Leave This Question to Yourself
I am not one to be shy. I do not play coy. And I certainly will not lie.
I lack boundaries. There are times more often than not when I know I should be embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, or offended but am not than when I am.
I survived the awkward teenage years. I gained that freshman 50. (Yes, it was closer to 50 for me and I blame my parents for getting me the largest meal plan the campus had to offer. I’d also like to thank my parents for that blessing of calories.) I stumbled through weird dates, first kisses, and bad impressions. To top it off, I’ve been pregnant and given birth. Twice. You don’t come back from giving birth.
If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, my point is that I rarely feel humiliated, offended, or violated. I have experienced too many situations that have hardened me against these feelings. I am who I am, and if you ask me a question about that I will tell you straight-forward and without being offended.
Except, something has changed.
Due to recent health concerns, my cardiologist and OBGYN recommended I get my Fallopian tubes removed, if not go all the way for a full hysterectomy. Again, I have two kids. My husband does not want a third while I am not opposed to another. But we are happy. I am content and fulfilled with my two children, so this isn’t a tough decision for us to make.
Before this, people would always ask if and when we would try for a third. Comments from strangers to my closest friends and relatives could be heard—“You already have a boy and a girl! You might as well stop now,” or “You make pretty babies! Keep making them,” and, my favorite, “After two it’s easy. I always picture you with three kids.” Side note- I also pictured myself with three, eventually.
Never before had I found this line of questioning intrusive. Again, as a curious person and one who lacks boundaries, these are questions that I’ve even asked at times. I have never been offended or shied away from inquiries about the supply and demand of my uterus. It never occurred to me to feel that way. And it certainly never occurred to me that other people would feel that way. But now, I am going to hesitate when I feel the need to interrogate a couple or person about how much they feel the need to spawn.
Because it’s not my damn business. And, it is intrusive.
Let me lay this out for you. And for me, as a reminder.
While some can pop babies out quicker than Trump with executive orders, a lot cannot. I was folding laundry tonight, after my consultation with my doctor, and thought about being asked when I would have a third. My husband and I have a three year old girl and a five year old boy. We are at that stage where it is expected that, should we feel so inclined, we would continue our line of gorgeous and temperamental progeny. I get that question a lot. And I began to imagine answering, “Oh, we cannot have any more children.” It felt weird, imagining myself responding that way. What would people think? My husband shoots blanks? I’ve got no more eggs to count before they hatch? Was there some morbid accident or tragedy that left one or both of us medically, physically, emotionally unable to procreate? Are we financially too strained to accommodate the doctors' bills and highway robbery of diapers?
People are curious. A response as vague as inability invites questions. It invites speculation. It invites a sticky situation where one or both parties are left feeling uncomfortable.
My situation is not tragic. It is not hard to talk about. Long story short is I had a pulmonary embolism, birth control is not safe, nor is pregnancy. My husband and I have two children and medical recommendation was to find a permanent birth control that will not increase my risk for clots when we knew it was a good time to put a period on our family.
Cut and dry. (No pun intended.)
I do not love talking about that, though. It’s unnecessary. I don’t feel like its proper protocol to expect somebody to hand over their medical records as an explanation for a simple question you may have. Not that people are expecting a long, detailed chart illustrating why you cannot have any more kids, but I feel like there is an expectation that everyone can and should have kids. And damn it, we’re going to ask you about it if we feel like you’re not doing enough between the sheets to satisfy our expectations!
So, the answer to that question of why I am not having a third is simply, “We are not physically able to have any more children.” And I’d go on about my day because this isn’t something that plagues and torments me often, even though it is not something I would have elected to do (or at least have done this early in my life). It is a decision that I made. My husband made. Our family made. With doctors' recommendations.
Now think about the people who couldn’t make a decision and still cannot have children. How heart-wrenching and tragic it is when they are reminded of something they want so badly, but cannot have, because of a curious mind. I have a couple of friends who have had still-births. A history of miscarriage. Unknown reasons of infertility—for both the male and female. Feelings of loss, heartache, the unknown, desperation, inadequacy, being broken—literally and metaphorically, resentment, anger…
And imagine them reliving those feelings every time somebody just wants to know why that baby train hasn’t left the station yet.
A seemingly innocent and often-asked question becomes intrusive.
I never realized the intrusiveness of such questions until I gained a teeny bit of perspective. I, by no means, have suffered like others. I have been blessed beyond measure. I am not overwhelmingly sad or angered by the cards I’ve been dealt—I am thankful I have my family and now have the opportunity to become healthier than I was beforehand. I have answers. And solutions. My perspective is not wholly different than before. But it is different enough for me to know that it truly is not my damn business to insert myself in the planning and execution of somebody else’s family.
You don’t know everybody’s story. People have reasons for why their family looks the way it does. Sometimes that look is by choice, but so many—too many— times it is not. Accept that. Don’t satisfy that curiosity, and instead just tell them they have a beautiful family the way it is. Even if children are not involved yet. Even if there are 37 kids and four more on the way. Even if you don’t understand why.