After my third child was born, I hadn't even left the hospital yet before I heard the inevitable question: “So, are you done or are you going to have another baby?” The nurse who was taking care of me in recovery was the first to ask, but she was immediately followed by friends and family members, who peppered me with similar questions when they came over after I had the baby.
For some reason, it wasn’t enough for everyone that I had just birthed an entirely new human being into the world. Everyone seemed most interested in what my birthing schedule looked like for the next hypothetical baby. Friends, relatives, strangers, nurses — even our priest asked us when we were planning to have our next child.
To be honest, I didn’t know how to answer the question. Some days, I felt certain I wanted at least six children. Other times, I was sure one and done was the right plan for us. The truth is, I had no idea what I wanted because I was a walking cocktail of postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation. I was too busy focusing on keeping a tiny person alive (while also dealing with my two other children) to consider when I'd be pushing the next one out. I wasn’t thinking beyond where to order takeout, let alone about my next pregnancy.
Constantly being asked when I was having my next kid made the first few months of postpartum recovery difficult, to say the least. I didn’t know whether I wanted another baby, and so every time the subject came up I found myself digging for an answer. Was I done? Was I going to have another? Did I really need to know the answer to this already? It added unnecessary stress to what should have been a time to focus solely on the family I already had.
The postpartum period is a time for self-care. Honestly, no one should require you to defend your baby-making plans (or lack thereof).
The rollercoaster of emotions I was feeling postpartum were definitely not being helped by the intrusive questioning. It put a strain on my relationship with my husband because even though I simply couldn’t decide what I wanted, I couldn’t stop bringing it up. Everyone else was thinking about it, so I had to think about it too.
Now that I have three kids and know that I’m done, it seems crazy to me that this question was ever brought up in the first place. The postpartum period is a time for self-care. Honestly, no one should require you to defend your baby-making plans (or lack thereof).
Is it too much to ask to let mothers take a break from family planning for a little while after they give birth? Maybe wait until their backs no longer hurt from the weight of their recently pregnant bellies, or until the memory of the searing pain of childbirth has softened a bit in their minds. Wait until they aren’t going through a whole pack of diapers every two days, and their nipples are no longer raw and chapped. Wait a few weeks, a few months, or maybe even a year. Or maybe just don’t ask the question at all, because it’s honestly none of your business. But dear Lord, don't wait until a few minutes after the baby has popped out, which is what happened to me with the nosy nurse at the hospital.
Moms who have just given birth have a whole slew of things on their minds, and the question of when to have more babies really shouldn’t be added to the list.
Of course, this advice is easier said than done. I have to admit, even I eventually end up asking my friends who have just had kids when they want to have another. But you know when I don’t ask them that? In the recovery room of the hospital or when I know they are still waddling around their house in mesh underwear and super-sized pads.
Moms who have just given birth have a whole slew of things on their minds, and the question of when to have more babies really shouldn’t be added to the list. When I was in the postpartum period, I was overwhelmed trying to keep track of when I last changed my clothes (answer: usually the last time the baby vomited and/or pooped on me) and keeping track of my infants' breastfeeding, sleep, and pooping schedules. Basic survival is hard during those early postpartum days.
Adding to the stress of a new mother because you’re curious about when you can expect to see another baby in the picture is selfish. So the next time you’re visiting a new mom (or any mom, for that matter), don’t ask when they’re going to have another baby. If you need to fill the silence, ask if you can help do the dishes or bring over dinner. Because those kinds of questions are always welcome.