Remember the words – “God bless the couple with children” – that Pastors and Priests prayed on your wedding day? Remember being told by friends and family the following day, “Don’t wait too long”? Remember being asked by family, friends, and acquaintances a year or two later, “When are you planning to have a baby?” Well, if you aren’t yet married, I figure you would be at best aware of these statements and more either because you may have overheard them or may have uttered them yourselves. It is no new news to us that we live in a context where marriages are considered to be complete only when the couple has a child. It is true that children are a blessing. I wouldn’t question that. The Bible certainly holds them in high regard. But are marriages complete only when couples procreate? Is the bond between two partners real and true only when they have a baby?
My point in writing is this is not to question procreation. Rather my point is to question and confront forced pregnancy. Forced pregnancy is the practice of forcing a woman to become pregnant. This compulsion can come from one’s parents, in-laws, relatives, relatives of the spouse, men and women of God, friends, and even one’s spouse. In fact, we force pregnancy indirectly with language, comparative language. We draw comparisons between women that are carrying and those that aren’t, women that want to have children and those that don’t want to or are delaying the desire to, women that can conceive and those that can’t, seldom having anything positive to say about the latter.
But it isn’t just about forced pregnancy that I am concerned about, we must also learn to stop asking a woman if she is (or is planning to get) pregnant. I understand the love and care but we need to get things right: it is her body, her right, and her decision. To have a child or not is the sole prerogative of the couple (which obviously implies and includes the woman’s consent). We may ask out of ‘concern,’ but that ‘concern’ can easily become embarrassing and humiliating beyond a certain point, causing the couple to socially disconnect with those around.
A woman doesn’t need to get pregnant so that her parents and in-laws can become grandparents. She doesn’t need to get pregnant so that her siblings and the siblings of her spouse can become uncles and aunts. She doesn’t need to become pregnant so that her husband can become a father. And certainly, she doesn’t need to become pregnant to shut the mouths of a few pain-in-the-wrong-place-relatives-and-friends. She and her spouse aren’t obligated to make babies to satisfy others. Remember we, as outsiders, are only called to “share” in their happiness, not “own” it.
We, as parents, friends, and relatives, must stop expecting the woman to fulfil our desires. We must stop expecting the woman to give birth so that we can assume new roles as father, grandparent, uncle and aunt. We must stop imposing our needs on the woman. We must learn to respect her, her desires, her body, her right, and her time. Above all we must learn to respect and love her for who she is and not for what she brings forth.
Yes, we must think twice or thrice before asking sensitive questions to a woman and a couple. Or perhaps, we must simply STOP asking her/them that. We aren’t the know-it-all people, even though we behave like we are, and therefore we don’t know if the couple can conceive or if they just don’t want to, or are simply delaying it. So it is better that we hold our tongue. We should be very careful or we’d end up touching a very sensitive part of the person’s being or crack open the door behind which are kept covert intimations. Let us not squeeze the life out of the couple through our ignorant questions and remarks.
We must stop! We must stop imposing our desires on the woman (and the couple). We must stop “forced pregnancy.” If we fail at forcing it, we are losers. If we succeed, we are the worst of losers. So, it is better to zip our mouths. Let us learn to share in the joys and celebrate the lives of a couple even without them bringing forth ‘a life.’
P.S. If we should ever feel the need to pray for a couple to have a baby, let us check with them if it is okay to do so. If we ever should feel the need to check if ‘everything’s alright,’ let us make sure we are dear and near (i.e. in private) enough to do so. And even if we are, let us not overstep our bounds. Let us be SENSITIVE!