“It sounds exactly like they show in films!’ Weird it may seem, but this was my first thought when my baby was born. Half-immobilised on the operating table, I heard the voice first and saw the face later. There was this moment of immense relief, ‘Thank god, my baby is alright.’ Finally my child was put in my arms. I started to count the fingers and toes. While my baby and I were skin-to-skin, the nurses started stitching my stomach up like a piece of cloth.
In the middle of all this, the nurse reminded me, “Check your baby. Kya hai?” Oh, I had forgotten to check the gender. She held the child in her arms and I saw, “Girl.” The nurse suggested that I should check the number again. She showed me two tags. I saw that both the tags had the same number- 74. It was sure that she was my baby girl.
Behind the obvious surge of happiness, I could hear a little nagging voice in my head - a whining bit of disappointment, ‘Now they will tell me to have another baby.’
Suddenly, the doctor interrupted all these thoughts. Hers was a matronly presence -- prim but compassionate. She asked the nurse about the delivery in the room next to mine. The nurse answered, ‘Udhar boy hua hai (Its a boy there).’ The doctor, irritation palpable in her voice, said, ‘I did not ask about a girl or a boy. I just asked whether the delivery was routine or complicated.’ The doctor’s reaction shook me up. I was ashamed at my disappointment because of having given birth to a baby girl.
Whenever I recall that one moment of disappointment I had in the labour room, a sharp pang of guilt rends me. This is what social conditioning does to us. It does not matter to me whether I am mother to a girl or a boy. It might matter to others, and for a moment, it influenced me. The perpetual conditioning affected me. I feel ashamed about it even today.
Today, my girl is seven. Her name is Vanya, the grace of God. In these seven years, I have not known any happiness deeper than the one that comes from raising a child.
I have decided to raise Vanya in a way that she will take the world in her stride. She might face the conditioning sooner or later, but I want to make sure that she has the strength to withstand it.”