Starting a new Category by the name of The Strong Days. Committed to write through Premenstrual times and unbridled thoughts, excited to observe what kind of outbursts it contains. Letting myself loose.
I’m no spring chicken.
To which I can actually see plenty around me SPRING at me trying to convince me that I am but I mean, by general desi standards. Or archaic medical terminology standards which, if I get pregnant again (which I don’t intend to. No this is not a post where I’m dropping hints) banish me to the term geriatric pregnancy (I kid you not. It’s a real thing. Beyond maternal age of 35 it’s referred to a geriatric pregnancy.)
I was 34 when I conceived Sassi and two months shy of 35 when she was born.
We took our time to share it with the world just because I wanted to first internalise it myself. However when we did, the happiness surrounding us would almost always stem from disbelief before turning into rapturous joy and very rightly so. Both of us were of a rather advanced age and never really gave off any such vibes so as to go the family way.
Here’s what I really want to talk about.
I was in England for a month and a half around the 5th month of pregnancy and I saw the entire Londoners’ persona melt before me. If you’ve ever been to a true metropolitan, you’d know. No one cares what you’re wearing, what you’re doing, where you’re headed. Way too busy in their own lives. Very impersonal and refreshing. However, being pregnant brought around a very human side on this city for me.
I was on the slimmer side and had an all belly pregnancy right till the end so at 5 months pregnant, once I wore my coat, no one could tell I was expecting. However I would routinely of course get tired and need a break so I got the TFL Pin/ Badge that said Baby On Board to wear on all my public transport journeys.
I kid you not, the usually unfriendly and neutral crowd turned into heavenly beings, as if all sending me their blessings if not explicitly then a friendly nod, a half smile that would continue on through their eyes. Older women would share joys of motherhood and how I’ll love it when a tiny lamb would follow me around calling out. It was magical and I felt overwhelmingly blessed.
Come Pakistan. Same pregnancy. Less than two days of landing back, I head out to the tech/ computer market of Lahore, Hafeez Centre to buy a printer for my office.
Every single gaze in that place was on me as if I was carrying a child out of wedlock or parading the place for their personal pleasure or both. It was vile. It was disgusting and a few time I really wanted to get a few by their collar and remind them that when their mothers were pregnant with them that’s what they looked like too. I could feel the dirty, leering looks burn against my skin and I wanted to burn the place down.
There’s no excuse for being lewd.
The religion they are such flag bearers of, place heavens at the feet of a mother, defines that from the moment of conception to until after delivery a woman is closest to God and all her prayers are immediately accepted.
So if they are not literally literate, with conventional education, where is the religion now?
Stay at home, they say. Cover up, they say. That’s the religion they do remember.
Four wives they remember but forget that it doesn’t legitimise ogling at other women. Somehow, having extramarital affairs is legitimised by staunch believers in light of “but he is allowed 4 wives”. Something someone said directly to me while I was going through my first divorce. I promise I’m not making this up. I digress.
I wished to talk about how and why these differences in attitudes towards pregnant women exist. On one hand, we have a culture where motherhood is being revered and supported, people Young and old getting up to give you space on public transport and insisting you sit down. However the likelihood of my child being out of wedlock is much higher to a bystander in London than ever in Pakistan.
However. This is where I get ogled at, my pregnant belly stared at merely days apart from my previous experience.
Why does this happen here? Why are we so ghaleez (disgusting)?
a) We legitimise and justify disgusting behaviour of men by always shaming the women. No matter what they do. I’m sure I’ll get a few “but why did you go out in that condition”. Another word I hate from the core of my being. Pregnancy is not an illness. You are not supposed to be confined in your house because of it unless you have a medical situation that requires it. I had a super healthy and beautiful pregnancy because I was SUPER active. Also, the world doesn’t (and shouldn’t) stop functioning only because we are pregnant. I was setting up my company. I would go everywhere getting work done.
b) We as women sometimes also love playing into the patriarchy that comes around to bite the rest of us. We want to be treated well (who doesn’t?). Okay well is a far cry. We want to be treated fairly and as human as men but when it comes to pulling the weights we also like to pull out our woman card.
Confining one’s self to one’s house when pregnant is one of the many. Which is why people around us are just not used to seeing pregnant bellies in public! We need to push for public space as pregnant women!
We simply need to be better people. That’s one huge leap for mankind that we need to take.
The kid of upheaval this country has gone through since inception leaves us with a huge diaspora around the world, comprising of people trying to preserve their sanity or even lives or those panting to keep on keeping on while sticking around here. I can understand the frustration that comes with being a Pakistani but through the privilege being born a man gives you, use it to support and value women around you instead of abusing it just because.
There are only two ways forward up or further down. So stop digging.