I recently attended a family party where I saw many people who I hadn’t seen in 10 years or more. This is actually family through marriage, but family all the same. It was wonderful to see these strangers; I mean family, especially because EVERY time I’m in attendance at a family event such as this one, I learn something new about myself. I’m there observing and making mental notes and usually secretly cursing myself for coming in the first place.
This particular occasion is a cozy Los Angeles backyard birthday party, on a chilly June
night complete with a DJ playing awful banda music, birria, homemade potato salad and enough Mexican beer to share with a football stadium. “Andrea! You are so beautiful!” I heard many times throughout the night, often with a condescending tone of surprise that I pretend not to hear. I smile and nod my practiced smile and make my way to Tio Juan’s hidden tequila stash…
It isn’t until the dinner is finished, cake has been served, and dishes cleared that the real interrogation starts, and several, and I mean several aunts, cousins, mothers of such-and-such and wives of so-and-so ask the question that was no doubt burning in their minds all night:
“So when are you having a baby?” “Are you trying to have a baby?”, “Are you on birth control?”, “Don’t you want children?”, “Your poor mother must be dying for grandchild” and other questions along the same line were flung at me like that relentless ball shooter found at batting cages. It was so bad that later, a male cousin and dear friend of mine apologized to me for his aunt’s inquest as he had walked by at one point and witnessed my distress at the wearisome line of questioning. Funny that it was a man who had this level of sensitivity for me. Just saying.
Ladies, take note, as I’m sure I am speaking for childless women everywhere. All baby questions are loaded and to be blunt, none of your business. I truly have no idea why anyone feels like this is an appropriate thing to ask to begin with. It’s like saying to a person you really don’t know: Are you and your husband f*cking on the regular? Are you gonna do it tonight? How many times a week are you having sex him? Is there something wrong with you, like a medical problem?
No sensible person would ask these questions, although I am talking about my family here, so I guess sensible goes out the window, but still… I know I’m not alone here.
The level of interest this group of women took in my desire to procreate made me the most uncomfortable I’ve been since that time my boss got a spray tan and came to lunch with a new client I was meeting looking like an Oompa-Loompa…
Kidding aside, I felt very judged. They told me the life I live wasn’t legit unless I had a child to share it with, a concept that made me feel sorry for them actually. I could see they didn’t approve of my child-less life, and I’m pretty sure this is directly linked to my heritage. The judgment about this type of thing is worse for Latinas I think. Maybe it’s because Latinas have such an identity linked to motherhood, so without the role, many of us don’t have an identity.
Perhaps its our reverence for Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus, or our connection to the Catholic church whose strict notions about birth control are intrinsically linked to our exaggerated breeding patterns and in turn, the prevalence of our poverty level. Just saying.
On the other hand, it could also be that most of my cousins were knocked up or knocked somebody up in high school, and while I was in college they worked on having multiple children, even adding a new baby daddy or baby mama to the mix by the time I was finishing grad school.
Now that we are well into our 30’s, they are watching their children graduate high school while I only recently got married, way past my expiration date according to many by the way…
The truth is, my choice to put off motherhood is a value that was ingrained in me at a very young age, (a value my mother totally regrets now). What can I say? I enjoy sleeping in whenever I can and the freedom to go on an unplanned getaway without a second thought. My two person two dog family is a family, and in no way diminishes anyone else’s family, life, or life style. I am not saying mine is better, I’m just saying it’s my own. You may have 13 children and live in a shoe and I will never question your life. It’s a shame I have to explain mine.
Ever heard that expression about not judging someone until you have walked a mile in his or her shoes? The baby question is loaded with all kinds of emotion and baggage many people may innocently not be aware of, therefore, I’d like to share some scenarios for your consideration.
First, there’s a question of health. You don’t know what condition I’m in, nor the health condition of my husband. Maybe I went through early menopause or have some other fertility issue that has left me with no eggs. Maybe he has erectile dysfunction, or no live sperm after the cancer treatments he had in his 20s. Is this your business?
Then there’s a question of relationship status. Maybe my husband and I have no intimate relationship to speak of because he’s having an affair with the 24 year old intern at his work. Maybe I hate him and I really sleep in another room in our house. Perhaps I’m not really married and I’m just pretending to be so my mom doesn’t have a heart attack. Hey, it could happen. Believe me.
Next is the heartbreaking issue of planning. What if last year we spent $60,000 at a fertility clinic in Orange County only to be told, “Sorry, we’ve done all we can.” Or perhaps I had a miscarriage last month. Again. Maybe we have been on the waiting list with LA County to adopt a child for the last two years and I cry daily at the fact that I’m waiting on a broken system to deliver my miracle. You never know…
My point is, you can’t imagine what someone has gone through to have or not have a baby, so the next time you want to ask, don’t. Remember me and say something else. Say something light, like “cute earrings!”