There is a sort of expected progression in life. As soon as you get a serious boyfriend, people start asking when you’re going to get married. When you get engaged, everyone wants to know the date. When you get hitched, everyone asks when you’re having kids. These are the norms, these are assumed, expected occurences in most people’s lives. And when you don’t follow the norm, these questions can be extremely annoying, not to mention evasive.
First, let me start with the whole “when are you getting engaged” question. Now, I’m going to go out on a crazy limb here for a second and dare to say most (not all, but most) women wonder the same thing when they’re of age and have a serious boyfriend. I know I did. I also know I could never answer that question without feeling flustered, because, well, my boyfriend had serious committment issues. As in, he said repeatedly he never wanted to get married. So anytime anyone would ask that question–especially after we had been together four years–it was unsettling to me.
Once I actually got my ring (that’s a story for another day), people began to ask when the big day was. How was I supposed to know? Rings don’t come with manuals, and I’m not the type of girl who plans these things beginning at age five. I was engaged almost two years before I set a date, and even then it was only because I fell in love with a dress and decided to actually go through with the wedding (and because my sister planned the entire thing for me). It was just another question–nothing out of the ordinary, mind you–that left me feeling like I was somehow doing things wrong.
And now I face the worst question of all: When are you having kids?
The truth is, I don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet. We’ve been trying(ish), but after two years, it hasn’t happened. We haven’t been to the doctor or anything, and we’re not living life and scheduling things around my cycle. But we are ready for kids. We want kids. Just…it isn’t happening.
And that is hard to admit.
Trust me, I am well aware that I am in my mid 30s. I am well aware that risks are increasing and my number of eggs is decreasing as each day passes. I am well aware that most people my age already have kids. I am well aware that everyone assumes we’ll have kids next because, well, that’s what you do. We have the house, the dog, the white-picket fence, but not the 2.5 kids.
And you know what? I don’t need anyone to remind me of that.
I am already dangerously close to feeling like a failure. I remember the days I would talk about what month I would get pregnant. I wanted to plan the birth around my work schedule, maximizing my time off with my new baby. As though these things can be planned. That was two years ago. Now every single month I feel the disappointment when another period arrives, telling me I have failed once again. I no longer care when the baby arrives, just that it does.
And yes, I am aware that I could go to the doctor regarding what might be fertility issues, but somehow, I can’t bring myself to do that. Because with that comes the admittance of defeat. The reality that we can’t do this without help That, more than anything, makes me feel as though I somehow failed as a woman.
Especially because it seems everyone around me is announcing pregnancies. My brother’s girlfriend. My brother in-law’s girlfriend. The wife of a friend who just got married. The sixteen year old down the street (I wish I were joking on that one). And, while I wouldn’t say these announcements upset me, there is an undeniably nagging feeling that grows stronger every time I hear of another ( and usually younger) woman who has succeeded where I have failed.
Maybe in a few more months, as my 35th birthday draws closer, I will go see the doctor. Until then, I’m going to continue to believe that this will happen when it’s meant to happen.
But in the meantime, what I ask of you is that you think before you ask people questions that, while not intended to be so, are pretty damn personal. I know the progression of The Questions people ask as you go through life, but I also know the dread and sensitivity each question brought me because I wasn’t doing things the same way everyone else was. Maybe it’s me being sensitive, or maybe it’s that the questions need to change. Maybe instead of asking “when are you having kids?” the better question would be “are you considering having kids?” Likewise with the married thing.
Because, as someone who has done things a little differently than the norm, I can tell you that each time I was asked those questions, it hurt.