When I was little, I mean two ponytails and teddy bears little, I was conditioned into believing my life would follow a typical progression and I would be the mother of two kids by the time I hit 30. I would have a high paying job I love and look forward to everyday. I would also have a dog. And a fun and happening life. I admit, my conjured image of an ideal life was more driven by social conditioning than my own desires. Plus, I was young and stupid.
Having said that, I still didn’t imagine myself not having a single child by the time I turned 30. I suppose I got older a lot sooner than I expected to. I mean, I always wanted to have kids from the time I can remember. I just didn’t know when. When I got married, Mint told me in no uncertain terms that he never wanted to have kids. The word was ‘never’. While such statements did worry me at times, I knew in my heart that he was merely freaked out by the idea of raising a child. He would overcome his fear when the time was right. Also, we did have a lot of time on our hands. We married young.
Time as we all know is a slippery factor. It passes before you know it. All of a sudden, I found myself anxious about my age. I decided it was time to push Mint to think. After a lot of debates and discussions, he ‘agreed’ to have a child. This would worry me at times. Because he only agreed. He still didn’t seem to want it enough himself. But he told me this was the best he could give me. He wasn’t sure he would ever want kids desperately. He would only agree and maybe feel happy about his decision at a later point. But right now, agreement and an assurance that he would give parenting his best shot was all I would get. After more debates and discussions, we decided the time was right. After some more thought, we decided our first choice was to adopt a baby girl. When we signed up for adoption at the beginning of the year, I was ecstatic to get the ball rolling.
Little did I know then that our ride was going to be tumultuous, to say the least. Things changed rapidly. Our personal situation became so precarious that we could no longer be sure about adoption. But until we are sure we can’t adopt, we don’t want to give it up. And unfortunately, it is taking us some time to be sure of that. Our circumstances are making us dangle on the edge. And I find myself wondering everyday. How long should we hold on to this dream? Is it meant to be? Should we start thinking about having a biological baby if adoption isn’t working out? In the end, we decide to wait a little bit longer for adoption to work out before we think of embarking on the journey to have a biological child. This waiting however is wearing me out.
Mint often asks me, why I am so sure I am ready to have a baby. I think my desire to have a child right now is still mild. It hasn’t peaked, but I sense it is there. I think I want a child because I am bored of the monotony. I want to experience something intensely challenging and there are few things as challenging as parenthood. I know having a child will be exceptionally demanding. It will shake us and make us refocus. I like the sound of that. Plus watching a child grow is fascinating. That, and the truth that I can’t deny. I want a child because most people around me have one. And the world has led me to believe that I should have a child by now.
Sadly, since our personal situation is so wobbly and we don’t yet know what path we will take to have a child (and that we shouldn’t even be thinking of having a child until things settle down for us), I know waiting is imminent. A baby will most likely not be on the cards for us for a long time. A year? Maybe. More than that? Perhaps. I have no answers. The thought of my passing age makes me panic but there is little I can do other than convincing myself that though I may be 30, I am not that old. A delay worth a year or two might hurt me a little but it will not kill me.
The social pressure is momentous. Either it has escalated all of sudden, or I am falling prey to it now more than ever. At first, people would ask me when we planned to have a baby. It would anger me and I would respond based on the circumstances and who the questioning authority was. I would either find a polite way of asking them to f*ck off or I would brush it off and laugh. Things seem to have worsened now. From asking me when we plan to have a baby, people have now graduated to asking me if I am pregnant. This has made me cry twice. I’ve thrown a fit, wondering if I look that fat or have such a protruding belly.
People are ruthless and insensitive. I was asking a friend to drop by since she hasn’t yet been to our home, and she kept saying she would come only when I gave her a reason to come. It took me a while to understand her implication. She then went on to say her son would want some company and there was no child in our home. I really couldn’t think of how to respond. It’s just that much harder when people your age do it to you. You can’t even blame it on the mindset of a past generation.
And then there was my yoga instructor. Or rather my ex yoga instructor. She lives in our apartment complex and has known my family for ages. She conducts classes in the community hall. While I was trying to get some inputs on some muscle strengthening exercises, she told me she would rather show me some exercises that will help me conceive. She went on to add that the said exercises have worked for many women and that I would surely benefit. Boundaries anyone? I guess that concept is unheard of in India. I’m sorry, but if I ever need your help in conceiving, I will let you know, thank you. To say that I was enraged would be an understatement. It explains why the said teacher turned into an ex teacher.
Wherever I go, I am hounded by the baby question. The badgering is incessant and merciless. Even if I respond politely, I am subjected to more intense grilling. The fact that we’ve been married for six years makes us undergo constant scrutiny and interrogation. It has reached a point where I have begun to avoid social interaction.
Every move of mine is examined, inspected and dissected. If I am at a party and I refuse alcohol, people ask me if I am pregnant. God forbid I have a stomach upset or some unexplained nausea. People will move on to congratulating me. I feel so suffocated, I am scared to even let out a sigh, least it is interpreted the wrong way. I feel vulnerable wherever I go. I guess I didn’t find the questioning and the investigation half as grueling earlier because at that point I genuinely didn’t want to have kids. Now I think I am ready to have kids and the same questions sting me a lot more.
It’s easy to ask people to ‘not care’ about what others say. I am guilty of telling my unmarried friends to not care about the so called well meaning relatives’ nudges and jabs, asking them to get married. At times it is easy to ignore, but other times it is not. And it is especially hard when you struggling to achieve the same thing you are expected to have.
As for me, I think a lot about time lines. How important are they? What do you do when the time you take to achieve some goals overshoots the time limit you set out for yourself. Sometimes I wonder if our society is devised in such a way that it requires your life path to be constantly aligned with your peers. We usually do find it easier to connect with folks who are in the same phase as us. Whether it is the phase of choosing a partner and getting married, or experiencing parenthood, or the same level of seniority in professions, etc. The moment your lives stop running in parallel, you are made to feel a sense of alienation. Is this why we are pressured into following what is a typical trajectory?
If you’ve chosen differently or life didn’t happen to you at the same time, you’re going to be made to feel like a misfit or a social outcast, depending on how different your choice is and where you are placed at that time. I know we’ve chosen differently. And since adoption is still our first choice for having a baby, I think I have to prepare myself for a lifetime of being under the glare. I know I have to stand up and face the invasive spotlight that will always follow me. Much as I’d like, our unconventional choice doesn’t let me scurry into the shadows and live in oblivion.
Whether it is getting married, or reaching a certain milestone in your career, or having a baby, or buying a house when the world thinks it is time you should own one, or having baby no. 2, the probing never ends. I am actively working on desensitizing myself. One day, I know I will reach that zen emotional state. Hopefully, my posts will map the path I took to get there. Until then, I will continue to silently cringe at the comments and push myself to move on..