I write this letter on behalf of all women who have or are touching the dreaded age of 30. Some of us come to you as part of our annual check ups, some of us come for minor irritations and questions while some of us come for questions related to our fertility and choices of motherhood.
Invariably if we are anywhere above 27 and there is no sign of a ring, mangalsutra or if we just have a boyfriend/fiance whom we intend to marry someday, we have had to face intense scrutiny from your creed about it. We thought our grandmothers and those pesky aunties scared us the most about marriage and the impending deadline for it. However, the fear one visit to you puts in us is far worse.
Whether we come with a husband/boyfriend regarding family planning or come with some other questions to you with no man in the picture, the first thing we are told is that our fertility is running out. The implication always is that most of us have given preference to career goals or some new age ideas and are delaying motherhood. These assumptions are made regardless of your knowledge of what is going on in our life, whether we have been coming to you for years or even if it is the first time we ever came to your clinic.
This assumption is just the starting point, after which many from your creed remind us of the dreaded figure of 30, as if friends, relatives and media do not scare us about it already. In a country where sometimes even a well educated 20 something woman sometimes does not know fully well about sex, sometimes a woman just comes to you to get a clearer idea. And a friend who came to one of you regarding clarity, so that she could proceed with caution with her fiancé was given a morality lecture on the pre-marital sex and basically told her fiancé was probably only after one thing. Another friend who married post the magic figure of 30 and is trying for a child, is frequently being made guilty for having waited so long and told during every visit about how she will probably face all the worst scenarios of having a baby late. Those of us who have yet to ‘settle down’ are given quizzical looks and told we better hurry along with predictions of a gloomy future.
You might say that all of this is well meaning advice, because medically late pregnancies do have their own complications. That is a fair enough point, but what flummoxes most of us is, why the morality lectures and why the judgements on our life choices? We already have too many people in our lives who judge us daily about that, how is having a qualified professional doing that too helping us? Could we expect from you an understanding that for some of us, life doesn’t follow the Bollywood/societal script, whether we have tried hard or not? And aren’t you reinforcing a societal mindset that a woman’s only usefulness to the society is her reproductive capability by scaring her about it every time? Could we expect that the next time one of us comes to you, instead of telling us what could possibly go wrong and how our lives could be ruined, we get advice on what could still be done, given our age, our financial conditions and whether or not there is or will be a man in our lives? Because if you show the way, there is a likelihood, the society might also consider a woman’s utility beyond her reproductive abilities.