Each time a woman becomes pregnant she gets into the process of sharing her body with a new life form. Sharing does not just mean cradling the baby in the uterus, but it means helping the child develop by absorbing the essential bodybuilding chemicals and calcium from the mother’s own body. The more the pregnancies, the more a woman’s health is at risk. Women in urban areas of Pakistan are more fortunate as they have access to better maternal facilities and get proper health care and supplements to make for calcium and iron deficiencies in her body. But the women in rural and tribal areas are not that lucky and become weaker after every delivery leading to low life expectancy.
That said I am myself witness to having met ladies who have mothered a large number of children. I have seen them become weak and develop different health problems like diabetes, anemia, Vitamin D deficiency, and arthritis. No, we cannot say that these problems have a direct relation to more pregnancies, but yes a weak body is more susceptible to illnesses than a healthier one.
Becoming pregnant and selecting the number of children should be accepted as a very personal choice of the couple. But we have so many outside pressures that affect our decisions in this regard. Such pressures could come from:
In our traditional family setup, taking it on a broader scale, a husband has more say in such matters than the woman. If he wants a large number of children, the wife must comply. Else he will threaten with getting a second wife to get the job done. This is more peculiar to men from the economically lower and lower middle class. Some business-oriented families from middle and upper class too have the same mindset though. We will see a large number of children, sometimes eight to ten per household, in the underprivileged areas.
Parents & In-laws
These pressures come in full force a few months after a couple gets married. The parents and In-laws start asking the woman about it after a few months of marriage; if she is pregnant? If she is taking contraceptives? If she is healthy enough to conceive? Why hasn’t she conceived yet? The pressure is more on the woman while the man is let free of worries.
It does not stop once the woman finally gives birth to a child. The pressure keeps building. Now they would want her to bring forth younger brothers and sisters for the firstborn. If she keeps giving birth to the same gender child every time, she will be coaxed into trying until the birth of the opposite gender. A lady in my neighbors had to give birth to five boys until she finally had a daughter as her sixth child. Interestingly it was her own choice. An aunt in my in-laws had six daughters in the hope of getting sons. Though she had one son in between the six daughters yet her family and in-laws were not satisfied with it. She would have had more children but all later pregnancies ended in miscarriages putting much strain on her health.
Friends & Society
How often have you met someone for the first time at a gathering and they have ended up asking you about your plans to have your second or third child? Believe me, I had this experience quite often when my elder two were still toddlers. And if you have the same sex children they would encourage you to go for one more time, relating stories of people they know who had a boy after the birth of four or more girls or vice-versa.
The same is with the friends. No matter how good they are but at one point they will poke their nose into your decisions of having children. ‘Yaar aik baar try karlay, yeh wazifa parh, shartia beta hoga is dafa’.
The Decision Should Be Yours
It should be your very own discretion to decide when and how many children do you want. If you have an understanding person as your spouse discuss it with him. You can convince your spouse by discussing with him the benefits of keeping a manageable family.
People usually go for a large number of children because they believe they will be better-taken care of in their old age. This is not always true. Sometimes children when they grow up and have their own families just keep rotating their old parents between each other while depriving them of the peace and care they so much deserved in the old age.
One should go for the number of children that they think they can raise well according to their resources. Then most importantly they should be able to give enough time and attention to each child and keeping a big family one may not be able to do so. For those who go for big families, they must make sure that each one of their offspring gets the same level of attention, education and basic provisions.
The mother should consider her health and see if she can bear more pregnancies. If a woman feels she is fine with having two/less or more, kids she should do so. She must not succumb to pressures for giving birth to a particular gender, which obviously is not in her hand, or to giving birth to a specific number of children.
Raising kids should be about providing a good loving environment to your children along with good education and enough care and attention conducive in helping them to grow into fine responsible adults.