It was snowing that morning. Houses, trees and fields were all laden with fresh snow. I put on layers of clothing, warm gloves and snow boots. I did not want the cold to even touch me. I wanted the little one growing inside me to be warm and safe. My husband and I were ready to have another glimpse of the baby at 18 weeks. The last 12 weeks had been terrible for me. I had lost my appetite and my taste buds had betrayed me. I looked paler and thinner. But that had not stopped a little bump appearing on my belly.
The ultrasound was going to be a detailed one. The baby would have developed all its organs and body parts. The sonographer would check if the baby was growing normally. She would also be able to tell us the gender of the baby. We had no preference regarding the gender. Our primary concern was the overall development of the baby. It being a boy or girl was secondary.
The ultrasound went for more than an hour. The sonographer checked each and every detail of the baby. Its brain, its heart, its lungs. She counted the limbs, the fingers and the toes. She told me it was an active baby. I asked if it was a good thing? “Off course”, she replied. After checking each and every thing that had to be checked, she asked my husband to come inside the room. It was time to reveal the gender. She asked me what did I want? I told her that I just wanted a healthy baby. For me a baby was just a baby. Boy or girl didn’t matter. She showed us the little one moving inside my belly. We could see the heart beating fast, the hands moving, the legs dancing. At last she showed and told us it was boy. The baby had become “him” from “it”.
We were happy that the baby was normal and healthy. I was feeling hungry and we rushed back home. We did not call anyone immediately, we had not decided yet whether to reveal the gender of the baby to friends and family.
By evening my husband had informed some of his friends. They knew that we had gone for the ultrasound. I also got call from some of my friends and told them about the ultrasound and the gender of the baby. In the days that followed many people came to know including our families back in India. They were all happy for us. I don’t think they ever judged us but during all those conversations, I noticed something strange in my behaviour. Every time someone would congratulate me I would repeat that it did not matter to us if it was a boy or a girl. We just wanted a healthy baby. It was as if I was trying to justify everyone for carrying a boy. During one such conversation I was told by a friend that she would have been happier if it was a girl and not a boy. I did not know what to say but it forced me into a series of thoughts.
I did not know from where this notion transpired that if I would not clarify, people would judge me. Was I feeling guilty that I was carrying a boy and not a girl? Would I have explained if I were having a baby girl? Maybe my time spent in India had something to do with this feeling. Back in India the Fetal sex determination is not allowed. There is a good reason for that. In many families the boys are preferred over girls. This has led to female foeticide and infanticide in large numbers. There have been awareness campaigns and steps have been taken by the government and the civil society to tackle this heinous crime. At the same there are also families in which girls are as welcome as boys. In my family I have never seen any such discrimination. But my heart would bleed for girls whenever I would come across any such incident. So much so that I became quite vocal about gender discrimination and would see it everywhere. Even at places where it did not exist. I would find it discriminating if someone with a girl expressed the wish to have a boy as their second child. On the contrary I would consider someone with a boy wishing for a girl child as progressive. I have always felt for girls, have appreciated and encouraged them, but in doing so I might have unintentionally hurt the sentiments of some people.
Things have changed for me. I am on the other side of the table. Do I need to clarify everyone that I stand for gender equality? I did not choose to be the mother of a boy. Nature chose me. There is a reason why there are males and females in every species. They are both important for the survival. They compliment each other. One is incomplete without the other. It is a crime to exploit the other gender or discriminate against it. Should we be more concerned about proving who is inferior or superior? weak or strong? Or should the discourse be on how both are dependent on each other? That both are unique, different and equally important. Is it so difficult to rise above gender lines and respect each other?
I am thankful that nature has made me understand that a baby is just a baby. Girl or boy, it makes a mother equally happy. While talking about the discrimination against the girls, have we been pushing things too far? If it is wrong to be biased towards a boy, is it not equally wrong to be biased towards a girl? Should we not welcome a baby just as a baby and not as a boy or a girl.
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