Neighbour to me; ‘How are you getting on with the baby?’
‘Oh fine, you know finding my feet a bit now.’
‘Well don’t worry it gets easier on the second one!’ With a cheesy wink, wink, nudge, nudge thrown in for good measure.
Sigh. ‘Really, is that right?’ Cue annoyed, fake laugh from me.
Isn’t it funny how once you have a baby, your womb almost immediately becomes the object of rife speculation as to when it’s going to be occupied with another small life in the near future?
‘You’d want to get working on number two before you’re out of nappies all together!’
‘They’ll get on so much better if they are closer in age.’
‘You wouldn’t want to wait too much longer, you’re not getting any younger.’
‘You can’t leave him an only child now can you?’
Even my gem of a consultant threw his tuppence ha’penny in when I went to see him on my 6 week check-up in January of this year. ‘Hopefully we’ll see you sometime later in 2017 Niamh,’ he chirped.
‘Er… right okay’, I smiled, cringing inside at the thoughts of pushing another baby out in that time-frame.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Because when you think about it, assumptions about children and speculation on your ovaries begin much, much earlier. I mean really… as soon as you find yourself in a committed relationship, you can just hear the grannies and older relations almost laying bets on when you’re going to give them some ‘good news’.
Then you might decide to take the next step and get married. Cue a conveyor belt of speculation from your parents, in-laws and wider family as they practically count down the seconds until you make some kind of an announcement. And you know what? I’m not innocent in this either.
Over the years, I’ve been guilty too. In the past, I’ve speculated about women I knew, wondered when they might have a baby or when the second one will come along and ventured a guess at why it hadn’t happened for them yet.
And on one level it’s only natural. Your parents just want grandchildren, and your wider family and network of friends just want to see you happy with a family of your own. And most of the time it really does genuinely come from a place with the best of intentions.
But often, those over-excited good thoughts can unwittingly be touching on something profoundly upsetting and difficult.
Having children is a deeply personal decision, filled with delicate intricacies that are often hidden behind closed doors and shared between just two people. You don’t know if a couple are having trouble conceiving, you don’t know if this woman you’re goading in the friendliest of ways has just gotten her period and has to face yet another month of perceived failure. You don’t know if she and her partner have battled round, after round of challenging IVF only to end up without a pregnancy. You don’t know if she’s had to face multiple miscarriages and heartbreak, after heartbreak in her quest to become a mum.
You don’t know, if after having one child, they’ve learned they are facing secondary infertility. You don’t know if that smile she has painted on conceals an avalanche of tears that hit her the moment she is alone. You don’t realise that your innocent, well-meaning enquiries are pulling at the frayed edges of her barely held together emotions that are about to cascade into a complete breakdown.
So think. Think for a moment before you ask the question.
Put yourself in her shoes and ask yourself; is it really any of your business? Ask yourself if she really wants to be quizzed on the status of her womb for possibly the 20th time that week, and realise that if and when she does become pregnant, she’ll tell you in her own good time.