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Regarding Fertility for ‘Those Who Ask’

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!

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  • Erin

    Oh yes I remember now little bro, but honestly that moment was overshadowed by the embarrassment that the nurse asked me intimate questions about several bodily functions in front of my teenage son and young bachelor brother. Sorry about that:(

  • Bron Maxabella

    I think this question really isn't anyone's business, regardless of whether it's your first baby or your tenth. IT's a loaded question anyway – damned if you say yes, damned if you say no. You're such a tactful, considerate person, Erin. I think, I would definitely have slugged them with a "that's not really your business now, is it?"!!! x

  • Karen @ Pieces of Contentment

    Having given birth to our last 6 in the same hospital I don't recall being asked that question once. Admittedly I've not stayed in hospital more than a few hours for each of the last four.

    When asked this question by others I usually say we aren't sure (or now that's it not likely due to my age) but that we are very grateful for the ones we have, especially our youngest which I had at 44.

  • deopatriaeamicis

    I'm sorry you had that experience. As someone who has spent the last few years on the opposite end of the fertility spectrum, questions about one's future childbearing plans (whether "so when are you two going to have kids" or "when are you going to stop") are never welcome. I think people often fail to pause and consider what a personal and rude question they're really asking. On the bright side, now that we've adopted our twins people are so busy staring at the white mother of black twins that they forget to be nosy about infertility :D.

    Now that you've been home a bit, have you considered writing or calling the hospital to discuss your experience as you did here? You might be helping other Moms of large families avoid the same experience by encouraging the hospital to appropriately train their staff. I'm not sure about the structure of hospitals in Australia, but here there is usually a Patient Advocate assigned to the hospital, or at least a route for complaints or a service chief/administrator one can write. My husband is a doctor and clinic chief and he always wants to know if his staff have been rude or inapropriate, or if there's a way he can improve patient services. His hospital takes complaints very seriously.

  • Mandi @ Messy Wife, Blessed Life

    I feel like medical personnel should go through yearly "tact" meetings. I got some awful comments from a midwife after my miscarriage as well and all I could think was how that woman must be around miscarrying women quite frequently – has no one told her how rude and callous she comes off? This all seems common sense to me (not to ask a mother if she's having any more RIGHT AFTER LABOR), but I feel like most people probably don't stand up from themselves so they just never know they're being inappropriate. Imagine how much better life would be if medical staff were compassionate and kind and always used common sense?

    Thanks for linking to my post and sharing yours with me!

  • Bec - Mumma Tells

    I'm sorry that this was your experience, and wholeheartedly agree that the question is unnecessarily invasive.
    My newest babe is 12 weeks and I've been asked numerous times also – although not in e delivery suite – by health care professionals, family and friends. We're currently blessed with two, our eldest daughter being 2 and I am ever so raided of hearing how I just keep on "popping the out!" Seriously.

  • Lauren Matheson

    Firstly, congratulations on the arrival of your precious baby girl. I hope she (and you) are doing well. Having struggled with fertility and experiencing three hight risk pregnancies and preterm births, I've also been asked this questions many times. I am often astounded by how forthright complete strangers can be, and why they feel they have every right to ask such personal and private questions.

  • Jeanne

    Erin, beautiful, I love you, and I love this post. Coming from a smaller than average family, I love having the opportunity to hang out with your larger than average one. Sorry you were hurt. xx

  • Christy from fountains of home

    Ohh Erin! I so get this. And it is so unfortunate that you got so many comments. It baffles me that people think these questions appropriate. I almost feel as if we should be ruder so that people got the hint. Especially at such an emotional and beautiful time, like just having given birth to a beautiful baby! I'm always thankful I've birthed at home or at a birth centre and that the midwife I've had for all five of my babies is herself a mother of 12 and completely understanding!

  • Olivia

    WHAM mother, you nailed that one!
    I get the same question a lot too, but because my kids look quiet different (with multicultural genes) I always get "Are they all from the same father?".
    Oohhhhh that erks me.

  • Multi-tasking Mama

    Tell them you will keep going until you find one you like … I jest of course. I do think they were very inconsiderate and rude and the hospital/birthing clinic should be told (especially about the comment after immediately giving birth – my jaw dropped when I read that) even if you simply give them a link to your blog posting. Some training in tact needs to be implemented at that place!

  • Jessica

    I too think you should write and complain. I'm sorry that those kind of questions are commonplace, when in actuality they are just downright rude. It's really is NOBODY's business except yours and your husband's.

  • Sonia LifeLoveandHiccups

    Oh Erin, I feel so bad for you that they repeatedly asked that intrusive question instead of just letting you enjoy your precious tine with your precious newborn. I dont think anyone should ever ask this question as you dont know how it will effect the person you are asking… and especially not on the freaking labour table. Blessings for your beautiful little girl huni, for your older kids an for any other that you may or may not have xx

  • Iliska Dreams

    First off congratulations on an amazing new bubba. Second I agree, as a woman who spent five years trying to have my second, I am surprised when random strangers ask why there is a 19 year gap between my children, or why I am not yet pregnant. Do i scream at them "if I could fall pregnant, then not miscarry well then I would have another!", do I tell them to bugger off? Do I tell them the truth? Even though I only have two I always wanted twelve, problem is my body doesn't work as well as I would like?

  • Sharyn

    I'm so sorry this happened to you Erin! I have found that the more babies I have had the more I appreciate just what a special moment birth is. I really felt this time that I didn't want to have my baby in the hospital. Didn't want to be at the mercy of strangers at such a precious and vulnerable time. There is much that needs changing in our current hospital systems.

    I will pray for your healing!

    God bless you and your family!

  • Alison June

    Oh, Erin. This is so sad. Your wording here is so beautiful. You so perfectly capture those early moments in words. People can be so rude. I was told not to have anymore by the doctor that delivered my last child after a rough labour. Of course at that moment I shuddered at the thought of being in that position again but it is something my mind wanders back to whenever I considered adding another child to our family.

  • Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Mummy)

    Oh Erin, I really do feel for you. Having these questions asked, especially after having your bub is just not right. As someone having post natal depression, it really annoyed me at the times I was asked this question because not only is it not their business, they didn't realise the worry and the pain I had been going through even thinking about how I would cope with a second. Best wishes to your family.

  • Erin

    Oh wow! I was so overwhelmed with all your kind words of support and understanding, thank you!!!{{}}

    and thank you for sharing your fertility struggles, it is indeed a cross and my heart goes out to you{{{}}} I was honoured you shared.

    and thank you for those who shared the other insensitive comments that have been said to them{{}}

    May we all remember to be gentle and sensitive to one another{}

  • Shari Wakefield

    I'd love to be blessed with a large family. I have two little boys already – but if that's all that God chooses to bless us with then that's okay too. I feel like everyone would be so much happier if we just gave everyone a little more respect these days.

    • Erin

      Then I pray you may be so blessed, it is such a privilege to be the mother of a large family. And if as you say it doesn't happen then I pray you may have peace.
      Yes respect, so lacking!

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