Facing the 'Do You Want Kids?' Question as a Woman With Lupus
There are multiple demographics about myself that cause people to assume I have children. I am female — they assume I must feel the motherly instinctual pull; I am a military wife — they assume every military family always has children; I am in my late 20s — they assume I must have children by now; I look healthy — they assume the only thing holding me back is my own choice. The truth is, those who assume these things could not be more wrong.
I am 28 years old, a proud military wife, mother of two rescue dogs (both of whom are geniuses, of course), a superb baker, soon-to-be small business owner, natural born leader, loyal friend, caring daughter, my brother’s best friend and childless. How can I proudly state that I do not have children? Because I am one of few people who have known the excruciating daily and decade-long journey I have been through with a chronic illness. I am proud of who I am, what I have accomplished, and excited for what my future holds.
Here is a typical small-talk conversation between myself and an acquaintance:
Me: Hi, it’s so nice to meet you, I’m Emily!
New Acquaintance: Hi, nice to meet you, I’m [insert name]. So do you guys have kids?
Me: Nope! We have two dogs.
New Acquaintance: [insert unsure expression] Oh! Cool… [insert awkward silence]. Do you think you guys will want kids?
Me: I don’t know, maybe?
New Acquaintance: Oh.. OK. [insert more silence]
At this point the acquaintance usually makes an excuse to get a drink or find their other friend. This dialogue is an honest and typical interaction that I encounter every time I meet new people.
I believe the issue is not the question of having children, rather, their reactions and assumptions to my honest answers. I have had some women who I have opened up to suggest that I can stop taking my lupus medications whenever I want to have a kid. Their naïve thinking and unwillingness to truly understand the disease allows them to think little of my ambition and self-worth. People who I have considered to be “friends” have assumed that I am not capable of achieving the same family and career goals as them because I have more bad days than the average
After years of experience with these scenarios, I have found that it is best to just answer their questions with pride and confidence. They do not know the daily struggles I deal with, being chronically ill. And to be fair, I have not been given the chance to share those stories.
Yes, it does put a small ping on my heart when I answer “no” I see their superficial excitement dissipate from their face, knowing I cannot elaborate my disappointment that something has been taken from me, once again, or does not come as easily as others. I always remind myself I go home to a house full of love and laughter which is something you create and is not dependent on how physically full the house is, but rather, the intangible feelings of how full your hearts are.
My free advice to those who do express a judgmental tone towards those who are childless, if any advice is needed: you never know why someone else leads the life they have. Try not to be wary of those of us who are not like yourself. People come into our lives for a reason. Why not give us a chance?
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Thinkstock photo by 1Viktoria