"Over the last nine months, every time I stepped out of my home, I have quietly swallowed the daily mandatory advice doled out by someone or another, on how to have a happy and normal pregnancy," says Divya Nair.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
When I was young, I believed the only thing that ever mattered was how much I'd score in my Class 10 and Class 12 board exams.
At the sage age of 31, I can tell you I was wrong. There are two questions -- read traps -- that kind of sums up the life of an Indian adult. It starts at shaadi kab karoge? And ends at good news kab de rahe ho?
These traps will haunt you till you give in. Or become an anti-social agent.
After successfully entering the first trap, and dodging the second for more than three years because my husband and I believed in adoption, we finally fell for the second one.
I was pregnant. Drum roll.
Of course, everyone was happy. My in-laws, parents and assorted relatives, on either side, seemed more elated than us.
There were obligatory visits to temples. A string of phone calls were exchanged and the airwaves must have hummed. Congratulatory messages just about poured in.
As always, I was the misfit.
I never understood why people congratulated Indian couples on having a baby. I know it's a special feeling. But don't we Indians need to think about our exploding population?
Trust me, Trap Two turned to be more annoying than exciting.
The collective unsolicited and bizarre advice I have received from my peers, neighbours and the grey-haired community can easily serve as content for a standup comedy series that could last a lifetime.
And dare you turn to the Internet to research and straighten out your understanding. The know-it-all monster will first inform, then confuse and overall stress you with unnecessary case studies, blog posts and unrelated photographic evidence.
Over the last nine months, every time I stepped out of my home, for my daily walk, for work or to even open the door to pick up the newspaper, I have quietly swallowed the daily mandatory advice doled out by someone or another, on how to have a happy and normal pregnancy (C-section, I discovered is largely frowned upon).
Let me share some samples:
Cover your tummy
The temperature outside is 35 degrees plus and the reason I step out of my home is to catch some sun and wind.
Forget the fact that I struggle to get into clothes that cover my bump and make me feel anything but comfortable ort fashionable, the concerned aunties in my neighbourhood want to know why I am not carrying a dupatta.
Women, what is wrong with you all? How much more clothes should I drown myself in before you can spare me the buri nazar talk? Have some mercy!
Eat for two
My day starts with a glass of milk (I hate milk but am not supposed to have any variants of tea or coffee), followed by an early breakfast between 6 and 8 am. It's like I wake up to eat.
To work, I'd pack breakfast, lunch, two portions of fruit (at one point, I started disliking apples and pomegranate), some nuts or light snack, along with a small box of daily medicines to have before and after meals.
Between so much eating and popping pills, there are times, I've felt I missed out on life.
The eating adventure continues in the evening at home. Between 9 pm and 10 pm, I have been treated to a plate of rice, three rotis, coconut water and a banana. The least I can request is to spare me that second glass of milk.
Pregnant women cannot skip the process of digestion, can we?
Your feet shouldn't be swollen
The scientific reason behind swollen feet in pregnant women is the amount of liquid stored in the body. Some women have it. Luckily, some don't.
There is absolutely no reason to have a daily discussion around swollen feet and give unsolicited advice: Have barley water (I am not suffering from kidney stones or a urine infection). Soak your feet in warm water (and walk around in a tub the whole day?). Have bread (it soaks up the water, it seems. Really!?)
Ditch coffee, have kesar
The obsession with having a fair baby is inherent in our society.
I know coffee causes dehydration. But thanks to some over-educated aunties I also discovered that dark skinned babies are the result of pregnant moms sipping coffee and tea. Tsk, tsk.
At the risk of sounding rude, I tried not to remind this senior woman that her own daughter-in-law consumed Rs 4,000 worth of kesar (saffron) and the kid wasn't born a shade lighter than anyone in their family.
I constantly fight this inner fear that I shouldn't stretch because the forever-present Everyone says it could harm the baby. I finally mustered the courage to ask my gynaecologist, and discovered that your limbs do not decide whether the umbilical cord wraps around your baby's neck.
Eight out of 10 babies have at least two loops of cord wrapped around them when they are born.
Have plenty of ghee and bananas in your 9th month
Just when the doctor wants me to control my weight and stay active, this aunty cutely tells me to have lotsa ghee and bananas in milk because it will help the baby sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip out easily and then you can have a normal delivery.
Maybe I should start having banana peels too, for greater impact?
Stretch marks are god's gift
I am sure at some point, all moms have tried something or the other -- creams, oils etc -- to keep those ugly marks at bay.
Some succeed, some don't. But one wise aunty dismissed all those efforts and said that stretch marks are god's gift to women.
I felt a little sad for the women who missed this god's gift. But in India, you don't argue with god.
The boy vs girl guess game
And lastly, since in India sex determination is a crime, men and women have discovered their own much, much, much more scientific guessing games.
I have been forcibly part of countless discussions on the size and shape of my tummy, my likes and dislikes for certain foods and the 'glow' on my face -- all of which indicated my baby's gender! For instance: Cravings for spicy and salty foods meant it'd be a boy; sweet foods, I'd be having a girl. Jojo did you hear that?
The relatives on my mother's side also go by this small trick of dangling a long taali (Malayalam for mangalsutra or sacred wedding chain) and then allowing it land in your palm. The way it rests will suggest if I am having a baby boy or a girl.
Folks, while I am counting the days left to welcome our baby, I am also awaiting the day NASA announces it is looking for a few super intellectual individuals for their new research team.
I may have some recommendations who can challenge science with their experience. Maybe ghee can help rockets slip into the sky faster? And saffron can illuminate the Black Hole. Aunties do remember to apply!