'38 and Pregnant': A Late Pregnancy — The Trials and Tribulations
While the role of Indonesian women, especially in big cities like Jakarta, may have changed over the past decades, large parts of society still expect them to get married and start a family.
When Hera Diani, a journalist and managing editor, as well as cofounder of feminist web magazine magdalene.co, and her husband consciously decided not to have children, they were met with a good deal of criticism and suspicion — not only from their families but also some of their friends.
“When you get married in Indonesia, it is normal to have kids after a while. My family was not pressuring me to start a family, but they often wondered what was going on,” Hera recalls.
“During larger family gatherings, people often asked me why I didn’t have children yet, sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle, and offered advice because they assumed we had medical problems.”
For many different reasons, Hera remained steadfast in her decision to have a child-free marriage for a decade — but at some point, she says, things changed.
“To be honest, I didn’t really like kids,” she explains. “I also knew that having children would be expensive and I witnessed many times how hard it is to juggle motherhood and work. For 10 years, I was happy with my choice, but suddenly, I felt the urge to have children. I can’t really explain what happened. Maybe it was my biological clock, who knows — but the feeling was very strong and didn’t go away, so my husband and I decided to go ahead with it.”
Even though Hera felt that she was finally ready to have children, she acknowledged that she was in a state of shock when her pregnancy test was positive and a doctor’s appointment confirmed the news of impending parenthood.
As a true journalist, the first thing she could think of on how to deal with the situation was to put pen to paper and write about what she was going through.
“I have always been a big fan of comic books and graphic novels, so I decided to create a web series about my experience because there were many issues that I didn’t find in any other books or articles about pregnancy,” Hera says.
“In Indonesian culture and tradition, motherhood is usually put on a pedestal, but there are also darker sides to it — especially in my case, where I got pregnant at a late age.”
Since Hera may have a way words, but admits that she has no talent whatsoever when it comes to drawing, she asked her cousin Adhitya Pattisahusiwa, who is also the illustrator at magdalene.co, to help her out.
The web series was first published on the web magazine, before ElexMedia Komputindo turned it into a book, which hit the shelves in July.
“I’m very happy I decided to chronicle my pregnancy because looking back at it now, I can’t remember the details anymore”, Hera laughs. “It’s all vague and quite blurry.”
Being a mother has changed Hera in every possible way — all the clichés, both good and bad, she says, have turned out to be true. At the same time, her son Jakob, who is now 2-and-half years old, keeps her on her toes.
“I won’t lie, I think motherhood is very hard and exhausting, especially during the first nine months when I was still breast-feeding,” Hera explains. “It’s physically and mentally taxing. Going back to work, I immediately felt that I didn’t have the same level of energy as before.”
At the same time, Hera doesn’t have any regrets. “I’m glad that I waited,” she says. “Even though I was already 38, I was still healthy and at a point in my life where I was mentally, physically and financially more stable.”
Hera’s account of her first pregnancy is hilarious and blatantly honest. She doesn’t shy away from talking about issues that are perhaps not often associated when it comes to expectant mothers: she admits that she sometimes felt lonely and cried for no reason, speaks about her sexual desire during the pregnancy, the not-so-flattering changes her body went through, the pain of going into labor and the fear of dying on the operating table during the C-section.
It wouldn’t be the honest account Hera was striving for if she didn’t include these rather gloomy experiences in her book — but thankfully, the funny bits are equally memorable, from the well-intentioned advice Hera received from literally everyone in her immediate surroundings to discussions with her husband about the right name for the baby and attending a parenting class that wasn’t quite what they expected.
Accompanied by Adhitya’s sharp and humorous illustrations, Hera’s book makes for a highly entertaining read. However, beware: reading 38 and Pregnant in public — like on the train or bus — can lead to unexpected or unwanted attention, on account of the many parts that will make you laugh out loud.
This article was first published by the Jakarta Post on 17 September, 2018.