Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Pregnancy When the Comments Stopped (so far)

I realize that writing this post pretty much guarantees that I'm going to hear a bunch of pregnancy comments the moment I walk out of the house... and in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't matter either way, because regardless of the comments I've heard during various pregnancies from various people, we know that this pregnancy is a blessing and that's really what matters in our little house.  Still, it's been really quite nice not to have heard a single negative thing so far while navigating with three little ones in tow!  And that is the inspiration for this post:

During my past pregnancies I've written various posts about the not-so-polite things that people have burst out with, since some time during pregnancy #3.

This pregnancy, however, has been different.  And it's kind of wonderful.  Being pregnant with 3 little kids in tow has marked a turning point (actually, looking back at old posts it seems that there was a decrease with 2 kids in tow too!  I think the worst responses we faced were actually with the baby that we lost, which would have been pregnancy #3).

Okay, I can't entirely credit it with having three little kids with me.  I think that it might be partly due to the fact that we live in Michigan now and that people here seem much less likely to comment on a persons family size or ask someone in the checkout line if a woman's husband is "going to get snipped this time" in this part of the country, than they were when we lived in either California or Florida (because now that I think about it I did get comments before we left Florida with pregnancy #4).

I think living in a small city helps too, because people are less likely to approach a random stranger and shower them with advice than they'd be with a person they don't really know but see regularly in a small town.  I love living in small towns but I guess living in a more populated area does have certain advantages.  Strangers are less likely to comment on your family size... probably because they're less likely to make eye contact at all.

Still, for those of you who are in the midst of hearing "you know what causes that" or "don't you guys have TV?" or who are hearing inquiries as to whether you're going to "keep trying for a girl/boy?" I thought I'd share that as our family has grown it has gotten better.

Here's why:

I no longer get pregnancy advice or hear pregnancy horror stories from complete strangers.  On those rare occasions when I run into a store alone people who stop me and say "Oh is this your first?" are so shocked when I say, "Not exactly!  We have three at home!" with a smile that they seldom get out more than "But you look so young!"  That's when I really, really want to say "I was 26 when I had my first!" to prevent that forehead scrunching "how old were you?" look that usually follows... but hey, at least it's not a comment, and I can so, so deal with a "how young were you?" look over horror stories any day of the week.

Paul shocks people even more though because when he hears "is this your first pregnancy?" he says, "actually this is our fifth," and people just about fall over.

People no longer come up and touch my stomach.  Maybe it's because Patch is usually balanced there, or because Mae is ready to grab and hold tight to any hand that comes with in an arms length of her and inspect their rings, but whatever the reason, not many people get in patting distance of my bump these days.

We have yet to hear "was this baby planned?" from anyone whether it's a friend, family member or complete stranger (with the exception of hearing at my doctor's office where I know it's just a question they have to check off the list).  I think we've reached the point where people are just expecting another pregnancy to be announced at any time and so they aren't really shocked any more when it happens.

Or they read this blog and have read my past rants on the subject and know that I'm not a fan of this particular question.

No one has asked if "we're going to keep trying for a boy?" because he's usually sitting in the chart grinning at them.  Those pesky assumptions that any kids that we had after Sadie were just an attempt to get a boy seem to have gone out the window.

I have to say, I'm enjoying not hearing the same comments that we've gotten in the past, whether it's due to a change in geography or because I'm usually surrounded by little people who are clamoring for my attention.

Still, after hearing from friends and reading other blogs I suspect there's a tipping point where a family is so big that people can't contain there comments any longer and just have to say something... Or maybe geography will protect against that if we ever wade into those waters.

Maybe by the time I reach that particular point in life I'll finally have something clever or kind to say, rather than just looking shocked that a stranger is enquiring about something so personal...

14 comments:

Liz said...

I don't know, Cam, I know that the comments people made to my friend;s daughter when the mom was expecting #9 (and this was people at the Catholic high school the daughter attended) were so vicious that she came home in tears. Of course, that was back in the 1970s when Catholics had totally embraced contraception...

Cam Wollner said...

Yeah, that's kind of why I have a feeling that they'll start again at some point (I have a feeling maybe around 5) when it's so unusual that people can't help but comment. Although I'm hoping maybe some of that mid-west/great lakes area politeness might save me if we manage to stay here! I hope!

Peklet Mom said...

We have been blessed with 7 children here with us. I think the funniest thing was when I caught someone counting us as we made out way to our 12 passenger van. I had to turn back and grin at them as I helped them all in the van one at a time, including the baby in the infant car seat. Then I slid the door shut and grinned back again saying,

"There's seven! And yes they are all mine!" With another grin and a wave I heaved up into the van and we were off. :)

Anonymous said...

Okay, you probably won't want to use any of these responses, because you are too kind and nice, but here's some suggestions:
"Don't you know how that works?" or it's variation: Answer: (with a smile) "Yes, we do! Isn't it wonderful?"
"Don't you guys have T.V.?" Answer: "Nope. Do you think we should get one?" "Yes, but we only watch PBS." (a nonsense answer, as if you misunderstand the intent of the question.)
"Is your husband going to get snipped after this?" Answer: "I certainly hope not!"
"Are you trying for a boy/girl?" Answer: "Well, we were hoping for a puppy, but these keep coming out." or (nicer) "Oh, it doesn't matter to us. We're just hoping it's healthy."
"Was this baby planned?" Answer: "Between my husband and myself, yes, but we didn't know we had to contact you to see what you thought." nicer "Of course!"
And in general, "Well, this is our (4th, 5th, xth), but we are hoping for (12, 14, 16)." Have a nice day! or "Please don't be jealous. I'm just very healthy and fertile."
So maybe you can just act like they're happy for you, and respond as if they are saying, "Oh, you lucky stiff." instead of making the snide remarks they are making.
It's so unfortunate, because all of us face unkind remarks from strangers over something. I usually take it as if they have just slapped Christ, and I try to respond with the turning the other cheek modesty, just not responding.
But it's very interesting how we "enforce" the social expectations we've internalized, and serve the agenda by exerting social pressure on each other, and we can see how effective it is by how many women are afraid to buck the society and be counter cultural, even when they want more children, and can afford to have them. What they can't take is being "different" and can't stand up to the disapproval of family and peers.
But comments like you get are "bullying" and should be noted as such.
God bless. ~ Bonnie

Anonymous said...

Who cares what people say? I never understood the need to have a snappy comeback. I have five. In Southern California where the norm is two, maybe three.

I don't think of my family as special, weird, or different and neither should anyone else. When people ask if they are all mine, or comments that I "must have my hands full" "am crazy" or "am so brave" - or even asks if "we're done," I just say something polite and move on. "Yep, all mine. Sometimes I feel crazy. I wish I were more brave! We're so happy with the family we have now, but who knows what the future holds?'

No one is TRYING to be rude, and there is absolutely no need to be rude back. I try not to make a show of my brood by not acting beleaguered and overwhelmed by them, and people mostly ignore us. Really. Just stop looking at the comments as negative. Most people are just surprised or curious.

Cam Wollner said...

Hey Anonymous #2,

If you actually read the comments in the post I linked to you'd know that some people actually were very much aware that they were being rude.

When I was pregnant with our baby who died I joyfully told people we were pregnant and got "I'm so sorry."

My husband got "You're poor wife."

And plenty more like that. Sorry. There's no way those people thought they were being polite, or curious. Expressing regret at a joyful pregnancy announcement is just rude.

And no, I don't act beleagured or overwhelmed, and it's probably split between whether or not we get looks, and many of those looks would probably be more because Mae is special needs and people are trying to figure out if something is wrong with her because of her squeals and vocal stimming (also not really a polite thing to stare about).

Sorry, I just don't think asking people about their sex lives, which many of the questions I've faced are about, is polite. I don't think expressing regret that someone is having a baby to them, is polite.

It's super awesome that no one has been rude to you... but it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen, as plenty of women and men out there can attest.

Anonymous said...

I'm number 8 of 14. We are currently expecting #4. When a cousin asked me at our grandmothers funeral whether we were trying for a big family, I said, "well, I want to give my kids everything I didn't have as a child, so we're shooting for 28!"

TB

KARINAAVILA68 said...

I have six and live in Southern California, and yes they are rude with their comments. I am actually thinking of getting pregnant again. Please pray for me because I guess I am scared. I have a condition called factor level 5. It causes for me to get blood clots on my legs. But I have been able to have six and I want more. I also get very nauseated and get really sick. It is weird because before I wasn't so concerned.

Ann said...

I've a fun story! I have a friend who has given birth to 12 children. The youngest is in elementary school, the older are married, she has grandchildren, and she just graduated with a degree and is applying to do graduate school in Great Britain. She home educated many of her children, and went for many years being frugal so that everyone had what they needed. She works as a tutor at a tutoring center, and has done for all the years she has been taking classes, while keeping up with her kids, so that she could get that degree. I cannot help but look at her life course and see that while there were difficult spots, she is going to have a career she loves, and huge family gatherings with many grandchildren to enjoy.

I'm always glad when I see young people being open to children. The difficulties will eventually give way to the realization that the rewards are amazing and the more children, the more grandchildren!

I love your rants!

Do Not Be Anxious said...

Come to Ann Arbor and join my parish, and the only comments you might get are: "What a nice start you have on a family." But more likely it would be: "What a nice family."

Anonymous said...

I find the whole thing about four kids being a "starter family" or a "start on a family" beyond the pale. Just incredibly rude, hurtful and oftentimes cruel. Cruel to the mom who is exhausted and overwhelmed with four, cruel to the mom who already has twice the children her own mother had. cruel to the mom who can't have more, cruel to the mom who lost her fifth. The sanctimony about huge families being better/holier makes The Church look so bad. Families are great whether you have one or ten children, more is not "better" - just different. Remember that Mother Mary had a blessed one.

Anonymous said...

When someone says, "but you look so young," take it as a compliment! Just say , why thank you! You just made my day!" That ends the interaction in a positive way and cuts off probing about personal details.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I had our first child right before we turned 23 which makes our oldest of 5 almost 19 yrs. I get comments all the time that I can't possible be old enough to have her I must be her sister. I always say thank you and smile. I heard all kinds of comments through all my pregnancies I just tried to blow them off as best as I could.

Anonymous said...

Gosh... Is there anything better than, "you look too young to be that child's mother?" No!