This post is a bit different from my others. Typically a light-hearted person, I am very passionate about this. Please know that I am writing this for the millions of women out there who are touched by this issue and I think there needs to be a paradigm shift in our country.
I am a young woman in my child-bearing years. I have been married for 3 ½ years to the love of my life and like many of you, from the time that my husband proposed, people have been asking when we will be having kids. At first, I laughed it off, rolled my eyes, or even sometimes gave a serious answer on our future plans. As time goes on, I am torn between keeping quiet and saying what I feel – even though many may not understand why I feel the way I do.
When you start off in marriage (especially at a young age) you don’t foresee the inability to have children. You don’t plan that you or your spouse will experience health issues. You don’t realize how often miscarriages happen and how common they truly are. You don’t think that the sheer fact of getting pregnant is a miracle in itself and some people struggle for years and years.
Everyone else assumes that you want children right now or that you even want them at all. They assume you can have children. They assume that you haven’t already been trying. They assume you are healthy enough to have children.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (2011), “the chances of having a miscarriage can range from 10-25%, and in most healthy women the average is about a 15-20% chance.” This number includes the number of pregnancies – not people who miscarriages touch. This means the number of people who have experienced a miscarriage could be much larger. Personally, I know over 30 women who have experienced the devastation of a miscarriage.
The truth is – I cannot think of a way to say this without offending anyone. The truth is – I know that many won’t understand why I feel so strongly about this. It is a private matter, but both my husband and I have health issues that we are working to get figured out. No, none of them are regarding fertility that we know of… but, at this point, we have so much on our plate and we aren’t certain whether these issues will affect a baby – so we are choosing to wait. Every day that someone asks me about our plans, I cringe. If I tell them the answer I just gave – they also assume that I opened the door to talk about our health issues.
I’ve watched friends of mine be asked when they want kids and the person asking them doesn’t realize that they wanted kids years ago, but the fertility drugs aren’t helping. I’ve known a couple that the topic of pregnancy was such an issue in their marriage that their love life was on the rocks. I’ve known friends who have missed work due to a miscarriage and then were asked the next week why they don’t have children yet. I’ve been asked if there are plans for children in the near future in a meeting with colleagues at work. I’ve had pregnant people ask me if I was pregnant because I wasn’t drinking – in front of a group of people I don’t know. Please, practice empathy, people. Last time I checked, you weren’t involved in everyone else’s life or love life (harsh I know.. but it is the harsh reality of how I feel).
I watch as these individuals hold back the tears. I sit in silence as they cry inside. If the question is burning in your mind and you simply cannot hold back from asking – maybe you should start out with a simple, “do you want children?” You may want to think about leaving it at that. If the other party chooses to share more, that is great. If not, don’t push it.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to wait to have children – for any reason. There is nothing wrong with seeking some medical help to conceive. And as taboo as it is to say, there is nothing wrong with choosing not to have children at all. The problem lies within people thinking that you must make things happen on their timeline.
If you’re pregnant or have children already – feel blessed. It is a miracle and remember that it is not so easy for all other women and couples. Some people are tormented by the thought that their own bodies don’t allow them to conceive. Others are tortured with being on fertility treatments. People feel inadequate – men and women alike. There are pressures all around and though most of it is innocent, please don’t add to the pressures of other people’s hardship. Look at your children and recognize that not everyone is blessed with a natural conception and labor. Hug them and hold them – teach them empathy and understanding.
Children are a blessing from God. Don’t misconstrue my frustration and think that I don’t like or don’t want children – it is simply an overused and abused question. It is an emotional topic. I pray that this change can start with me and can spread to everyone else. I say these things out of love for my hurting friends. I say these things out of frustration for having to over-explain myself to others. I say these things out of hope for the future generations and their ability to empathize and foresee how their words & actions will affect others.