I’m part of a few online boards for pregnant and new mothers. One of the most common things that people seem to post about is negative comments from other people about pregnancy, raising babies and children. It really brings them down. It makes them doubt their abilities, even feel guilty about having a child.
It seems that the major reaction to news of a baby is negative – whether it is your first or sixth, planned or unplanned, you are young or old, married or unmarried, rich or poor, whether the age gap is small or large. It isn’t just teenage mothers who get the looks and comments. People are quicker to say “you will be busy” or “you sure you know what you are getting yourself into?” or to make you into a bit of a joke, rather than celebrating a life and beautiful child that is coming into being.
A baby is always a blessing. How much joy is brought into our lives by babies and children? More than it brings pain or hardship I would say.
Jason Evert said when they were telling someone about expecting their third child that the friend acted surprised and a bit shocked, and said “that is enough don’t you think?” However if Jason was telling the friend about the third car, or adding a third storey to their house, or even getting a third pay rise, the person would be happy for them.
I’ve had conversations with family members and friends who have only negative words to say about having babies, even when I say how excited we are to be having two little girls close together. I’ve had people come up to me in the supermarket saying “you think you have your hands full now, what will you do soon?” I have been treated by strangers as if I am having another baby for welfare or something. I get all the looks when walking through a mall with a baby and being obviously pregnant. I’ve even had people at mass who have fussed over my daughter all of mass about how gorgeous she is, and then when I tell them we are expecting another the reply was “that is so old fashioned, how will you cope with that?”. In society’s eyes we are supposed to complete so much before we have children. I don’t think they take into the equation I am a university graduate, married with a husband with a good job and salary, running my own small business, have lived overseas, fit lots of activities and events into our lives and I think doing a good job of raising my baby and running a household. Not that that should matter.
This often makes me feel sad. I hate going to the mall and even being in public at times now because of the looks I get. But then I remember that everything you go through adds to your inner strength and people have no idea of that. I’m really excited about having two close (no matter what people say) and I hope to give our babies more siblings.
As one of five children (and Joseph is one of four) I would say that siblings are the best gift we can give our children. In a sibling is a playmate, someone to share life and life’s lessons with (no matter how hard those lessons be sometimes), and a friend (and sometimes nemesis) that goes with you through your childhood and future years.
I think that rather than feel left out (sure there will be moments where the attention won’t be on them, but isn’t that a good thing for everyone at some time) more siblings will mean that our children will be part of a team, with more people to love and share things with through their lives.
Also, though it may sound morbid, if anything ever happened to us as parents I would be glad that my children will have siblings to lean on and look after each other. I had a “rougher” childhood – divorce in our family, moving around lots and changing schools etc. One of the best parts of my life, through all the rough bits, were my siblings, who went through it all with me. They were the only ones who understood everything and we could care for each other in our own ways. It would have been lonely and perhaps unbearable experience on my own. Not that I didn’t have loving parents!
Back in “the day” it was good to have many children. It was seen that your family was fruitful. So many cultures have children and then they care for you in your old age, supporting the whole community so that everyone can prosper. I think it is sad sometimes how individualised our culture has become that babies, children and the elderly are perhaps seen as burdens that interrupt our lifestyles rather than part of the cycle of life and community.
I know people mean well, but talking to the parents when they are pregnant about whether they know what they are getting themselves into makes it seem like it is just an option at that point. The baby is on the way. It can’t be taken back. And if the parents are excited about it, why make them doubt themselves? Maybe this is why the abortion rate is so high? I can certainly understand why people would feel pressured.
So to mothers who feel knocked back at times by the looks at the shops or the comments from strangers, I say to not doubt yourself. When people make these comments they usually have no idea what you have experienced yourself, what hardships you have overcome, your inner strength and what blessings this baby will bring your family.
Now when I hear of an event in someone’s life, I try and make the first comment out of my mouth a really positive one. I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of an unconscious negative comment. It is so easy to quickly say something negative without thinking.
I remember as well that Mary was an unmarried teenage mother pregnant with Jesus. She had all the looks, comments and I’m sure she heard it all. If it was good enough for her, it is good enough for me.
“Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” – John 16:21