Motherhood, how do I feel about it? My opinion feels like it’s water. It’s overpowering. It’s cold and uncomfortable sometimes. It has picked off the residue of other people’s being and is heavy with flotsam. It’s a murky, polluted, crowded, many-textured, multi-tempered opinion.
When I was a teenager, a friend picked up the phone and told me that she thought she might be pregnant. Just like that. I had never even met the boyfriend who was responsible. I was not privy to her decision to have sex, unprotected at that. I didn’t even know such things happened to good, middle-class girls in the suburbs of Bombay. Me, I hadn’t even experienced my first kiss.
She sounded panicky, uncharacteristically for her. I had only one question for her.
“Have you eaten anything today?”
She said she hadn’t. I wrote down her address and asked her to hang up, telling her I’d be there in an hour. Then I pulled on my jeans, walked down to a MacDonald’s, packed up her favorite Happy Meal and went to her place. I spent the next hour, waiting outside the bathroom while she peed on yet another stick, looking up the internet for details, writing to an email buddy who was a doctor (he must have thought I was the one who was pregnant) and trying to coax her to eat lunch. Then we went to a pathology lab and handed in her urine sample. We had an hour to kill which we spent walking around the dirty bylanes in the vicinity. And before we went back to collect the report, she squeezed my hand.
“Go”, I told her, “It will be alright.”
The assistant who handed her the envelope smiled as she said,
“Congratulations, you’re pregnant.”
The scene is so clear in my mind even today. What my friend was wearing, where she was standing, the posters in the lobby that I stared at, pretending to read them. In the hours that I had spent with her, I asked her if she had told her best friend, a vivacious girl I’d met a few times. “No”, she replied, “I couldn’t risk her judging me”. What about me, I wanted to say, what about me? As if anticipating the question, she looked back and said,
“I knew you wouldn’t.”
I still don’t know how to feel about that. Proud? Gratified? No. I felt…and I feel slightly resentful. I feel like I was never given a choice, like I was never even given a chance to think about whether I was pro-life or pro-choice. A situation was tossed in my face and all I could do was step up and deal with it. And now that I’ve been a listener, a party at least in some manner to a terminated pregnancy, I don’t have the choice of going back, of becoming pro-life now.
She is married and a mother now. We’ve never talked about it after that. I wonder whether I am the only living person left who remembers, who even thinks of the life that never was. I don’t judge her, I really don’t. I always liked her, admired her, respected her even. And none of those sentiments have subsided. But what happened with her shifted things in my life too and I don’t know how to feel about that, even 14 years later.
Here’s something else. I’ve been close, very close to someone who survived being abused as a child, by a parent. I’ve experienced a polluting touch myself (mercifully not by a family member, but still). It is not a good world to bring a child into. Do I dare bear the responsibility of that? I don’t know, I don’t think so, I don’t think I do.
Then I was almost married to somebody who did not want children. It was a big deal to him. So I decided to forfeit tomorrow’s possible affections for what I had in the present. And I agreed that I would not push to be a parent either. He is no more a part of my life. What happens to my body, my decisions then? This is a major attitudinal shift. Dreams and desires aren’t tangible objects that you can take off the calendar and put back when there’s room for them. I feel like I’ve changed as a person just for having given them up and I don’t know if I can bring them back. How can I ever explain why this is a decision that defines a woman? First to think that being a parent is THE most creative act for any human being, let alone an artist. Then, to come to a point of believing that there is more to me than my body and what it can do. How can I just switch back to how I see myself, how I define me?
I met someone else I liked very much. But it seemed as if having children was very important to him. I do not know where I stand on this anymore. I don’t like the idea of my body becoming a baby-maker or not, purely depending on the man that I’m with. Who am I then, other than what the man in my life wants me to be?
At some point of time, I also thought I might want to adopt. It seemed and still seems like the perfect solution. It poses no health risks to me or to an unborn baby, given I’m over 30. There are 7 billion people on this planet and it gives one of them a chance to have a better life than may have been possible. And it gives me a chance to be a parent even at a later date. But I’m not sure I want to be a single parent. It seems to me like a child deserves two caregivers, if possible at least. I deserve a partner in the tremendous responsibility that bringing up a life is. But at the moment, I don’t even know whether I ever want to be part of a couple again.
How I wish I wasn’t born with a body that had a uterus. Would life have been any simpler, if I had been a man instead?