Several times in the last few weeks, I have been reminded that we as a society have no sense of propriety when it comes to others’ reproductive health, habits, goings on, preferences, opinions, you name it! Don’t let me sound all pious, as if I haven’t been guilty of sticking my nose in to someone else’s reproductive business at least once in my life (once is generous, I’m quite sure I can name at least three such incidents, one dating back to age 10 where I asked a newly wed couple why they didn’t have a baby yet). I think that secondary infertility and miscarriage really brought the message home for me that other people need to stay out of my reproductive business. Not only do I want people to stay out of my business, we need to stay out of each other’s reproductive business. If it isn’t your baby or body, then hush it!
At a local restaurant this week, I happened to find myself face-to-face with a woman we will call Susan. I haven’t seen Susan for about a year, and we have never been close. I went to high school with her daughter, and her daughter and I were friends…twelve years ago. Within moments of stumbling upon Susan, I was ready to hide or yell or both. The exchange went something like this:
Susan: (After she pointedly looks at my belly) So, you’re expecting?
Me: No, I’m fat. (I couldn’t help myself! I didn’t even think before it came out!)
Susan: Oh, um….
Me: Just kidding. Yes, I am pregnant.
Susan: (Obviously defensive and back peddling now) I wouldn’t have said anything but that is just what I heard recently.
Me: How is Rebecca? (the daughter I went to school with)
Susan: Oh, well, she is doing fine. She just had a little boy. So she has two girls and a boy now, and I think they’re done. God, I hope they’re done. They certainly don’t need anymore and–
At this point, Eva, bless her timing, has interrupted this stream of horrible coming from Susan’s mouth. Eva needs to use the bathroom, and I could just squeeze her perfect little, tiny bladder for extricating me from this conversation before I said something extremely inappropriate but then I would have to take her home so she could change her pants. No squeezing of the bladder then, just her. I’m not sure why I felt the need to exclaim that I wasn’t pregnant and that I am instead fat, but I did. I was instantly defensive and annoyed. I have a different point of view with this pregnancy than I did before–if I wanted you (as in Susan, or anyone that I haven’t personally told) to know that I am pregnant, I would have told you. If I haven’t told you, which also means you and I aren’t even friends on Facebook, or if I haven’t seen you in a year or more, then I do not consider us to be close enough to discuss what is happening in my reproductive system currently. This sounds harsh as I type it, but I really do feel this way and I don’t think I should be apologetic about my feelings. I’m sure maturity plays a role as well in my feelings (I was 22-23 when pregnant with Eva), but the point I can’t seem to make is that I can’t be the only person that feels this way. Not only had this woman stuck her nose into my reproductive organs instantly, but she had then moved on to make her obviously negative opinion clear in reference to her daughter reproducing ever again.
Let’s play a hypothetical (which should read pointless) game for a moment. Let’s pretend that her daughter works two jobs, takes online college classes, and doesn’t have a husband or steady boyfriend. Now, I know none of this is true, but stick with me for a moment. Let’s say all three of Susan’s grandkids have a different daddy, each one worse than the last. Let’s say that Susan’s daughter is on food stamps, medicaid, and state aid for daycare. Susan herself has agreed to pick these children up daily from day care and take them to the next babysitter who keeps them until her daughter gets home from her second job. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal way to raise children. Does any of this give Susan the right, the sanction needed to justify standing in the middle of a busy, local restaurant commenting on her daughter’s reproductive choices to someone that her daughter doesn’t even know anymore? I still say no, she needs to mind her own business. Am I advocating that this is a good way to raise children? No, I’m not, but I also don’t think I should get to weigh in on the decision to get Rebecca’s tubes tied. It is none of my business!
Now, let’s move on to a lady named Hannah (fictional name, real person). Hannah chose to have (and keep) a baby she knew was not healthy. This baby has a neural tube defect that translates to two things: it’s a miracle her child is alive two years after birth, and her child will have severe physical and mental deficits her entire life. Her child will spend a large portion of her life visiting hospitals and doctors, and her child will never walk or stand or speak. Hannah was told that while still in the womb her child had suffered a severe stroke due to a blood clot which led to the neural tube defect. Genetics did not play a role in her child’s condition. This woman appears to be a fantastic mother and advocate. Hannah also chose to have another child. Her second child is completely normal developmentally and physically. Hannah’s family, however, has completely disowned her. Her parents will not get to know the joy of being grandparents to Hannah’s children and Hannah’s siblings won’t be called auntie or uncle–all because they felt it was okay to tell her she could not, should not, have another baby. While I think everyone will agree this is incredibly crappy of her family, stop for a moment to ponder why her family would think that they should have a say in her use of her reproductive organs?
A certain member of my family that will remain nameless recently weighed in on my future, hypothetical pregnancies. Of course, this was an unsolicited opinion offered up as if I am too foolish to understand what pregnancy means and all it entails like, you know, caring for a baby and then a child and then a teen (oh darn, I thought babies grew up and could support themselves within a couple years of birth). Upon sharing my news months ago that I am pregnant, the first question I received from this person was if I am considered high risk because of my age (I was exactly 30 years old, it was my birthday). This was not a joke, this person was seriously concerned that I was too old to be having babies. I explained that no, I am not high risk, and that most women these days don’t start having children until they hit their thirties. Apparently, this fell on deaf ears. After sharing the news that my baby is a boy, this same family member then asked if I would be getting my tubes tied after this baby since I will have both a boy and a girl now. My family member then proceeded to tell me that by the time I am in my forties, I will be ready to slow down and I won’t have time, energy, or the desire to continue to raise my children if they are still young. Let me just say ugh. I gave a smile and said I would pray about it (this family member is extremely religious, so the response was a better chastising remark than anything else I could have offered).
I think the pro-choice fight has had some unexpected consequences. I am not pro-abortion…not even a little. But, in a country in which we fight and argue about a woman’s right to choose to abort her baby, why do I feel like we should be fighting for a woman’s right to have a baby? Why do I feel like we should be fighting for the right to reproduce without commentary from any random person that feels they should share their opinion? The fact that we are publicly debating something so personal as reproduction choices at all is absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion. Why shouldn’t random people feel as if they are perfectly justified in commenting on my pregnancy, my future reproductive abilities, and any other woman’s on which they have formed an opinion if it is deemed okay (dare I say, even in style) to publicly decide on a woman’s right to kill her baby in utero? What a ridiculous world we live in! We have spent so much time, energy, and money on regulating women’s reproductive health, and for what? To declare that this nation is open-minded, liberal, and ever-evolving? To tout the right to choose as an avenue to empower women to be the only one’s governing their bodies? If open-mindedness (i.e. letting a woman choose what to do with her body, life, time, emotions, etc.) were really the goal, then why do so many people feel it is within their right to comment on a woman’s pregnancy, future pregnancies, infertility, family planning of any kind?
I am a married, financially stable, sane, healthy person that is already mom to one amazing girl. What my husband and I choose to do with our reproductive organs is not something that is up for public debate. We may choose not to have any more children after this one, or we may choose to have as many as we can as quickly as we can (or as my body allows, it doesn’t cooperate with having babies), or we may pick something somewhere in between those options. The key in this is that we will do what we decide is best for us, our family, and our situation. Sarah Jo or Bob or Thelma or Johnny down the street should not then feel obligated to inform me that I am too old, or that I can’t be a loving mother to so many children, or any other such nonsense that is none of their business. Worse still is that Sarah Jo, or whoever, will feel that this line of discussion is perfectly appropriate.
How frustrating to think that all the a-woman’s-right-to-choose campaigns really produced is a carte blanc to opinionated people to express their feelings on my reproductive practices.