If You Must Know...
Yesterday at church was the last straw. It wasn't the sermon (which was great) or the music (also great), it was one of my brothers in Christ. It's usually women. In fact, it has been 26 different women in the last four months. Yes, I counted. This time it was a man (more specifically, my dentist).
He and his wife just had a beautiful boy, their third child in about four years. He is a few months old, with big, gorgeous, squishy cheeks. I happily smiled at the baby, prayed for them as his tired mom nursed him and congratulated dad on a boy that is his spitting image.
Then, the dreaded question came.
"So are you having another one?"
"Well, um, we..." I made this face. -->
"You should. They're just great. And you don't want to wait too long between them. They really enjoy playing together."
"My pregnancy was hard, and we are really enjoying Ella."
"Well, that's nice. But don't wait too long."
I had so many things I wanted to say. Sarcastic comments that would have left him breathless. My favourite for this occasion would be: "I thought you were my dentist. I didn't realise you were also my gynecologist!"
But I couldn't say them. It's uncomfortable. Because the truth is, for anyone, these questions are (let the size and font hit home):
NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.*
*Unless you are my significant other or doctor. And even if you are my doctor, it's still mostly not your decision.
If you all must know, I am so tired of giving you an uncomfortably muffled answer, so here is the truth:
1. If you must know, I am not ready to be pregnant again.
From 3 weeks after Ella was conceived until the day after she was born, I felt like I was on a boat, trapped at sea. For 3 entire months, I barely left the sofa because lying on my side was the only position where I didn't throw up. I actually only gained 12 pounds during pregnancy, and during my first two trimesters, I lost weight. It was not "precious," and I didn't have a "tidy bump."
I was sick. Always sick. If you want to know the gory details, the hormone progesterone does funny things to my body, mostly making me puke and feel like the ground is moving. Progesterone is basically the hormone that makes and keeps you pregnant and is found in most forms of hormonal birth control. My body doesn't like it. Pregnancy was awful for me.
Every time I ride in a car on a couple of winding roads, I start to feel that familiar nausea. This is my response:
Then, I push back the timeline for having a second child another few months. At this rate, our second child will be born when I'm approximately 58 years old.
2. If you must know, I dodged a bullet. Well, not just a bullet, a semiautomatic weapon.
I take antipsychotic medication. Every day. From the time that we conceived until I reached 12 weeks, I stopped it. At 12 weeks, after lying on the sofa feeling sick and depressed for ages, I basically begged to start taking it again. My perinatal psychiatrist was fine with it. I didn't stop after that, and thankfully I never got postpartum depression. Having bipolar disorder, there was up to a 50% chance that I would have a relapse or get PPD in the perinatal period. I didn't.
However, there is no guarantee that I can dodge that bullet again. The gif version of what that could mean? -->
The gif makes it funny, but it's not. Having children closer together increases the risk of perinatal depression, and with my chances at 1 in 2, I'm not willing to increase the risk.
If you must know, we will be putting a few years between our kids for my mental health. I don't care that Ella won't be able to play with a sibling. I care that our child(ren) have a mother who is healthy enough to bond with them and care for them.
3. If you must know, I am very conflicted about having more children for spiritual reasons.
I believe that every personal has a soul and a spirit. It's what makes us who we are, outside of all having flesh and blood and genes. When Ella was born, the weight of that fact hit home to me. I was responsible for bearing and carrying a very precious gift. As her parents, we are responsible for teaching her about the world and what we believe.
Then, she gets to make her own choices. She may choose to become Catholic or Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim. She may choose not to believe in God (or god) at all.
I wouldn't say it worries me, but I will never take lightly the fact that having a child is another soul to prepare for both life and death, not just an attempt to even out the gender balance in our family.
4. If you must know, having children costs money, and it's not as simple as popping them out and assuming they will cover their own college education.
My parents weren't poor by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't believe I would have been able to do and see all the things that I have if they had had more children.
5. If you must know, (this bears repeating) it is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS why I am not currently pregnant or when I am planning to have any more children.
You don't know whether a woman has been struggling with infertility, whether she is trying to adopt, whether she just had a miscarriage, whether she is going through early menopause, whether she wants to have more children, whether she is scared, whether she has a medical condition which means she can't be pregnant.
If you really must know, this is what I really want to say to you as you think of asking if any woman is planning to have any children or more children when you are not her doctor or partner:
Please stop asking.