Have any of you ladies of this remarkable and progressive century ever been cold shouldered by an all- knowing mother –in-law for being too frank with your husband? For ‘shamelessly’ hanging around your husband during pregnancy, openly discussing nausea and other such uneasiness with your husband, and, in fact, not even hesitating to throw up during the early months, and seek his help to comfort yourself? If you disbelieve me, I shall be extremely happy for that, for, it means you have not witnessed such idiosyncrasies in your life. The unfortunate ones like me have by now got the drift of what I am saying.
Nausea, or morning sickness as it is termed as, is an unavoidable part of pregnancy. The changes that occur in the body are immense. The whole body and mind of a woman prepares itself for the housing the creation, to allow it to grow from an embryo to a fetus and then into a baby, day by day, week by week, month by month, in those 280 days till it is delivered. The entire mechanism is unique, and the formula of this creation doesn’t change- like a patented design.
I still recall those exciting times when periods missed by even a day gave rise to flutters and anticipation in me and husband. Each hour mattered then, periods not showing up each hour assured us of good news, increasing the anticipation. ‘Not yet’ were the most welcome words then. As three – four days passed away, we felt joyous. God’s grace was upon us. During that time, I was a Lecturer in an engineering college in Orissa where my husband was posted. It was January 2005 when the big event had occurred, giving us pleasure and giggles. Usually, every morning my husband drove me to college on his bike along the Ring Road of the city. The college was approximately 16 km from our government quarters, and he covered that distance in barely 17 mins! We started at 7:40 am and a minute before 8 I would be signing my name on the ‘Department-Electrical’ register and head straight for the morning class or the Digital Electronics laboratory or towards the department. But now, when we were getting assured of pregnancy, our pace got slowed. He drove slowly, I walked slowly. Oh, how eagerly we had waited for these days to come. The gynecologist had advised a blood test after 3 weeks and a USG in 45 days of the Last Menstrual Period abbreviated as LMP to confirm pregnancy. All couples who have gone through this, do you recall your moments of anticipation?
Morning sickness- every pregnant lady faces it. My great grandmother had it, even her mother, and all her descendants including me. Same happened to my mother in law, the bearing women in her clan, and her mother in law too. Also, conception procedure world-over have remained the same ; that of my mother in laws’ couldn’t differ. After copulation, the (husband’s) sperm fertilizes the (wife’s) egg, and if this process inside the fallopian tube was successful, the fertilized egg would successfully travel down the fallopian tube and implant in the uterus, and embryo would start growing. Simple.
My in-laws surely adopted the same procedure- they have two children. Stretching far to assume ‘it’ wasn’t too exciting and was more of a mechanical workout between them, still I can’t place ‘shame’ and ‘embarrassment’ of the wife from her husband when she got pregnant! It is normal to face morning sickness which usually starts within 6 weeks of pregnancy and may last upto 14 weeks, a week here and there isn’t uncommon. Medical science attributes it to increased levels of hCG Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone in blood, and/or increased levels of estrogen hormone, though there are no tests to prove these factors as causes of nausea. Again, I don’t see any embarrassing thing into it. I fail to understand, the man to whom I got married , with whom I entered into copulation, how on earth could I feel embarrassed in getting pregnant, from him? That I would have to run stealthily to the washroom if I needed to vomit, and avoid giving any clue of this ‘embarrassing’ act to my husband?
I had terrible bouts of morning sickness in the morning, in the afternoon and evening too, and I was unable to eat anything. Unfortunately, with the sickness attacking me every meal time, I lost count of the number of times I was expected to ‘feel embarrassed’ and act suitably. To add to further excitement, I needed to remain doubly embarrassed as my father in law was also in the house. Women are upholders of modesty. I should have remained underground, only come out when the males of the house weren’t in my purview.
My husband’s office was close by and he could come home for a quick lunch, but in my absence, he preferred to carry his lunch box. At times he came home too. I would keep his lunch in microwavable glass bowls and he would warm his food. My mother in law had once asked me to leave my job as warming the food in the microwave was a ‘hardship’ for my husband. Now, during these early months of pregnancy, I was unable to attend college and therefore, he came home for lunch. Oh, how I used to bawl in hunger, and he rushed home with some boiled potatoes and rice from office kitchen, and seeing the food my hunger would die down. The hormones were to be blamed for the erratic-ness. I wasn’t able to cook, neither could I stand any cooking done in the house. It was terrible. We tried hard. Unable to cope up with the unavoidable circus, we approached both the set of parents. Unfortunately, my parents had planned a trip with my mother’s siblings months before and cancelling it now would mean cancellation for the entire bunch. It was just a week’s trip, and she assured she would reach us within two days she returned from the trip and would stay with us till I got okay. My parent’s participation was taken for granted. None other than the mother can soothe and relieve an ailing or a troubled child. So, the wait was only for 10 days maximum. My in-laws scored a few brownie points here. They filled the gap of the 10 days with abundant excitement and melodrama, giving me the opportunity to write about those now, after 13 years.
As I just mentioned, my husband came home for lunch, and as a natural instinct, he came straight to our room to inquire after my health. Can this sit well with in laws? Never. 2 days the sin was tolerated, and the third day it was brought to an abrupt halt. The mother took it upon herself to redeem her son of the sin and prevent him from committing it any further.
One evening, my neighbour had prepared dahi vada(a popular snack made with fried lentil balls, dipped in yoghurt and spiced up with chillies, tamarind pulp , plain tomato sauce and gramflour crispies sprinkled over it) for me and I relished eating it, forgetting momentarily that I would throw it up quick. And that evening was bad. I needed support to even stand near the washbasin. My in-laws had parked themselves comfortably on the sofa-set in the living room, and who other than my husband would hold me then? But what followed surprised both of us. I laugh at it now, but we had got very upset then. Unable to control her anger seeing her son helping me, she made a sharp remark at me-
‘ How shamelessly you use the washbasin and throw up in front of all of us, don’t even have the common sense of going to the washroom? You women of this era have no respect for your elders. In our days it was so different. I felt so ashamed in front of your dad. Never ever he came to know of all this morning sickness and all. In fact, I never went around the house this way infront of him and never ever infront of my father in law. I was so embarrassed to even break the news of pregnancy to your dad. He eventually got the good news from others in the house. And betu(her son), your dad never went around me the way you do. This is so embarrassing to see you do that!’
Oh goodness, till date I couldn’t figure out why my mom-in-law felt so ashamed or embarrassed of her husband during her pregnancy! They copulated, right? That involved no shame or embarrassment but morning sickness did? And the one who impregnated you gets to know the results of his act from others and not his own wife. Sorry, can’t buy the logic. Nowadays, a husband accompanies the wife to the doctor, and in many cases also to the labour room. Wonder how the in-laws cope up with this embarrassing and unacceptable behavior. Times have hopefully changed…
New parents, can you relate to the above?
Have we changed really, or are we just wearing a garb of modernity? After all, old traditions and quirkiness go hand in hand in a few cases- in cases of ignorance.
To all the new mom in- laws, please be a little patient and kind towards the would-be mom in your house. Much love.
About the Author
Payel Roy Chowdhury is an Electrical Power Systems engineer by profession and has been working in the field of Electrical Power Plant design , transmission & distribution of electrical power projects for over 14 years.
She is a woman who lives by her passion of music, dance,travelling to explore nature and people, and find stories in them, and capturing those in lens and words. Innovative and healthy cooking is a new found passion with her.
She is a trained Kathak and Odissi dancer, and has been performing on stage since the age of 6. She has also been a creative dancer at Lalit kala Academy, Kolkata. Her recent song posts in Facebook and Youtube are receiving a very good response.
Visit her channel here Youtube