What stress. Since Monday, Zi has had a fever. Stone and I were up all night keeping her cool, checking her temperature, bathing her early in the morning, wondering if 102 degrees was medium or high, and whether she should go to a doctor. My own doctor was saying to wait it out another day or two and not to worry too much. My mother, being the worrying sort, took matters into her own hands and pretty much declared on the third day that we should take Zi to another doctor near her. I showed up at the house to collect them and found the other grandmother (also a worrier) there as well. this was an unusual confluence of persons. When two grandmothers decide something, i observed, best to just do what they say.
so the three of them (afro-Trinidadian grandmother, indo-Trinidadian grandmother, dougla granddaughter) and i were there in the doctor’s office watching him drip blood from her arm for a dengue test. both of them felt better we had been to the doctor, i felt better they felt better and zi seemed none the better for the visit.
in the midst of the visit, the doctor asked if this was the first one and if i was planning to have more. he asked me, not anyone else. i said probably not, amidst noisy disagreeing sounds being emitted by both grandmothers who, as i’ve said, were not asked their opinion. why people feel the need to tell you how many children you should have is beyond me. i happen to find it intrusive and a bit offensive. I’m the person going through the pregnancy and birth, making economic, career, marriage and life sacrifices, and generally being the most affected by the choice of having children. reproduction is also my choice and no one else’s (except, perhaps, stone’s) and its certainly not my job as a woman to make others’ reproductive wishes come true. if you are not making the baby yourself, i think you should have nothing to say about if there should be a baby or how many.
it may seem just a harmless typical insistence of grandmothers and others. but people have also told me its “selfish” to only have one. it’s not “fair” and “nice” and its better for the baby to have a sibling. This insistence on the need for me, as a woman, to be selfless, giving, thoughtful – if necessary through personal sacrifice and possibly against my own desires or needs – for the sake of reproduction is self-negating, treats women’s bodies like communal or family (or children’s) property, and perpetuates the idea that women’s sexuality and fertility is linked to the happiness of others and the family, just as it is often linked to expectations of community, ‘race’, class and nation.
having one baby is something i can do while managing my career – which actually is quite cool and important to me. having two makes it all more difficult, not unmanageable, but not necessarily what i want for myself. it might happen, it might not. but i’d appreciate not being told what to do given that no one else has to inhabit my body or my life or deal with the setbacks to my publishing or the exhaustion or the breastpumping or the costs to my savings or the changes to my marriage. i think it should be a rule, no one tells women what to do with their bodies, sexuality, fertility or reproductive choice. that’s why it’s called choice. after all, at the centre this whole nexus of work, child and family is me.
in the midst of looking after zi at nights and going to the the doctor and staying home in the day, i’ve lost days of work. it might seem that i shouldn’t be thinking about this now, after all my baby’s health comes first – and is all that matters. but i am pressed to stay on top of my job as well as stay on top of my mothering responsibilities. with all its flexibility in terms of hours and ‘face time’ on the job, academia doesn’t give you the chance to fall behind. you publish or you perish. no one in appointments committee cares that your baby had a fever when this week you were supposed to get that journal article out. so, half of my brain is on Zi and half is on the downward slide of work getting done. and both halves are tired.
turns out from the tests that Zi has dengue. good thing for grandmothers huh. as much as i rant about their interventions and their excessive worry and their dramas, i am also be grateful that my baby is being looked after, and looked after her well, so that i can work. the flip side of family’s annoying investment in your reproductive choices is their amazing investment in the outcome of your reproductive choices.
her platelet count is high so far, which is good. the front of my mind is fully on her. yet, at the back are also the thousand of other things that need to be held together, including me.