The only way I would ever ask a woman if she was pregnant would be if she had a small baby sized appendage sticking out of her nether regions. Even in that case, unless I was the most responsible person in the room and therefore in charge, by default, of getting her help with this odd conundrum, I probably would keep my curiosity to myself. Because of my reluctance to ask such a personal question, I was surprised to find myself in an encounter, unlike above, where the inquiry came so casually.
There I was, minding my business, at work, and a coworker completely out of the blue asked me if I was pregnant. I am not in the best shape of my life, but I was a little surprised at the inquiry. Not only was I a little flabbergasted at the thought that I may just look pregnant regularly, but I had just dropped a few pounds. “No. I guess I am just fat.” I responded flatly.
This happened to fall on one of the two midnight shifts I work each year. Normally, I don’t even eat at work because I usually work pretty early so I am out by lunch time, but because of the shift in my sleep due to the awkward hours, I had a few pieces of candy management had put out for a small energy boost, or just as reward for making it in extra early, in my pocket for when coffee alone wasn’t cutting it. The thought of eating the candy immediately made me feel guilty. As if having some peanut M&Ms after working throughout the night was an ethical transgression I should be ashamed of. So those peanut M&Ms that had not melted in my pocket, did not even have the chance to melt in my mouth.
Okay, it is obvious that assuming someone is calling you fat is a downer, but it is not even the worse part of this inquiry. I feel like family planning should be something you discuss with your partner, your best friend, your mother or anyone else who might be privy to other personal information that closely drives this decision. I find it disconcerting that people would flat out ask you a question that holds baggage for so many people. The physically appearing pregnant part only made my discomfort of inquiring into my child making status only slightly more irritating but it was the casual lightness that surrounds such a personal question that really grinds my gears.
Most people would not just flat out ask your salary, your blood pressure, your diet or other personal things, yet they have no problem bringing up the conversation of family planning as easily as light banter over the weather. My decision to have children did not come lightly. When I first got married I had a step-child in a terrible situation. If it wasn’t bad enough we were pouring all of our finances, energy and heart into a heart-wrenching court battle. I felt bad complicating the matter by adding a child that got to stay with us every time my SD cried hysterically while having to go back to her other home. So the question, when are you going to have your own child, was not only a little presumptuous, assuming that I saw my SD as anything less than my own, but it also reminded me of what a terrible place I was in, where circumstances were not only taking a toll on my daily life, but putting on hold all my plans and dreams in the future.
I ended up having my first born, but second child in April of 2012, and by that August, even though we were still in court, SD slept at our house 365 nights a year. As wonderful as having two girls was, I had always wanted more children. Unfortunately, the stress of dealing with court, both criminal and family, precinct drop offs, restraining orders, social service visits, and a various assortment of stress inducing incidents due to a vindictive, dishonest women with loose morals, if any at all, was too much of a drain on my marriage and although I gained two beautiful daughters out of the deal, my marriage had dissolved. It took me a long time to see if our relationship was salvageable. During this period, I would not bring another life into an unstable relationship.
So here I am, exhausted, trying to recover from the whirlwind of emotions that went with having your life on hold, your child in danger and your future out of your control, dealing with another inevitable life altering event and I guess my youngest is old enough for people to assume I should get started on another, and the questions start rolling in. “When are you trying for another?” “When are you going to try for your boy?” These weren’t people who I was close to, otherwise they would have known about my impending divorce.
The first few times from each individual, I would simply say a blanket response, like I enjoyed the kids I have too much already or I joked I didn’t want to chance another girl and have four under one roof. But over time, I began to say things like when I find another husband or after my marriage ends maybe I can find another sucker to knock me up, something to end the inquiries for good. The honest answer was, I did want another child very badly and I wondered if there would be time to start all over and settle down before it was too late. That’s not really something I want to discuss with a co-worker or casual acquaintance, nor something I want to be repeatedly asked and reminded of on a regular basis.
Everyone in life walks a different path and you may never know what silent battles they are struggling with. I couldn’t imagine how much more difficult these questions would be to field if I was actively trying to conceive and facing issues. We are in a time where infertility rates are sky rocketing and many are silently suffering in anguish and some even shame. If your friendship or even just your casual acquaintanceship would not leave you privy to such information as impending divorce, fertility issues, serious illness, or other possibly sensitive details, you probably should not ask a question where such factors can play a major role.
There are plenty of trivial things that can be used to foster communication. Feel free to discuss televisions shows, weather, popular culture, the stock market, and, I would even take politics over the status of my womb. What do you think about pregnancy inquiries? Do you think they are too forward or just harmless small talk? Has someone ever asked you something personal?