Seven weeks ago we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. Our little darling fills our hearts with incredible joy and awe, we daily wonder at how blessed we are. She is so beautiful, content and loved. Oh how loved she is and we constantly give thanks for her.
Every child has their own unique story to weave, and the story of their birth is one of their first stories, one day our precious girl will ask to hear hers and at the moment there is a large blot on the fabric of her story. No it wasn’t a traumatic birth, indeed the labour was rather quiet and peaceful. Like all labours it had its painful moments but when I recall her birth I remember this total sense of calmness, particularly her delivery. Unfortunately she swallowed meconium during labour and was whisked across the room to be checked immediately, as the midwives explained what was to happen, that didn’t bother me, that wasn’t the problem.
What bothered me was the question, “Are you having anymore?” yes I was still on the labour table, yes I had only just delivered my baby, whilst I can’t actually remember the sequence of events, I suspect that yes, at this stage I hadn’t even nursed my baby as she was still being checked out! This is certainly not the first time I’ve been asked this question, I’ve been asked it lots of times. Nor is this the first time I’ve been asked on the labour table!! Does it not seem insensitive and invasive to be asking this question at this particular moment!?
At that particular moment we want to focus on our newborn, searching her face for familiar and unique features, marveling over her length, counting her toes, exclaiming over the size of her feet, stroking her head, kissing her, being so grateful that all went well, giving thanks for her safe arrival, filling our hearts with happiness that she is finally here and we are beginning our lives with this precious bundle in it.
Yes she isn’t our first, in fact she is of a family larger than the norm in our society but she is just as precious to us as our first, she was longed for just as much, she deserves that her birth is celebrated just as much, she isn’t a number, she is a complete person in her own right. Loved and treasured very much.
So how did I answer? Well I tried to flip them off with “I’ve just given birth now is not a good time to ask” my husband tried “just let us enjoy this one first”. The true answer is we don’t know, we’ll discern when the time comes with He who is the Giver of Life, but for now we’re just enjoying the one we have and we haven’t quite worked out how to tell you politely “it is none of your business!” However we’re not comfortable sharing the first (as we know the reactions that would cause) and we’re too gutless to say the second.
Our experience didn’t stop there, after showering in the labour suite, I stopped at the nursery on the way to my room (I was really longing for my bed after labouring through the night and on and off for the past two days) where our darling, watched over by her doting father, was being weighed and measured. Only to receive another earful from one of the midwives, about how she didn’t want to see me back with my history of hemorrhaging (I didn’t even hemorrhage this time) this nurse has said all this to me before, quite adversely affecting me last time in fact, she possibly means well but, really, not a good time, rather a vulnerable time. Once again I tried to sidetrack this invasive, insensitive conversation, with lighthearted flippancy. A conversation made all the more uncomfortable by the presence of another midwife (who was lovely and uncomfortable too) and another mum in the nursery.
Every single member of the nursing staff who came through my doors over the next 32 hours was to ask this question, I was asked somewhere in the vicinity of 8 times. As it was an extremely busy time there was not a lot of time for chit-chatting so the questions felt even more direct. Though I’m not particularly thin skinned, every mother with a large family has to develop a thick skin, my time in hospital which I had been looking forward to felt rather spoilt, so I went home earlier than intended.
I realise that many people are simply being inquisitive when they ask this question they do not necessarily intend anything negative by their inquiry. To some a larger than average family interests them, they find us rather intriguing, they wonder about the relationships, the logistics, I do appreciate that and I’m happy to answer genuine questions. Why however does society think it is appropriate to ask for the private, intimate details of a complete stranger or acquaintance’s life?
We no longer seem to realise this topic is private, it appears that nothing is sacrosanct, many seem to feel they have a right to know, that no topic is inviolate. Recently I read a post titled Can we all just agree that fertility is not just small talk? and really, the title says it all.
Discussing fertility is a potential minefield and it is best to never ask the question. You may be probing the wound of a couple who are infertile, sub-fertile, who may be burdened with crosses you know nothing about, who have been asked this question too many times, who have no desire to discuss private details with strangers or friends. It is not our business to know the answer, sure you may wonder but never ask!