The Pressure to Marry (and Become an Instant Baby-Making Machine) 

‘So, when are you guys gonna have kids?’ My friend’s question hit me square between the eyes. To say I was surprised would have been an understatement. I was freshly engaged, not yet married. Was it normal to be pestered by baby-related questions the minute one got engaged? 

Unfortunately, I am not alone in my experience. Many couples are often questioned as to their child-rearing intentions. For some, such a topic of conversation is joyous. ‘Oh yes, we’d like three children!’ They talk freely and at length about their plans.

But for others, it can be a subject of unease or trepidation. Perhaps they don’t want to try straight away, as was the case for me. (I planned to enjoy being married first.) Perhaps they want to be more financially stable before trying. Perhaps they have medical conditions which make the prospect of pregnancy off-putting or even terrifying. 

Or perhaps—and I’m going out on a limb here—they object to their reproductive plans becoming public domain. Privacy is a thing (although it seems to be an increasingly countercultural thing in today’s world.) 

Perhaps they object to their reproductive plans becoming public domain.

The pressure to marry is huge enough in our romance-idolising society. Then, the instant you find ‘The One’, people immediately enquire into your plans for baby-making. And it doesn’t stop with the first baby either. I have seen many friends, endowed with their first offspring, being interrogated as to their plans for giving little Johnny a brother or sister. ‘You don’t want them growing up lonely,’ well-meaning friends insist. Since when did little Johnny’s social development become any of their business? 

It’s pretty bad for childless people too. I am often asked my reasons for being childless. ‘Did you choose, or are you not able to have kids?’ ‘Well,’ I reply, ‘It’s more complicated than that. I don’t know if I’m able to have kids, as I never tried, but that was due to terrifying medical risk, so it wasn’t exactly a choice made freely and happily either. I’m Steph, by the way. Nice to meet you.’ 

’It’s more complicated than that.’

I even had one colleague ask me, ‘Why don’t you have kids? I would have expected a psychologist to have children.’ Yes, because apparently psychologists are oozing with maternal instincts and fertility, and they never encounter any obstacles with having children. Plus, bearing children is actually in my job description. Honestly, the things that come out of peoples’ mouths. 

Doctors frequently ask me if I plan to try for kids in the future. Oh, bless. Honey, I’m forty-three and on the pill, but thanks for suggesting I’m young, fit and fertile enough to do that. 

Christians, I am sorry to say, can be notorious for applying the pronatal pressure. Early on in my marriage, Christian friends would innocently ask about my baby-related plans and then follow up with the knockout punch: ‘God commands us to be fruitful and multiply, you know.’ 

Christians can be notorious for applying the pronatal pressure.

First of all, thanks for assuming I’ve never read the bible. Second, lecturing me won’t help my body overcome the insurmountable difficulties it is facing. Third, who asked you? Fourth, you don’t know my story—you have no idea whether I may or may not be able to have children. Fifth, has it occurred to you there are other ways of being ‘fruitful’ without having children? Sixth—I’m on a roll—do you think that command, given to the first human beings on earth, might now have reached its use-by date? Finally, my decisions are between me, my husband and God. 

The decision to marry and have children is complex and scary enough without pressure from others to become an instant baby-making machine. How about loving people as they are, without agendas or interrogations? Rest assured that if someone is making exciting plans about a relationship or pregnancy, they will probably tell you about it with very little provocation. 

Have you ever been asked the infamous baby-making question? How did you respond to that? How can we lovingly let others know such questions can be unhelpful? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation. 

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