I’m in my mid-20s and have been married for three and a half-years. According to everyone I know, this means that it would be a ripe old time to get pregnant.
My husband and I both come from fairly Orthodox religious backgrounds. In such circles, it is common for people to marry young and become parents after a year or so of marriage. So, confusion as to why we have been married for so long (no, you are not imagining a hint of sarcasm) and remain childless from this particular social group doesn’t come as such a surprise.
What is surprising, however, is that our very secular, eat-shrimp-on-Yom-Kippur friends are all about the babies, too. Perhaps their pregnancy expectations are driven by their perceptions of typical “religious” behavior. For the most part, we act as this crowd’s token “religious friends”; they come to us for Friday night dinner and pre-game on Kiddish wine for the wild night ahead. Whatever the reason, we are being ambushed from all sides.
Except—and here’s the catch—I don’t want to have a baby. Actually, we—my husband and I—don’t want to. Not yet.
We do plan to, in the not so distant future, but honestly, we’ve been having far too much fun to think about children in any practical sense. Of course, I’ve thought about my family-to-be in many non-practical ways, mostly during the dragged-out Rosh Hashanah services: how I would dress my daughter (a cute, baby version of me) in those adorable patterned leggings, or how I would sing all the songs my mother sang to me to lure my babies to sleep, but that’s about as far as I’ve got.
Our decisions are very unimportant to most people, though. And I increasingly feel like a circus-freak-meets-milking-cow—spectators cannot look away, staring with hungry eyes, projecting all their own feelings and experiences onto me, as I try to cover my face and emit a mournful “moo.”
I’ve always been a relaxed sorta gal. Until recently, pregnancy speculations would be shrugged off without a second thought. Speculations like raised, inquiring eyebrows every time I mention a stomach-ache. (Nope, not pregnant, just ate too much pasta.) Or knowing hmmms as I eat a whole pickle. (Nope, not pregnant, I just really like pickles, particularly the sour sort.)
After a while, though, more and more people chimed in with their hmmms. My grandmother, I could work with. My mother-in-law, I had been anticipating. In fact, all family members got a free pass. The hmmms that got to me, that really got to me in that blood-boiling, I’m-writing-this-at-4-o-clock-in-the-morning-because-I’m-too-angry-to-sleep way, were my friends.
When I say friends, I mean my “Facebook friends”—those who would have been called, in another age, “acquaintances.”
Why? Because these people ask me if I’m pregnant on social media, where anyone can misconstrue their words in a glance. These people ask my husband, my siblings, even my best friends if I’m pregnant, as if it is a piece of valuable gossip to be leveraged and dealt out with an air of superiority: “Oh, haven’t you heard…?”
This constant speculation is a form of body shaming. No girl should feel extra-conscious in a tight dress, knowing that many pairs of eyes are searching for the telling beginnings of a baby bump. No girl should be conscious of what they are eating: pickles, wine, no wine… the list goes on.
Well, to you, These People, I say: Mind your own damn business.
And, really, though I usually shy away from confrontation, this isn’t anyone’s business but mine and my husband’s.
I hope that when we do decide the time is right for us, we have it easy. But, if we don’t, I’m pretty sure that this type of behavior would make troubles conceiving much, much harder. Just something to think about.
For those who have made it to the end of this piece without seeing the word “pregnant” and writing a hasty, probing comment, or running off to tell everyone that, finally, Rachel is with child, know this: WHEN I do become pregnant, I will not be announcing it over Facebook. I will tell those I want to share my joy with. And These People will have to hear about it through the grapevine.