I know this is very personal and off-topic for a blog about reading and writing, but with the impending births of both a niece and a nephew, this subject has been weighing heavily on my mind.
I mentioned it once before, under the protection of knowing no one was really reading this blog at that point, but now I want people to know. I want people to hear this.
I may never have a child of my own to read a bedtime story to. I might never hold a tiny hand and marvel at how much it looks like my own. I am childless, but it is not by choice - and I wish people would not assume the contrary.
My husband and I have been trying for two years to have a baby. Two years, two specialists, two surgeries, and two miscarriages later, we are still childless. I realize four years of marriage and thirty years of age is not a lot in this day and age, but apparently to some people (especially old Italian ladies), it's an eternity. Believe me, it feels like it sometimes.
But no matter how old someone is, or how long they have been married, I don't feel it is ever appropriate to go up to that person in the middle of a baby shower, put your hand on their belly, and ask, "Where's your baby?"
Yes, this actually happened to me. And the best part? The question came from a woman who'd never had children of her own. I could understand if it had come from a Fertile Myrtle who could, as my co-worker put it, "look at 'it' and get pregnant", because it's more difficult to understand a struggle you've never encountered. But for someone who'd never produced a child herself to be so insensitive was incomprehensible.
Not one to disrespect my elders, I swallowed the very rude response lingering in my throat, and went with one of the generic, polite answers I've come to master: We're working on it, Eventually, It Happens When it Happens. But let me tell you what bothers me about these answers: they're designed to prevent the person who asked the question - the question that's really none of their business in the first place - from becoming uncomfortable. Because let's face it. When people come up and give you the wink-wink-nudge-nudge- when-are-the-babies-coming question, the last thing they're expecting in response is, "Well, I was pregnant about a year ago, but the baby's heart stopped at nine weeks. Then, this December, I had another miscarriage eight days before Christmas."
No one knows what to say to that, and then they may feel guilty for asking what they thought was an innocent question. It is an innocent question, because if everything is working correctly, getting pregnant is what your body is supposed to do. But it's unfair to assume everyone's body works the same way. It's not as simple as merely having all the right parts. And common sense, even in someone who has never experienced infertility, should still dictate that if someone is thirty and married four years with no children, there is probably a reason for it.
Even if that reason is "I'm not ready", or in some cases, "I don't want children", no one should be put on the spot to publicize that information. I am very open to talking about my journey through infertility, and my miscarriages- that is, when people aren't randomly groping my stomach. I believe that if my experience or my knowlege can help someone, I'm all for discussion. Some women, however, would rather sever a limb than talk about what is still a rather taboo subject. That's their choice, and they have a right to feel that way.
I didn't discuss what I was going through for the entire first year. My husband and I didn't breathe a word to even our own mothers. But when I went for my ultrasound and was forced to watch my child's heart struggling to beat until it stopped altogether, I couldn't take it anymore. I was tired of feeling alone, tired of being tired and never being able to say the real reason. I called my mother from the car right after that ultrasound, and everything came pouring out of me. And you know what? I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my chest. I wish more women would understand that it's ok to talk about it. Once you do, you find that so many others have been in your shoes. And, you realize how unfair it is that you're expected to come up with polite answers to bold questions just to safeguard someone else's comfort.
I get that people want to see me reproduce. I get that it excites them. Yet, I urge people who are guilty of the nudge-nudge-wink-wink-when-are-you-going-to-have-babies attack to rethink asking this question. Or at least give serious thought to how you phrase it, because no one should feel like they're being called to the carpet for being childless. You may get a polite answer and a polite smile, but that smile may be masking months or even years of physical and emotional pain. The real answer may very well be "I don't know."
Some day I would love to post a picture of my newborn baby on this blog, just as I would love to announce that I'm getting published. Realistically, I know I may never have the opportunity to do either. But I'm not giving up, and if I've helped or encouraged or inspired even one person by sharing my stories, then at least I've done that much.