Deccan Herald mar 6 2009:
A bank employee committed suicide by hanging herself at her house in CK Achukattu police limits on Thursday.
The deceased Priyamvada (27), an employee of IndusInd Bank, took the extreme step after she was reportedly told by a doctor that she had remote chances of conceiving.

According to sources, Priyamvada was married to an employee of a private bank two years ago and the couple had no issues. She recently met a doctor who is said to have told her that she might not conceive.
The incident came to light when her husband returned home in the evening. She has left a suicide note asking her husband to marry another girl.

In one of my earliest posts I had spoken about this craving for children among humans specially women. Last week someone had left a comment there asking me if I had any of my own. I could not make out if the person agreed or disagreed with me or if he/she was trying to see if I knew what i was talking about. I love kids, my own and those of others - I'd any day prefer to spend time with them than in the company of adults. I do not mind the demands on my time, energy and emotions but I don't think I'd have been shattered if I could not have one of my own. A child doesn't have to have the stamp of my genes for me to love him or her. And more importantly, I do not define myself in terms of my role as a mother.

In spite of their refusal to be stereotyped in many ways, it seems that many young women still feel inadequate when they cannot bear a child. One woman even told me that she saw it as a kind of personal failure. I responded: 'What is the big deal? You cannot paint, you cannot sing, you cannot have a child. have you thought about adoption?'
She thought I was joking or even a bit insensitive perhaps.

I am quite aware of the stigma that used to be attached to a woman who was not 'fertile'- there is even a specific word for a barren woman in Tamil. It is also interesting that there is no male equivalent to the same word!
A while ago a young girl wrote to me about the kind of insults that were thrown at her by her in-laws because she hasn't been able to give them a grandchild three or four years since her marriage. It was even more unfair because her gynecologist had cleared her of any possible problem and her in-laws refused to believe her. And the husband preferred to let her deal with his parents and did nothing to stop his parents or be emotionally supportive to the young wife. And all this was happening not in some remote village in India but in a country in the western world where they had made their home. And the girl herself is a well-educated woman with a career.
In her story I was not surprised by the attitude of her in-laws given their age and background. But I was surprised that the girl and her husband were affected by the criticism to the extent their marriage was in trouble.

The ability to create a life is a special gift that nature has bestowed upon most women but there is no reason to feel worthless if your body is not fit for the same. There are still ways to create meaning in life. It is not a handicap. You are still a perfect person.
This women's day my appeal my sisters would be not to allow others to define them in terms of roles. For this we have to first stop seeing ourselves as these roles. Being a mother is just one part of your life. If you cannot have one of your own, give vent to your maternal feelings by adopting a child or supporting one. Your life is too precious to be given up for this.

Happy women's day!
50 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    I am really impressed by your thoughts of creating a meaning in your life when god is not that favorable...
    "The ability to create a life is a special gift the nature has bestowed upon most women but there is no reason to feel worthless if your body is not fit for the same."

    Absolutely true..

    A person can never be defined by other person. All these ladies need to take up their own reponsibility and believe me...they will win.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    As usual a very thoughtful post Usha! I absolutely agree with you about not being defined by one's roles. After all the sum total of a person is more than just one's roles--whether daughter, mother, wife or employee/employer.

  3. Reema Says:

    Nice post. I too have written a post on necessity of motherhood for a woman.
    A woman should have the freedom to choose whether she wants to be a mother or not. Motherhood should happen after proper planning and preparedness, mentally, physically and emotionally. And if a woman doesn’t want or is unable to conceive or is advised against conception due to some other health problem , then she should not be made to feel bad and guilty about herself. Motherhood is not a thing to be forced upon a woman.

  4. Reema Says:

    Oh here is the link

  5. What a timely and thoughtful post.

    The trouble with us are that everything, including conception, is considered an automatic thing in the series of things post-marriage - all scheduled for discussion,analyses and comments.

    I know someone who adopted after having one biological child. They didnt discuss this with anyone. Just went ahead and then informed the extended family. Maybe such a shock treatment works. Many times, the elders in the family have reservations about adoption. A lifetime with such folks makes their children act in extremes, like the girl you report about.

  6. I agree. And there are thousands of homeless children who will benefit from bringing joy to childless couples.

    This pressure for women to want to have kids can be traumatic for those who don't wish to have kids.Or can't have for any reason.

  7. dipali Says:

    Absolutely, Usha, absolutely.
    Great post, as always.

  8. And, they still contend that religion is not the root of evil :(

  9. So true. Sometimes, women get obsessive about having one's own child. To some extent, it's the fact that women are conditioned to consider motherhood the ultimate role she can play in her life - whether it's movies, ads, tv - every type of media reinforces that conditioning.

  10. Artnavy Says:

    u r so right

    it is all about conditioning is it not?? and self esteem and self worth.....

  11. Anonymous Says:

    How true Usha. Having personally gone through pregnancy and being blessed with an angel, my heart still reaches out for other babies the same way as it does for my baby. I was very clear that in case this pregnancy doesnt work I would adopt and luckily my partner also thinks on the same lines.
    Having said that, nature has endowed all the living beings with parenthood to the core. It doesnt really matter that you have to bear your own child to feel the same. You just have to give a chance to yourself :).
    My friend has a Golden retriever whose motherhood kicks in when she sees any pup and has even breastfed kittens :)

    Thanks for the lovely post.


  12. Mama - Mia Says:

    what abeautiful post Usha! its indeed sad that we feel incomplete because we fall into the trap of roles.

    when i couldnt concieve to start with, M and me decided that we would give this one year and then start the adoption process.

    i was not ready to blow lakhs of rupees on IVF tretament and more than that the emotional trauma that goes with it. no siree!

    and i was glad to have M who was completely in concurence. he was more concerned about his wife's happiness who was around him than the unborn child that may or may not happen! (the tables have turned after the kid ofcos!).

    even now, we are contemplating it for the 2nd one! havent taken a final call as yet! lets see!

    and yes, i did shed buckets of tears when i was told it will be difficult, till i whacked myself back to my senses within coupla months! trigger was the SIL getting preggers within 6 months of shaadi! :p

    hugs for this post Usha!


  13. Anonymous Says:

    Nice thoughts.What are your thoughts on kids born unhealthy, be it physical handicap or mental retardated, i mean some deformity. who is to be held responsible? who will pacify the parents who need to have a lot of strenght and kids who need to be brave from childhood. Can you please wirte about this.

  14. Arpita Says:

    I used to work in a womens cell a couple of years back and many women who came to us were suffering serious depression and were constantly being traumatised by family coz of expectations heaped on them due to their gender. What i found exceptionally difficult was that many of them felt that the treatment meted out to them was to some extent justified because they were not able to 'perform'... and many a times other women played pivotal roles in making them suffer.
    Patriarchy has laid its net so tight and thick that sometimes its impossible for women to even think of any other way of being. The end of their imagination for themselves has been for me the most heart wrenching outcome of such a cruel system...

  15. Bones Says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Bones Says:

    I think it is societal pressure that makes women feel inadequate if they cannot have children...It works the other way too...If women don't want to have children, society labels them as selfish...Also, if a couple can't have children, why is always the woman's 'fault'?Why is a fault anyway?

  17. Unknown Says:

    I enjoyed every posting of yours! Thanks to Sid for e-introducing me to U!!!! Happy women's day to a super woman!!!

  18. Anonymous Says:

    How true, Usha. Loved the way you wrote this.

  19. diya Says:

    Usha, women are always defined in a socio-religious manner- when will they see themselves as human beings, I do not know!This comes of a low self worth, an idea of the finality of marriage and deification of the mother. It is the same for all women class, caste, religion, etc no bar! The insides churn and I rub hands helplessly and gnash my teeth when I come across such incidents! wretched wretched helplessness!

  20. Lisa Johnson Says:

    What a powerful post! I just recently wrote about this issue, no pun intended, on my blog. Such a waste of life. To throw hers away. It breaks my heart.

  21. Inder Says:

    true... often people fail to think what is really important to them. they are more concerned about what others think is important to them..

  22. hari Says:

    HI Usha,

    I salute you for your attitude of an universal mother. If only every couple (childless or otherwise) think like you, the there would hardly be any orphans in our country.

  23. Cuckoo Says:

    Oh I so AGREE. I feel that women are conditioned to become mothers in life in our society. However adoption is still not too prevalent. This leaves women with low chances of fertility feeling that they are somewhat inferior, when actually motherhood has nothing to do with giving birth. Personally, I am filled with helpless rage when I read articles such as the one you posted. I feel so sorry for the women who have so much love to give to some lucky little brat... oh if only they thought twice.

  24. Hip Grandma Says:

    within 6 months of our marriage my MIL started making a list of my aunts and uncles who had no children of their own and often wondered aloud if i had taken after them.Having children is thatimportant in our MIL conveniently forgot that she had two sisters who were childless but did not mind admitting it when I pointed it out.motherhood is overemphasized and hence the reaction such as the one you've mentioned.but very often i see young men and women who are unfit to be perents and the biological role is an imposed for instance the girl i met in america who would shut her children up in their bed room at around 6 pm, never mind if they were wide awake,put off the lights and check on them only in the morning.the girl was an Indian and the children aged 4 and 1 were fine with the arrangement and so was the husband.i was the one getting upset and my daughter had a tough time shutting me comment seems out of context please bear with me.

  25. Akhila Says:

    A very apt post on women's day Usha! Whatz ur email id?

  26. Jane Turley Says:

    I agree with you entirely Usha. It is extremely sad when women are defined by such narrow roles and that this poor girl took her own life. Conception doesn't always come easily - it took me over 5 years to conceive my second son. By which time I'm reconciled myself to the fact I wasn't going to have anymore - and then lo and behold out popped two in quick succession!

  27. San Says:

    Hi Usha..this is a very nice the "un-role" word..

    And adoption is the answer..Do you have information on reliable adoption advisers/institutes in India? I only keep hearing the discouraging stories about it..

    And I have consciously stopped saying "i still can't make out who of you you two the baby resembles!" when I meet someone's baby.

    the adoption tangent reminds me of a post i'd written quite some time back:

  28. i love the way your posts make people think.. u and IHM are pretty unique in that way.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    Usha: I have wondered aloud about whether people even _think_ before having children or whether it is just an instinct which is highly socialised to be interpreted as 'must have own children or else'. Of course my favourite one is to wonder about people's genetic vanity as in 'my genes are so worth passing on'. It makes me laugh, rude as it may sound.

    Particularly in the Indian context, it is rare to even think that the problem may well lie with the sperm-donor! In a situation I watched unfold, the woman went all sorts of treatment, worked hard at weight loss, changed her diet, joined yoga classes etc when I suggested what about the husband? Guess what! It had never been considered. She then coaxed him to go get checked up. Result? 'Lazy sperm' or low motility sperm which made it hard for her to conceive. I mean WTF.

    Not all women want to have children. Many of those who can think for themselves beyond social pressure may well realise that they like children on a "returnable basis", like I do. Even so I am the Auntie most of my friends' kids most love to spend time with. In my end, I love my freedom, peace and tranquility, and order. There are plenty of other creative outlets if we are bursting with the idea of wanting to leave a 'legacy' behind, aren't there?

    My belated post re Women's Day of course was about the exact reverse - the Pill. :-/

  30. Parvathi Says:

    good post.It is really strange to know that even this day woman thinks worthless without children.

  31. what a beautiful post Usha.... I wish more women were like you...

  32. Anonymous Says:

    Well said, as always.

    //...there is even a specific word for a barren woman in Tamil. It is also interesting that there is no male equivalent to the same word!//

    How convenient, eh?! I'm willing to bet it is so in most other Indian languages.


  33. Anonymous Says:

    Litterateuse/ Usha:

    That there is no word for a barren male may be the case in Tamil but it is not so in Hindi.

    A barren, infertile woman is vandhya (tatsam) or baanjh (tadbhav) and an infertile man is napunsak.

    It is worth asking speakers of other languages if this holds true in those languages too.


  34. dipali Says:

    @Shefaly: Napunsak is used for impotent.I suppose an impotent man would automatically be infertile, but there are many men who are infertile without being impotent.

  35. Mukta Says:

    hey Usha!
    my first visit to your blog...found it through Shilpa's. And I shall keep coming back for more. loved your style of writing...and am impressed by tour opinions.

  36. Usha Says:

    dev: Thank you. I think women in our society have for too long be defined in terms of their role that they do not dare to believe that they have a life of their own devoid of any of these.

    Hillgran: How come most women forget that?

    Reema:I agree. Thanks for the link. Will check your post soon. :)

    Ugich: I have a lady in my family who takes a lot of rubbish from her husband and bends over backward to please him. One day I asked her what the deal was. She said that she was grateful to him for putting up with her despite the fact that she could not bear a child. In his place many other men would have divorced her and re-married.!!!
    Yes, this is for real! and this in the later part of the 20th century!!

    IHM:this fixation for begetting children seems to be a peculiar human malady - do other mammals go through such pains, I wonder!

    Dipali:Thanks Dipali, I knew you would understand. :)

    The RF: Oh ya, you mean the deliverance from PUT? Oh that adds another dimension by insisting on a son! Do other religions have similar beliefs too?

    Mystic Margarita:I remember a spate of novels and movies about women being traumatized because they could not have kids - one version or other.

    Artnavy: Yes, totally.

    Meenakshy: Thanks for your lovely thoughts. Where does this friend live. I have seen many dogs being protective of the children of the household. I remember a dog in our own house who was nothing more than the size of a stuffed doll who would fiercely come to protect my son if i so much as raised my voice!I wish i could meet this Golden retriever - what a lovely dog that must be!

    Abha:All the best on the second one. Do let me know if you need a baby sitter for cubby. :)

    Anon: have thought about it many times - especially after seeing a couple of paraphlegic kids. I don't know enough about what they go through as most of them do not like to talk about their suffering.

    Arpita: I know what you mean. Like I said in my reply to Ugich, I know women who begin to expect to be treated badly under such conditions - they feel they deserve it. This is precisely why I think we much learn to look at ourselves beyond these roles.

    Bones: My sentiments exactly. :)

    Soundari: Thank you. Ah you know siddhu?

    CW: :)

    Diya: I feel exactly the same way. How can you help them when they wont help themselves.

    Anali: Will check your post soon. :)

    Inder: Exactly.

    hari: Thank you. How have you been?

    Cuckoo:Apparently it is a kind of urge to attain immortality by passing on one's genes.

    Hipgran: I am horrified by these kind of parents. Why don't they have a couple of dogs in stead of children?

    Akhila: Thanks. Usha.vaidyanathan@gmail

    Jane: I don't see why it is of any concern to anyone else if a couple has a child or not. And I guess this constant badgering gets to you psychologically sooner or later.

    San: Thank you. I do not have info on adoption agencies etc right away but I can check in case you want me to.
    will go to your post soon after this.

    How do we know: Thank you for your kind words.

    Shefaly; Thanks for the insightful comment. of late, my life in blogsville has been rather dead. have not been around much lately. Will check your post soon.

    Parvathy: Yes, many still do.

    TheMM:And it is so much easier for today's women. Why do they refuse to change is what beats me.

    gauri:It might be worth finding out.

    Shefaly: As dipali points out, my understanding of Napunsak was an impotent person. We have an equivalent to that in Tamil. But not for a male who is infertile.

    Mukta; Thank you. And thanks to Shilpa. :)

  37. Soumya Says:

    Usha, I've been lurking around your blog for quite a while now, but never commented.
    This post however, is after my own heart. I totally agree with you about everything you said. It is a sad state of affairs. I wish women put the role of "human being" in the front of the line along with all the other roles they play.
    I'm engaged to be married and I see my would be in-laws talking about how they are waiting to play with grandchildren. I mean, we are not even married and already there is this expectation. Annoys me sometimes.

  38. suemamma Says:

    Just a side trip from the main--I know an old man, a daily wage earner, who is married and with no children and his wife had a stroke around 5 or 6 years ago. This old man looks after her, goes out to work only 3 days a week, because he feels he can't impose on anyone to look after her, cooks and leaves the food for her on the days he goes out to work. He is over 70 incidentally and has been married a long time. There are some good men out there.
    btw, Usha pls visit my blog.

  39. Choxbox Says:

    amen to that.

  40. usha, once again a post that is both thought provoking and honest.
    women have to get beyond the stereotypes, we are valuable in ourselves, that is first and foremost, we are more than incubators, and yes, when the need to have a child arises, than please adopt, there are so many countries in the world, where a child would give anything for a home, comfort and family, if foreigners, can adopt kids from india or china, what stops us from doing the same.being a mother is not just about for thought.

  41. Anonymous Says:

    Thought provoking and excellently worded.

    "A child doesn't have to have the stamp of my genes for me to love him or her". Absolutely fine.

    I think it is more out of sensitiveness to the social stigma rather than a feeling of inadequacy that has driven women to take such extreme steps. Let us learn to protect women against social pin pricks. Perhaps that is the first step towards deifying them.

  42. Anonymous Says:

    Hi. Great content and awesome introduction [about urself]. Anyways I’m HS Sandesh from Bangalore and would like to exchange links because even I’m blogging for a purpose and more than anything I’m looking for a destination to reach in Life. Have Fun..CHEERS

  43. Arunima Says:


    I am not sure at this point in time in my life whether I want a child as I am not confident that I can leave a better world for the child.

    feeling low cos you cannot hv a baby is the worst that you can do in a country like India where population is exploding. There are so many things that you can still do without a child of your own.

    The husband should be supportive enough to understand this and the in-laws should keep their mouth shut.

  44. Anonymous Says:

    very well written.
    kudos to you.

  45. AMIT Says:

    Great thoughts.

    Lingerie Alley

  46. Anonymous Says:

    I could not conceive even after 6 years of marriage (blame it on mis-diagnosis), and was pestered enough by well meaning friends and relatives. But strangely enough, I never felt the "desperation", "incompleteness", "depression" or any of those negative thoughts. I was OK. Its only after I conceived that the realization of having a baby hit me, and I started loving the idea of being pregnant. But when I remember times before that happened, I still don't understand why women get so worked up just because they can't conceive themselves. Being blessed with natural motherly instincts, I believe that women are capable of loving all kids equally and thus go for adoption as an option..

  47. LAK Says:

    First time here. About these roles (nice title, btw)I totally feel the same! Actually the "blessed" ones need not be smug, and the "others" need not feel cursed. Like you said, everybody can't sing, can't paint, so also this--

  48. Akshata Says:

    That was a beautiful and very sensisble article. And your thoughts felt like a whiff of fresh air ! My husband & I are also caught up in a situation where we cant have our own children ! It did hurt initially especially while we tried the various fertility treatments in deperate attempts all in vain. I finally decided that it was enough we have had. We do not feel any marital strain now and I am thinking of adoption more favorably now, if at all we feel the parental instinct urge bugging us again ! I still sometimes get scared wondering how we will cope during old age if we decide not to adopt! All friends, relatives would have children and a happening life due to their children, but what about us ???
    Still seeking my answers....I hope we find them soon and get more strength and have a more positive outlook....

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  50. lady Says:

    Nice post.

    I am one of those woman with no children. I could have tried hard, but we both agreed to live our lives happily, just the two of us. And We have no regrets to this day.
    But the society does not think so, they wonder how or why we can be normal like any of them, if everything we do, earn is a waste, our lives are a waste without a child.
    I would get angry at their thoughts, now I just ignore. It is always nice to see sensible comments from people like you and your blog readers. Gives me hope that I will be left alone after all and not be judged.