This was my longest and most difficult labour yet. More than two days I had tried to bring my last child to the world. My obstetrician and her team were one of the best in the city and they had done everything. At a point, they had begun preparing for a cesarean but the baby decided that was grand entry moment. I was overjoyed to see the face so bright and hear the cry so strong. Each moment seemed to replenish my lost strength.
I was taken to the postnatal ward and there I found my prenatal ward roommate. Even though I was weary, I began to offer my congratulations to her but I stopped when I noticed she was crying. Feeling guilty, I thought she had lost her baby. When I asked her, she wailed, “My husband and his people will chase me out”. Flummoxed, I enquired further. “Chase you out for what?”
She then went on to explain how this was her third daughter and she had been expecting a boy because she is not considered a worthy wife and mother until she births a son. This was sad to me. Here was I with my fourth daughter and I had no such fears. I knew my husband could not wait to meet his latest daughter and I realized how privileged I was in that moment. I was overwhelmed by joy that my baby and I had survived the long labour and were both healthy. I tried to console her, telling her to be grateful neither she nor the baby had died.
She shook her head in that way that signalled I did not understand what awaited her at home. It was a lot to handle, seeing this woman who should have been recovering from childbirth worrying over something she had no power over. It seemed so unfair and I wish I could do more.
It sounds like a no-brainer, something that is too ridiculous but in many parts of the world in 2019, the arrival of girls is still greeted with sadness.
A viral video recently showed a pregnant lady at a baby shower whose friends pranked her by a balloon sex reveal indicating she was having a girl. The dismay and sorrow on her face was uncomfortable at best and outright disgraceful to watch. After her shocking reaction, the real sex of the baby was announced and her face lit up with joy. With attitudes like this still in this time and age, little progress seems to have been done.
Here’s to all the parents who are fighters, who are heroes for welcoming their daughters into the world with warmth, gratitude and raising them giving them the best just as if they had had sons. These parents do not get celebrated enough.
Yes, their actions should not merit special recognition in a fair and balanced world. But when everyone from the health care staff from the labour room, relatives, neighbours, friends, daughter’s teachers, and even the media badgers you with reasons why your child is less worthy because of her sex chromosomes and you just don’t care, you deserve ice cream and everything nice.
How something that occurs as a genetic game of chance still determines the quality of life of a vast proportion of half of the population is mind-boggling. These parents ignore scorn, and raise their girls in a society that denies their right to education, healthcare, safety and job opportunities.
They made sure her wings were in good shape to fly in a world that wants to clip them.
They stay up all night when she gets her first period and rock her while she asks what the blood and searing pain means. They watch her eyes mist over anew when they have to reply to her “But this won’t happen again, right?” with the difficult truth. They support her month after month as she navigates premenstrual syndromes, heartbreak, bullying, and people who put her down at every corner.
They have to jump through hoops to protect their girls from predators in the form of teachers, relatives, neighbours, dangerous love interests, lecturers, bosses and even strangers. They live in daily fear of teenage pregnancy, abusive husbands, sexual harassment and rape of their daughters. Oh and when these things do happen as they sometimes do, they believe her, welcome her with open arms and help her heal.
If she falls into another marginalized group eg she has a disability, is of colour or wears the hijab for example, these parents do more work. They advise her, make her strong and fearless, give her love and a listening ear. They watch with pride as she becomes a successful young woman. They made sure her wings were in good shape to fly in a world that wants to clip them.
Do you wonder why these parents beam so widely on wedding days, graduation days and at other achievements. They have fought for their daughters their whole parent life and like warriors returning victorious from an impossible battle, they are glad they and their girls won.