Life has a funny way of changing your perspective on things. For us, the idea of our family tree spreading didn’t start with that giggle and jiggle under the sheets. The drawn-out two-year conversation about whether it was the right time to start a family, hung like a cloud over us as we thrashed out the whys, the ifs and the buts. It was a long process. It’s the old story of I wanted kids, he wasn’t sure, I pushed the issue, he pushed back, and I won in the end.
There were arguments. Plenty of them. Feelings were bruised. Egos were damaged. There were long discussions. Steady, stable, mature conversations like debates at the podium as we listened to each other’s side of the argument. A pros and cons list may have even been produced. It was a tough few years. Our marriage was somewhat rocked as our differing opinions drove us in different directions.
What made those two years unnerving and difficult were the constant questions about when, and it was always when and not if, we were going to have kids.
“Are you thinking of kids yet?” was, at one stage, the only topic of conversation to be had from well-meaning but somewhat invasive enquirers. This was a conversation I didn’t want to have outside of my relationship because it was a contentious issue for us. Many asked, many pushed, many felt we were obliged to prepare them for the eventuality of baby toes. How was I to answer when we didn’t know where we stood ourselves, on a topic which was of considerable tension for us? Deciding to start a family is not always simple and straightforward. For us, it was a decision to be made. For others, the choice is taken out of their hands.
We waited until we were seven years married before starting a family. Seven years of constantly being asked when we would spout offspring like ordinary married folk. Surely, there must be something wrong with us. Well, if there was, it wouldn’t have been anyone’s business. What goes on behind closed doors shouldn’t be poked.
You’ve probably been there. Your Mum, belly watching for the future grandkids. Your best friend, wondering if she’ll get there before you. It stings a little when you’re not in the baby way and want to be.
Adding babies to a relationship may seem like the next logical step once sharing a fridge and merging your profiles together on Netflix has cemented your commitment to each other but it doesn’t always work out like that. Jean and Jerry may be married and have inherited two dogs along the way in their suburban three bed semi. They may seem like perfect candidates to add parenthood to their scouts’ badges but year after year the pitter patter of tiny feet never happens. And it’s no one’s business but theirs as to why not. Jean and Jerry will let you know if, and when, babies may pop out or up, whichever the case may be, but until then it’s bad form to pry.
After those two long years of battling through our choices as to whether to start a family, we finally got around to it and I was ridiculously excited about being pregnant. I was twenty-nine and, in the end, we scheduled her conception like military precision because I refused to be pregnant throughout the Christmas holidays but also didn’t want a mid-Summer baby. Picky, I know. And wasn’t I lucky to be able to make choices like that. I took the monthly photos, standing beside a chalkboard, tracking her size and suspected weight and what fruit we could compare her too. I cupped my growing belly, and loved to feel the kicks, knowing she was getting bigger and would soon stampede into our lives. I loved the attention. The excitement. The feeling of the unknown.
And that was it. I hated every other second. I was sore, I was scared, I was vomiting non-stop. Pregnancy two, came with its own set of troubles and an intense worry which saw me face into pre-natal and post-natal depression and anxiety.
Once baby one pops out, the questions don’t stop. There’s a timeline and a schedule for baby two and three and if you surprise the world with four, five or six, that’s a whole other ball game of opinions and attitudes. “You’re going again?”
When Devin turned one, the questions reared their ugly head once more. When are we going again? The answer has been a resounding, “We’re not. We’re done.” We’re given a smug reply to counter our statement, “We’ll see.” As though we’re not adult enough to know when we don’t want any more kids.
Despite it being no one’s business, I felt a constant pressure to answer the questions and in the end after Devin was born, I let them in on the truth to cease the consistent querying over the contents of my womb.
At thirty-three I decided to have a tubal ligation making our chances of conceiving again slim to none. Considering I was due a Caesarean Section it made perfect sense to complete the procedure after the birth. Because of my still young age, some have an opinion on this decision. I had hoped the general wonderment of my womb would dissipate but the astonishment and questions have veered towards an opinion on my decision to tie the old tubes. “You’re too young. You’ll change your mind. You’ll regret the decision. Oh, but you’ll never have a boy now.” All the way down to the disappointing, “Are you mad?”
Aside from doing the math – he has two arms, I have two arms, one kid each, we can manage, and neither of them can run away. I realise now it doesn’t exactly work like that but it’s still easier than being outnumbered, I’m guessing – I decided to ask for a tubal ligation because the thoughts of being pregnant again, terrified me.
No one needed to know the status of my reproductive organs but in some ways, it felt easier to be able to say that it was now impossible for me to have any more kids than listen to the constant badgering of how I better be quick if I wanted a third. Time was always ticking on. I’m sure until I hit menopause, I’d be answering this question and justifying our want of two kids and only two kids. It’s a sad reality that so many have an opinion on everyone else’s family size. In our case, it was a decision to be made. For others, the decision is made for them as fertility issues take precedence. For us, it was difficult to bear. Can you imagine how difficult it would be if the answer to these questions are beyond your control?
The next time, you feel the need to ask a woman when she is going to have a baby, think again. The answer may not be what you want to hear, it may not be an easy one for her to talk about, it may not be on her wish list.