When I first found out I was pregnant with this current baby, I texted a couple friends pictures of the test–very sincerely thinking they were going to tell me nothing was there. Instead the responses I got were (hilariously, in retrospect):
“Are you okay?”
I was so embarrassed for having gotten pregnant again, so soon after the birth of my daughter, I didn’t tell anyone for as long as I could. To be totally honest, I was certain I would probably have a miscarriage. I had convinced myself we wouldn’t actually be having another baby because I couldn’t fathom how my body could possibly be capable of carrying another baby to term after just having one.
But I’m 30 weeks now, and this baby is due in two months. I am gigantic–much bigger than I ever was with the other two–and life has gone on. My two-year-old is two, my 10-month-old is 10 months old, and every time we go out, someone has something to say about it.
“You have your hands full!”
“Oh, I bet you’re busy!”
“DON’T YOU KNOW HOW THIS HAPPENS?”
I actually asked my sister, one time, if the responsible thing to do would have been to have an abortion. Like somehow I’m too… what?
Irresponsible/old/unorganized/flighty/stupid/messy/poor to be having these kids?
Because, why? My kids are running around like feral animals, unbathed and poorly dressed and underfed?
I can realize now that I felt judged by what were probably just passing comments meant to be funny. I felt like people were commenting at me–not to me, not with me. And I internalized this as:
I’m not ready.
I’m too tired.
I’m not good enough for this.
I’m not responsible enough for this.
I don’t have enough money for this.
In a tearful fit of anxiety, I was sharing all this with a dear friend, who commiserated for as long as she could, until she said the thing that I will carry with me forever.
“You have nobody to apologize to. You’re having a third baby with your husband, who you love. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.”
She’s right. So maybe we Neftlixed and Chilled too much too soon after the birth of our son…and then our daughter. But, my kids are clean and fed and I think they’re pretty happy. And you know what? I’m pretty damn happy they’re here.
So perhaps these comments are just fleeting attempts at funny conversation. And maybe these people spaced their kids out intentionally and are better at planning or taking birth control, or maybe even actually just watch Netflix and chill. They see how busy and tired I am and how much busier and even more tired I’m going to be, and don’t want to be me–they’re grateful they’re not me.
But you know what? I don’t really care.
For the first time in all these pregnancies, it’s kind of amazing to me that, when I thought it couldn’t, it did: this body has conceived and carried another baby while taking care of two other ones.
So I have this idea. Let’s lay off of women and their bodies in the passive language we use: let’s stop asking when they want a baby, when they want another one, and why they wanted the ones they have, even as chaotic as their lives may seem.
The next time you see a pregnant lady carrying one baby on her hip, and one by the elbow out of a parking lot, just open the door for her without a comment that alludes to her sex life.
There’s space in this world for women to make their own decisions about their bodies. Instead of teasing them about their offspring–the absent, the lone, the many–just say something nice.