As Mia waited for the village mid-wife to arrive, she was consumed with anxiety. She already had a 1-year old daughter, Shaina, so it was definitely not about giving birth.
She looked at her husband and his mother. "I hope it's a boy," said her mother-in-law. "We can't afford another girl in this house." Mia looked at Shaina, sleeping soundly next to her, and was grateful that she couldn't hear or understand what was being said.
"It's okay, Ma." The husband picked up Shaina to take her away from the delivery space. "A healthy child is all that matters. Girls can also become an earning hand these days"
But when the midwife announced that it was a girl, Mia clearly saw the disappointment in her husband's eyes. He tried to be a good sport by saying, "Oh well, I guess we'll just have to try again."
By the time Shaina turned 8, she had three sisters, with another baby on the way. "I hope it's a boy," mused Shaina as she fed the youngest sister. Shaina was old enough to understand that more babies will keep coming until a boy showed up. It was a full house already, and she was always so tired. Please let this be the last one, she prayed.
As Shaina cleaned up the dishes, she heard her Grandma speaking to her dad. "My sister was asking whether we are ready to get Shaina married. She knows someone who would be a good match. And she also told me about this clinic that can tell you whether it's a boy or girl. Why don't you check it out?"
"And what if it's another girl, Ma?" asked her Dad, looking helpless. Shaina listened to the uncomfortable silence, feeling small and worthless. Nothing more was said on the topic, but so much hung in the air for all to hear. She looked at her Mom and saw the pain in her eyes. Oh, why was it so important to be a boy, she wondered.
She walked outside to get some fresh air. A group of boys were playfully making their way back to their homes from school. She felt the stab of envy again. Why? Why? Why couldn't she be one of them?
She walked back into the house and went to her Dad. For the umpteenth time, she repeated the same sentence, "Daddy, I want to go to school! Please!!"