By Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Hello, everyone! Hope you’re ready to wind down from 2016 and look forward to the coming year already. Such a thinking time of year. Let’s get started.G asked:
My wife and I got into an argument about children the other day. We were talking hypothetically, and she said that if she accidentally got pregnant right now, she’d probably have an abortion. I think of myself as someone quite happy with their current life (which is child-free), but that shocked me a little bit. I can’t help thinking that I would want to keep the baby even if my wife didn’t. As a result, things between us are a little cold. Who’s right here? Does one parent have more say in this than the other?
The simple answer is—technically—yes. The person carrying the baby, the person basically giving up their body for nine months, and undergoing great discomfort and a risk to their own health, the person hosting a small ‘parasite’ inside them that saps them of their strength and nutrients, that person has more say in whether or not to keep a foetus or not. People tend to forget that it’s not just a baby being created, it’s also a mother, and an adult woman should have the right to choose whether or not she’s ready to make that life choice.
But the simple answer assumes that everyone’s okay with this choice, that we’re pretending like we — society as a whole — doesn’t feel like they have ownership over every woman’s womb (evidenced by questions about pregnancy and children becoming near constant as soon as you hit 25 and are in a stable relationship). The simple answer also assumes that everyone involved with said pregnancy has left it all up to the woman and her choice is the ultimate one. The CEO’s right, as it were.
Not that simple, though. You’re right in having this argument before you conceive because it shows to both of you how differently you’re going to approach this. You want to turn into New Dad, all bells and whistles and happy Facebook baby bump photos and eventually, the picture of a teeny hand in a baby blanket and your life turning upside down and inside out, and you think you have it all figured out—what’s one more, when the two of us are so great, we’ll make something even better, and why can’t your wife see it that way?
Whereas, she’s thinking: I just got this job, or, I’ve been working really hard to get where I am right now and I don’t want to take a break to raise a baby; or I’m enjoying being independent and away from my family and running my own house and just thinking about me for a while, not being responsible for someone else; or I love to travel, I’m always on the move, how can I give that up? Or, I’m afraid I’d resent this baby, really hate it for coming in at the wrong time in my life, but how can I hate my own baby, this makes me a bad mother, a bad person, but I’m also so scared that I’d be bored, that I’d be the one doing all the work, and my husband would just get to enjoy the “good stuff” and earn kudos for being an involved dad, while my day will now be filled with shit and puke and annoying cartoons and endless re-reads of the same picture books over and over again.
Or maybe it’s simpler and she’s thinking: I like kids, I’d like my own kid someday, but now is not that day, and I have considered my biological clock before taking this decision, so please don’t second guess me.
But maybe you’ve already had this chat, and you told her you wanted to have kids right away, and she agreed with you then and is disagreeing with you now, which is why you’re feeling slightly hard done by. In which case, this is not a conversation about choice, but more about how the two of you are essentially incompatible. You could go to a marriage counsellor. You could ask her how much more time she needs. Or—worst case scenario—you go your separate ways, you to a life filled with children, and her to a life with independence. There’s no wrong choice here.
At least, there isn’t a wrong choice as long as you realise it’s hers to make.