Being the youngest in a large family has its advantages: My siblings provided plenty of grandchildren already, so there’s no pressure on me to make more. (Christmas presents are expensive, y’all.) My family has also known since I was 19 — when I fainted while watching my older sister have a sonogram because it grossed me out so much — that I’m not sure this childbirth thing is for me. So, even after being married for 10 months now, no one in my family has broached the subject of bringing a Bogdanovs-Wakeman into the world.
That being said, minding-one’s-own-beeswax doesn’t hold true with outsiders — as I found out this weekend when a trip to the laundromat turned into more than I’d bargained for.
On Saturday afternoon, I pushed my wheelie-cart full of dirty sheets and sweaty tees to the local wash ‘n’ fold that I’ve frequented for the three years that I’ve lived in the neighborhood. As I usually do, I chatted with the sweet woman who works the daytime shift while I tossed our laundry in the washers. Usually I don’t have much smalltalk to share, but that day, I did: my husband, Kale, got a job and would be starting on Monday (today).
“Oh, good, good!” She said. “And you think soon you’ll be … ” and then she moved her hand out in front of her stomach, gesturing widely like a pregnant belly.
Getting pregnant is most definitely not in the cards for me anytime soon, possibly ever. I’m very happily on the Pill. If Kale and I do have children, it will probably be four or five years from now, possibly if we have moved to Australia. Who knows? I love our lives just the way they are right now. And anyway, the subject is not one I wanted to get into with my neighborhood laundromat lady — seeing as I haven’t even discussed it with my parents first.
I suppose I could have shrugged “Maybe!” and let it drop. But because I have a tendency to react awkwardly when caught off guard, I instead laugh-barked and said, “No no no no no no no!” while shaking my head. My protestations came out way more vehemently than I meant to, like I hate babies so much that I hide their bodies in my broom closet. (I don’t. I love other people’s babies, actually.) The sweet woman raised her eyebrows at me in surprise. Then I awkwardly excused myself to go make change for the machines. I couldn’t help but wonder — not that I particularly care, mind you — if maybe this woman thinks less of me for being unenthusiastic about a pregnancy. From what tiny snippets I’ve seen of her life, she seems like a warm, loving and maternal woman herself.
Later when I was back at home, I related what had happened to Kale. Telling him about our conversation was an annoying reminder that it’s usually me who fields the awkward questions about our marriage and potential childbearing. Some of that is a function of us living in my home country, I’m sure; people we know have known me longer than Kale and feel more comfortable asking me the private questions. But some of it is the belief that a woman’s childbearing plans are fair game for conversation. Some people just plain don’t find it invasive or impolite to ask a woman about personal reproductive decisions.
To be clear, I know the lady at my laundromat meant to be friendly. I’ve been her customer for years — she even saw me in my wedding dress on my wedding day as I headed to City Hall — so the question wasn’t completely out of left field. But it bothers me that after I vehemently told her “no,” I wondered if she’d assume that I’m selfish, misguided, or not maternal. It shouldn’t matter what this lady (maybe) thinks of me or my reproductive decisions! Yet, while I’m not part of the “childless by choice” movement like some of my female friends, I’m all too aware of the assumptions other people have about them for not wanting to become mothers.
I don’t think the woman at the wash ‘n’ fold will ask me again whether I’m planning to get pregnant. But I also wonder if she might be thinking it, perhaps even checking out my belly for signs of pregnancy. For the time being, all she will find are signs of having eaten a big dinner. Obviously, Kale should just do all the laundry from now.
Original by Jessica Wakeman