let me start off by saying that being a woman (especially of woman of color) can be incredibly exhausting. i am frequently reminded of how different it must be to walk through the world as a man. one of the times it is most evident is when i am asked, “what’s new?” oftentimes, before i can get a full answer out about something work related, a personal project i am passionate about (like this blog), a new soul cycle instructor i like or my latest set of concert or festival tickets i purchased, the conversation is redirected to my relationship status. sometimes, it is even directed directly at my reproductive system. as i inch closer to 30, the questions seem to revolve more around marriage and/or children.
while i have some friends who are married to wonderful partners, partners who they are excited to procreate with, i also have friends who are married (or committed in some other capacity) to equally wonderful partners who have no desire to have children. i have friends in relationships where i hope they do not have children based on the partner they selected. then i have my single friends. my single female friends are all over the place – some want an army of children, some want none and some are still totally unsure.
here’s the thing – every single one of those scenarios is okay and every single one of those scenarios is personal. it is personal to the couple and more importantly, personal to the woman – the woman who could potentially be carrying this child people insist on asking about.
i have not heard a single woman describe pregnancy the same way. i actually have not heard a woman who has had multiple children describe each of her pregnancies the same way. no two women are the same and the same woman (if nourished properly by herself and her environment) is ever evolving. keep that in mind when addressing these goddesses.
now, i had seen the first part of this quote before. “‘only women get asked that when they get married. men don’t.’ so, there you have it everyone: don’t ask women — married or not — when they’re going to have kids.” when i googled it, i could not find the original source. as if the first part didn’t evoke some strong thoughts and feelings on my end, a classmate of mine who i truly respect from my grad program, lisa, added the part that is highlighted in pink. “for all women who can’t have babies, who don’t want babies, who aren’t sure yet, who can’t afford to have babies, who have trauma, whose story is different than your own…please. stop. asking. even if it feels innocent.” lisa stopped me dead in my fucking tracks.
those last two lines from lisa: please. stop. asking. even if it feels innocent. those last two lines tugged at my heartstrings.
i am asked far more frequently than i’d like when i am getting married and when do i plan on having kids. i am asked by friends, family, acquaintances and plenty of other people that have no idea what my journey has been or what i might be battling personally. i will share a bit of that momentarily.
in looking at my female friends, i would say about 70% are in committed relationships (everything ranging from having a monogamous partner with a clear understanding of that is expected all the way up to marriage with kids). the remaining 30% are single single. i had to say it twice so you could understand just how single they are. for the bulk of them, this is by choice.
with more and more of my friends getting married, i have been getting more and more of these types of questions. it is january of 2019 and i have already been invited to four weddings for this year and two for 2020. it is not that i don’t think about marriage – it would be impossible not to. but as a kid, i did not fantasize about what my wedding would look like. i actually did not believe in marriage as a concept until just a few years ago. something that i always dreamt about was the kind of mom i would be.
i have always wanted kids. as i approach my 29th birthday, i know that at this moment, i could take care of a child but do not think i am quite ready. i definitely see it in the cards for me a few years down the line. that is still my business and my choice to share. i should not feel like i am being interrogated about this.
when i moved back to la in august of 2017, my body was having a visceral reaction to the way i had treated it that last year of grad school. working four part time jobs, going to grad school full time, interviewing for jobs and moving all within the span of just a few months was too much. when things finally slowed down a bit (me having just one job, even if it was new), i started noticing how off my menstrual cycle was every two or three months. so before i could find a new primary doctor, i was on the hunt for a new ob. while i have never had an online dating app, i would assume that my hunt for an ob was similar to the hunt for a perfect date/match.
after going through about 50 profiles, i had it narrowed down to three. i studied all three and landed on the woman who has changed my life. dr. feldman is a gem of a human being – she truly cares for her patients and does not sugarcoat anything. i love that about her.
anyway, i go into this meeting to discuss birth control options to help regulate these cycles because i had been off the pill for a couple of years. we talk about different iud options because she thought that would be best after our extensive conversations. she told me she just wanted to do a full workup (including a pap) and get the results back before inserting the iud. i was on board and loved how thorough she was being. this was on a thursday. i knew something wasn’t good when she was emailing me on a saturday because she does not work weekends.
after opening this lengthy email, i am told that my test results are not normal and there is specifically something wrong with my uterus that cannot be identified based on the pap or any of the tests that were run. as any normal person would, i panicked. i was just trying to figure out what it meant. in the email, i was told i needed to have surgery to be able to rule out several things – one of them being cancer. here i was, one month after my 28th birthday, reading emails about a fucked up uterus and maybe cancer? what happened to just getting an iud?
i had an issue even verbalizing to those closest to me what was going on. part of it was that saying it out loud might make it more real but part of it was because i am used to being the backbone – how would my tribe respond to me crumbling? i honestly couldn’t say.
we scheduled the surgery with her for less than a month later. i had so many questions about what it was they were looking for, how soon would i know if i was in the clear and would i need to be put under. as a plus sized girl, i was thinking i didn’t want so much anesthesia that it was comparable to tranquilizing an elephant. and yes, i said that exact line to my doctor. we figured out a mid level anesthesia – one where i was under enough to not feel what they were doing but not so under that i could not be brought out of it with a loud yell or shake.
my weeks of panic turned out to be polyps. not cancer. not a tumor. not a cyst. just plain, old polyps. my doctor was able to remove them all and place me on meds to help regulate my cycle. still no iud – the deal was she wanted to monitor me every three months before a year to be sure nothing has grown back for moving forward with that. but let’s hop back to those weeks between the initial appointment and surgery.
all of the thoughts that crossed my mind were about kids. and in those weeks, it was almost as though i relived every single time i had been asked about when i was getting married or when i was having kids. it was a feeling that was so foul that it made me nauseous and kept me up at night. it was not just the thought about not being able to have kids that triggered this response but the audacity of people to ask those questions of me when they were in no way, shape or form prepared for a response like the one i just typed.
fortunately for me, it looks like being able to have kids is something that is still in the cards for me. however, how different would those conversations go if i had to tell someone that i had to get my uterus removed or that my chances of being able to conceive were slashed in half?
i say all of this to say: do not ask. if a woman wants you to know about whether or not she is interested in having children, trust me, she will bring it up to you.
this post was a lengthy one but i think every single syllable was necessary.
if you have had any experiences related to these types of questions, please feel free to comment or privately message me.
thank you in advance for allowing me to be vulnerable.