My friend is pregnant. I’m happy for her, but there’s a little part of me that is a little bit sad too. Oh, not sad for her; that is nothing but happy. The sad is for me. Weird thing is that I don’t even want to have more kids at this point. My eldest is 15 and my youngest is 4. That is some kind of crazy spread, isn’t it? By the time my youngest graduates high school, I will have been raising babies for 29 years. As great as it is, a stopping point is good! But, three years ago I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and, with the issues I have, I was told that it was a really good idea, imperative even, not to have any more children. My husband and I had yet to totally decide on whether or not to have any more at that point, and that decided it for us. I thought I would feel relieved since I was more on the “not” side of whether or not to have another kid. The fact that it bothered me so much came as a surprise. Being told I can’t is a huge departure from deciding I don’t want to, and I still don’t like it at all.
It’s so complicated, isn’t it, this whole business of who’s pregnant, who isn’t, who wishes they weren’t, and who prays every night that they are? It’s supposed to be a very personal thing between a woman and our other half, but it’s not. Not really. If a woman isn’t married and she is expecting, well, I don’t even have to tell you how much fuel that is for the gossip fire. Marriage doesn’t exempt anyone from baby gossip, however. As soon as a girl gets married, everyone starts asking when she’s going to get pregnant. And as soon as she spits out that first kid, they start asking when the second one will make an appearance. If the first kid gets to two and no talk of a second is in the air, people start sharing opinions on the dangers of only children. On the other hand, once that third comes along, here come the “don’t-you-know-what-causes” thats. It is never ending!
People are often just trying to be friendly, helpful even, but there is a whole world going on behind the answers. My children are eleven years apart for a very good reason. I always wanted a second, but for a long time, that didn’t seem possible. I’m pretty much Fertile Myrtle and have no issues with getting knocked up; that wasn’t the issue. You see, my ex was not a good husband. He was not a good father. I don’t think he is even a good person. It wasn’t long after I had my oldest son that I knew the marriage wouldn’t last forever. It was only a matter of time that fully depended on when enough was enough for me. Right or wrong, I felt I owed it to my child to exhaust every effort at keeping my marriage together, so “enough” took a while to get to. I wanted another child, just not with my ex.
Every question of when I was going to have another, every comment about lonely onlies, really hurt. I don’t blame any one for that hurt. I chose to keep everything to myself. I chose to keep everyone out of my world. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame myself either. It was an “it is what it is” situation where blame is a ridiculous thing to even try to assign.
But, how common is this? Not my situation exactly, how common is the baby game complicated? I would say every time. Every time a woman joyfully announces she’s pregnant, one of her friends is putting on a happy face while secretly dying a little inside and feeling just how empty her womb is. Every time newlyweds get asked about when they are planning on having a baby, one couple happily talks about their plans to travel first, while another tries to defend their choice not to have any children, simultanelously hoping they don’t sound defensive and wishing they didn’t feel the need to explain it at all. Every time a woman cries about not being able to get pregnant, another cries because she is. Even if you are the happily married, blissfully preganant, glowingly gorgeous woman, you know people who aren’t and you’re worried your joy will bring pain. Having children, not having children, individual choices, individual problems – it’s all complicated and it’s always hard.
So, I have a few suggestions to make it easier on us all…
1. It’s ok. If you want to have kids, don’t want to have kids, have no idea what you want, want to adopt a baby, want to put your baby up for adoption, are sad you are pregnant, are ecstatic you are pregnant, wish you could get pregnant, wish someone would permanently remove your uteris, wish you had a uteris, want one child, want to have more children than the Duggers, use fertility treatments, oppose fertility treatments, want to work in child care, want to stay away from children completely and forever. It’s ok. Now, if you have children and don’t take care of them, that is not ok. But, that is a different blog. This one is about sorting out what we want and how we feel about baby making and, let me tell you, the whole range of emotions is pretty common and absolutely normal. It’s your choice and nobody else’s; which brings me to my next point.
2. It is ok to talk to other people about their choices. It is not ok to to be presumptuous and rude, even if you are not trying to be. You need to be conscious of the impact of your words. Here’s a good example:
Bad question: So, when are you going to have kids? Dude! Judgemental much? You just told that person that not only does she have to have children, she is not normal if she doesn’t. I’m sure that you were just trying to be friendly and make a connection, right? Well, let’s try again!
Good question: Are you planning to have kids? Look at that! You have given them the option to say yes, no, or I don’t know and feel ok about it. Awesome.
Another point: if what you are about to say can appropriately be prefaced with, “You know what they say,” don’t say it. “They” never have anything nice to say and “they” should be left out of any conversation. When it comes to discussing personal and emotional topics, cliches always suck.
3. It is ok not to answer rude questions. Your choices are yours and you don’t owe anyone an explanation. But this one comes with a caveat: be as gracious as humanly possible because most people are just trying to be friendly and make a connection. Not everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, but you deserve the benefit of giving it. Anger and bitterness are two nasty little critters that build up inside causing pain and ugliness. Don’t let them in. Ann Landers had a great way of graciously turning the tables on a rude questioner by politely asking, “Why do you want to know?”
4. It is ok to tell your barren friend that you are pregnant and it is ok for you to be happy about it. Did you call her “barren” or something as equally mean and offensive? Did you brag about your amazing fertility and how easily you can conceive? Of course not. Just be sensitive and try not to talk about it more that she can handle. And don’t be offended if she doesn’t seem as happy for you as you want her to be. She loves you and she is happy for you. She’s just got a little, or maybe even a lot of, sadness for herself that she needs to work through.
5. It is ok to feel sad when your friend announces that she is preggers. Really. Now, angry at her is approaching a ride on the crazy train and that is not so good. Your friend did not get pregnant to spite you. But sad? Perfectly normal. Remember that scientific law Newton discovered? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. She is thrilled and if you are sad, you are just following the law. After you smile and congratulate her, go home and have your cry out so that you will be ready to pick out a cute shower gift and show her the love.
6. It is ok if you are pregnant and not married. We can disagree all we want about the advisability and challenges of having a baby out of wedlock, and we can disagree all we want about the morality of sex outside of marriage, and that is fine. Agree to disagree. I personally think people should wait and that marriage is the best place to have kids. However, if you are already pregnant, that conversation is completely moot. You may or may not have chosen to get pregnant, but you have chosen to have your baby and I have nothing except love, admiration and support for that. Anyone who doesn’t, can suck wind. Period.
I haven’t covered everything here, I can’t. There are so many variables and so many personal situations that I can’t possibly address them all. I don’t even have any over-reaching conclusion to tie this all up beautifully with a deep, and affectual ribbon. So, I think I will just leave you with this: if baby talk and the whole baby making business makes you sad, happy, emotional, or feel nothing for it at all, you’re normal and you’re not alone. There is someone else who feels the exact same way.