Have another baby!

I often run into people who tell me, ‘Have another baby!’ in the same tone as I’d say, ‘Have another rasagulla!’ I don’t hate these people. I just don’t understand them. They’re like a strange sea organism that has four mouths, reproduces through its ears and has a vestigial patch of fur on its head. I can stare, I can even smile in mild appreciation but I don’t comprehend what I’m seeing.

I know where it’s coming from – the very Indian need to bestow advice upon everyone about ‘personal matters’. I don’t always resent this. It’s oddly relieving to discuss your haemorrhoid problem with the auntie you met on a bus and get naturopathy doctor recommendations. I like the fact that we’re not overly conscious of privacy as a people and we generally know who lives next door and what their favourite brand of atta is.

What I’m stumped by is how often the second baby is presented as a solution when you’re clearly grappling with the reality of having brought the first baby into the world. ‘I barely slept last night. My child kept screaming!’ you say, expecting your neighbour to send a tiffin box full of warm carrot halwa to your house. Instead, she says, ‘Have another baby!’ ‘But how’s that going to help?’ you ask. ‘Oh then your two kids will play together, get tired and THEN they’ll sleep well!’ she says. I’m willing to consider that there is some truth to this, but I really don’t think this solution will make me feel any less tired.  And I’m a pretty imaginative person. Young mothers routinely receive this advice whether they are complaining about hair-fall or domestic violence and I just don’t get it.

When I had my child, I asked my mother why she’d done this not once but twice. I thought she’d come up with profound reasons that would somehow help me understand the strange sea organism and its enthusiasm, but all she said was, ‘That’s how it was then. Everyone had at least two.’ As her second child, I’m very glad that she had me but it was a bit of a balloon-burst to hear that that’s all it was. I was secretly hoping that there was a dark prophecy in the family – my mother’s intrepid second-born would see the world through an alien invasion or some such thing.

This is not to judge women who’ve had more than one child, by choice or otherwise. My interest in other people’s ‘personal matters’ is limited to where they got their last haircut. However, I think it’s time we stopped telling other women, lying to them about the second baby making everything awesome when they are telling you that they are having a hard time with the first one and the rest of the family. A baby is not a bottle of Franch oil to cure all your problems. The next time you’re tempted to offer one as a solution, start grating carrots instead.

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