Please Stop Asking CF Women If They Will Have More Kids
Author’s note: The title of this article should really read, “Please Stop Asking Women if They Want More Kids”. This subject is touchy whether or not you have CF. In my personal experience the additional layer of CF makes it a bit more difficult. Be courteous; just don’t do it.
If you have children, you know there’s a weird phenomenon that occurs when your baby turns 1-year-old. Suddenly, people become very overly-invested in your family’s future plans of having more children. You might hear questions or comments like this: Do you want more kids? When are you going to have more kids? It’s time to give [enter children(s) name(s)] a sibling!
I like to think of this occurrence as a “Thanksgiving Turkey Situation”. Somewhere hidden on that sweet 1-year-old butterball there is a pop-up timer that erupts on their birthday, alerting the noisy people around you. They think, “Time to ask those deeply personal questions because that baby is now one!” It’s a bizarre circumstance, yet an almost universal experience for many women with young children.
Be aware of triggers
I know this particular question is usually meant without malice as an attempt of one person connecting with another, especially older women who may look back fondly on that time of motherhood. Typically, there’s good intention behind it and I see that. I understand the intention. However, for many women these seemingly innocent questions are triggering for many reasons including:
- Fertility treatments
- Carrier status of genetic disease
- Birth trauma
- Unstable home life/abuse
- Mental or physical illness
- Financial issues
- Doesn’t want children
- It’s none of your business
Leave women with CF out of it
I imagine many women with CF feel similarly as I do. The reality of our disease and the uncertainty of our futures makes the thought of motherhood difficult and complex, even after you have become one. Many women with CF grow up thinking they would never be mothers, questioning if motherhood was a smart choice to make, experiencing infertility, and then questioning how much you can test fate before it comes to bite you in the butt. Even with two wonderful, beautiful children who I love more than my own life (I can literally say that), this question at its core still pains me.
Your questions hurt…
While waiting for children
Prior to having our 5-year-old, people would ask me if I wanted children and I would reply with deep, hidden sorrow, “Yes, absolutely, but it’s complicated.” My answer was a simple way of saying, “Hey look, I don’t know if having kids is a healthy choice or if it will kill me in the long run. I have a lot to think about because I don't know how long I will live. I have worked everyday of my adult life to stay healthy to have kids, but it’s still unlikely to happen. Plus, I don’t even know if I can get pregnant and survive a pregnancy, let alone care for a baby. Thank you for asking…” Cue mental breakdown.
During brutal decline
After our first son turned one, I was so sick in a state of decline that when people asked me if I wanted more kids I would simply answer, “I’m not healthy enough to carry another pregnancy right now, maybe in the future.” And then I would break down in tears in my car, a swelling of complicated grief I had not felt before. It was a painful and difficult time for me with my small child in tow, uncertain future, and exhausting low lung function. I was scared of all I felt was to come, guilty of causing my son possible pain, and yet I still wanted to experience the joy of motherhood again. Talk about a complex situation.
In the midst of fertility treatments and loss
After I started Trikafta, I miraculously became more stable health-wise and my ability to have another child was a possibility again, but things never go as planned. I would answer “Yes, I am currently doing fertility treatments to get pregnant. We hope it happens for us soon.” Of course, those strangers didn’t know all the time, money, anxiety, and emotions that had been poured into trying to have a baby and failing for over a year. They didn’t know that I had just had a miscarriage after a successful round of fertility treatments. They didn’t know that although I desperately wanted another baby, I was very anxious I would decline and become sick once again.
In the midst of grief and young children
Recently after our second son turned one, once again someone asked if i wanted more kids, I simply said, “I will always want more, kids but I’m not sure right now.” They had no idea that my family was grieving a heartbreaking cancer diagnosis; I was in survival mode with two small children and multiple chronic illnesses; I was tired and too thin from breastfeeding for over a year; and really just needed a meal and shower and not to waste my time answering a question they shouldn’t have asked in the first place.
In the end, you don’t know the hidden weight that particular question holds for an individual. Maybe it holds no weight at all, and that’s great. However my guess is for someone with CF, it’s something they have thought extensively about. It’s best to let them bring it up with you, let them share their truth if they feel comfortable, and in return show support and empathy. In the meantime, please stop asking women with CF if they want [more] kids.
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