Since Monday, Ziya 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 my first child 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. People have also told me it’s “selfish” to only have one. It’s not “fair” and “nice,” and it’s better for the baby to have a sibling. I agree, but 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, dreams or needs—for the sake of reproduction 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.
Women appreciate not being told what to do, given that no one else has to inhabit their body or their life, deal with the setbacks to their career, the exhaustion, the breast pumping, the costs to their savings or the changes to their marriage. I think it should be a rule, no one tells women what to do with their bodies, sexuality or fertility. It’s certainly not women’s job 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. 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, I am also grateful that my baby is being looked after, and looked after well. It’s ironic. The flip side of family’s annoying investment in decisions about your reproductive choices is their amazing investment in the outcome of your reproductive choices. Perhaps this helps explain the negotiated terrain that is women’s reproductive rights.