Day 6 in hospital and I’m reflecting through very sore eyes, on all the messages I’ve received since my post about losing Little Bud.
Life isn’t easy in a maternity block when in the middle of the night you hear little lamb like cries from the newborns being birthed just yards away. You take a moment to think ‘can I really hear that or am I going mad?’ Because right now I’d believe the latter.
I’ve looked out my window at the new families leaving in their family cars and whispered ‘well done mummy’ as I look at the new mum cautiously waddling to get into the car next to her bundle ‘…you’re a miracle woman’.
One of the main themes in the responses I’ve had is about the bit I posted on never ever asking anyone about their plans for having kids. In other words, their fertility status or their views on parenthood.
Myself and my friends who are yet to be blessed with becoming parents or parents a second time round have discussed this at length particularly over the last year. And we’ve just had enough.
This ‘had enough’ applies to anyone around us asking about our most personal struggles in this area whenever they so wish. Those we’ve told some chosen bits to because in that moment we really needed to talk, some we’ve told loads to and who’ve offered loving support, those we love most and complete strangers.
I’m baffled by it. And yet I’ve been guilty of it in the past.
I don’t hate people asking me these questions, of course. I’m not suggesting they’ve bubbled up from the pits of hell to ask me. Ok maybe strangers who don’t know me truly are hellish, insensitive dicks. But generally they often come from a place of concern and love. And as I’ve said, I’ve done it myself. It’s just now I’m not so much an observer to this subject. I now have the unfortunate benefit of being a fully fledged participant and I’ve received one too many flippant comments or questions than I care to accept anymore.
I’ve been pulled to the side and asked in the office. I’ve been asked wandering down the street by a woman who works in a business that supposedly supports mothers and women. I’ve been asked in the middle of a packed hairdressers over the noise of hairdryers. In cabs. In meetings. Over lunch. At family dinners. Weddings. On my birthday. On Christmas Day.
Sometimes I’ve been faced with someone who clearly only wants to talk about it so somehow I am the one that brings it up as we look at eachother blankly. Me waiting for them to start a conversation that I thought was theirs to start. I then initiate the subject. Those people should work on criminal investigations.
In response I’ve largely smiled and said my default ‘not yet, hopefully one day’. Some people clearly need more of an answer from me though. They’re not satisfied. Some people make a physical gesture down to my vagina as if to say ‘…how’s everything, you know, with your bits now?’ Some nervously follow up with their own defaults…ranging from ‘well enjoy yourself while you can!’, ‘ahh it’ll happen when it’s time’, ‘you’d be the best mother/parents’, ‘well, you’re never really ready for it so I say get going!’
The woman mentioned above that works in a business that supposedly supports mothers and women? Her response was ‘but do you want them?’ And I was like ‘yeah I’d love nothing more’ to which she offered the advice ‘well what are you waiting for then, get on with it!’ I’d never met her in person before this point, just over work emails.
My best friend is no stranger to all this either, she too experiencing heartbreaking fertility setbacks. Apart from the ‘normal’ questions she’s asked on the regular, two things stand out for her just now that she’s bravely allowed me to share;
The inevitable ‘just relax and it’ll happen’ advice. Cool. Just swallow the sad experiences you’ve had so far and the worry of what’s really going on inside you and just RELAX AND HAVE MORE SEX.
And the more devastating experience she had to go through on a recent holiday…
“I was holidaying in France with friends recently and a lady we knew in the French village sat me down in her kitchen, started talking about kids and angrily glared at me for ages then asked why I hadn’t ‘given’ my fiances mum a grandchild yet and that I’d ‘better get working on that now’ while pointing to my bits.”
“I then felt bullied into giving her an explanation and then telling her (someone I’ve met twice) about my miscarriage which obviously ended in tears and ruined the last day of our holiday. I told her about my miscarriage to almost prove to her that we’d been trying. Oh and I also remember I got my period that very morning so I was double gutted anyway”.
And even people who have kids still get badgered. ‘When will you try for a second?’ Lets break that question down shall we:
“Hi there. I’m assuming having baby number one was a walk in the park and that you want and can afford and provide for more kids so when will you have sex to try for another baby exactly? Can you be specific? Are your cycles regular and are you ovulating? Is your egg reserve ok and does his sperm have the right shape, mobility and oomph to get the job done? Do you feel emotionally and physically ready and able to go through pregnancy and childbirth again? Do you have all the bits in working order to have another baby? I’m assuming you don’t have polycystic ovaries or one Fallopian tube or endometriosis or adhesions or a difficult cervix or very few follicles or a high count of natural killer cells or a thin endometrial lining? Just wondering really…well?”
About a year ago when I had the endometriosis diagnosis, I was speaking to a woman about it. I offered up the info. My choice. She joined in with her tale. She had a hysterectomy aged 21 because she got cancer. Her choice to get pregnant and have a baby was just gone. Have any of us asked her, you know, in passing if she’s gonna have kids? Or the countless women in her position?
I’m on a gynaecology ward at the mo surrounded by women in nighties, walking gingerly and hunched with cardboard bed pans as they make their way to the toilet to catch what comes out. Wearing nappies and calling the nurses for their pain. Bleeding, sore, emotionally frazzled. Colour drained from them. There are so many intricate illnesses and disorders related to our lady bits and I’ve no idea why they’re all here but I feel for them, I truly do. When they’re discharged and sociable again in a few days from now (perhaps), will they be asked about having kids by some random inquisitor?
I’ve also been told to consider adoption and alternative ways of becoming a parent from people who what? Clearly think I’m incapable? Have given up on me already? Because I HAVEN’T GIVEN UP. Perhaps they’re just lovingly concerned that the thought of me never being any kind of parent is too painful for them themselves to accept. Trust me peeps, myself and my husband think a lot on this subject, all ways round. No stone left unturned. We know adoption exists. And it’s beautiful.
Just because I’ve now expressed my deepest fears and reality in the written word also doesn’t automatically assign you a warrant to search for deeper answers from my broken heart.
This is like a form of therapy for me. I sometimes get stumped for words to say out loud. A lot of that comes from not wanting to offend anyone face to face. But writing it out, well, it just flows.
I could just write it and leave it unpublished. But there’s a huge part of me that also wants to voice certain things on behalf of other women and men battered with this line of questioning. To empower a different type of response.
Martin Luther King Jn said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” and in this I find the truth.
I can’t come at this from the viewpoint of someone that doesn’t want kids. But they exist and they don’t commute daily from Mars. Some people do not want to be parents. They aren’t missing something or damaged or strange. We don’t have to look at them with pity or confusion or panic. We need to just accept their wishes. Not analyse or judge anywhere beyond that. Why should they feel the need to explain? What if they turned round and said ‘most parents I know are miserable, knackered and restricted, no thank you!’ Would parents be offended by that retort? Weirdo.
I am women and mothers biggest fan. I am parents and fathers biggest fan. It’s the most important job in the world, raising conscious and loving little humans. Raising the future. I am not jealous or hateful to anyone pregnant or parenting. I am in awe. Desperate, needing, pining awe that sometimes results in warm, salty water pouring from my eyes, yes. But awe all the same.
Maybe once I’ve had a kid I’ll start writing from the frustrated viewpoint of a mother who feels hated by people who cannot conceive. But for now, I am me and this is my story.
And why don’t we ask the single people if they want kids? Not that I’m suggesting that. That would be bad. Do not. But why is it that only when someone is part of a couple that they get asked? Spare a thought for the people who do want kids but don’t have a partner just now. I mean FFS. They of course have ‘alternative’ options too. Single parenting with donor bits, adoption, freezing and storing. But maybe they yearn for the love of a partner to ignite their journey into parenthood. Maybe they want to create and birth life.
So this intro has gone on longer than I planned. Because the point of this post is to offer up and encourage receivers of these questions alternative responses that don’t make us feel small, defeated, ashamed, broken or exposed anymore.
So let’s just go with this one as the responses can be tailored to the plethora or related questions around this subject matter.
So, have you got kids?
1) That might seem like an innocent question but actually it’s quite an upsetting one so can we move on? (My amazing husband came up with this one and I think it’s perfect)
2) No and there are personal reasons for that.
3) I’d rather not get into that subject.
4) Flick the V. No. Ok, that’s not a good one although sometimes…(he also came up with this one)
They may seem like arsey replies, a bit ‘ooooh someone’s got their period’. But yeah, maybe she has. Maybe she thought they’d cracked it that month, that IVF or IUI attempt. But the blood still came and she stared at it and her heart stopped.
They might seem like conversation killers. And that’s the point. But believe me if people get delivered a response like the above just once I really doubt they’ll do it again. If this stops just one person hurtling a question like this at someone in the future then job well done.
Since posting, a friend has sent me her default response which I also think is marvellous. Humour as a way of dissolving the subject. It goes a little something like this:
5) No. We have dogs instead. Fewer visits from social services when you leave them on their own.
Any more for any more?