Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Please Stop Asking If We Were Trying, Because It Doesn't Matter

A few weeks back my husband and I joyfully announced that we are expecting our third baby in May. Four years ago we welcomed in our first little boy and two years later his brother arrived. Our home is busy and rarely clean and usually includes some sort of unknown crumb substance under whatever seat you happen to be sitting on, but it's great. We love our life and despite the past twelve weeks in which I have consumed pretty much only breakfast cereal and apples, we couldn't be happier that our family is going to include a new life in the spring.
In a world full of Pinterest-perfect baby announcements and glee-inducing gender reveals, there is no tutorial on how to steel your face or your emotions for the inevitable onslaught of questions regarding your now seemingly public body. Seriously, getting pregnant makes people think that they have filed all the necessary Freedom of Information Act papers and you must now reveal every. single. detail.

Aside from getting asked about how much weight you've gained and having to recount the things that make you nauseous while trying not to vomit at the thought of them, people always ask one insanely inappropriate and invasive question: "Were you trying for this one?"

This needs to stop.

First things first, the answer to your question is: It doesn't matter! A baby is growing inside me! A real human being is making his or her way into our family. And whether or not this journey has taken us years of turmoil and anguish or if it was a total surprise, this baby's life cannot be diminished by the ideal of trying or not. Furthermore, please never, ever add the words "or was this an accident?" to your question. My family is not an accident and no child ever deserves to be defined as one, watch your mouth.

Next, do you remember how babies are made? In case you forgot, they happen because two people had sex. So, if the frequency and protective states of our mutual sex lives is not a topic we cover often, this not an appropriate question to ask in line at the bank.

What's more is this question carries all kinds of connotations, purposeful or not, that are placed on my choice to have another child. In a brilliant article by Kristen LaValley called "The Shame of Baby Number Three" she expresses exactly what it feels like to have the judging gazes and questions from others about a third baby when you already have two young children. So often we feel like we are forced to tell you the third was a surprise or some how justify the size of our family to strangers who have no say in our household. Every time I am asked the question of "trying" while my youngest is crying and my oldest is starving and I haven't showered, I can feel the judgement radiating from whomever is asking. I know that they are questioning how we are going to fit three kids in our two-bedroom rental home. I know they see we don't make the kinds of money other people do. I know, I know, I know. But this baby is coming whether you feel the world is overpopulated or that we will never have a college fund for our kids or if three children will actually have to share a room.

New moms are subject to intense criticism from every angle and all we do when we question the purposefulness of a new life is heap another load of chastisement on women who already feel the weight of the world.

Moreover, non-moms are subject to the same scrutiny. I can't tell you how many friends I am desperately hoping, despite the odds against them, get pregnant and have healthy, happy babies.  On that day we will celebrate together with reckless abandon. Nothing is more heartbreaking than the look on a woman's face when someone callously asks if they "are even trying for kids" and that person has no idea about the torture that question brings up. Please remember the words you use are powerful and for someone who might feel powerless, questions about attempts to conceive or keep a child might just be their undoing.

Above all, we need to stop treating women's bodies as objects for public scrutiny as if your opinion on the size of my waist or the color of my hair or the kind of birth control I use, or don't, matters to my person-hood. Isn't this what all the debates and political rhetoric about "women's issues" truly is? I think we would just like our bodies not to be subject to the opinions, judgments and justifications of everyone else. Well, I digress.

So if you find yourself in communication with a newly expectant mama offer her congratulations, ask her when she is due, ask her if you can buy her a coffee, ask her surface level things you can discuss in line for a cup of coffee but unless you are best friends, maybe stay away from the question about conception.