My daughter Becca, obviously pregnant with her fourth child, got on the escalator while hurrying home to be with her kiddos. A voice calling her name from across the lobby suddenly startled her. A former co-worker had seen her and yelled, “Hey, Becca! Didn’t you know they have something to prevent that from happening now!” I’m sure we could all write a notebook of stories like this one.
Disparaging opinions about our pregnancy can come from friends, parents of our children’s classmates, parish members, or even (often!) perfect strangers. What is it about mothers that calls forth unsolicited negative remarks and strongly held opinions by so many?
Although Mighty Is Her Call tries to support open-to-life mothers, we are also sensitive to those who may be open to life, but for one reason or another have not been able to conceive a child. I thought about this earlier this week when a close friend told me about her experiences. Kathy had three sons—each one seven years after the last one. Six years after her first son was born, an older man from their church came up after the service and asked, “Why have you decided not to have any more children? Don’t you believe that children are a blessing from God?” Angry and mortified, my friend replied near tears, that she would certainly welcome more children, but that the Lord had not seen fit to give her and her husband that blessing. She suggested the man go and discuss it with her husband if he had any other questions.
A more common scenario is when a relative asks (even at the wedding) if a newlywed is planning on waiting to have children, or if they’re planning on having children at all, or which type of birth control they plan to use. Often a mother or mother-in-law asks if a young bride is pregnant yet, or how long she plans to wait.
As I thought about these types of situations, I realized that for some reason, many (most?) of us feel like we have carte blanche to offer our opinions to anyone who will listen when it has to do with having or not having children. This can even take the form (as it has many times to a friend) of asking someone who has been long without children why she and her husband don’t adopt.(!)
We can’t do much about others, but we can surely guard our own speech. I’m certainly not immune to experiencing difficulties with my own speech. When I sense those temptations, I try to remember to turn to Romans 12: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.