‘I just grew so tired of having to explain myself, and even now I still feel judged’. The lovely Mama opposite me spoke softly as she bounced a grinning baby boy on her knee. He was all rubber band wrists and chubby thighs, so cute I could have eaten him up. The ‘threenager’ and I had taken a pitstop in our local coffee shop and I found myself sharing the long table with a lady so sleep deprived she could have killed for her coffee (her words not mine). We began chatting, as mums do; there is always some common ground when small people are concerned. I had asked the name of her boy, she had asked me how old little O was (being polite I think, the child was quite clearly acting her age), then I had asked the question that lead us to our conversation, ‘is he your first?’
The baby is her first yes, but I could tell she was uncomfortable talking about it, so I backed off, she asked if I would be having any more, I became mildly uncomfortable too, we stopped trying to make small talk and laughed, fortunately. Our conversation could have so easily become upsetting, but neither of us meant any harm, therefore I need to pose the question, should we be so open in our small talk? The lovely lady sitting opposite me was in her forties, she married in her early twenties and it had taken her almost twenty years to conceive the child they so desperately wanted. As if being pumped with hormones and having your fertility tested, wasn’t bad enough, in day to day situations, when she should have been able to put all that to one side, she found it being dragged up by complete strangers, or party guests.
‘Best not leave it too long love, the clock’s ticking.’
‘Don’t you want kids whilst you are still young enough to run around after them?’
Really?! All the time nodding and smiling when deep down she felt she was being torn in two. Eventually she told people that she wasn’t planning on having children at all, a lie, but like it was any of their business anyway. Once she finally did get pregnant she was then deemed a ‘geriatric mother’ and she ‘shouldn’t really have left it so late.’ It seems when children are involved everyone feels they are justified an opinion on your womb. I see it so often, married a year and everyone assumes you will be having children next, if they don’t come straight away you are questioned, ‘when do the children arrive?’
In my case I am so lucky to have conceived so easily with my children, but my pregnancies, particularly with Little O, were tarnished with hyperemesis. I would love to have another but I couldn’t put my body, or my family, through that again. I have friends who found the first so easy, but have miscarried so many times when trying for the second that they are considering giving up. Their first is now reaching school age so, you guessed it, constant questions and accusations at being selfish for keeping their child an only child, which is a completely ridiculous concept. Enough.
I am all for being open, in fact I encourage it where all these subjects are concerned. When I miscarried between child one and two it helped to talk through my feelings, and only once I began talking about it did I realise just how common it was. It doesn’t take the pain away, but it helps knowing you are not the only one living with it. However, there is a difference between being ready to talk about a subject, and feeling judged by complete strangers, or ‘well meaning’ family members, and trying to justify your actions. From now on I will be decidedly more careful with my small talk, I know it won’t always be easy, there is always a subject matter that could cause concern, but lets face it, the idea of discussing a stranger’s sex life comes across as a bit weird, but that’s exactly what we do when we talk about babies. I think in future I will begin with how good the coffee is, but I am so glad that Mama did decide to open up to me, I am richer for it…