In Her Words
When To Have Another Baby?
The big and sometimes intrusive question
When I was single, people were always asking me, “When are you going to get married?”
When I actually did get married, people started asking me, “When are you going to have a baby?”
When I gave birth to that baby, people … gave me a blessed two-year honeymoon from all the personal questions.
They just asked the anxiety-provoking “yet” questions about the baby instead: “Isn’t he sleeping through the night yet? Why isn’t he crawling yet? Oh my God, he’s a year old and he’s not walking yet? He’s two, and you haven’t signed him for an SAT prep course yet?” Okay, so maybe no one asked the last question … at least, not yet.
But once my son blew out two candles on his birthday cake, I began getting the logical follow-up question to all those questions: “When are you going to have another baby?”
Yes, The Question. It was a perfectly logical question. I recognized that and wasn’t offended. (I also joked that, of course, people loved my child so much that they were just dying for me to have a second one.)
But to be completely honest, I didn’t particularly want to have another baby yet, let alone discuss it with acquaintances or strangers. I felt like I had just recovered from having the first one. I definitely needed some time to get my brain around the idea of having more than one child in my house.
I mean, I still refer to my 3-year-old as “the baby,” for God’s sake. Wouldn’t it get confusing if we had an actual baby in the house, along with a 36-pound person who speaks in complete sentences?
So I developed a strategy: artfully dodge The Question.
“Oh, someday,” I’d say, smiling beatifically and waving my hand in the air and looking off into space, as if fondly dreaming of that day. “We’ll see.”
Or, on the days when my son was particularly, er, challenging, my eyes might have bulged out just a wee bit, and I might have shrieked something more along the lines of “Have another one? Are you insane?”
Now, I do realize that this question is just a light, friendly question most of the time. And that’s how I usually take it myself. But for some women, it can feel really intrusive.
Look at The Question itself: “When are you going to have another baby?”
Now, let’s think about it objectively. It’s the kind of question that tends to spawn (no pun intended) even more questions. Consider the logical follow-ups that you might want to ask yourself: Well, when are you going to have another baby? Are you even going to try? Do you even want another one? If so, when’s the best time? How do you know? How many is the right number? How do you know that?
Whew. That’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? I mean, at the end of a long day, wouldn’t most of you rather just prop your feet up and watch Grey’s Anatomy with a big glass of wine? Especially if you haven’t really formulated any solid answers to the follow-up questions yet?
So for a few minutes, let’s think about the way that The Question might come across to someone who had trouble conceiving her first baby. There’s some pressure right there, even though it’s highly unlikely that was the intent of the person who asked the question.
The person casually asks, “So when are you going to have another one?” And chances are the person is not expecting a detailed answer. She probably means well. In fact, she may not even care much about the answer. She may just be filling a space in the conversation, making chit chat.
But the woman hears something else underneath The Question. She hears all the questions that might be running through her own head: “If you’re going to have another one, don’t you think you’d better get started? Have you thought about what will happen if you can’t conceive another one naturally? Can you afford to do IVF/IUI/GIFT? Do you really think your life will be complete if you just have one child? What’s wrong with you? Well? Well? WELL?”
Boy, if that’s not enough to send you running for the bar, I don’t know what is.
But of course, she’s probably too polite to whack you over the head and berate you for stressing her out with your mild curiosity. So she probably just smiles and says something innocuous and vague. (I highly recommend, “Someday” and “We’ll see” in that case, by the way.)
So I’ve learned to never ask The Question of other women unless they’re close friends – or unless they bring up the topic of conversation themselves. I don’t want to risk stressing some poor woman out over a conversation filler. And I’m hoping the karma will run both ways … that is, at least until I’ve got my own specific answer to The Question ready for public consumption.