs unwilling to father a daughter.
I inside the mother could feel all the Somaesthesias of my mother as uterine sounds formed a "sound carpet" over which her voice in particular appeared very distinct and which gave me special attention because these were so different from my own amniotic environment. My mother's sounds were of major importance because I was the only human who can listen to her and feel her emotions. I was thinking that world around us has taken a swerve turn. My mother was thinking that why my grandma had allowed the birth of her first child who is female'and wasn't she herself a female - so why the double standard? How could she now mindlessly, callously and cruelly go on with the idea of slaughtering of a female embryo? However, the decision was made to terminate my mother's pregnancy - that too by the gender who herself was a woman - so why she was given the right to decide between life and death of an unborn fetus of my mother. Finally my mother got the hunch that from the first day onward everybody was expecting a male as her mother in law made the 'blue' colored cardigan and my uncle too brought a toy gun, which was obliviously for the baby boy.
After a lot of emotional distress, my mother accompanied my father to the hospital - where I was to be 'murdered'. My mother's name was called and she was escorted to a waiting physician's room where the abortion was to be carried out. My mother still could not make up her mind and she was feeling that it was ordinary trip to the gynecologist, but then she realized that it was not. A machine was in the corner that looked like a canister vacuum. The performing doctor told her to relax as he performed what was essentially a pelvic examination. After completion he injected a painkiller into my mom's cervix, thus to make the abortion less painful. Slowly he inserted the "vacuum" tube into her uterus and I was sucked into the vacuum machine, while the doctor was busy in scraping the uterine walls of my mom to ensure that the termination is complete. Finally, I was thrown into the dustbin of the operation theater and my mother was discharged from the hospital after having the two-hour rest.
When something had fallen on me, I thought at the very first instance that some other gendricide had taken place and another female embryo had fallen on me in the dustbin, but that broke my reverie and I woke up sweating, that was not the female embryo but the pillow which was thrown on me by my son. I thanked God that it was the dream only.
But how can I forget that dreadful dream and the insomniac nights thereafter' I am thinking that in reality also such feticides must be happening and daily many fetus must be getting terminated purely on the gender discrimination. In the socio-economic domain, where women supposedly play a special role, they enjoy limited freedom. Their role is more of contributory nature and they have no place in the decision making process (apart from taking decision to terminate female embryo). They run and manage the local markets true; they also play an important role in the socio-economic activities. However, it is also true that, they cannot turn it into an advantage for upliftment of their own status in the society. Therefore, if the female feticides were not stopped immediately then there would be a serious imbalance in the sex ratio in the country.
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