I can still remember it like it was yesterday.
It was Christmas 2001. We had travelled down to the village in Kogi State, Nigeria, to spend a week with my husband’s family at their family house. There I was, 1 full year of married life gone, and no baby or even a baby bump to be proud of. This was something close to a taboo in my husband’s family.
The whole place was teeming with excitement, kids were playing and tumbling all over, fireworks were exploding, and everyone was jolly. Home cooked pounded yam and Okra soup was aplenty, and so were the drinks. I had tried to act invisible all day long and I was standing in a quiet corner, about to heave a sigh of relief that no one had asked me the question yet, when I felt a bony finger tap my shoulder from behind.
I turned and there they were, the old aunties of the family, a group of 3 women old enough to be my grandmothers. Mama Sunday, Mama Benji and Mama Ele they were called. Mama Sunday, being the oldest, had apparently been appointed the spokesperson, because she leaned towards me her face just inches away from mine and asked with a crooked smile “Why are you not pregnant yet?! What are you waiting for?! Don’t you want your mother-in-law to carry your baby?”
I was 26 years old at the time and still quite shy of elders. I immediately felt my head swell, and butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Before I could respond, she called out to my Mother-in-law halfway across the room “Mama Goddy!”(Goddy being my husband’s name) “You are not taking this matter seriously, why is this Lagos girl not pregnant yet?” As people turned to where we were standing and began to stare, I fled the party in tears, and ran into the main house to sob quietly in the guest room. My Mother-in-law came in later to apologize and swore she had nothing to do with it (but to this day, I have never believed her).
Family gatherings have a way of breeding the opportunity to open up the wounds of TTC, and rubbing in the salt. Even when the questions are from well meaning and caring folks, it’s no less painful having to explain the umpteenth time “No, we are not doing boyfriend and girlfriend and No, we are still trusting God”. No matter how strong you are, it hurts.
Here are a few tips to help you make the whole situation less painful:
1. Have a plan!
Start preparing yourself emotionally days before the family gathering. If possible, schedule a massage, or buy yourself something extra special, but not necessarily expensive, so you are in a good mood beforehand. You really need the support of your Spouse at this point. It would be a good idea not to attend all the events or meetings involved with this family gathering. If you must attend, you can both agree on how long you are going to stay.
2. Have a response ready.
The questions are going to come, don’t kid yourself. Practise the kind of questions you expect to be asked and the likely response you would give in each case. The trick is to be direct, but gracious at the same time. Answer the question and change the subject, or make an exit if possible. When asked |What are you still waiting for?” you could say “We believe things will work out soon, I like your hair where did you style it?” Don’t allow the asker to lead you into a word battle.
3. Find someone to talk with.
Is there someone in the family that you know had, or is still dealing with, infertility issues? Having a talk with them, and a good laugh if possible, can help ease the tension and make you know you are not alone, or some kind of freak.
4. Take breaks
Despite your best efforts, there may still be times when you feel sad or isolated, even with so much activity going on around you. Take a walk, especially when the weather is cooler. Get away from everyone and just take some me time to be calm and relieve anxiety.
5. Rejoice with others
There may likely be lots of children running around, especially during Christmas and other religious holidays. Seeing little children and their mothers having a good time can, and does, hurt. You may even bump into a few pregnant relatives too!
It’s a painful reminder you are not pregnant yet. However, you don’t want to be that Aunt that all the kids are afraid of. Do what you can to put a smile on their faces, but whatever you do, avoid scolding or punishing someone else’s child harshly. It could be taken the wrong way.
Most of all reach out to your Spouse, and be a source of comfort and support for each other and before you know it’s time to return home.
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here