The doctor-writer advises ladies to get into the family way only after ticking all the right boxes
When will you deliver the good news?” “Are you going to let us be grandparents anytime soon?” It is already been a year, why isn’t the bun in the oven yet?”– nosey Intrusions of this sort sprawl shamelessly in our social circles. While they seem innocuous at the outset, they are, in fact; incredibly incriminating. Giving into these pressures is bound to hound the pleasures of life, parenting, and childhood treasures.
The pressure to get pregnant is no longer solely an extension of social constructs. It has been firmly embedded and internalised into the psyche of individuals within this collectivistic framework. A regimented timeline is forged – Earn a degree by 21, suitably employed at 23, hitched by 25 and pregnant by 27. We have been indoctrinated with this narrow projection since childhood and breaking away from this format leads to being labeled as ‘deviants’. Delaying pregnancy beyond one year of marriage sparks speculations of infertility, forcing couples to get pregnant for the wrong reasons: to prove that they can get pregnant.
While doctors don’t begin infertility treatment before one year of actively TTC (Trying to conceive), feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and shame whelm the very being of couples who fail to show up with a baby within one year of their marriage. Moreover, instead of basking in conjugal bliss, couples are forced to worry to their wits’ end, with a wave of distress wafting about, taking over their lives, their youth, and their joy. Such turbulence is not only instigated by family elders, but also by friends, relatives, and peers who are planning a baby, or are already parents. More often than not, the urge to keep up with the rest of the lot, the desire to synchronise and relate better with expectant friends, upswings a pseudo coercion to have a baby.
The situation is even harrowing for women. Like inputs completely used up in the production process, women are viewed as a means to the ultimate end of sustaining a lineage. It is as if the worth of a woman is attached to her ability to procreate, and she is only a vessel to hold an heir. The reproductive responsibility has been a woman’s burden to bear since times immemorial. Every woman is painted with the same brush, reduced to the idea of an archetype – that they are all born with a messianic maternal instinct. Irrespective of whether she is ready to be a mother, a woman is compelled to initiate the family planning process. The pressure to procreate is disproportionately exerted on women. When women voluntarily choose to delay pregnancy, she is vilified, scorned, and ridiculed for her choice. If, for any reason, a couple is unable to conceive within the ‘socially acceptable’ timeframe, it is the woman who bears the brunt of ignominy. She is put through a variety of tests to determine whether she is ‘barren’, while her partner is sympathised with for his ‘misfortune’.
“Your biological clock is ticking, hurry up!” – this intramural exasperation that subconsciously spirals into a spine-chilling realisation is another force of urgency that unfortunately has the cards stacked against women. Women who wish to build their careers are left in a lurch, a predicament of sorts – whether to pursue their passion, or shove it in the backseat, letting motherhood take the wheel.
While statistically, the chances of pregnancy drop after the age of 38 for women, it does not mean that conceiving at this age is an inconceivable phenomenon. Fertility is highly individual; depending on various factors unique to the woman and her partner. However, that is something that could be worked out with the help of a physician who is well acquainted with the medical history, conditions, and lifestyle of the couple.
Women could even opt for egg freezing, enabling them to get pregnant when they are ready, at the right time, in a way that will not interfere with their current goals and aspirations. Preserving younger eggs can help women conceive in the future. It can perceptibly aid with handling the ominously brewing ‘baby panic’.
Unsolicited advice and surmises from different opposing directions creates distress, doubt, and dejection. Miscommunication, misunderstandings, and misconceptions spring up between couples, adding to their taxing travails. Additionally, stress induced by this turbulence unfortunately has a bearing on the hormone levels and
menstrual cycles, thereby affecting the fertility of the couple.
Getting pregnant to satisfy social expectations is detrimental not only to the couple, but also to the offspring produced out of this absurd arrangement. Similarly, when couples compel themselves to have a baby only to fix their marriage or to fill a void, they fail to realise what they are putting at stake. Having a baby when you are not ready to become a parent buoys a feeling of hostility towards the innocent child. Parents feel detached and spiral down the lane of emotional neglect, apathy, and even abuse. For no fault of their own, children, being vulnerable to the vices of their parents, suffer from a traumatic childhood. The unresolved trauma lays the groundwork for a lifetime of resentment towards the parents.
To all those on the brink of susceptibility, to those trudging the threshold, surrendering to the social stronghold; just hang in there. Don’t give in just yet. Turn a deaf ear to the commotion, a blind eye to the distortion. Conversely, to those on the other side of the fence, it is not your place to have a say in the life decisions of others. Avoid antagonising a couple for enjoying a child-free life. Do not vilify a woman if she chooses not to have a baby or to have one later.
Readiness, willingness, and preparedness are key to contemplating this crucible. Block out the toxicity. Introspect on whether you are genuinely ready to bring a new life into this world. Remember that it is not those exerting pressure, but you whose life is about to change.
Being open to counselling plays a major role in attaining clarity and making better choices. Join support groups if that helps in validating your decision to delay pregnancy. It is always reassuring to know that there are others in the same boat.
As far as the pressure is concerned, a rational, realistic appraisal of both internal and external factors in play will help to clear the quandary. However, don’t be a spectator in your own life. Do not passively surrender to the tide of tension that the pressure creates. Get pregnant if you are ready, willing, and prepared; with a pure, untainted intention.
But most importantly, don’t get pregnant for the wrong reasons, and definitely not to fill the baby-shaped hole in your heart.