Courtesy Megan Zander

An Open Letter To People Who Ask When I'm Going To Have Another Baby

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Hi,

We don't know each other very well. If we did, you would have never asked me when I was going to have another baby in the first place, because you would have known how all about my struggles with infertility, and why for me, having a baby isn't as simple as having unprotected sex and crossing my fingers. I'll probably never have the guts to say this to your face, but if I had the courage to tell you how your question felt, or on the slim chance that you somehow find this on the internet, this is what I'd want you to know.

First of all, thank you. By asking me when I'm going to have another baby, you're indirectly telling I'm doing a decent job raising the babies I already have, so much so that I wouldn't be ruining another child's life by bringing them into existence. There are so many times when I feel like I have no clue what I'm doing as a mom, so I really do appreciate your vote of confidence in my parenting skills.  

The fact that you think I could possibly have another baby if I wanted to also says you think I'm still young enough to bear children. So thanks for that as well. I'm not loving how cashiers refer to me as "Ma'am" instead of "Miss" nowadays, and I can't remember the last time I've been carded, so I am grateful to you for this kindness.

But as much as I acknowledge the compliment, your question still bothers me. My twins are 4, and asking a woman whose youngest child is in preschool when she's going to have another baby implies that a woman's role is to raise babies, that I require an assembly line of newborns to care for in order to fully utilize my value in this world. Not only is that wrong, it's insulting too.

My boys may be 4 years old, but my job as their parent is far from over. I may not have to change their diapers or burp them anymore, but being a mother requires constantly caring for your kids, regardless of how old they are. I'm not twiddling my thumbs with nothing to do just because they've learned how to zip their own coats. Even when they're older and in middle school, or even in high school and driving themselves, I'm sure there will still be plenty of parenting tasks to keep me lying awake at night. Parenting doesn't get easier, it just changes as your child grows and develops. I still have my hands plenty full with the two boys I already have.

It's OK for women to want to pursue careers and passions in life outside of motherhood.

But beyond my duties as a parent, it's OK for women to want to pursue careers and passions in life outside of motherhood. Yes, my kids are getting older an that does give me a small amount of freedom, because I'm no longer worried about them picking up random things from the floor and choking. That doesn't mean I need to fill that space with another baby.

I've started volunteering my time and talents to the ACLU. I'm taking on more freelance assignments, and I love the sense of pride I get from seeing my byline on pieces.  Perhaps I'll finally start working on the horror novel that's been sitting in outline form on my laptop for two years. Maybe I'll go back to practicing law or teaching fitness classes. Or it's possible I'll find another new hobby or job that excites me, something I can call my baby even if it isn't actually one.

Courtesy Megan Zander

I've started volunteering my time and talents to the ACLU. I'm taking on more freelance assignments, and I love the sense of pride I get from seeing my byline on pieces.  Perhaps I'll finally start working on the horror novel that's been sitting in outline form on my laptop for two years. Maybe I'll go back to practicing law or teaching fitness classes. Or it's possible I'll find another new hobby or job that excites me, something I can call my baby even if it isn't actually one.

But underneath my feminist indignation, I'll admit that what bothered me most of all about your question was that it brought up the painful truth of my infertility. One minute I'm chit-chatting with you over craft supplies, the next I'm back in that hard plastic chair at my doctor's office, hearing endless bad news and wondering if I'll ever get to have a family.

Your question is a harsh reminder of what can never be, when I work so hard every day to be grateful for what I already have.

Over 12% of women in the U.S. have fertility issues. I was so, so lucky that I was able to have two babies, let alone one. Advanced reproductive technology worked for me, and I was able to fulfill my dream of carrying a pregnancy to (almost) term. But just because my story had a happy ending doesn't make it easy or fun to look back on. If my body hadn't had any trouble conceiving, I may have decided to have more children. I have complicated feelings over the fact that I'll never have a daughter. Your question is a harsh reminder of what can never be, when I work so hard every day to be grateful for what I already have.

I take my own share of the blame for all of this. I'm socially awkward, and I know it's hard to have a conversation with someone you barely know. Especially if you're a parent yourself, I understand why you would make the decision to bring up babies as another easy thing we could relate to each other about. But similar to the way women have started to push for the media to ask actresses questions about topics other than their clothing on red carpets, I think we moms owe it to ourselves to push our conversations beyond the bounds of our kids. That doesn't mean we have to jump into a heated debate about politics, or whether Nick was good on The Bachelor. But we could have talked about our jobs, or our favorite places to grab lunch in town.

Words can hurt, even when they're said with the best of intentions. We owe it to each other to keep our curiosity about other's family plans to ourselves. Not just because it could trigger unwanted memories of past fertility struggles, but because we moms are so much more than just caregivers.