When and if people decide to have children is nobody’s business, except their own, says Geraldine Walsh.
I was quite young when we married, 22, which is far below the national average of 33. As a result of this young age, the contents of my womb have had a few more years than was necessary of inquisitive friends, families and strangers.
When we were going to have kids was, at one stage, the only topic of conversation to be had. A conversation I didn’t want to have outside of my relationship. We waited until we were seven years married before starting a family. Seven years of constantly being asked when we would spout offspring like ordinary married folk.
Throughout those years we debated, we argued, we had differing opinions, wants and needs. I wanted kids, whereas my husband was undecided and unsure. The conversation between us continued. What goes on behind closed doors shouldn’t be poked.
Many asked, many pushed, many felt it was their business to know when our family would grow. How was I to answer when we didn’t know where we stood ourselves, on a topic which was of considerable tension for us? Deciding to start a family is not so simple and straightforward.
Asking a woman when she will have a baby can hit a nerve more than you will ever know or understand. Aisling Leonard-Curtin, chartered psychologist, co-director of ACT Now Purposeful Living and author of The Power of Small, says, “Many people who ask women about their decisions and choices around parenthood lack perspective taking skills to recognise that this may be a painful or unwanted topic of conversation for them.
“Similarly some people have rigid or fixed views in terms of when women should have children and how many children they should have. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own views. However, the manner in which these views are shared can by psychologically distressing for some people.”
We now have two kids. Our youngest has just turned one and the questions have already started. When are we going again? The answer has been a resounding, “We’re not. We’re done.” We’re often given a smug reply to counter our statement, “We’ll see.” As though we’re not adult enough to know when we don’t want anymore kids.
Despite it being no one’s business, I divulge the truth to cease the consistent querying over the contents of my womb.
At 33 I decided to have a tubal ligation making our chances of conceiving again slim to none. Considering I was due a Caesarean Section it made perfect sense to complete the procedure after the birth.
Because of my age, a lot of people have an opinion on this decision. I had hoped the general wonderment of my womb would dissipate but the astonishment and questions have veered towards, I was too young, I would change my mind, I’d regret the decision, what if we wanted a boy since both of our children are girls, to the disappointing, are you mad?
Our choice is no one else’s business but I’m left with defending that decision as though my reproductive organs are public property.
Imelda Mee discovered in her late twenties that she suffered endometriosis after spending a year trying to conceive. She says that while, “It doesn’t preclude pregnancy, it certainly lowers the odds of conception. At 33 I had baby fever again but talked myself out of it. At 37 I developed an unrelated illness that required medications that couldn’t be taken while pregnant. I persuaded myself it wasn’t meant to be and that I was okay with it.”
With her understanding and acceptance that she would not have children, she has had to answer friends and family when they question her about having children.
She says, “I was chatting with a co-worker who talked about her friend with fertility issues. I mentioned the endometriosis. She said, “I never ask people why they haven’t kids because you never know why,” and in the same breath she asked me, “Why don’t you do something about it?” I was rendered speechless. We’ve all had a foot in mouth moment but to appear to be understanding of the situation and then to ask that question. After that, I just gave the answer, “I don’t want kids”.
“Seemingly that is not a good enough reason. Won’t you feel lonely? Won’t you regret it. What do your family think of that? I am also told I am better off without kids. I am lucky I don’t have to go through xyz. I have a great life because I go home to peace and quiet. I have an exquisitely painful monthly reminder that I could/should/would but don’t have a child.” Leonard-Curtin says, “Before asking someone something about parenthood, it’s best to assess your motivation and the likely impact this will have on the other person. If you do not know the person particularly well or you do not know their history or you don’t have a strong empathic connection with the person, it may be best to keep the question to yourself.” I have a simple request. Please don’t ask why or when. There is always a reason and it is a private matter.