If you don’t have anything to say, don’t force the conversation. Especially sensitive topics.
Nadirah Angail, a mental health professional who works with pregnant and new moms, has had with people who don’t realize how personal and private the decision and ability to give birth is.
“There are so many variables that go into when/if a woman gives birth. But most people don’t think of that when they ask these questions,” she told Bored Panda. To illustrate just how harmful they can be, Nadirah penned an incredibly honest and poweful text called Mind Your Own Womb. The emotional piece cleverly delves into the lives of three (fictional) women, showing that there’s always more beneath the surface.
Somewhere there is a woman: 30, no children
Image credits: Rabbit Hole/OddLot Entertainment (not the actual photo)
People ask her, “Still no kids?” Her response varies from day to day, but it usually includes forced smiles and restraint. “Nope, not yet,” she says with a chuckle, muffling her frustration. “Well, don’t wait forever. That clock is ticking, ya know,” the sage says before departing, happy with herself for imparting such erudite wisdom. The sage leaves. The woman holds her smile. Alone, she cries…
Cries because she’s been pregnant 4 times and miscarried every one. Cries because she started trying for a baby on her wedding night, and that was 5 years ago. Cries because her husband has an ex-wife and she has given him children. Cries because she wants desperately to try in vitro but can’t even afford the deposit. Cries because she’s done in vitro (multiple rounds) and still has no children. Cries because her best friend wouldn’t be a surrogate. “It would be too weird,” she said. Cries because her medication prevents pregnancy.
Cries because her husband blames himself, and that guilt makes him a hard person to live with. Cries because all of her sisters have children. Cries because one of her sisters didn’t even want children. Cries because her best friend is pregnant. Cries because she got invited to another baby shower. Cries because her mother keeps asking, “Girl, what are you waiting for?” Cries because her in-laws want to be grandparents. Cries because her neighbor has twins and treats them terribly. Cries because 16-year-olds get pregnant without trying. Cries because she’s an amazing aunt. Cries because she’s already picked out names. Cries because there’s an empty room in her house. Cries because there is an empty space in her body. Cries because she has so much to offer. Cries because he’d be a great dad. Cries because she’d be a great mother, but isn’t.
Somewhere else there’s another woman: 34, 5 children
Image credits: francois karm
People say to her, “5? Good lord, I hope you’re done!” And then they laugh… because those types of comments are funny. The woman laughs too, but not in earnest. She changes the subject, as she always does, and gives the disrespect a pass. Just another day. Alone, she cries… Cries because she’s pregnant with another and feels like she has to hide the joy. Cries because she always wanted a big family and doesn’t see why people seem so disturbed by it. Cries because she has no siblings and felt profoundly lonely as a child. Cries because her Granny had 12 and she’d love to be just like her.
Cries because she couldn’t imagine life without her children, but people treat her like they’re a punishment. Cries because she doesn’t want to be pitied. Cries because she and her husband are perfectly capable of supporting their family, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Cries because they assume she’s just irresponsible. Cries because she’s tired of the “funny” comments. Cries because she minds her own business. Cries because sometimes she doubts herself and wonders if she should have stopped 2 kids ago. Cries because people are rude. Cries because all she wants to do is live in peace.
Another woman: 40, one child
Image credits: Victoria_Borodinova (not the actual photo)
People say to her, “Only one? You never wanted any more?” “I’m happy with my one,” she says calmly, a rehearsed response she’s given more times than she can count. It’s pretty believable. No one would ever suspect that alone, she cries… Cries because her one pregnancy was a miracle. Cries because her son still asks for a brother or sister. Cries because she always wanted at least 3. Cries because her second pregnancy had to be terminated to save her life. Cries because her doctor says it would be “high-risk.” Cries because she’s struggling to care for the one she has.
Cries because her husband died and she hasn’t found love again. Cries because her family thinks one is enough. Cries because she’s deep into her career and can’t step away. Cries because her postpartum depression was so intense. Cries because she had to have a hysterectomy. Cries because she wants another baby, but can’t have it.
These women are everywhere. They are our neighbors, our friends, our sisters, our co-workers, our cousins. They have no use for our advice or opinions. Their wombs are their own. Let’s respect that.
Image credits: Joey Thompson (not the actual photo)
When asked about the best response a woman could give to these questions, Nadirah said it depends on how comfortable she is being confrontational. “She could be direct and say that’s a rude and inappropriate question, but not everyone feels comfortable saying that, especially to a respected elder in the family. In that case, it may be easier to say as little as possible. If someone asks when she’s having a baby, she could say ‘Whenever the time is right,’ and change the subject. Keep it short and sweet, but never feel forced to share private information.”
Nadirah also added that when she first published this text, she got a lot of feedback from women who don’t want children. “They felt left out of the conversation. That wasn’t my intention. This is written the way it is because it’s based on real conversions I’ve had around the topic of wanting children. But of course, we should all show the same respect to women who do not want children. Their body, their choice.”