There is great wisdom in thinking before speaking, for following a thought through before opening one’s mouth. We’ve all been both transgressors and victims of careless (or at least less than thoughtful) questions or comments. And I am willing to bet that the vast majority of our awkward and hurtful exchanges could have been avoided if a little more consideration had been paid upfront.
Specifically, I want to address wounds inflicted among women. And more specifically, when women inquire of other women about their desire, or lack there of, for children. It’s usually done innocently enough: “So, when are you guys going to start makin’ some babies?!” or “Why no kids yet? You know there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ time!” Right. Or how about when we bring up each other’s sex lives when we ask, “So, are you guys trying right now? You gotta try a lot!” Keep Trying. Or when we put our foot a little further in our mouth when we do get a reply, but misinterpret it as an invitation to dig a little deeper: “Well, don’t worry- it’ll happen when it’s suppose. And you know what they say, stressing about it makes it even harder to conceive!” Thanks for the tip.
Ladies, please hear me. There are times and places and relationships in which these conversations are more than appropriate. What I’m referring to is when an intimate family choice is discussed flippantly and casually, as if it were commonplace and open to the public. I know we don’t mean to offend and certainly don’t set out to hurt each other, but inevitably, without proper care we end up face to face with a woman who is:
In an unhealthy marriage and praying to God she doesn’t get pregnant right now
Struggling with infertility and all the shame and insecurity that comes with it
Trying really hard to be supportive and content and full of faith in light of her husband’s infertility
Recovering from miscarriage #3 and really wants to hit you right now (please do not say anything remotely like, “it just wasn’t the right time” or “it’ll work the next time” or “it’s probably for the best”)
Content and at-home in her decision not to have children, but who still has a hard time communicating that choice without feeling judged or condescended to (“Oh, you’ll change your mind eventually!”)
18 months into “trying” and getting nowhere, who has spent hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests and ovulation kits, and is praying that this month will be the month that the stupid stick produces a plus sign for once!
Still reeling from postpartum depression & sleep deprivation like no other and if another person jokingly asks when she’s ready for Baby #2 she might just implode on the spot.
The list of potential scenarios could go on and on. I do not mean to make anyone fearful to ask a question or have a meaningful conversation with someone. I am simply suggesting that when discussing issues of family planning to consider the nature of your relationship with the woman, choose your words carefully, and be mindful of your context. Maybe a dinner party or waiting in line for the bathroom is not the best time to discuss the most successful positions for conceiving. Or maybe what is easy for you to talk about regardless of the time or place, is not as easy for others. Be discerning. Express interest, love and concern with as much propriety as you can muster. And when those times come when we are on the receiving end of a well-intended word that feels more like a blow to the uterus, let’s agree right here and now to find a gracious way to say as much to one another. Let’s acknowledge that we rarely know the whole story and ignorance is no excuse for recklessness. Let’s love one another carefully.