Monday, 29 August 2016

Motherhood - Be Quiet

This was posted by Meg on Facebook a while ago and it really hit home. The things that people have said to me when I mention wanting to only have one child are frequently appaling and often hurtful, and my plans are all in the hypothetical. It would be so much worse if any of the situations below were my current reality.

With our wedding approaching I thought it was a good time to post this - these types of events tend to lend themselves to people asking invasive questions and sharing upsetting comments (with good intentions but hurtful just the same.)

The original piece is entitled Mind Your Own Womb and was written by Nadirah Angail. I have adapted it considerably so please go read her version as well. The main thing that neither address is the possibility that the women doesn't want children at all. Both versions are based around a female experience but this isn't a gender thing, it is a family thing. Man can hurt just as much from inappropriate questions about parenthood.

Be Quiet

Somewhere there is a woman: 36, no children. 
People ask her, “Still no kids?” Her response varies from day to day, but it usually includes forced smiles and restraint. “Nope, not yet,” she says with a chuckle, muffling her frustration. “Well, don’t wait forever. That clock is ticking, ya know,” they say before departing, happy for imparting such erudite wisdom. They leave and the woman stops holding her smile. Why couldn't they be quiet. They don't know her pain, they don't understand her reality. She is hurt and frustrated and this conversation doesn't address the truth that...
- she’s been pregnant 4 times and miscarried every one
- she started trying for a baby on her wedding night, and that was 5 years ago
- her husband has an ex-wife and she has given him children
- she wants desperately to try invitro but can’t even afford the deposit
- she’s done multiple types of fertility testing and treatments and still has no children
- this issue causes friction in her marriage
- all her sisters have children and one of them didn’t even want children
- her best friend is pregnant and she just got invited to another baby shower
- her mother keeps asking
- her in-laws want to be grandparents
- her neighbor has twins and treats them like shit
- 16-year-olds get pregnant without trying
- she’s already picked out names
- there’s an empty room in her house
- there is an empty space in her body
- she has so much to offer
- her husband would be a great dad
- she would be a great mother, but isn’t. 

Somewhere else is another woman: 35, one child. 
People say to her, “Only one? You never wanted any more?” “I’m happy with my one,” she says calmly, a rehearsed response she’s given more times than she can count. Quite believable but she wishes they had just stayed quiet. No one would ever suspect that the question cuts through her normally happy life. That just a simple comment can bring back the dark reality that this is the very thing keeping her up at night. It is difficult reminder because...
- her one pregnancy was a miracle
- her son still asks for a brother or sister
- she always wanted at least three
- her second pregnancy had to be terminated to save her life 
- her doctor says it would be “high-risk” 
- she’s struggling to care for the one she has
- sometimes one feels like two
- her husband won’t even entertain the thought of another
- her family thinks one is enough and wouldn't support more 
- she’s deep into her career and can’t step away
- she feels selfish
- her postpartum depression was so intense
- she can’t imagine going through everything again
- she has body issues and pregnancy only exacerbates it
- she had to have a hysterectomy
- she wants another baby, but can’t have it.

Another woman: 34, five children. 
People say to her, “Five? Good lord, I hope you’re done!” And then they laugh… because those types of comments are funny. The woman laughs too, but not in earnest. She would have preferred them to be quiet. She changes the subject, as she always does, and gives the disrespect a pass. Just another encounter with this frustrating attitude towards her family. It hurts her because...
- she’s pregnant with another and feels like she has to hide the joy
- she always wanted a big family and doesn’t see why people seem so disturbed by it
- she has no siblings and felt profoundly lonely as a child
- her Granny had 12 and she’d love to be just like her
- she couldn’t imagine life without her children, but people treat her like they’re a punishment
- she doesn’t want to be pitied
- people assume this isn’t what she wanted
- they assume she’s just irresponsible
- they believe she has no say
- she feels misunderstood
- she’s tired of defending her private choices
- she and her husband are perfectly capable of supporting their family but that doesn’t seem to matter
- she’s tired of the “funny” comments
- she minds her own business and wishes others would mind theirs
- sometimes she doubts herself and wonders if she should have stopped two kids ago
- others are quick to offer criticism and slow to offer help
- she’s sick of the scrutiny
- she’s not a side show
- people are rude and so many seem to have opinions on her private life
- all she wants to do is live in peace

These women are everywhere. They are our neighbors, our friends, our sisters, our co-workers, our cousins. They have no use for our advice or opinions. Their reproductive lives are their own. You probably don't know the truth behind the simple reality of 5 or 4 or 3 or 2 or 1 or no children in someone's life. Let them share if they want to. Don't ask, don't comment. Just. Be. Quiet.


Sweeton said...

I love it. So clear about the intrusion, the invaded privacy and the painful triggers. So often we dont think before we speak and certainly we dont think to any depth about this (and many other personal topics)

Anonymous said...

Great excerpt! We all need to be more conscious about what and how we say things to people. On a related note, its interesting how in our society people feel like giving unsolicited advice about parenting, even to strangers. I've heard from friends that strangers have given them lectures on why they should be breastfeeding instead of giving formula. Similar to that blog post, did they don't think about the reasons the mother is formula feeding rather than breastfeeding. Plus, whatever the reason, there's nothing wrong with formula at all!


Aimee Sweeton said...

You're absolutely right! You have no idea how many people that had NO KIDS gave me unwanted advice when I was pregnant with Avery. And for some reason you will realize some parents just believe they are the experts at freaking everything! All I know is just because it worked for one parent doesn't mean it'll work for you. Do what works best for you and baby.