S“It’s about time to have another one, don’t you think?” an acquaintance said as she watched my little girl wrap her arms around my legs.
I brushed off the comment, responding with something along the lines of “we’ll see” or “maybe someday.”
She and I were guests at a baby shower, the air abuzz with talk of baby names and breastfeeding and nursery themes. The atmosphere held a feeling of hope, of possibility as the guest of honor gently massaged her rounded abdomen, and announced that she’d just felt her baby kick.
My newly minted 3-year-old daughter had accompanied me to the celebration that day, and what my acquaintance didn’t know was that the due date of my second pregnancy was just days away. It was a pregnancy I had wanted, but it had unfortunately ended months earlier.
My husband and I had planned for our children to be three years apart. And if things had gone according to plan, I would have walked into that baby shower, massaging my own baby bump, looking forward to going through the newborn stage of child-rearing with my friend who was being honored that day. My kids would have been almost exactly 3 years apart – just as we’d planned.
But family planning doesn’t always go as planned. Some couples have fewer children than they’d like – and it’s not by choice.
When my husband and I begun discussions about starting a family, we’d already been married several years. We thought we were taking the safe route, waiting to become pregnant until we were older and had spent some time together as a couple. Our lives were in order. We were financially stable with no debt. We had college degrees and decent jobs. And we had just moved into a four bedroom home, one in which we’d assumed we’d fill up with kids.
It took a few months for me to become pregnant, but once it happened, that first pregnancy went as planned.
But as we soon discovered, that’s not always the case.
Nearly a year after that baby shower, days after my daughter’s fourth birthday, another acquaintance inquired about when I would be having another child.
“You’re running out of time!” she exclaimed as her eyes shifted from my growing daughter back to me. “You can’t have just one! Your daughter needs a sibling to play with!”
What she didn’t know was that the due date of my third pregnancy had just passed, but my baby had been born still a few months prior. What she didn’t know was that I desperately wanted another child. What she didn’t know was that I was heartbreakingly aware of how much time had passed since my daughter was born, and how much I’d aged. What she didn’t know was that I had already said goodbye to two babies and that my heart broke for my daughter who had started asking for a brother or sister.
And what she didn’t know was that I already felt like a failure as a woman and mother. And that I was swimming in the guilt of letting my little family down.
Her comments were like daggers to my empty womb. A reminder of what I had failed to produce.
I had planned. I had hoped. I had wanted more than one. But out of three pregnancies, I had lost two.
Those comments? Those expectations? Well, they hurt. At a time when my heart was broken and my body had failed, those comments seemed to confirm that something was indeed wrong with me.
Yes, pregnancy is a normal part of life, but unfortunately pregnancy loss is too – or at the very least it’s a more common part of life than most people realize. And the pressure that is put on women to have another child after they’ve successfully had one can be a heavy weight to bear.
So let’s drop the expectations. Let’s stop expecting women to produce a certain number of children. Let’s stop assuming that every woman can produce a certain number of children. Or that a woman who has just one child is a mother to one for selfish reasons. Let’s stop expecting women to have babies on a certain timeline. Let’s start recognizing that becoming pregnant is never a guarantee, nor is a positive outcome even after a positive pregnancy test.
And let’s stop asking moms when they’re going to have another. Because there’s a good chance they’ve been trying to – and there’s a good chance that their hearts are breaking in response to their own unmet expectations.
This post originally appeared on Filter Free Parents.