“Birth takes a woman’s deepest fears about herself and shows her that she is stronger than them.” – Unknown
“Giving birth should be your greatest achievement not your greatest fear.” – Jane Weideman
The Photo featured is a throwback from a little over a year ago, June 4, 2021. The date “my baby” was born. I shared this photo and post in a previous post here: “the milestone lap” around this time last year. Facing some ongoing problems with photos on the blog so that picture disappeared, among others in several posts (sorry for the inconvenience), but glad I can feature it here. I shared this photo and this write-up here on Instagram and Facebook on that day: https://www.facebook.com/elsa.khwaja/posts/10157790183551572 .
I share it for an important reason at this very moment.
When I posted this photo last year, along with the comments, comparing my birth of my dissertation (just the first complete draft) to the birth of a human baby, wrapped in the Sindhi Ajrak cloth I received as a customary gift during my fieldwork in Pakistan, I was a little worried I might get some backlash. I was quite surprised by the overwhelming response (compared to my usual). But admittedly, I thought I might upset some mothers. Because of course, my 400 page dissertation couldn’t possibly be like a tiny human body emerging from a woman’s womb…
But then, I thought about those 9 years.
I thought about the deterioration of the physical, emotional, mental health, the trauma … Those swollen feet that I could barely lift after completing all my over 170 transcriptions and coding… the impact on my asthma, my breathing and my health, the increased liver enzhymes, the thyroid disease, the high cholesteral (from all the Peshawari Chapli Kabaabs of course :)), The impact on my body, the weight gain, the stress, the depression, the anxiety, the suicidal thoughts, the neurological sleep disorder, the sleep deprivation and more…and then I thought about those 9 plus years and more during the age range of what experts say is the best time for pregnancy – between your late 20s and early 30s – the prime years of when I was working on my PhD (I started it at age 27 and finished 2 weeks after turning 37).
It was also the prime years of my youth missed, missed opportunities for potential romantic relationships, missed opportunities to consider settling in a family as was conventional in my family religious and cultural traditions, because of my choice to stay entirely focused on one professional endeavor of completing a big dream, my doctorate degree, while struggling with my health and livelihood, and having very little time for a social life, or time to find “my Ajnabi” (estranged lover). Surely women at later years have their first child, but still the chances are not as great. ..When I mentioned the word “sacrifice” associated with getting the PhD sometimes, with my previous post, that’s part of what I meant. That’s part of what I feel I may have sacrificed. For every woman it is different.
And I didn’t realize how grand of a potential sacrifice it would be until the Pandemic, until for the first time in my life, while many parents were struggling with their children during the Pandemic, I thought maybe it would be nice to have another little Elsa to fight in the inevitable Amreekan “Political Revolution”… or maybe I just saw my baby photos and thought I was cute… 🙂 I sent a text to my sister asking her what she thought about Artificial Insemination, and she laughed and said Mom would be mad. Lol… I won’t take it there Godwilling, Inshallah… I never thought I would even consider having a child.
And this post I shared on social media that day last year was just supposed to be a silly, cathartic, and at the same time, empowering. But this really was truly my baby, with 9+years of labor, of which I am still recovering from… I am entitled to claim this… and more must become of it because of that and because it was really incredible research…
I put my body through that experience…all the while my biological clock was gradually potentially expiring…
Now I’m turning 38 soon, I don’t know what the chances are. For every woman its different. There have been successful cases. And should that miracle happen, I would do everything possible to follow through with it…but that requires an unfortunate “prerequisite” according to cultural and religious protocols .
And of course it is my fault that I could not find my soulmate, “my Ajnabi” and fulfill that prerequisite while finishing up my PhD in all these years. Shame on me.
And Of course I am at fault to have come to the realization of potentially wanting a child late in my life. Shame on me.
I made the choice of focusing on my education and career over having a family. Shame on me.
So of course I should have to suffer the risks and consequences, should I pursue a late pregnancy.
Indeed, this would be the case in “Gilead.”
Nevertheless, what gives me gratitude, is that I had the FREEDOM to choose.
What gives me gratitude is having the luxury to reflect on my choices, and appreciate that it was a choice I made myself, even though there were many influential factors that may have been out of my control.
It is an unfortunate reality, but I made that choice. If my health will be on the line, if I don’t have the resources or the support, I should have the choice to decide whether I would be able to follow through with childbirth.
This is up to me. This is my business.
Surely, the cultural and religious influences will always be there and often have so much unspoken and subliminal power over all of the choices that a woman makes…
But this particular decision of giving birth based on your capacity to do so, must NOT be a decision that is influenced or coerced by LAW.
Thank you for reading this post.
A note for the compassionate reader: I write such posts, whether here or on social media, for a necessary self-empowerment, to share my authentic truth, and my story. I shouldn’t have to feel like I have to rationalize or explain that for those who interpret this as self-aggrandizing posts.
And I am not weak for writing this. I am not a “Damsel in Distress” for writing this. I am a super courageous, bold, fierce and strong warrior for writing, because writing anything, whether it is your story or your perspective about one’s other story, is a very courageous act.
And I’ll be here to encourage you as well.
With Peace, Love, warmth, and blessings,
“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for the Sword.”