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'Husbands are easy targets for steam-letting'

Last updated on: July 24, 2013 16:08 IST

'Husbands are easy targets for steam-letting'

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Lalita Iyer

Endless advice, constant reminders asking you to stay calm and that nagging feeling at the back of your head telling you to watch what you say because 'the baby is listening'!

Cheeky, outrageous and at the same time all very true -- Lalita Iyer says it as it is in her pregnancy memoir I'm pregnant not terminally ill, you idiot! 

Being pregnant changes you in ways you can never imagine. What's more it changes the people around you too! There is your gay best friend who knows your womb will always come in-between you two, the 'baby haters' who look at you with suspicion and the childless ones who suddenly begin to get competitive.

Then of course, there will be the never-ending words of advice from e-v-e-r-y single person who crosses your path: How high should you wear your pants? Should you wear pants? What should you be listening to? What should you not be watching and reading? The list is endless.

Somewhere in this melee is the unassuming husband -- the root cause of all this, you may say -- wanting little else but to complete a video game level and being emotionally blackmailed into bed.

Lalita Iyer takes you through it all in her book I'm pregnant not terminally ill, you idiot! An exclusive extract follows:

***

When you are pregnant, people expect you to turn into this goddess who is a temple of calm, doesn't display negative emotions, like anger, jealousy or bi**hiness, doesn't use swear words (what if the baby picks them up?) and in general, is smiling and cheerful all the time. That, to me is the most frustrating part of pregnancy. Yes, the good hormones do ward off the bad energy, but there are bad days for everyone. And sometimes, you lose it.

Rashi, who had a four-year-old when I was pregnant, told me I should get a new vocabulary. 'The last time you were here, my daughter picked up s**t!'

There goes my power of speech, I thought. I may as well enrol for Vipassana and stay there until the baby is born. Whenever I lost my cool or used a four-letter word or did something equally abominable in my mother's view, she told me, 'Be careful. The baby is listening.'

My point was, yes, but if I don't let off steam, the baby will be listening to all my repressed anger, and that might be worse. In short, nothing in your life has changed, except that there is a spectator inside you who is taking it all in. The only way you can become the epitome of calm is if you stop going to work, travelling anywhere, talking to anyone, and just staying put and listening to Bach at home. Sure, there were fleeting moments of peace and quiet, when the husband would indulge me with his famous calf massage, pour me an occasional glass of wine or beer (yes!), and we would talk to the baby in dulcet tones. It felt like this was the best time of my life and I had never been so tranquil or centred before. Till I went to work the next day. And found that life and the universe around me was pretty much the same as before.

People were still being mean to animals. Trees were still being cut randomly. Drivers were still driving with their eyes shut and their brains locked up somewhere. Rich brats in posh cars were still pretending that a pot-hole-laden road was the expressway. Colleagues were still slacking off. Telemarketing pests and PR executives were still calling you at 2 pm. Stock broking companies were still bulk-texting me hot tips at 6 am. My mother was still whining about my father. In the midst of all this, you are expected to be this immaculate, calm mother who will give birth to this angel of a baby who will do everything right, stay happy, never cry and always sleep when you want it to. Such babies and mothers don't exist and the sooner you learn that, the better it is for you. I found that when I came to terms with my imperfections instead of trying to fight them, I was able to be a much better mother.

Yes, thinking good thoughts, listening to 'good music' and reading 'good books' and looking at pretty things is a recipe for a happy pregnancy, but how easy is it to see it through really? And then there are the pregnophobes (read people who hate you because you are pregnant). So cynical singletons and manhaters now hate you even more because you are an affirmation of womanhood. Your GBF (gay best friend) now realises that the womb will be a permanent wall between you and him. Procreation is something that will never figure in his life. Maternity leave will never be in his list of company benefits.

Baby haters -– men and women, who believe having a child is ensnaring to their freedom and their rocking life –- will now look at you with more suspicion. Peers who were married much before you and haven't had success in the baby-making department will now get all competitive.

A pregnant woman signifies different things to different people. At the very basic level -– a marriage, a man, and sex. At a deeper level -– permanence, continuum, hope, dreams. So the way you perceive a pregnant woman boils down to what your aspirations are, how you see yourself a few years from now, what is your relationship stage, what you expect from a man/relationship, how much of it is coming true. Somehow, coming face to face or being in close proximity with a pregnant woman fast-forwards your thinking to a large extent about such things. It highlights why your life is not moving in that direction. So you end up hating the pregnant
woman for having what you don't have.

With such negativity around, it is not the easiest thing to be a nice person when you are pregnant. And then the whole world begins to bombard you with advice, which makes it even worse. Yes, the hormones are supposed to be doing their work and making you feel all maternal and nesting, someone who is the epitome of zen. But even after the unease of the first trimester has settled down and your feel-good phase is about to begin, you will still find yourself rattled every once in a while. Husbands are easy targets for steam-letting. One night, I was feeling particularly restless and the husband still hadn't come to bed. I stormed into his room (aptly called the gaming room). 'Why aren't you in bed yet? It's 2 am!'

'Err... I was just trying to finish a level (gaming lingo, which means kill some people, loot and plunder some). I promise I will be in bed in half-an-hour.'

I piped up.

'Why do you have to game every night? Can't you see I can't sleep, lying in bed, my insides being kicked royally? On top of that, I am wondering if you have eaten? Or if you are drinking too much? Or if you have fallen asleep on the couch?'

'Babe, I am gaming in my own house, not downing tequila shots with random party animals.'

'You think you are doing me a favour?'

'What do you want me to do?'

'Please turn this off. It is really violent. Will you keep gaming when the baby arrives too?' 

I started bawling. He is nervous by now, and puts the controller down.

'Can I get you something? Herbal tea? Nimboo pani? Juice?'

'No, my calves hurt.'

'Okay, will give you a good massage.'

And he does.

If that was not enough, your mother is now calling you four times a day instead of two.

'Have you eaten?'

'No, Mom, I will now.'

'What? Not eaten? It's one O'clock!'

'I know, mom. I was busy at work.'

'My god! Why don't they understand that you are pregnant and you need to eat on time?'

It doesn’t end. The mother-in-law, shortly after whining about her driver, will have her two-bits to add. ‘I hope you are relaxing, thinking nice thoughts. You must look at beautiful things, baby pictures in books. It’s good for the baby.’

It’s not difficult to figure why you need to let off steam.

Pregnancy mood swings are like PMT – writ large, and last much longer. The heavier you get, the lower your threshold gets. And then, nothing goes your way. You want to sleep. Baby doesn’t. You want to have sex. Husband doesn’t. You want to fart. You can’t, because you are in a goddamn meeting.

And then the world tells you. Think. Good. Thoughts. So what do you do to feel better? Shopping may not be the greatest thing because you have no energy or patience to try on stuff.

Meditation is not for you. Going for a walk has its own problems. Movies? Well, where will you leave your bladder? Eating? Well, how much can you eat really?

So you bark some more. At someone. Anyone.

***

I'm Pregnant not terminally ill, you idiot! Rs 295. Excerpted here with the kind permission of Amaryllis Books.

Watch the trailer of the book here!


Image: I'm pregnant not terminally ill, you idiot!
Photographs: Courtesy Amaryllis Books