Stop asking me when I’m going to start having babies
Stop asking me when I’m going to start having babies and start asking me when my next book will be published.
As a society we seem to have this generationally ingrained need to ask women when they plan on starting a family. If you’re over the age of sixteen and female, you most likely know exactly what I mean. Your mum’s sister’s best-friend has probably been asking you if you have a boyfriend since you were about fifteen. Telling you that you’d be beating the boys away with a stick. Then when you turn twenty or twenty-one you start getting asked when you will start having babies. Do you know how many babies you want? Brace yourselves, because as soon as you get married, they want to know exactly when you’re planning on producing little carbon copies of yourself, because “you’ll have the cutest kids!”. Then there’s the notorious “By the time I was your age I had already had three kids and had been married for five years”, that’s great grandma, good for you.
I’m not saying that being family oriented is a crime, and that women shouldn’t be thinking about whether or not they want to have a family. What I am saying is that it’s legitimately no one else’s business but theirs. It’s right up there with asking a woman with a protruding stomach if she is pregnant. Now why get yourself into an uncomfortable situation when you could just be quiet? The only time I could warrant asking questions about women wanting to have children or not would be if the woman whose womb is in question initiates the conversation. For instance, when your high school best-friend mentions that she and her husband are trying for a baby. Now feel free to ask how many off-spring she wants to have, because she’s already told you she wants them in the first place.
The issue with asking women when they’ll start having kids is all the things that you’re taking for granted. You’re assuming she wants children. Just because she has the organs doesn’t mean that she wants to use them. Next, you’re assuming she has the organs. She may have been born without a uterus or ovaries. She also may have had a hysterectomy; of which she may have opted to have, or she may have been required to have. I know at least five women who have had full hysterectomies before the age of 25 due to reproductive issues. There’s some food for thought.
You are also assuming she can afford children. Say you are a cis-gendered woman who wants to have children with your partner, a cis-gendered man. Both of you are fertile, and you can get pregnant easily, so you’re not spending any money to get pregnant. Fine. But what if you’re unemployed because the job market is tense? Or, if you are employed, how much time can you afford to take off to raise a child? Child-care is expensive. With the low end of the day-care spectrum running around $50.00 per day, per child. Say you work Monday to Friday, that’s $1000.00 a month, and that is considered cheap. Women with children in North America report spending around 50% of their income on their children, with men reporting spending about 20%. This isn’t every woman’s idea of joy, and despite what your co-worker who has three daughters has told you, that’s not selfish. It’s up to you what you want to spend your finances on, and not everyone reckons that a little person is the ticket. That’s okay too.
We’re also taking the presumption that she can have children. That she doesn’t have endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or any other condition that renders her unable to have children. You’re assuming she hasn’t tried countless times to get pregnant. That she hasn’t tried and failed to get pregnant, or miscarried, or had a still born child. That she doesn’t want to have children more than anything in the world. That she isn’t watching everyone around her fall pregnant and have baby after baby, but it’s just not happening for her. That’s hard enough without bringing it up, unwarranted, at a social event. You wouldn’t ask someone why they haven’t bought a house, or gotten a promotion, because you know better than to ask those questions. You know there are reasons why they haven’t, or they would have. So, whether it’s because she can’t, or because she doesn’t want to, she has her reasons.
These conditions and situations affect young women, they affect middle-age women, and they affect older women. They affect women with “child bearing hips”, and women with large breasts. They affect women who go to the gym everyday, and women who spend all day behind a computer. They affect women whose grandmothers, mothers, and sisters are fertile. They affect women who have been trying to conceive for years and years on end, and women who have never tried to get pregnant but would like to some day. They affect straight women and lesbians, women who identify as bisexual, pansexual, demi-sexual, asexual, and transgender people.
I hear you ask “So, have you tried IVF yet?”, and to that I ask “Have you looked into the costs of IVF? If so, will you be donating to the cause?”. Women in the United States alone are paying upwards of $15,000.00 for one cycle of invitro fertilization. That’s multiple mortgage payments, the price of a small car, a couple of semesters of college education, or a few nice holidays. That is more money then some people earn in over a year. IVF also includes tireless cycles of injections, hospital visits, procedures and stresses. It affects your mood, your weight, and your state of mind. It requires time taken off work or school. It is also not a fool-proof way to fall pregnant. Shocker, I know.
So, you tell somebody that you can’t have children, and they respond: “You can always adopt!” But what if I don’t want to adopt, Karen? What if I don’t want children so badly that I am willing to adopt? Even though there are millions of orphaned children all over the world, it’s not my obligation to adopt a child if I don’t want to. It’s not my obligation as a woman to paint a nursery, buy a stroller and cute little baby outfits, and post hundreds of photos of my child online. This is 2019 and I do not have to have a child.
“You’re running out of time!” Your uncle says at Christmas dinner.
“Your biological clock as a woman is running out!” Your aunt “reminds” you.
“You’ll regret not having children. You won’t be fulfilled!” your dad’s boss’ wife tells you.
Odds are you didn’t “forget” that you’re “running out of time”. There are lots of variables that come into that. You’ve probably thought a lot about it, and you’ve tried, or you’ve decided against it. That is no one else’s business and you are not obligated to tell them any of that either, just because they felt obligated to ask you. My sister would love nothing more than a large family, and I love that for her, but that’s just not in the cards for me.
We live in a world where women are gaining more and more independence and freedom daily. In the western world at least, we have so many options and it should be more than understandable if one of them strikes us as more appealing that child-rearing. We live in a world populated by 7.5+ billion people. We are not fearing extinction, and I’m sure the world doesn’t need the fruit of my womb to go on.
For generations men have been taking over the bachelor seen. They have luxurious apartments, a huge social circle, and a great job. They travel the world and go to new and exciting events weekly. They are living the “high life”. But if I chose to do the same, I am destined to be an “unfulfilled” sad old spinster. That’s unfair, and it makes no sense.
I am not going to sugar-coat this and make myself out to be someone who never ever wanted kids, because I did. I had plenty of fantasies of growing up of getting married, getting pregnant, and having six kids. Just ask my mother. I had more baby dolls than you could imagine, and they all had little outfits, strollers, and cribs. I would read them stories and tuck them into bed at night. That was six-year-old Me’s ideal future. Current me has severe endometriosis, my uterus is infested with adenomyosis, and I have come to terms with the idea that I will probably get a hysterectomy sooner rather than later, and I may never have children. That’s okay, but I can’t tell someone that I’m considering a hysterectomy without being asked “But don’t you want children?!”. Not more than I want to be pain free, Kyle, but thanks for asking.
I’m a smart woman, a brave woman, and a well-spoken woman. I’m a talented writer and an ambitious advocate for women’s health. I am a good friend, daughter, and sister. I am a dedicated student, and I am currently working very hard at advancing my career. I am also a fantastic auntie and godmother. I give lots of cuddles, kisses, and advice, and then I give them back to their parents. I am a multi-faceted woman, not a broken baby-making machine.
I’ve been given a lot of advice over the last two years since I had my diagnosis and found out I would most likely never be a mother. One of my auntie’s told me that everything happens for a reason, and it would be difficult for me to care for a child while battling chronic pain with my endometriosis. Someone else dear to me – who is a mother herself - told me that there are plenty of ways to become a mother, but I don’t have to have children. That she adores her daughter, and enjoys motherhood, but children are not the be all and end all of life. A very wise woman who I look up to immensely told me that she doesn’t feel unfulfilled because she doesn’t have children. She is very successful, well respected in her various fields, and in her own words “May not have kids, but could drop everything and go to Paris tomorrow if I wanted to”.
So, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be excited if your sister, or niece, or friend is pregnant. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have children. I’m definitely not saying that having children is a waste of time. What I am saying is that women are capable of anything they put their minds too, and the decision, whether we make it ourselves or our body makes it for us, to not have children should not be frowned upon.
So next time you see me, ask me when my book is being published, not when I’m going to start having babies.