For modern British South Asian mothers, the criticism of raising daughters instead of sons is whispered behind closed doors and subtly hidden in comments such as ‘You must want to complete your family, don’t worry you can try again.’
Blogger Karen Gill heard similar comments when she gave birth to her third daughter. On learning she was expecting another girl, she was riddled with anxiety about what people would say.
“The weight of my unfortunate reaction when finding out the gender of my baby was constant and heavy. I couldn’t be the only person in the world that had felt this way, could I? Was there something wrong with me? Was this on the spectrum of postpartum depression? Was I an unfit mother? Did I need to speak to a professional about this?”
Throughout the years, Karen was constantly faced with criticism for the gender of her children.
She recounted, “A random old lady at my daughter’s school made a point to walk over to me [while I had my 3-week-old baby girl strapped to my chest in a carrier and held my other two daughters’ hands while we happily walked home] and asked what I had. Then when I replied with “a girl” proceeded to kiss her teeth and say “Ohhhh that’s too bad. I’d said a little prayer to God to bless your poor soul with a boy this time.”
Karen spoke about the impact of hearing negative comments on her mental health.
“Words can linger for years.” She explained, “They weigh on your mind which in turn can change you as a person”
“There is no question in my mind that words at times hurt much more than physical pain.”