Curious if someone you know is sporting a baby bump and dying to ask her? DON’T! One mama counts the ways why you shouldn’t ask if she’s expecting
I am sure a lot of us have felt performance anxiety from a very young age. From being able to recite a nursery rhyme as a toddler, to getting good grades in school and college, to nailing the best job and then finding an enviably awesome spouse. Then a couple of years into holy, or unholy, matrimony, the inevitable questions star coming: “So when are we going to hear some good news?” Wait a minute… what about all those pieces of good news you’ve been hearing for all these years?
When we got married, the husband and I were pretty sure we wanted to wait a couple of years before we let other humans exit me, but then we were in for a surprise. After my periods went from irregular to MIA, we got concerned because ironically no periods is often worse than actually having them every month. After a lot of poking and peeking by the doctor, it was discovered that I had a prolactinoma, a benign tumour on my pituitary gland. In my case it caused an excess secretion of Prolactin, which in normal circumstances causes lactation in new mothers. Again as ironical as it is, it also causes infertility in women, because it keeps the periods away and possible babies at bay. Luckily it can be treated with medication, and after three years of doing the hormone dance, we finally spawned a tiny fire-breathing dragon.
Not too many people outside of immediate family knew initially, and when people kept asking us why we were ‘enjoying’ instead of creating a bundle of joy, it both amused and annoyed me. Even with no health issues, we were in no hurry to start dispensing babies. As we went through the blood tests and annual MRI’s, and I shared the problem with my friends and others I met, I realized that there are so many women my age dealing with fertility issues like PCOS, hypothyroidism, fibroids, endometriosis, blocked tubes, unexplained fertility, or had spouses/partners with low motility, sterility or a low sperm count. Of course there is the simpler but harder to accept reason that maybe they simply don’t want to have kids!
For those still wondering why so-and-so isn’t spamming Instagram with their baby bump and pregnancy test kit results, here’s a quick list of reasons.
Kids ain’t their cup of tea
Kids are cute, they are cuddly, and parenting is an immensely rewarding experience. However, just like green tea, it’s not something everyone may want. Becoming a parent does not involve simple lifestyle modifications; it’s a lifelong modification of who you are. I respect men and women who are honest about their personalities and/or priorities and choose not to have children instead of being unhappy parents, or worse still, ill-treat their children. So while X and Y may not have a baby, the rest can focus on keeping opinions to themselves.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
A lot of women suffer from the many side effects of PCOS. Essentially a hormonal imbalance, PCOS can cause acne, weight gain, hirsuteness, irregular periods, hair fall and an inability to conceive. Diagnosis is often difficult due to the varied symptoms. It requires lifestyle changes, and medical attention, but more importantly can be emotionally draining on the woman. So please de-cyst from body shaming or baby shaming your fellow female, and offer her a warm smile or a hug.
Tubal diseases and Endometriosis
There is many a slip between hitting the sack with your manfriend and finding those two elusive lines on your pregnancy test. Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes can cause roadblocks to babyville. Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside of it on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvic tissue. This condition can cause pelvic pain and lead to fertility issues.
Hormones should have ideally been called her-mones given how problematic they can make life for women. They cause our moods to yo-yo, our appetites to fluctuate, and create problems for that toothless terror to enter our lives. Imbalances in progesterone or estrogen levels, a malfunctioning thyroid gland, diabetes, or other hormonal malfunctions can cause fertility issues. While many of these can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes, they can still cause challenges with conceiving.
The other half of the problem
You’ll be surprised how often it’s the guy whose lazy swimmers, lack of swimmers, or possible structural problems can keep baby bellies at bay. Low motility, low sperm count, smoking, excessive drinking, being overweight, previous illnesses, and some forms of strenuous exercise like cycling or horse riding, are amongst the causes of male infertility. So if you have been extremely well scheduled in your baby trying attempts but aren’t enjoying the fruits of your labour, make sure both you and your significant other get a thorough checkup to see if there is anything to worry about.
If you are a close friend or a family member, perhaps your concern is genuine, but given my experience, it’s still best not to pry, unless you see more problematic signs like depression or physical ill health. All you mamas and wannabe mammas, remember that while it can be a long and often emotionally exhausting wait, or annoying to justify your lifestyle choice, it’s not something to be ashamed about or beat yourself over. Please do talk to family or close friends, seek help from doctors and counsellors, or meet others through support groups.
Leave loneliness and shame at the kerb, and speak about your struggle instead of concealing it like you would a badly timed pimple; your courage might be a life raft to someone else. Remember, motherhood is not a report card of how complete your life is, and a baby does not come with guarantees of satisfaction or warranties against unhappiness.
Whether you decide to grow a baby, make room for one in your home and heart, parent a pet or just choose to be a cool aunt or uncle, let’s give each other more room to live and love in our different ways and teach our kiddos to do so, too.