If you’re a woman in your 30’s and possibly in a steady relationship or worse still (for this particular situation) married, I’m quite sure that you’ve been asked something on the lines of, ‘When are you having a baby?’, ample times.
This is a very difficult subject for me to write about and discuss. In fact I’ve been mulling over whether I should write these thoughts down for a very long time. Recently, a friend of mine was incredibly brave and shared thoughts about a different subject she feels very strongly about, and she inspired me to finally put these words down because I really feel that this needs to be said.
I know this might be a very sensitive subject for a lot of people, which is part of the reason why I’ve been finding it so difficult to speak openly about it. I apologise in advance if this post brings pain to anyone, but I strongly feel that for the love of womanhood, this message needs to be heard.
I’ve been married for three years now and just turned thirty-three, and apparently by society’s standards, I’m late to bare children. I’ve been given the impression that as a married woman I have an obligation to produce at least one child in this lifetime and it should happen soon, like probably should have conceived on my wedding night soon. I cannot count the times that I’ve been asked ‘When are you having a baby?’, ‘Are you pregnant yet?’, or was told the wonderful phrase ‘You’re next!’ You might have got a hint of my love for sarcasm by now, so you can imagine how artistically sarcastic my answers to such questions and statements generally are. Having said this, it doesn’t mean that I’m not affected every time someone utters those words to me. I’m put on a guilt trip and made to feel like there’s something wrong with me. Whether physically, emotionally or mentally or all of the above is quite irrelevant, especially to the oblivious person passing the comments.
I was on the receiving end of such statements from before I got married, which perhaps, back then, might have had a more lighthearted, jokey feeling. Once I got married, I started realising how serious people were when they asked these questions.
I get that we’ve been brought up in a very family oriented society, but has society ever stopped to think how insensitive such statements are and how hurtful they can be? I do understand that these words are not said with the intention of hurting people, but they still hurt, in a number of scenarios.
The first situation that comes to mind is probably the most obvious. A couple who is attempting to have children; and I am completely avoiding saying has not managed, been successful, lucky, or any similar phrase intentionally here. There’s no success or luck to this. Such statements within themselves implicate that there’s something wrong. Guess what, there isn’t always something physically wrong. It might just not be happening, and there’s nothing shameful about that. Even if there is something physical that’s preventing a pregnancy, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, because all our bodies are unique and function differently! We all have something wrong with our bodies. I seriously doubt that anyone has a perfectly functioning one. Going back to my main point, can you imagine how a couple that’s facing such a difficult time in their life would feel when someone randomly asks them when they plan on having children? Again, I’m using couple and not woman intentionally, because such statements affect both a wanting-to-be-mum or dad. Not to mention the horrid possibility of a miscarriage – which please note is a lot more common than we think!
A couple might also be going through a difficult time in their relationship and probably, the last thing they’d want to think about at that point is bringing children into the world. Again such a statement could be very hurtful to people facing such difficult and complex scenarios.
Have you ever considered that a woman might just not be ready? I don’t think a woman is ever fully prepared for the changes pregnancy brings along, but I do believe that she needs to be at least partially ready to change her life overnight. For instance, if a woman is going through shifts and changes in her career or trying to finish off some academic studies, the last thing she might want is more disruption in her life. Clearly a pregnancy might jeopardise those goals, so she might choose to temporarily postpone the whole “having a baby” thing.
Moreover, and I think this is a crucial point, “Motherhood is NOT every woman’s calling!” I cannot emphasise the importance of this statement enough. Even if the patriarchal society we were brought up in leads us to believe that we were put on this planet simply to procreate, we need to remember that we’ve got brains that contribute to humanity as well as so many other wonderful traits. Whether married or not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting to have children whether it’s a temporary or a permanent life choice.
You might think that a woman who’s choosing not to have children is not affected by such statements and that she can just brush them off. I can assure you that sitting at a baby shower trying your best to be happy about all the fuss that’s being made and having a random, ‘You’re next’, thrown at you, when you’re not ready for children or might not want them at all, is just as difficult to deal with as that woman who’s actively trying to have children. It can throw a woman completely off balance and make her feel guilty and that there’s something wrong with her. It is high time for us to understand that the only problem is that statement being made in the first place!
These conversations can be put forward by any individual. It could be a family member, mum, dad, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, that would be asking out of genuine love and concern and because they’d perhaps, somewhat selfishly, want a grandchild, niece or nephew. It could however, also come from a colleague or acquaintance, who might say something like that because society expects us to go through this process. It doesn’t matter how close you are to that person. This topic is still very personal and sensitive. Being close to a person, even being related by blood, does not give you a free pass to just throw random questions and statements. If that person wanted to share such personal information, they’d approach you. If they choose to do so, you should feel honoured and blessed that the said person trusts you enough and feels comfortable enough with you to share such information. That is all the more reason to be especially sensitive when discussing such a delicate subject when the person opens up.
I’d also like to point out that it’s not just about the comments. Whilst I feel that everyone has the right to share their happiness, bombastic, fancy and over the top announcements can also contribute to this pain. This holds true even for baby showers. Whilst it is wonderful to celebrate with an expecting mum or couple, some people in attendance might be suffering greatly on the inside in spite of being happy for the couple. I’m not in any way saying we should hold back on celebrations, but I do feel we should be a bit more sensitive to those around us.
I could honestly go on and on about this topic, and I’ve really tried to keep it short and summarised here, but it’s something I feel incredibly strongly about. I just ask you to consider your words wisely when approaching a woman about this subject. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying such subjects should be avoided all together. The taboos surrounding them are bad enough as is. I’m just suggesting approaching the subject with sensitivity towards a person’s feelings and circumstances.