Am I what?


Moms in Ministry

Dear Member of My Congregation,

I wanted to respond to
your statement the other day.  As I was leaving church on Sunday, you
came up to me and said, “You’re trying to get pregnant, right?”  At the
time I was too shocked to say anything more than, “Um, uh, no, not yet”
to you, but upon further reflection I think a longer response is
warranted.

Now, I know it is no mystery that I love babies.  I
grab babies at church every chance I get.  Holding one of those warm,
wiggly creatures gives me a rush of endorphins unlike anything else. 
When I first got married, members of the congregation to whom I was
close would often joke about whether or not I was pregnant and that
felt fine and funny because I had pre-established rapport with them.

However,
I barely know you.  I see you on Sunday mornings and you have been
nothing but polite to me, but we’ve never had a conversation beyond the
niceties that are expected between pastor and churchgoer.   Now, I know
we’re all part of the body of Christ, and that we all belong to each
other, but ma’am, unless you were in the hospital getting a
hysterectomy or in my office complaining about your marriage, I will
never ask you how your sex life is.  In fact, I really don’t want to
know.

And, I suspect, you do not really know how my sex life with my husband is going.  I don’t discuss my sex life with my closest friends, and I am certainly not going to discuss it with you.  After all, you can’t ask me about getting pregnant without asking me about sex and. . .ewww.

Here’s the deal.  My husband and I do have a plan to try to start a family at an undisclosed time.  So, while your question made me uncomfortable, it was not a painful question.  But, I have friends for whom that question would be heart breaking.

I have friends who would like nothing more than to be pregnant. I have friends who yearn to be mothers, but cannot. 

I have friends who are candidates for in-vitro fertilization, who are on their third and fourth try in a process that is emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually exhausting.

I have friends who cannot get pregnant and are waiting to adopt, hoping—for years sometimes—that someone will choose them to parent their child.

I have friends who have just had miscarriages, and are mourning the loss of what might have been.

I have friends who are in the midst of failing marriages who are realizing not only may they not have children, but they may not even stay married.

For that matter, I have friends who are single who want nothing more powerfully than to be a wife and mother, but who have not found the right person to marry.

For any of these women, your question would have provoked a set of emotions far stronger and more painful than mine.  But, like me, they would have demurred and not embarrassed you, even though your question would have pierced their hearts.

I know your interest in my life comes because you care for me and the image of the pastor’s new baby is a charming one.  However, our words hold an enormous amount of power and I would ask that you use them gently.  I, too, will try to remember the power of language and use my own words for good.

Very sincerely,

Your Pastor


9 replies
  1. Sarah F.
    Sarah F. says:

    Wow… thank you for writing such a powerful, meaningful response.
    I, too, have struggled with people asking me this question, except, given that we already have a 3 year old, it has become “when are you going to have another one?”
    While I would like to tell people that it is no one’s business but mine, my husband’s and God’s, I don’t. Like you, I usually stammer the ‘um, no, not yet’ or ‘talk to me when our daughter is older’ (for someone I know a bit better).
    Thank you for providing such a thought provoking and sensitive response. I have printed it so that I can use portions of it the next time I am pressed with this question!

    Reply
  2. chavale
    chavale says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful response to the sort of parishioners we all know.
    I am facing a very similar question every now and then: “So – you live all on your own in that big vicarage. Is there no one in your life.”
    The question is slightly different but the answer is certainly the same.

    Reply
  3. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    Thank you for such a thoughtful response. As a pastor who struggled with infertility for a long time – it does hurt when people ask and it becomes more and more difficult to answer people’s questions without getting bitter.

    Reply
  4. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    Thank you for this. I too have experienced this when I first started at my congregation. We have one child, but for reasons that are personal and many others don’t understand, my husband and I are sticking to one. Holding back “it’s none of your business!” is HARD. Enough time has past that I don’t get asked about “another one on the way” very often, but it still sneaks up at times. People often don’t respect that boundary of why and when you choose to have or not have children. I think many women experience this, but us more so because we are public.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    As someone who has been trying to get pregnant for a short time, I appreciate your article very much. I keep trying to come up with a witty response, but have yet to think of anything. I just do not understand what people are thinking when they ask that question. I guess they are not thinking.

    Reply
  6. ann
    ann says:

    Thank you for this wonderful piece. It reminds me what weird ideas some of us have of the level of control we supposedly have over conception.

    Reply
  7. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed to read this. My husband and I have been trying for 2 1/2 years and are finally beginning IVF tomorrow. When I first got married, some of my youth would joke “are you pregnant yet?” which was funny until I had a late miscarriage that we shared with our congregation.
    Since that time, some people have been really supportive of us. While others have been inappropriately nosey and intrusive– please forgive me if I don’t want to discuss my reproductive life with you, especially in the doorway after worship.
    And the secret thing I don’t want to admit? So many people have shared with me their own infertility/miscarriage issues. I know they are trying to make me feel less alone (which I appreciate), but on the other hand, so many people have told us, it is beginning to feel like another burden I have to carry.

    Reply
  8. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Thank you. This is something I’ve been struggling with lately, in particular the pressure behind the question to be starting a family and such…

    Reply

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