Pregnancy in India is considered not just a blessing for a woman but her ultimate goal in life. The moment she gets married, her near and dear ones keenly wait for the ‘good news’ and the day it arrives, along comes the expert advice, the diet chart, the list of names and most importantly guesses related to the child’s gender.
However, with time as the woman starts showing baby bump, unwanted comments and stares from strangers and in some cases from one’s own family members are added to the list.
Soumika Mondal Das, a Bhubaneswar based Journalist shares her ordeal as to how she was body shamed during pregnancy both in public places as well as at home.
“I had to go for a whole wardrobe change. I was working till the eighth month of my pregnancy with a leading media house and as a news reporter I had to be on field for stories. Most of my travelling used to be via public transport. Therefore, for ease of movement I used to wear either full length gowns or long kurtis. However, there was one problem, my bulge was still noticeable due to which I was stared at by random strangers in the metro.”
“Some would even intimidate my privacy constantly. Absolute strangers used to ask me how many months pregnant I am. Some unknown co-passengers would even discuss about the type or pattern of the bulge I have that could determine the sex of my child.”
“Even my husband who wanted his wife to look presentable all the time was sometimes ashamed to accompany me to family gatherings because I wouldn’t look better than others and my bulge was prominent.”
“As we all know that during pregnancy breasts swell up so the same happened to me as well like it happens to every other pregnant woman. But because of that I had to hear the filthiest of comments while walking on the road.”
“I have even heard comments like how sexy it would be to have me in bed with huge breasts storing milk.”
“My husband used to get irritated after seeing all this. Later he even suggested me to switch to sarees during pregnancy, and I listened to him. With time the occasional sarees became my regular attire.”
“Not being able to look good as per my husband’s standards made me lose confidence, and affected our relationship as well.”
“I started trying hard to please him. I started putting make up but it was of no use as I had lot of tan and other skin issues during pregnancy. Somehow I was convinced that I will never be able to look presentable again. And yes it did affect our conjugal relationship.”
“I was angry, week and demoralised but I didn’t lose my temper and I also made sure that my diet is proper. All these judgmental comments both at home as well as outside affected me mentally.”
Soumika is just one of the many women who go through similar trauma during pregnancy. A country where giving birth is considered every woman’s duty even today, is also a home to such pervert minds who fail to understand that a person who is nurturing a life inside her deserves to be treated nicely with utmost respect and support.
Many even face domestic violence especially during pregnancy as they are vulnerable during that period. It has been proven in a survey that more and more urban pregnant women are falling prey to domestic violence and forced sexual encounters by their husbands.
“In India there are many husbands who don’t give their wives enough time to recover after having a baby; many force them to have sex during pregnancy. The same happened with me too, my body was just not ready due to which I developed complications and even after pregnancy when I was still breastfeeding the urge was null.”
The youth of today refuses to abide by the patriarchal mindset that has prevailed in our society since forever. But many like Soumika had to face repercussions as her husband’s needs were more important than her consent.
“When I refused, I was ill treated in several ways.”
The western culture is often blamed for increasing divorce rates but nobody blames the guy for leaving no other option for the woman. However, many in India still try to make their marriage work or choose to remain unhappily married forever due to pressure from the society, because let’s face it we live in a place where it’s okay to have an abusive marriage but it’s not okay to step out of it.
Soumika is also one of the victims to such stupid norms which apply only to women.
“I regret trying to make my marriage work despite all the atrocities. Marriage is not the end of your life. If there is no dignity step out don’t wait for the worst to happen. Men must realize we are not pleasure providing machines. If you are forced to please a man then it’s not a marriage.”
“Every woman needs some time to re-explore her body post pregnancy. With all the hormones acting up and taking a toll on your health, the role of a mother comes with challenges of its own. But do men realize that? Obviously not. How many husbands would adjust and masturbate for a complete year if necessary. I guess a man needs to slowly work towards helping her wife regain her faith and her strength by being calm, patient and supportive towards her.”
Moreover, while the society has still accepted a working woman, but a working pregnant woman has to fight her own battles at work place. There are many corporate firms that are not flexible with maternity leaves and even deny promotions to pregnant women. They are often harassed and made to go through unwanted stares and comments by their co-workers.
Soumika further said that despite all the suffering her baby gave her the strength to carry on.
“A small incident changed the way I look at things. I did a sonogram which showed my baby smiling. Although I am not sure if it actually happened but that’s the image I got and it gave me the strength to fight back.”
“I switched to sarees, learnt to drape it myself and went to work wearing it. It was an absolute shock for some as they thought it was not modern. But with time I got comfortable in a saree and completely fell for it. Now it was no more just to cover the bulge. I even did field reporting in a saree and worked till the ninth month of my pregnancy.”
Who would have guessed that nurturing a life could be so hard in the second most populated country in the world.
Sony Sheetal Tirkey from Gurugram also shares how her choice of clothes during pregnancy invited uncomfortable stares from people.
“I found mostly women checking me out more because I think I didn’t dress up the regular way. I wore whatever I wanted and whatever I was comfortable in. I didn’t try to cover my belly with a shawl or a dupatta. I was also judged and frowned upon during visits to mall or hospital but I didn’t care.”
“I remember once a woman was checking me out and elbowing her other female friend because I was wearing a dress during the eighth month of my pregnancy.”
“People make you uncomfortable with their expressions but I didn’t let it bother me because I had important things to think about.When you are pregnant and going out, you have so much on your mind, like what do you need to do or get, and you don’t want to forget anything. Although I never heard anything or else I would have definitely reacted. You don’t mess with a hormonal mom.”
Till date many Indians are so fond of having a son that even strangers start giving you weird suggestions without even asking. Sony also faced a similar situation.
“Everyone starts giving unsolicited advice, and tries to make predictions regarding the baby’s gender. Once I took a cab, this was when my baby bump didn’t even start showing. I requested the driver to be careful and avoid rash driving and potholes since I am pregnant. I was amused by what he did next. He went on telling me to pray to Lord Shiva every Monday for a son. Many of my family members also gave lot of vague suggestions.”
They say there is a solution to every problem but what to do when such things don’t qualify to be taken seriously as a problem and are instead considered very basic.
Image Source: India.com
If there are neighbors, relatives and passersby for common people, there are trolls for celebrities. The social media makes such a big deal out of the pregnancy pictures that stars post online that it’s showered with the filthiest comments possible. Kate Hudson, Sameera Reddy, Soha Ali Khan, Amy Jackson are few of the many who have faced hateful comments for flaunting their baby bump. Some give it back some care a damn. But the point here is women not just in India but anywhere in the world are expected to look, behave, dress up and present themselves in a certain way.
Even while she is making a life inside her she is expected to behave and cover up much more than usual because as per the conventional norms that bump she is showing is not making her look good anymore. It’s high time we understand the needs of a woman’s body especially during pregnancy and replace those uncomfortable stares and comments with love and support.