BY NITIN PUJAR
Women who give birth have often ranted about the physical and mind-numbing body changes that they endure during the conception and postpartum processes. They own this kind of physicality of process that they thumb all males down with and, of course, never let their men forget for the rest of their life.
And I have seen all sorts of women personas go through this: the quiet pregnant woman who is nothing more than slightly plump through her ten month process of being mollycoddled by everyone around her, to the glaring ‘the-world-is-so-unfair’ working woman who is a shrieking banshee at work as well as home through her pregnant months..
One thing is common to all women who are pregnant: the presumption that men do not, will not and cannot understand what they are going through. And yes, that is physically true. But what is not true is that they don’t go through their own sets of peeves, fears and personality swings through this process.
I was suitably abused for not understanding anything about anything, for the entire nine months by my daughter’s mother while she was being tracked through a series of doctor visits in the womb. The doctors, some male and a couple of delightful females, kept looking at me quizzically as I seemed chilled and question-less while I interjected with nods and paper napkins when they were reached out for. I was asked by the mother of my daughter to read up tomes of day-by-day pregnancy symptoms and indicators and told the books were written for the Americans and so were irrelevant. The doctors had the ‘eyes rolled up’ look of having to deal with the over-involved couple, all the time. Though to be fair, I said very little.
The mother of the mother, both in-law and out-law, would call in and ask inane questions about their daughter’s (in-law and out-law) eating habits and so on and proffer advise to me about what their daughter should be drinking or such. All this was of course followed by the wife asking me what they said and then, being told in turn about how they don’t know anything. See? Makes sense, right?
My clients, my work and my life in general had ceased to be meaningful to my wife or should I say irrelevant. Which was fine because they all understood what it meant to be in the generic thankless process of being ‘becoming’ a father. They sympathized, or in most cases if they were men, did not even ask about it or talk about it.
‘Lamaze’ or something (laa-maaz) classes were paid for and thankfully not attended due to the fact that they were inconveniently timed for the wife (who worked till the last possible day ). Some sensitive friend of hers had done them with their respective loving wife and so we had to pay and forget about it and never mention it, ever. (“Never, ever”..like Arnab Goswami famously says).
Then there was that last minute panic outside the labour room of the Christian missionary-run hospital which forbade me from entering the labour room!! This is where the macho, male assertion that one will be there with the wife even if one were to be jailed for it, worked. Not that my wife noticed or has even spoken of it ever after.
Yes, it was horror inducing to see all the animal reality of mammalian birthing and the equally horrifying cutting and suturing and casual mayhem of a surgical labour room. In the middle of the timing the breathing I asked my wife “Shucks, what if it’s a boy? I have not thought of a name!!” She just looked at me with her cold stare and shrieked, “You are supposed to help me push, not ask me questions!”
And then of course, the moment when the tall woman who is now my teen daughter came into the world with nary a whimper, but a happy cough and sniffle, I was all relived that I did not have to think of a name. But what I was never prepared for was the stunning sense of nurture that washed over all my senses as I was given this tiny bundle of helplessness to hold. It is a trip that was never experienced before and never ever after. It is a physical, chemical and mental zoning out that makes for a whole lifetime of waiting.
About the author:
Nitin Pujar enjoys the never ending luxury of being curious about all of the women in his life, while trying to decipher them, knowing he can never do so.