I was waiting in the gynecology ward. I had been suffering from heavy periods which were not responding to medication. My gynecologist wanted me to undergo a small operative procedure the next morning, where she could sample my endometrium. As I waited, I noticed a final year resident buzzing around the patients. I knew her. She had been a university topper and had won a clutch of gold medals for excellent academic performance. She noticed my presence, and nodded in recognition. She walked up to me and took a quick history and told me to come back early the next morning for the procedure. I stayed on the hospital campus, so this was feasible for me. The next morning the procedure happened uneventfully.
A day after the procedure I reached my department. I am a pathologist myself, and my endometrial sample had been sent there for processing. Out of curiosity, I checked the form and I instantly blew a fuse. Written in large letters in two or three places was the term “33 year old nulliparous woman with primary infertility”. It was ghastly. At no point during the history taking, had the resident bothered to ask me if I wanted a child. Or if I was battling with the woes of infertility. Yet, she was quick to label me infertile, simply because I was having menstrual problems.
I am certainly not the only one who has been branded with this label. India does not understand a woman’s choice. If you are a woman, you are expected to bear a child. Period.
But I am used to these intrusive questions by now. “Why don’t you go to a doctor?” “But I am a doctor myself!” “No, I mean a good lady doctor.” Aargh! Another well-meaning man tells me why it is high time I produce a child. I yearn to tell him that I wouldn’t like to be like him. Produce four children and let the wife and kids fend for themselves, while he relaxes at home. Years later, I still see the kids struggling to get decent education or jobs which will take them away from a suffocating house. And I am glad I stuck to my decision.
It isn’t just about intrusive questions. The fact that you are ‘barren’ (the Hindi equivalent sounds even more crass) is used as a slur to win arguments. I used to think these things happened only in melodramatic Bollywood scripts. But that real life will show me such people is hard to digest. The term itself didn’t hurt as it was factually incorrect. I had never bothered to bring an additional life on this planet. What hurt was the silence and acceptance of the people who listened to that slur as normal. I haven’t heard a single word saying that it was wrong. I taught myself to be emotionally barren that day. And for that there will never be respect or reconciliation.
I have seen dozens of children who are produced, and then not cared for. There are several others who do not receive parental protection when they need it most. And there are children whose parents cannot afford to raise them. These kids never get the opportunities to fly, that they truly deserve. Having seen enough of these kids in my own environment, I have always felt that my affections can easily be directed to children who need them. There isn’t any necessity to bring another child into this cruel world if you can’t give it your 100%. And yes, taking up this responsibility is a decision you need to be fully prepared for.