My Pregnant Belly is Not Your Suggestion Box


My Pregnant Belly is Not Your Suggestion Box

Illustration: Arati Gujar

A few months back, my pregnancy came as a welcome news to me, my husband, parents, parents-in-law and my immediate family. I informed my close friends soon after, and all was well, that is, until my belly started showing. As soon as it became visually evident to people that I am nurturing life inside me, the advice taps opened full throttle and the torrential rain of wisdom came pouring in. Suddenly, everyone had a PhD in “How to handle a bulging stomach that doesn’t belong to us”.

“Don’t work so hard or you’ll stress the baby,” came one kind suggestion. “You’re taking it too easy, why don’t you exercise more,” offered another. A new mother warned me against going a mile near a cup of coffee because caffeine is apparently the new potassium cyanide in the ante-natal market. A colleague kindly suggested that I eat tons of saffron for a white baby, even though my husband and I are both brown and that’s really not how biology works. And to top it off, another gentleman informed me that my lower back pain was all in my head; that it was just a state of mind. Yes, because for every adult on the planet, carrying a 10kg barrel on their stomach for 24 hours everyday, would be a real breeze. Who am I to complain?

When in the run-up to the delivery, I decided to move closer to my parents. It inexplicably made a friend beat their chest about how I was going to be a burden on them. Apparently, even in 2019, a pregnant woman is duty bound to magically transform into an one-woman army who never needs any support from her family. It didn’t even stop there. While I was booking tickets for a college reunion that was scheduled for a few months after my delivery, I was reliably informed, according to the Judgements of Single Childless Men Vol 37 that a mother who travels with an infant is a bad parent. Of course, the fact that the source of this wisdom has neither a child, nor a uterus did not deter him from his enthusiastic uninvited participation in how I should raise my unborn child. How I treat my foetus and myself is something every Tom, Diksha Aunty, and Hari Kaka gets to have, and voice, strong opinions on. 

How I treat my foetus and myself is something every Tom, Diksha Aunty, and Hari Kaka gets to have, and voice, strong opinions on.

You see, something happens to the world when they see a pregnant belly. Suddenly your body is no longer yours – it is a public referendum and the Indian democracy is vibrantly functional. It’s as if everyone magically wakes up to the realisation that they have to justify their existence as an unnecessary advice dispenser whenever there is a pregnant belly in the vicinity. Being at the receiving end of this volley of instructions, what has continued to amuse me is the confidence with which people keep dispensing thee nuggets of wisdom, blissfully unaware of the numerous boundaries they’re crossing. I suppose, there are very few things that Indians love more than regulating the bodies of women. A pregnant woman then, is your average nosy Indian’s favourite event.

In the last few months, I’ve had the good fortune of being acquainted with all these self-appointed Womb Warriors and I can’t seem to stop wondering one thing: Us, Bulging Bellies don’t come into your homes and micromanage how you wipe your bums, so maybe you could leave how we manage our uterus to us? An easy way to mind your business might be this rule of thumb: If you are not our parents or our gynaecologist, please feel free to not have opinions about what’s happening inside our bodies. 

Before you scrunch up your face complaining about how you were “just trying to help”, let me assure you that we see you. But the next time you feel the urge to participate in procreation vicariously through us, how about you carry our bags or hand us a cushion? We could always use another cushion. And if that doesn’t satisfy your contributive spirit, go ahead and offer us a foot-rub. We promise we won’t say no. Focus on the swollen ankles please, thank you.

P.S: Watch this space for our follow-up public interest notice titled, “You are not Navjot Singh Siddhu and My Child’s Upbringing is Not Your Reality Show to Judge”.