Seventy-three per cent of Indian women leave their jobs after giving birth, reveals a report titled “Predicament of Returning Mothers”, released by Ashoka University.
This statistic does not take me by surprise, given that I was one among many who chose to give up on my legal career after the birth of my first child. However, many continue their professions and passions even after childbirth–and we find them across fields from sports, acting, art, and entrepreneurship.
One such person is Dr Nidhi Vasani Iyer, a gynecologist and IVF specialist based in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, who continued studying medicine and made something out of her life even after motherhood.
Dr Nidhi takes us back to 2009 when she left her nine-month-old baby in the care of her sister and her parents to pursue a degree in medicine.
She says, “As a new mother, I decided to write the entrance exams for the Fellowship in Reproductive Medicine at the world-renowned Christian Medical College, Vellore. It was not an easy decision as I was divided between the love for my newborn and my passion for training in reproductive medicine.”
How then did she make this choice?
Looking back, she says that if not for the support of her sister and parents, she would never have been able to take the decision. Given that the programme was a residential one, she had to leave her home town in Gujarat and move to Vellore in Tamil Nadu. There was no option to go to college in the day and return home to the family and child by evening.
She says, “In fact, it was my father who had said that until I completed the course, I should not think of coming back home. He was very clear that he would not entertain me at home if I came back without completing the course. That pushed me and motivated me to achieve more.”
And her mother supported her by doing everything for her daughter.
“From cleaning her up to getting her vaccinated and rejoicing in all her developmental milestones,” says Dr Nidhi. “However, even with me sitting almost 2,000 km away, every time I video chatted with her, there was a smile on her face, and that put me at ease,” she says.
A recent trigger that caused her to relive her past was the Kangana Ranaut starrer Panga. Just like her, she saw the protagonist having to choose between her passion and her family. Another thing about the film resonated with her was that her daughter too was born prematurely.
How did she tide over the difficult times? “There were moments of such deep anguish that even now when I look back, I feel a twinge of guilt. I was breastfeeding my child when I got the call to join the course. It was a tough time because I would have leaky breasts and such physical pain.”
“But,” she adds, “this is what I chose, and I am happy being a doctor.”
For Dr Nidhi, watching the film brought the characters alive, and she related with them given that her life’s journey was very similar.
While we can continue to have intellectual discussions about why women opt out of the workforce after having a baby, but the reality is that there is hardly any support for a new mother. Stories like that of Dr Nidhi Vasani Iyer will hopefully encourage more young mothers to pursue their passions, while also cherishing motherhood.
Here’s Dr Nidhi’s Facebook post after she watched the film:
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)