Motherhood – Necessity or Choice?

This article came in a Hindi daily on the necessity of motherhood for a woman. The author of the article is a female gynaecologist. One or two sentences in the article seemed to emphasize too much on the importance of motherhood for a woman to feel happy, healthy and to feel complete. “A woman’s body is made in such a way that childbirth keeps her happy in mind and healthy in body”; “A child is an inseparable part of woman’s body, her whole life’s spindle and aim too.”

This made me question the actual necessity of motherhood for a woman. There must be many women who would have wanted to conceive a little later after marriage, after preparing themselves mentally for the huge responsibility. Can a girl of 22-23 years prove to be a good mother, even if thats the ideal age for childbirth? She may but also she may not. After all with age, comes maturity and wisdom. I personally think a newly married couple should give each other a couple of years time before becoming parents. In fact for a couple who have been married for few years but as mentioned in the article, feel doubtful & unprepared to have a child due to busy careers, are right to take their time and not give into societal and familial pressure. When the double income group just has kids to please the parents and shower everything on the child except time and good parenting, the outcomes are disastrous. Parenting is no joke and is not so easy in today’s modern world especially in nuclear families. Whats the point in conceiving if the father is not emotionally available? Or if post childbirth the duties fall on the mother’s shoulders? Like she is the one supposed to warm the bottle of milk or change the infant’s diapers or attend to the midnight bawls or clean his/her potty. Thats just unfair. An understanding and cooperation must be developed before a couple becomes parents. Above all the couple must be ready to have their lives changed forever. They should not later feel like this is not what they had bargained for.

I’m sure there are many new mothers who are at their wits’ ends by the incessant crying, sleepless nights and constant vigilance; who don’t always feel the joy of motherhood 24*7!! Many girls and women who don’t feel like becoming a mother due to whatever reason, are afraid to voice their actual thoughts and wishes, so as to not shock their partners and family members. For its a crime to utter “I don’t want to be a mother” by a woman because apparently as per society and also mentioned by the author of the article, the ultimate destiny/aim of a woman’s body is to bear a child!! Women with reproductive problems are looked down upon and made to feel incomplete by imposing the word “barren” on them. Even if in a couple, the husband may be the one reproductively challenged, its the wife who is blamed without proper medical investigation in many cases. [Off topic yet relevant, if a couple is having girl child, the woman is again blamed whereas its been biologically proven that the chance of a male child depends on the father]

As for the effect of childbirth on health, there are some important advantages of pregnancy. But there are some disadvantages too like childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder which in turn has other effects. Also one must not forget the excruciating pain of labor and a woman has every right to be scared of it and abhor motherhood due to that fear, especially when one is not prepared to bear so much pain for some “Promised Joys of Motherhood”.

In conclusion I would like to say that I’m not trying to belittle the happiness of being a mother. And I don’t refute the biological advantages and social needs of the same. All I think is that a woman should have the freedom to choose whether she wants to be a mother or not. Motherhood should happen after proper planning and preparedness, mentally, physically and emotionally. The onus of taking care of the baby should not lie only with the mother and duties should be equally shared by the father. And if a woman doesn’t want or is unable to conceive or is advised against conception due to some other health problem , then she should not be made to feel bad and guilty about herself. Motherhood is not a thing to be forced upon a woman.

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55 thoughts on “Motherhood – Necessity or Choice?

  1. I agree with you Reema. The couple, both mother and father needs to be prepared. I am surprised that a doctor is writing this stuff in a newspapers. I get upset when “experts” say things like this because people get influenced by this.
    It is also surprising that she has not mentioned the joys of fatherhood. I know many men who want to be fathers. In fact I know someone who so desperately wanted to be a father that he divorced his wife because she could not conceive! In his case it was not because he wanted a continuation of their genes (he actually wanted a girl) but because he loved children. I still think he did a wrong thing by divorcing his wife (they were my neighbours). He divorced her because he claimed that she hid the fact that she could not concieve from him even though she knew how badly he wanted a kid!
    This advice from the doc is extremely one-sided as you rightly have said.

  2. Thanks for the pingback!

    As you know I am scared of child births, and I do want kids. I often ponder that can I get away without giving birth and adopt kids instead. But I am not sure. For this is a decision that can not be independent. I often wonder what lays ahead in future.

    If only people would not think motherhood as must, so many marriages could be saved. Some people still take on a new wife for a kid, while I know several others who happily adopt a sunshine. I am glad you wrote about it, I am curious to know what others say about it.

  3. Is this Madhurima??

    I used to read it whenever I m at native place:))

    A very intrsting post it is:))

    Motherhood…and child… somehtings which are inseparable:))

  4. Reema:

    You have marked two sections of that article in pink. One I do not think is anything more than arbitrary societal conditioning. There is no proof that childbirth guarantees ‘mental health’ nor is there any conclusive proof that it guarantees ‘physical health’. The creationist style language is also irksome.

    The second bit however is accurate. I never cease to be amazed by the combination of two things. First is women in their 30s who assume their fertility will continue unbidden into the 40s (in other words, poor understanding of science and too much faith in the probabilistic outcomes, even ‘miracles’ of science); second is how few men understand the biological clock, which like the tolling bell, also ticks for them. Together it means that if one wants to have children – which should be a ‘thinking’ question not a default option – they better have them young.

  5. Reema:

    I am wondering why I saw the two sections circled in pink. I do not see them now. Anyway my comments relate to ‘stri ka sharir bana hee aisa hai’ and ‘sharir ka bhi apna ganit hai’.

  6. Sorry to flood the blog but I think that (comment 8) resulted from an image rendering error in the browser. Please feel free to delete 8 and 9 if you wish. Thanks.

  7. I will agree with you on that Reema.
    I don’t actually know what do I say about this but I agree with whatever you have said. The couples must be ready and prepared before they are all set to become parents. That’s something called “Family Planning” and I guess every married couple should do this before they choose to become parents.

    Without family planning it would be too difficult for them to understated eachother in the future…!

  8. @Nita Ohh that was v bad thing to do on the husband’s part. What if a woman wanted kids and he would been unable to father? yes I found the article quite one sided and kind of making women who are not mothers yet feel guilty.

    @Poonam u r most welcome! as I may have said earlier,I share ur sentiments too. I also feel like adopting rather than going through so much pain. I’m also curious to know my readers’ reactions.

    @Suda Hmm yes this may be feminine topic but then again its equally important for the men to understand their women and their wishes. I’m also waiting for Sakhi and all my other readers to comment. πŸ™‚

  9. @Adarsh Thank u so much!!

    @Chakoli yess its Madhurima :)I dont read the Hindi paper that comes to my home but this article caught my eye. Thanks!

    @Nita Ok πŸ™‚

    @Shefaly Its ok. πŸ™‚ I was having the error too. whenever i would mark the pic using Paint , it got converted to 900 kb instead of 2 MB pic..and thus lost the resolution..god knows why!! So i changed it but i guess there was some browser prob which showed the earlier one.Anyway so, actually I meant the sentence after “sharir ka bhi apna ganit hai”…which was “stri ke sharir ka abhinna ang hai wo bachha,uske tamam jeevan ke dhuri bhi hai aur lakshya bhi”. I have translated the sentences I was irked at and written them above the pic. I too agree with the biological clock thing. Its the implication that child bearing is the ultimate aim of a woman’s life that irked me. πŸ™‚ And yes the man also needs to understand (know?) that he too has a biological clock.

    @Joel yes I understand it may be hard for u to comment on such a topic. πŸ™‚ thanks for agreeing πŸ™‚

  10. Ohh doctors in India often don’t take care to be politically correct and separate personal opinions from professional responsibilities. I remember about a lady software professional (living in with a partner) having gone to a doctor for advice on contraception, who lectured her how immoral it was to live in without marriage!
    Good post, by the way.

  11. Reema:

    “…abhinna ang hai wo bachha…”. I find this hilarious on many counts. This is true neither literally, nor metaphorically. In the literal sense, a woman will have permanent pregnancy and she never has to ‘push, push’ the baby out. Metaphorically, the state of being “abhinn” depends on the child’s upbringing and the state of psychological health of the parents – clingy ones definitely define themselves through their children and heaven help their children being strangulated by an invisible umbilical cord; they also channel their ambitions through the child and want a say in everything. Not sure such “abhinnata” is very welcome.

    PS: I am constantly astonished to hear this version of khaalis Hindi in UP and Delhi from many. Abhinn ang alright!

  12. hey suda and reems.. thanks for remembering me! πŸ™‚

    Well, i dont want to go para by para about the article.

    But there are many articles published in the medical science that say that motherhood keeps a female happier compare to the ones who couldnt become one!

    But here it might be possible that “they couldnt” raher than “they dont want to”… there’s a difference!

    And i read in Nita’s comments that why it is attributed to only mothers and not fathers…

    Well, Mothers are bilologically and physiclly as well as physiological attached to the baby which however, the male counterpart wants is not possible. They are not biologically wired that way! For gender equality, now we will have to fight with GOD, why he chose females for this cause! ( I am not getting satcastic Here! its a fact of life)

    And i think that females body is best to gie birth to a child till the age of 30. Even gyanec would endorse this! and the chances of deformities in child increases once a female cross the age of 30 for the first child. Also as the body ages, the stamina decreases to take care of the child/children.. and any mother would vouch for this! YOU NEED STAMINA!

    And biologicall and physiologically mid-twenties is the best age to start the family for a lot of reason!

    I think i have exceeded my quota of comment space!

    And there are s many more points on which i could just go on blabbering!…

    And NO i donot endorse early marriages which take place at the age of 18 – 21 years of females or 21-25 years of males! Again many reasons!

  13. I know that the males have the biological clock but somehow it ticks slowly! … That how nature works.. accept it!

  14. Right on !! Hope the mom in laws too think this way. Having said everything having a baby or not having it should be entire decision of the parents concerned. but the social pressure so much and those stares you get if a couple has delayed child …it is too bad !!

  15. Sakhi, its true what you said…
    but what about the mental health part? Do women feel more mentally satisfied if they have children as compared to men? From the observation of men around me, in my extended family and good friends, I have seen that men long for children too and enjoy having them around as much as women. Maybe its just in my own little world…I don’t know. But I have observed this and come to the conclusion that men and women both yearn for kids, if one has to generalize (which I hate doing) If one speaks of individuals, then it differs ofocurse. I just feel, from my own experience, that men also love children and children are a source of great happiness for them. I had two bachelor uncles who I have been very very close too and both of them really missed that the most!! They felt something was missing in their life without children…
    So that is why I feel that its incorrect to say that only women feel incomplete when they don’t have children. Men can feel equally so, it all depends on the individual.

  16. @Nomad Thanks!

    @Shefaly πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ Loved ur comment especially the invisible umbilical cord thing. So true!!

    @Sakhi all that u said about age factor is true. Agreed but my point is being parents be it father or mother should be a decision taken wisely and should not be done just because thats what is expected from the married couple. And if they think they r not ready (even when they r getting old) its their decision to make. There should be no forcing. Also I’m seeing many couple who even if have kids at right age, its their old parents who r doing the parenting cuz the real parents are busy in careers. So lots of things need to be considered. Moreover my point is that an expert like the author of the article may write about the advantages of pregnancy & at right time but should not imply that being a mother is the ultimate aim of a woman!!! A woman is lot more than a child producing machine.

  17. @BlueMist yes among all the social pressure atleast the parents of the couple should be understanding. Nowadays everyone is aware of the biological facts but if they r not mentally prepared then let them be. Or if there is some other health problem, then also leave them to decide whether they want to have a kid or not. One could show the points of early pregnancy or rather the usefulness of pregnancy & a kid but there should be no imposition if both the husband & wife are comfortable with the situation. And even if they are not its their private matter.

    @Vishesh very true!!

    @Joel Oh no!! how did that happen?? 😦

  18. Hi reema,
    How are you doing..sorry wasnt able to read your blog all these days..the article you have posted is very interesting to read..i guess if one wants to attain motherhood, neither should they delay a lot nor should they hurry up things..i strongly believe, a woman should decide to become mother only when she is under a very stable relationship and a stable relationship happens only after knowing ur partner atleast for 2-3 years!

  19. I agree with you whole heartedly Reema and I feel strongly about this, just like you do. No forcing. Even by one partner to the other…and mature to-be-marrieds should talk about this before getting married!

  20. @ Reems

    I think you got me wrong or probably i didnt pt my point in proper manner. I truly agree that its the couple’s decision on anything in their relationship.

    I just put some facts there what medical sceince shows.

    And yes, we are getting busier in our careers and we all think that the children at the early age might be hinderence in our growth. And this doctor in question should have chosen better words to communicate her opinion. I agree, females are not just baby producing machiene!

    But reems, in this world (i mean the whole world of animals!) progeny is the sole purpose of the existence! We have evaloved and so probably we feel that we are not here just to do that.

    Again, I don’t deny that its an individual’s choice to have a baby or not to have or when to have!

  21. I could never understand how such learned and experienced people can write this way? Giving birth to a child depends on a lot many factors instead on just the urge to do so. Its a very personal decision which has to be taken by the couple.
    I really couldn’t understand why that doctor wrote that article? The newspaper was running out of stories?

  22. Amit, I like that term you used “urge.” Thats exactly it!! We cannot let giving birth be downgraded into an ‘urge” whether mental or physical. Like Sakhi said rightly, we have evolved. And lets feel proud of it!!

  23. I agree with Nita men long for children as much as women.In cases of childless couples I guess the womans plight is highlighted because the society thinks so or in some cases the woman is not working and has thus more time to think and feel sorry about it.Having children is no joke and it doesn’t end at just producing kids. It is a life long responsibility.Every couple is different and so are their priorities. We are made to believe that a woman is incomplete without children. We have heard it all our lives.Every woman is different and generalisation is not right.

  24. This is one of the most realistic posts I have ever come across…And I am sad to know that a doctor wrote this weird article……
    Parenting is a big decision and both husband and wife should be ready. Girls are getting married young and getting babies early….this causes emotional upheavals..22-23 is no age to think all this…….husbands and in laws need to be cooperative…..thanks Reema- i really feel proud to hav you in my blog roll..this ones an amazing post…keep going!

  25. well …i agree that couples should give time to each other… but have u wondered that 50 years back or so marriages were at the age of 14-15 and they did look after the kids quite well..
    ITs just that girls and boys those days were mentally tough those days..
    I say its all in the minds..

  26. @Swathi Hi dear. Welcome back! I m fine. Dont apologize dear. Its ok. Thanks! yes stability in a relation is an important factor to decide whether to have kids or not. There is no point in subjecting kids to gruesome proceedings of a bitter divorce or worse domestic violence.

    @Nita yes clearing up probable issues between a couple is necessary before a commitment like marriage. Forcing things just takes the inner connection with anything be it motherhood or marriage or even studies!

    @Solitaire Welcome to my blog! LOL πŸ™‚ Yes first one has to decide whether marriage is necessary or not and here the doctor is saying motherhood is utmost necessary!! I’ll surely check out ur post. Keep visiting!

  27. @Sakhi yes there lies the difference. We are much more evolved and complex and don’t exist merely to reproduce and increase the population of species for its survival. :)Thanks for clearing your point to me.

    @Amit I think somehow such “experts” forget to give a rational view and end up inserting their personal opinions in their professional advice like Nomad said in her comment. I have noticed that the Hindi daily which carried this article, often publishes such articles expressing somewhat orthodox views regarding women…what they ought to do etc etc.

    @Shefaly Thanks for the link.

    @Prerna yes I guess there maybe some women as well as men who do feel incomplete without kids. But generalization should be avoided and no one should be made to feel bad about themselves.

  28. @Mahak Thank u so much!! I’m honored πŸ™‚

    @Nikhil LOL πŸ˜€

    @Arvind Its all in minds alright but bringing up 4-5 kids in a joint family was much easier than now in a nuclear family with 1 or 2 kids and in a fast paced modern world. That time selection of school,playtime,college,clothes,notebooks,breakfast,lunch,medicine,treatment,ways to discipline etc etc..anything related to kids was not so complicated.Thus there was no hesitation to have kids.

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  34. πŸ™‚ Those who don’t like kids,please don’t conceive or give birth.But once he/she is born ,it is not your choice ,but his/her right to get care and support..If people don’t have time or money,don’t bother to reproduce,just for the sake of it.Why should kids suffer,right?

    No offense meant,but those who say that kids are pain in ass,should remember that they themselves are “here and now” because of being somebody else’s pain in the ass…Now that they have become ‘big’ pains,doesn’t exclude them of being committed to bearers of these pain-in-ass ..

    Today’s so-called modern and fast paced,timeless era will be ‘traditional’,’conservative’,’outdated’ and give way to super-fast paced era in a time of 50 years..Today’s so-called sofhisticated parenting too will be branded accordingly and people then,kids today,will laugh at us(adults today)…If we meet again then,let us see if our views and attitudes have changed.. πŸ™‚

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