Maka Sudadze, 47 years old, Akhaltsikhe

”I was 33 years old when my husband and I got married. This is the age for a woman when everybody asks why you’re still not married. The most annoying question I remember was when they asked if I had any problems and that was why I wasn’t married. And they didn’t even wait for my answer – they just started spouting advice about how starting a family is a must. I remember it was so disturbing that I stopped attending any family events. I felt such a big pressure on me that I would never ask anyone such a question. Still, marriage brings with it so many issues that you have to be absolutely sure before making this decision. It is a big change and if you don’t choose the right person, life can quickly become hell. Therefore, I think that even if the pressure is sometimes too high, when not sure it’s the right decision, women shouldn’t make it.

My husband and I were expecting a baby for 7 years. If we hadn’t had a desire to be together and a common goal, we wouldn’t make it as a couple, let alone as parents. In addition to the reproductive problems we had, the most difficult part was the pressure from society. Even though I fought all the time to isolate myself from people and hadn’t let them invade our privacy, people could still put us under stress and ask endless questions about why we didn’t have a child, whose fault was it, etc., which made our life even more difficult. Such pressure causes psychological problems; it makes you think that since you don’t have a child, you’re not even alive. I know it’s wrong, but back then it was a very emotional issue for me. Persistent questions and stares on the belly all the time… I think it was the most difficult period in my life.

I don’t know exactly what my husband has been told about it. Perhaps some told him that he should divorce me. It’s a known stereotype that a man should leave a woman who doesn’t bear a child in 2-3 years. As if a woman is only good for giving birth to children. If I ever saw my husband hesitate at some point, I would definitely end our relationship. But he endured everything with honor.

Even though I was having very serious psychological problems, I would blame myself and felt guilty for my husband and his family. The feeling of guilt was so big, that after 4-5 years I suggested to my husband that maybe we would divorce so that he could have children with another woman, or find another way to have children. Seeing how much he wanted to become a father only added to the enormous responsibility and stress. So sometimes I really wanted to live without that feeling. Another person towards whom I felt guilty and feared not to see her real emotions was my mother-in-law, because I knew I couldn’t handle it. But this woman, in contrast to other people, was very dignified and in all these years, she never made me feel bad about it, which was a great motivation for me.

In short, I had a long and hard road ahead before my pregnancy. My husband and his family stood by my side all the time. Also, large financial resources were needed for the treatment and it consumed all of my income. I counted that I paid over 60 000 GEL for it. This is a very expensive treatment, which is not fully financed by the government and neither does private insurance cover anything related to reproductive health.

One day I took the pregnancy test and it was positive. After that, my life regained meaning and even those seven years of living in black and white turned colorful in one day. Later we found another miracle – we were expecting twins. After the pregnancy, there was another round of pressure and questions began – was it artificial insemination or not, would the children turn out different, and so on. A woman has to protect her children at every stage – even before birth because people don’t know where to draw the line between there and other people’s private lives.

I thought about my children’s sense of freedom from the very beginning. For example, I saw with my own eyes how two different people appeared from my body. One of them was a boy and the other – a girl. I’m aware that it’s my duty to ensure they become free and healthy people and get an education. The rest is their decision – whether they’ll dress ”like a girl” or ”like a boy”. The girl can choose between loving pink and lipstick and preferring to play football. I myself was never the one who played ”girly games” and if my parent prohibited doing such things, I would never become the free and strong person I am now, and I wouldn’t be myself. Then, in the 90s, I got involved in politics, which wasn’t women’s job either. I was in Zhvania’s team, meaning in opposition of incumbent Shevardnadze; and people were scared. So we always held our meetings late at night. I was 23-24 years old back then; my aunt cried a lot, saying I could never get married since I sat in many different cars late at night. If not for the trust and support of my family, I wouldn’t come this far. Then my husband took on supporting me, so I didn’t need to change my lifestyle after getting married – sometimes I was on training, sometimes on meetings. My husband would often joke that he had no idea he was marrying a tourist. My children also see a different reality at home. For example, I’m not the traditional woman or wife as known by society, and I’m not greeting my guests with an apron. My husband and I divide the chores between us and have been raising our children together from the time they were babies. Since we had twins we had to wake up together – one took care of one baby and another of the other. This happened without any agreement. I’ve left my children for a whole week with my brother and my husband. I feel comfortable with it and I’m not worried since I’m sure they’ll take good care of them. Also, I know that it is the right thing to do since I always wanted both children and a career. Of course, I may sometimes have to cook seven different dishes for my family, but it’s not my formal obligation and I don’t want it to become one. I’ve ironed my husband’s pants when he was in a hurry and he did the same for me… It’s nonsense to have separated duties – ”woman’s work” and ”man’s work”. If a man makes Khashlama and Chakafuli (Georgian traditional dishes) for the whole village, why should it be a shame to make Borshi for their own children? I don’t understand.

I want my girl to be very strong and to know exactly what she wants. There’s much psychological pressure on little girls and sometimes we cause their personalities to die in childhood. I also have to fight against stereotypes in my own head, because they’re so strongly engraved in us that we may not even realize it. Motherhood is a whole other dimension and we’re always trying to create greenhouse conditions for our children. To be honest, I often think if I’d like a wife like me for my child, and, as a mother, I start thinking differently – I don’t want him to wash dishes or do household chores, but when I do, I stop myself right away because it’s not right. Parents shouldn’t forget that we went through the same road that our kids are now walking.”

Author: Ida Bakhturidze
Photo: Salome Tsopurashvili
Translation: Mariam Kajrishvili