It started early — really early. Blaise, my first child, was just over a year old.
On the phone with my father, I told him we were thinking of having another baby. “You don’t want to have another baby,” he snapped. “We had you and your sister close together, and it was so hard. It will ruin your life. You don’t want to do that.” Side note: My sister and I are 16 months apart, well closer than any sibling and Blaise would have been, even if we’d stopped the car mid-lane, stripped down, and got it on right that second.
And way to reveal that my sister and I ruined your life, Dad. That’s on the list of “Things I Never in the History of Ever Wanted To Hear,” along with details of my parents’ sex life and Donald Trump’s bedroom peccadillos.
This would not be the first time people questioned our reproductive decisions. In fact, once you have kids, your vagina meeting your husband’s penis in unprotected coitus becomes a topic of interest to many, many people. This interest takes many forms. It spouts from the mouths of close relatives and Target clerks alike. Old ladies seem particularly likely to voice their opinions on your family, its size, its gender composition, and the overall effect parenthood has on you. It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. And most of all, it’s none of anyone’s damn business.
This unsolicited feedback from the peanut gallery has taken many, many forms.
Commentary on Timing
People harassed us about both our second and third children. My family wasn’t pleased I’d elected to get pregnant when Blaise was only 15 months old, making he and August only 22 months apart. We were out at brunch, at a favorite restaurant, when I brought up the subject of another baby. Blaise burbled in the corner next to us, gumming pickles, and throwing his napkin for entertainment. My mom retrieved it. “You don’t want another baby right now,” she said sternly. “It’s too close.”
Which was a shame: I was just pregnant with August and knew it. I sulked for the rest of the meal and didn’t speak to her for months. What was I going to tell her, after she was so adamant I not procreate again? “Hi mom, I’m on three meds to keep me from barfing my brains out my nose and sick as the proverbial dog, because, you know, pregnant.” We eventually told her. She feigned happiness. But she’d ruined it already.
But of course, if we hadn’t have gotten pregnant just then, we’d have gotten the dreaded “When will the second come along?” comments. At the pediatrician’s, when the nurse saw Blaise was walking at one year, she shook her head. “Movin’ on up for the next one,” she said. Um, no.
At least we never waited long enough to get the dreaded, and completely rude, only-child comments. “You don’t want an only child,” people will tell you. “They’re selfish/mean/lonely/psychopathic.”
Then, god forbid, you’d say you only wanted one. People will actually attempt to argue you out of it: “Your kid will be lonely and have to shoulder the burden of caring for you in your old age.” You cannot shut these people up. They are relentless.
Commentary on My Choice to Have a Child
Then came the questions from everyone and their favorite Target clerk. They looked at the toddler wrapped on my back, eyed my big belly, and asked, “Was it planned?” Essentially, people thought it was okay to ask if my birth control failed. I always snapped, “Yes, it was planned,” and revved from friendly to bitchtastic for the rest of the interaction. Because no one has the right to ask about what happens in my bedroom — no one. And whether or not a child is planned falls squarely into bedroom zone, and none of your damn business.
I got pregnant with No. 3 when August was only 16 months old. The questions about family planning nearly doubled then, except among the Catholics, who never made a flippant remark about our growing family during weekly mass. They used the only correct words for learning about a pregnancy: “Congratulations!” Score one for the Catholics.
Newsflash: It is never okay to ask if a child is planned — ever. I don’t care if it’s your 16-year-old niece flashing a baby bump. The only correct response is “Congratulations. Do you need any help?”
Commentary on My Gender Distribution
I always wanted boys. I would have welcomed a girl, of course, but I had always dreamed of having sons.
So when I was pregnant with my third, the world would eye my two little dudes and ask excitedly, “Did you get your girl this time?” They’d say this in front of my wide-eyed sons. No, assholes, we didn’t “get our girl,” I wanted to snap, “because we didn’t want a girl.” “We got a boy, just like we wanted,” I’d say, all Southern-sweet. They’d seem perplexed. “You didn’t want a girl?” they’d ask, as if the only possible reason to pop out a third child was to produce a child of the desired (absent) gender. “No,” I’d say, and leave it at that because I do not owe strangers an explanation.
Now people see me in Target with my three sons, ages 7, 5, and 3. Whenever they act up, it’s always, “Oh, poor mom, trapped with all those boys! How do you do it?! God bless you!” I don’t need to be blessed. I need my 3-year-old to stop screaming, and his gender has nothing to do with that. We get asked if we’ll try again for another girl. “We’re going to do foster/adopt,” I respond. “We’re asking for another boy.” Then I watch their eyes blow up with questions that only my stern glare stops.
Even my babysitter got in on the act recently. She asked how I liked being the only girl in the house.
“I have Mingus,” I said.
“Mingus?” she asked.
“Mingus, the boxer dog.”
“Oh,” she said, clearly unsure where to take the conversation next, which was exactly what I was going for.
The Question “Are you done?”
Now that it has been several years since we’ve announced a pregnancy, people want to know if we are “done.” I smile and say we’re adopting, which we are, but the questions linger: “Why not biologically?” “Are you unable to conceive now?” “What are you using to prevent?” I throw it all out there to make the busybodies as uncomfortable as possible: “I’m on too many psychiatric meds to carry a safe pregnancy. My shrink says not to get pregnant, so this uterus is closed for business unless I happen to magically get less crazy, which isn’t likely to happen short of divine intervention or electroshock therapy.”
As for how we’re “preventing,” that’s nunya. As in, nunya business, dude.
Because when it comes to my family planning, the only people who get a say are the ones responsible for the love and care of the child. Not their families, not their kids, not their internet commenters, and not the old lady in the toiletry aisle of Target — especially not her. Tell me my kids are cute. Tell me they’re loud and obnoxious. But for the love of all things holy, don’t tell me I need a girl.
And especially don’t ask me if I’m pregnant.