I have a very humble blog, which before I wrote this post had about four readers, one of which was my mother. But a few days after I wrote that post, my email inbox was flooded with notifications that people had commented on it. I was floored. I had no idea such a post would resonate with so many families. Apparently that lady in the elevator and I were very much not alone in having to bear rude and impertinent comments from (sometimes well-meaning) strangers about our very personal decisions regarding our families.
My comments section was inundated with beautiful tales of big families, small families, and all that lies in between. Several good points were made that I neglected to drive home in my post. I would like to highlight them here. In case you were wondering, here are a few things not to say:
1) Asking parents if they are trying for whatever gender you feel is underrepresented in that family in front of their children can make their children feel like they are merely incidentals on their parents’ quest for the desired gender. Not cool.
2) Remarks on only children, child spacing and maternal age are extremely personal questions that can even lead to uncomfortable reminders of struggles with infertility or miscarriages.
3) Disparaging remarks on children with special needs is NEVER ok. I would love to have a guest blogger post about this from personal experience, but it is my understanding that these parents consider their children with special needs just as much as a blessing as so called “normal” children.
4) Parents of adopted children consider them just as much their children as biological children. It is not appropriate to comment on their ethnic backgrounds, even if it is apparent that they are different from that of their parents. This is because their parents couldn’t care less what their adopted children look like, and making these remarks could make their children feel unnecessarily self conscious.
5) Stop assuming that parents with large families are too barbaric to use birth control. Contraception and sterilization has a failure rate EVEN WITH PERFECT USE, and quite frankly some of us are crunchy types who do not like pumping artificial hormones into our bodies or feel that barrier methods are about as romantic as putting a plastic bag over your face before you kiss someone. Ooh, the passion.
Someone pointed out that condolences might be more appropriate than congratulations in some instances because perhaps the lady is upset about her pregnancy. Yes, plenty of women are upset about pregnancy. Pregnancy is extremely overwhelming. You are about to bring a person into this world who has never existed before and will never exist again. That is a huge responsibility. But whether to express sympathy on a woman’s pregnancy is probably a decision that a complete stranger is unqualified to make. Best to err on the side of caution and be congratulatory. You never know. Encouragement from a stranger might be the very thing she needs to start to feel happy about her pregnancy!
When a lot of people read something on the internet, you aren’t going to please everyone. I figured something as simple as being congratulatory on the pregnancy of a stranger was something that everyone, at least, could agree upon, but boy was I wrong. My post became as controversial as it was popular. Apparently, the population control advocates and the environmentalists had a bone to pick with me. According to them, we should most certainly NOT congratulate women on their fourth or subsequent pregnancies because human beings are like cockroaches, replicating and infesting the earth with their carbon footprints. Would you congratulate a cockroach on its impressive brood? I should think not. Instead, we should judge them and if our own birth control fails too many times, we should . . . . . well, I don’t know. They didn’t provide an answer to that.
People also pointed out that “Wren” is a stupid name, I am obnoxious, the whole story is probably a lie, my post had received way more attention than it deserves, and my personal favorite: my cover picture made one commenter want to punch someone. If it continues to drive innocent readers to violence, I suppose I’ll have to change it.
All of those comments made me wish I was back in my hobbit hole with the kettle about to sing. I deleted most of them because I felt they had no place in a post about encouragement and support. They have plenty of places to air their grievances about those “nasty breeders” polluting our planet with their very presence. And most of them just seemed like attention seeking comments that wanted to distract from your beautiful stories.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your witty comments and your beautiful stories. They made me laugh, cry, and filled me with joy. I read every one of them. I hope that my humble post has fulfilled its purpose in supporting you and encouraging you on your wonderful families, no matter how many children you have.