you and me

Brown Diaries: Stop Baby-Bugging Me!

 

“When are you going to have kids?” “Don’t you want kids?” “Are you not pregnant yet?”

The dissonant soundtrack to a brown childless woman’s life! I know too much about this. I get asked a lot, and sometimes even half a dozen times a day! When you’ve been married a while, the neighborly noisiness hits critical point. I take no offense to people near and dear asking because they care, but I do have issues with the wider circle, i.e the brown community!

When your aunt’s brother’s cousin’s niece’s neighbor’s neighbor asks, I am pretty pretty vexed by then.

The community constantly pesters women like me with questions, and the more I resist, the more assumptions they make when they don’t know shit. Not only are these questions personal and rude, but they can be extremely hurtful, especially to couples who have tried, struggled and failed.

The heartbreak of a failed IVF or a tragic loss of a child through miscarriage are good enough reasons for nose-pokers to mind their own business. I wish people would talk to my face, and not my belly.

This is not just a brown phenomenon. Women of all backgrounds face this constant bombardment of questions and unsolicited advice regarding pregnancy. I have been following Trying to conceive blogs, and the social expectations on women to have a baby are humongous. It’s very sad.

I’m a woman of Indian heritage approaching 38, and I am childless. Seeing parents with buggies can make some in similar situations resentful, but it makes me smile and more determined to try… and I am trying. The only thing I resent is the constant questions, which adds to the growing burden and struggle I already carry in this journey.

There are some complicated issues regarding my fertility which are extremely rare, bizarre and a story for another day. I love children, but maybe having my own is not in my cards… just yet.

A few years ago, a family member at a dinner party repeatedly, like a broken record, kept asking, “When are you gonna have kids, Reena?” She didn’t stop even though I had no answers to give her. She had no regard whatsoever for my feelings, and it never occurred to her how rude she was being. But being brown gives you a license to ask in our community… not! If I knew the answers, I would have to be God.

If she had been any nosier, she would have to be my frigging gynecologist! To put this into perspective, if you wouldn’t ask a cancer sufferer how long they have to live, or ask an Old Age Pensioner when they are going to die, don’t ask a woman when she’s going to have kids, because she simply doesn’t know the answer to that.

According to the NHS, 3.5 million people in the UK find it difficult to conceive despite having regular unprotected sex. PCOS is one of the most common fertility issues we hear about, but it doesn’t make it impossible. Endometriosis makes conceiving almost impossible, and pregnancy is the only way to stop it — Catch-22!

Oh yes, there’s adenomyosis, low egg reserve, no egg reserve, tilted uterus, T-shape uterus, allergies, prolapsed uterus, hormone imbalance, failure to ovulate, blocked tubes, pelvic adhesions, cervical abnormalities, fibroids, cysts, cancer, imperforate hymen, vaginismus, early menopause, and bloody age. That was just the short list.

It’s not just women. Men could have a low sperm count, low sperm mobility, erectile dysfunction, or the fact of the matter could be that some couples have no health issues whatsoever and it’s just the luck of the draw. Catching is tricky, unless you’re the unhealthiest person in the world, who drinks excessively, then you’ll be popping babies out like pellets, so it cruelly seems.

I have spoken to others on their journey. Three anonymous women have agreed to share their stories. Sharing can lighten the burden, and there are things to laugh and cry about.

“Everyone started congratulating me. I had so many texts and Facebook inbox messages. I was just fat, not preggers. I don’t want kids, and people round here don’t get that. They act like it’s a sin.” ~ Fatima

“IVF made me look six months pregnant even though it failed. When people asked me after that, I cried for days, it upset me so deeply.” ~ Darshi

“A big bug is the unsolicited advice, like ‘Have you tried IVF?’ It’s not that simple. Like, ‘Yes, four times!’ Nobody knows your struggle unless they have been through it.” ~ Anna

IVF is not the miracle cure for infertility, and success rates are not as high as you people think. Factors like age play a massive part as well as the influence of all the medication alongside it.

Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Iman Clooney and Beyoncé can afford to jump over loops in the ridged IVF protocol, hence why they have multiple births. It’s no coincidence in celebrity world. For mere mortals like us, it’s a massive struggle emotionally, not to mention the costs. IVF on the NHS is free with certain terms and conditions. It often fails, rendering couples to pay privately or not have any further treatment.

One cycle privately can cost between £4,000 and £14,000. Heartbreaking for couples who simply cannot afford it.

The bottom line is, motherhood does not define a woman. Childless women are still worthy and have a purpose. Having children is not our only purpose in life, though they are blessings. And about the baby-bugging, unless women tell you, please keep that mouth shut! Stop asking! It’s none of your business. One of these days, you’re going to ask the wrong person, and end up getting the bump… in your face.

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Reena Kumari is a warrior of Indus Valley heritage. Born from the muddy waters of misogyny and shame, she blossomed into a lotus anyway. A full-time mistake-maker and creator, Reena inspires others to speak out and stand out.

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