A bit of a personal one here but there is one question that I bloody hate above all others:
‘So, when are you planning the next one?’
No, dear reader, this is not about when the next book is out (the sequels are with my publisher and there’s a queue, so stop asking that too! When I know, you’ll know) but when I am going to have another baby.
That’s a pretty fecking personal thing to ask, especially if we aren’t close friends. Other friends have asked ‘Would you like another?’ which is fine (for me. Not every parent would like that question. I can see why; it suggests that their precious bundle is in some way inadequate). I would very much like another one, but now isn’t the right time. For a whole raft of reasons that aren’t anyone’s business, unless I share them with you.
It’s the preposition of ‘when’ that bothers me most. Like it’s just a matter of time before I start trying again, like it’s fate or destiny, like it’s just what women do. The question seems pretty innocuous, innocent, but it isn’t. You never know who you’re speaking to and what secret pain they’re fighting.
Look, I’ve never made my miscarriage in 2014 a secret and after I went through that, I was able to properly acknowledge the chemical pregnancy I had 2008. My road to being a mother was full of pain, but the pregnancy with Baby Crosháin was pretty standard and it went really smoothly (probably due to having billions of extra appointments as I was a high-risk pregnancy). The birth wasn’t great but all in all, I am pretty damned lucky. I didn’t have the birth I wanted but I am not left with physical and emotional scars because of that. I wouldn’t class it as a traumatic birth even though I went through forceps delivery.
What if you ask one of those mums who is so damaged, physically or mentally, by their birth that they find it difficult to connect with their child that question? What if you ask a mother who, after infertilty drugs and rounds of failed IVF, finally has that precious bundle in their arms that question? What if the parents you are talking to have been trying again but are going through secondary infertility, with no explanation as to why?
“I can’t know these things for everyone I meet!” I hear you cry and you’re right. You can, however, just not ask the stupid question. It isn’t any of your business and it is not polite conversation; it’s being nosy and casting judgement. Your thoughtlessness might open a whole can of worms that someone wasn’t willing to face yet (and that is true of so many other things people do without thinking). You might not think about it once the conversation is over but it might be all those parents are thinking about.
Now, we have all been thoughtless without being malicious and I have asked that question myself. It wasn’t until I was asked it that I realised how hurtful it could be so I’m not going to ask it anymore.
Some of you will go “What’s the harm? I’m only curious!” Honey, unless it’s in your womb, it isn’t any of your business.
All of this came about when my friend Sammy announced that IVF had been successful for them a 2nd time and that they are having another baby boy in November (yaaaaaaaaaaay! Happy dance). I was chatting away to some friends and saying how happy I was for her when someone I didn’t know all that well, but was in my circle, piped up with: “Weren’t you 2 pregnant together last time? You must be well jealous. When are you having your next one?”
I was utterly stunned into silence (doesn’t happen often) and I just looked at that person for a long time. Eventually, I said “That’s a bit personal.” I was hoping that would give them a clue to back off. It did not.
“You should. She’s nearly 2, isn’t she? It’s selfish to only have 1. She needs a little friend.”
Reader, I nearly smacked the bitch. But she’s elderly and I was in Church so not happening. So I put on my teacher voice and told her off.
“It would be selfish to bring a second baby into the world if I couldn’t afford to feed it. And she goes to nursery 3 days a week; she has plenty of friends.”
The lady went a little pink and then shuffled off.
Moral of the story: you don’t always know who you’re talking to so don’t ask really personal questions.
So the next time I’m asked ‘When’s the next one due?’ I’m going to assume that they are talking about my books, which I will then plug.
Speaking of, I still have 5 Audible codes available for US and UK for ‘Cruelty’. If you write me a review on Amazon, let me know and I will ping a relevant one over to you.