‘The pressure is off’, is what one of the first guests that came to see my newly born son said to me. ‘What do you mean’? I said. ‘Well it doesn’t matter what you have next, you’ve had you’re son now’. I didn’t mind what I had, the only think I was concerned about during and after pregnancy was hoping the baby would be healthy and that the birth procedure all goes ok. I certainly wasn’t expecting everything that followed after my son arrived. How was I supposed to know? I knew I’d got married into a family a bit more backward than me, but i’d never had a baby before.
For a start, my phone was ringing hundred times a day, people I’d only met a couple of times were congratulating me and saying what wonderful news it was. The day I came from hospital, my mother in law had arranged a video man to video the baby’s first entrance, and to my surprise when I walked in, there were extended family members, cousins, brothers, sisters with their families waiting to congratulate me with balloons and gifts. (I was living with in-laws at the time). There were smiles, laughter, music. I could see empty bottles of alcohol in the kitchen ready to be recycled, obviously people must have been celebrating the night before whilst I was at hospital. After about ten minutes I started to feel faint and went straight to my bedroom with the baby. I remember thinking this was over the top and I would much rather have come to a peaceful house. People coming to see the baby didn’t really end until 6 months after. I got fed up of all the formalities people do. Boxes of ladoo were given out to everyone we knew by 2 months.
8 months later it was Lohri. Lohri is a Punjabi festival (13th Jan) traditionally marks the end of winter and new crops can be grown. It is also associated with celebrating the birth of a new baby boy in family. Family and friends gather round a lit fire in garden and they throw peanuts and popcorn into it and sing round the fire. My in-laws even arranged a paat at the gurdwara on this day although it’s got nothing to do with Sikhism, it’s a punjabi cultural festival, nothing else. Sikhism believe boys and girls are equal, Lohri is not a religious festival.
4 years later I gave birth to a baby girl. I couldn’t have been happier. None of this happened. No ladoo were given out. My in laws didn’t want to. It wasn’t the ‘done’ thing. No lohri gathering was arranged, despite the gurdwaras instructing that we should celebrate lohri for ‘both’ boys and girls births. Not as many people came to see baby. I was only allowed to give chocolates out if somebody came to house to see baby – but not specifically dropping them off like we did to ladoo last time. In fact, there are some people in the family that couldn’t even bring themselves to say ‘congratulations’! I couldn’t believe it.
2 years after that I gave birth to a baby boy again. When my in laws wanted to give ladoo again, I said NO. This time I felt a lot stronger in saying no and didn’t do anything with lohri either. Doing this helped me with the guilt I felt previously (although wasn’t my decision) when we didn’t hand out ladoo for the birth of our daughter nor did we celebrate lohri.
I know people who have only had girls and snidy comments are made to them. ‘It’s nice to have a mix family’ they say. However I only hear this said to people who have two girls for example, I would never hear this said to a family with 2 boys. I also hear them say ‘don’t worry – next time you will have a boy’.
I know people who feel the pressure from families to have a boy and it’s sad. My friend’s mother in law tries to get her to eat certain things so she can have a boy.
It’s up to ‘us’ to change this mentality. Let’s make a start, might take years but someone has to start somewhere. Not only is this article reminding people, but I also found it therapeutic to write my experience for Saaschat.