I'm a pretty peaceful person. There are a lot of things I feel passionately about, but I'm generally pretty good at holding my tongue when it is appropriate to do so. So good, in fact, that I managed to restrain myself from spewing three years' worth of insult all over the latest person to deserve it. So I will spew it here. Because I'm angry, I'm tired of it, and this is my fucking blog anyway.
She seemed so nice at first, sitting there in our doctor's waiting room. Stroking her roundly pregnant belly, rocking a carseat with her toe, striking up a friendly conversation with the only other woman there.
"Are you pregnant?" she asked. I told myself not to be offended by this, as we were in an OB/GYN waiting room and she probably wasn't calling me fat. I told her no, I'm not.
"Do you have any kids?" Yup, I have a three-year-old son.
"So are you trying to conceive?" Okay, that's annoying, but this is no worse than what I hear on a near-daily basis, so I'll give her the standard answer. No, we're happy with one.
"But... why?" she asked, looking horrified. How to people not understand how inappropriate this is? Did she ever consider that I am equally perplexed by her decision to have babies in rapid succession, but that I am too polite to show it? I gave a tight-lipped half-smile and ignored the question. It didn't work.
"Oh, your son is going to be so lonely! Children are such a blessing. I don't know what I would do without my kids. My daughter is four, and she just loves her baby brother. She's so excited about this new baby, too!" This went on for a while, while I tried to figure out whether it would be more rude to get up and move across the room, or pull out my phone and immerse myself in Twitter.
At this point, I was simmering. She'd taken it further than most, but not as far as some. I was leaving teeth prints in my tongue, and I was willing to keep doing so until the nurse came and rescued me.
Then she played her trump card:
"I just think it's really selfish to have just one."
To be crystal clear, this woman knows nothing about me. She can assume I'm married due to my ring, but that's it. She doesn't know if I am being abused. She doesn't know if I had fertility problems. She doesn't know if my family is destitute. She doesn't know my background, my health, my circumstances, or even my mothering skills. (What if I'm a shitty mom to start with? Shouldn't you be glad I limited the impact of that shittiness?) So I'm no longer simmering. I am fuming.
But I'm still biting my tongue (I'm good at it, remember), so I give her my standard they-won't-let-this-drop line: We can't really afford another child.
"Oh, nobody can. It's never the perfect time to have kids, you just have to do it and know things will work out."
By now my brain is spewing out angry responses, which are stacking up behind my closed mouth and giving me a headache. I want to say them. I want to let it out, all the things I've wanted to say to every insensitive person who has pressed this issue with me for the past three years. I briefly consider how good it would feel...
"And you call ME selfish?" I would say. "People don't just automatically have money as they get older, you idiot. You have to work for it, plan for it, and save it. And if I were spending every dime my husband or I could bring home on the needs of hordes of children, I wouldn't be saving. Do you have any idea the financial burden you're laying at your children's feet as soon as they enter adulthood? You're going to make your kids choose between not having a higher education and going $100K into debt, because you spent all the money you could have been saving on having more fucking kids. Because the kids wanted them, not you! Well, my kid wants ice cream every night. He doesn't get to have it, because he has a mother who is rational enough to stick to her guns about what's best for him. So don't let your preschooler make your family planning decisions, or don't blame your stupidity on that kid."
But I don't say it. Instead, I wimp out and give another of my stock responses: I'm pretty terrible at being pregnant. (If you knew me then, you know this is an understatement.) It wouldn't be fair to my son to have a mom that was basically out of commission for nine months.
"But every pregnancy is different! I was so sick with my first. I felt like I would throw up the whole first trimester."
This time, I do say what's on my mind: I actually did throw up, for 39 weeks. Enough that they put me in the hospital and filled me up with tubes and drugs. Enough that I took anti-nausea meds for chemo patients until the day he was born, and I STILL barfed every day. I can't do that again.
She is undeterred. "Well, I'm sure it wouldn't be that bad the second time."
Oh, well if she's sure....
Fortunately, the nurse came then and took me away.
This is a slightly more offensive version of a conversation that I have frequently. At least once per week, and often with complete strangers. Usually I shake my head and go on about my day, but this time it's stuck. I can't get over the mad. I am SICK OF IT.
Why on earth do people think it's okay to insert their opinions into my family's planning? Would they do the same thing if I were making end-of-life decisions for a parent? I'd wager not. Would they think it's okay for me to make bold, uninformed, insulting comments regarding their decisions to have multiple children? Definitely not. So what is it about the specific choice to have only one child that turns people into meddling jerks?
People call me selfish when I explain that we get to do lots of fun things with Mikey that we would have to put off for several more years if we had another child. Am I a bad person or a bad mom because I want to take my kid to Hawaii?
People make assumptions about our income level and blow off my concerns about money. Can't they understand that we are able to live comfortably because of the way we budget? Can they really judge me because I like our lifestyle and would like to continue it?
People assume, and often state, that I'm less of a "real" mother because I will experience each stage only once. Horseshit. I've changed the diapers, had the cracked nipples, smeared on the cocoa butter, lived the sleepless nights, chased away the bogeymen, weathered the terrible twos, played the hide & seek, perpetuated the Santa myth, worried over the fevers, kissed the owies, made the lunches, and felt the pain of separation outside the preschool. I will not allow my experience to be diminished or disregarded simply because it wasn't repeated.
Perhaps we should add parents of only children to the shrunken list of people against whom discrimination is still okay in the U.S.: Smokers, obese people, nonbelievers, and parents who have only one kid.
What a ridiculous list.