‘I didn’t feel the elation that pregnant women described’

Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh
Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh

Although I pestered my Mum endlessly for the latest Barbie dolls, I was never one of those girls who liked to play Mummy. The dolls were just to keep up with other kids. As I moved into the sulky, nonchalant teenage years, I began to shape my life’s ambitions. I knew I wanted to be famous, perhaps a writer or an artist. I didn’t think I’d get married and I knew, I just knew, that I’d never have kids

My Mum had me when she was just 21. She told my sister and I endlessly how we had fulfilled her and how the creation of our small family was all she had ever wanted. I pitied her lack of ambition, her domesticity and hatched plans to escape the monotony of small-town English life.

As I raced through my 20s, climbing London’s career ladder, promotions came thick and fast, and I revelled in my single status. Though I had plenty of boyfriends, I saw marriage as a trap, and the idea of having kids as nightmarish. I visited friends who had had babies, held the new-borns gingerly, and wondered whether it would be impolite to leave the house 15 minutes after arriving. I watched my mates turn into strangers, cooing and fawning over identical screaming bundles, and I just couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Even after I’d settled in Asia, where the supply of household helpers meant that having babies was infinitely less hard work, the concept didn’t appeal.

As I moved into my 30s, I wondered whether my nonexistent maternal instinct might finally arrive. At 35, there was no sign of it. I still found the mewling bundles irritating and preferred to dine at child-free restaurants. I secretly congratulated myself for having chosen a life unfettered by dirty nappies and the screaming of a wilful infant.

At the age of 37, I met my husband. We both knew that this was a relationship for keeps. However, he told me that he wanted kids and that if I didn’t that would essentially be a deal breaker. My love for him was profound, but it didn’t make me crave his children. So, I told him that we could try, on the condition that he would look after the baby, if it ever arrived. I was quite sure though that two decades of hardcore partying would have put pay to my fertility.

And then, it happened. My period was late and I felt a strange sensation somewhere deep inside of me. I bought a pregnancy test kit, and then another and another. The results were the same — I was pregnant. I joined a baby board and read posts from 3,000 women who were expecting their babies in the same month. I didn’t feel the elation they described. Even the regular scans did little to move me, and I ignored the fact that my belly was growing day by day.

I was happy to be pregnant, pleased for my husband. I cut a deal with him; he’d bring me champagne after the delivery and I’d go off to Goa for a “break”. Then, I relaxed and enjoyed the sensation of being pregnant.

The baby came bang on its due date. Twelve hours into labour, I ended up with an emergency C-section. It was a little boy, just over three kilos. And then the magic happened. My submerged maternal instinct came to life with such full force that I literally felt that someone had replaced my old brain with a new one. I cried for a fortnight. Tears of happiness rolled down my face spontaneously, whenever I looked at my own little bundle. I was a mass of raging hormones, but even after the initial high had died down, I was completely and irrevocably in love with my baby, overwhelmed by an emotion so primeval that it shocked me to the core. I finally understood what all the fuss was about. And no, I didn’t leave my two-week-old baby to sun myself in Goa! I got pregnant again. Now I am the invariably emotional and thoroughly grateful mother of two adorable little boys.


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