The dreaded question…. Most moms hear it at some point or another, especially moms with only one child. She needs a little playmate! Don’t you want a little boy too? Only children grow up to be so spoiled! My daughter will be seven in a few short months. She does not have a little brother or sister.
From the time we are little girls, we are being programmed to be moms. We’re given baby dolls and we tote them around, feeding them, changing them, loving them with all we have. When we hit our teen years, we babysit for the family down the street or for friends of our parents. She’ll be such a good little mother some day, they inevitably whisper while you take the toddlers outside to play in the sun warmed grass. That’s what you’ll do, because it’s our job as women. We are born and raised to bear and raise tiny humans.
And when you see the negative on the pregnancy test time after time, you’re left devastated. What’s wrong with me?
Most people assume that because you have a kid, you have made a personal choice not to have another. And for a while, that was true. After my daughter was born, I wasn’t ready for another one yet, so I took the steps to not have one. But for several years, I have wanted another baby more than I can describe. And every time someone asks me when I’m having another one, I plaster that fake smile and feed them a contrived script. Oh, if it happens, it happens! One is plenty to keep me busy! I don’t know if I could go back to diapers again! While that’s all kind of true (yes my daughter keeps me busy and diapers aren’t exactly glamorous) I would trade it all in a minute. I would go back to sleepless nights of 2 AM feelings and dirty diapers and a crying, teething baby faster than you could make a bottle. But despite years of trying, there’s still no bun in the oven.
People will say to you well at least you were blessed with one and they aren’t wrong. I was able to get pregnant with N and cruise through pregnancy and labor, baby and toddler years all with relative ease. All things considered, N has been better than I could ever have asked. Obviously she drives me nuts and I still have to nag her to pick up her toys or to listen. But she is a great kid. And I am blessed to have her. But that doesn’t numb the pain of not having the family I always wanted… And knowing at least I have her adds another element to the mix—Guilt. Who am I to be depressed over not having a second child when there are so many women who have never been able to conceive their first? It is a valid point after all… I know women who would make incredible moms who may never have children of their own. But rather than a peaceful reassurance of how blessed I am, it just leaves me guilty for being greedy.
In the spirit of our “always offended, overly pc” world, I’ll go out on a limb and say it. Yesterday was April Fools and I’m sure many, many people pretended to be pregnant as a joke. But, like so many things that leave our mouths unchecked, words can hurt others without us ever knowing. Seeing a harmless pregnancy prank, being asked when you’re having another one, seeing others around you getting pregnant with ease…these are the things that rub salt in the wound for a woman who has been trying to conceive for years. It’s hard to not feel that sharp pang of loss with every baby shower invitation or Carters you pass in the mall.
So where does all of this leave us? Well, let’s start with the political. Many people can’t afford fertility treatment. We need to support the politicians who will make medical care of all kinds more accessible to anyone who wants or needs it. And on a more daily basis, it never hurts to remember to be kind and mindful of the struggles others have. It never ceases to amaze me how frequently and callously people speak of depression and suicide. Why doesn’t he just kill himself? As someone who’s tried that, more than once, it always makes my heart ache to hear things like that. Sure, there are people who have no clue about my struggles with mental illness, but that’s the point. You can’t tell if someone has staggering depression or infertility by looking at them. You don’t know how hurtful offhanded comments might be. We could all stand to be a little nicer.