I realize, perhaps better than anyone, that it’s not polite to ask others about their reproductive plans. I’ve long ranted about how much it annoyed me when friends, family members and even perfect strangers would inquire about a possible plunge into parenthood. Even now, as most of my readers know, I get aggravated when people ask whether my 2-year-old daughter, Reese, will ever be a sister.
Not only are these questions, more often than not, inappropriate, they actually can carry with them an emotional punch. A woman who thought — and hoped — she’d have become a mom long ago might be wondering the same thing herself: When is it going to happen? She doesn’t need painful reminders of what she’s going through.
Furthermore, factors other than biology can play into a couple’s decision to have children. Wanting a family and being able to afford one aren’t the same thing, so some people hold off when they wish they didn’t have to.
It’s also a possibility that two partners no longer want the same thing. Maybe a new bride and groom decided children would be in their future “on down the road.” Maybe “on down the road” arrived and one party had changed his or her mind.
My point is, we never know what’s going on behind the scenes. Rather than risk hurting someone or serving as a reminder of disheartening obstacles child-free individuals likely are already aware of, it’s best to keep quiet.
That is, until I get nosy.
Yes, I’m a hypocrite. Well, almost.
Previously, I never found myself tempted to do what I just cautioned everyone against. I didn’t appreciate those inquiries, and it never occurred to me to make them. Now that I’m a mom, though, it’s different.
I find myself more frequently wanting to ask friends and relatives about their parenthood plans. I don’t do it, mind you, but that’s because I’m squelching the urge — with the exception of my younger sister, that is. She doesn’t mind my frequent interrogations, though, I’m sure of it. Probably.
I’m not trying to be gossipy or impolite. As hokey as this may sound, I truly love being a mom and the thought that someone I deeply care about might soon be experiencing this same amazing, wonderfully emotional journey just thrills me. I’m hoping for a new commiserating partner, someone with whom I can compare notes, share stories and ideas, plan play dates and swap baby-
sitting services. I want nothing more than to be excited for a new mom-to-be.
Also, I remember plenty of things I wish someone had done for me or helped me with when I was trying to figure out how to care for an infant. I can’t wait until a close friend or relative welcomes a baby so I can tackle all the duties and errands I know she’ll need assistance with — things no one other than another new mom likely would even think about.
And, maybe just a smidge, I’d like to live vicariously through a freshly minted parent. It’s not that I want to again go through midnight feedings, diaper changes, crying jags and days of exhaustion. I don’t miss those things. However, I know I did some things wrong — as do all new moms — when I was stumbling through the earliest part of this journey. I often was too hard on myself and my husband. I had some misplaced priorities. (Sign me up for 48 hours of sleeplessness if it means all the laundry and dishes are done!) My expectations were unreasonable and, because of that, I often was upset with myself for falling short. I realize now, though, I did the best I could.
If possible, I’d like to help another new mom come to that conclusion a lot sooner than I did. I’d like to do whatever I can to make her transition easier than mine was.
So, at the risk of sounding selfish, when I eventually fail to keep my mouth shut, and I ask a friend or co-worker if a baby is in her future — and it’s only a matter of time before I do — it’s not because I’m prying. It’s because I’m so excited to help her prepare for and get through what will be the most incredible and confusing time in her life.