In Cyprus this is what they wish you on your wedding day. This is what my Cypriot family wished my husband and I on our wedding day almost 7 years ago. At one point during the reception my new, English, husband, Rock, turned to me and asked ‘Why in the Hell are all your family wishing me many children, is there something I need to know?’. I, laughing, explained that this is a traditional (village) Cypriot congratulations to a newly married couple and that no, there was nothing he needed to know.
Now almost 7 years after that, I realise the pressure that was inadvertently put on us, not just by my Cypriot traditions, but in general the society we live in. Where we live, our community is majorly of Arab descent, and I am regularly asked ‘when are you going to have another (child)?’ ‘Don’t you want Tyrant to have a sister/brother?’ Argh! The pressure to first explain, that you do have another child, but she is dead (the term ‘stillborn’ is not widely recognised in my immediate community), and finally, the pressure to stay calm in the face of such an insensitive question, even if it is not intended to be. Maybe, we chose to stop with one child, maybe we accept that we are a family of three, or maybe (as it is for us) we are experiencing infertility. Either way, unless it is offered for discussion, don’t ask!
Rock and I waited 3 years before we felt ready to try for our first baby. This wasn’t uncommon in our immediate community, at that time. It also wasn’t uncommon to hear of couples struggles with infertility, what treatment they were having, who with, what was successful, what wasn’t. The majority of these experiences were unexplained infertility and started when they first started trying to get pregnant, most, in our group, appeared to be solved with IVF. But now, we are part of a different world, where when you try to explain that your husband and you want another child, but that you are struggling with infertility you are met with, ‘you are not! You have had one, Inshallah, you will again’. This isn’t meant to be dismissive, but it is, I feel as though you have asked a personal question and now you aren’t happy with my answer, it is too complex to accept so you’d rather dismiss me! Don’t ask, if you aren’t prepared to hear the answer!
I am also to blame, I could just fob them off with a socially acceptable smile and say, ‘you never know…’ But I don’t, because I have Asherman’s Syndrome, and I believe by not openly taking about fertility issues, miscarriage, stillbirth we carry on the tradition of allowing them to remain taboo topics. I believe, if someone asks a personal question then they owe it to me to hear my personal answer, if I choose to give it. And this is my answer; ‘I would love more children, but at the moment we are struggling to get pregnant because of fertility issues.’ I rarely, get anything back in response, apart from shocked looks, and I just hope they have learnt not to ask such personal questions, if the answers make them uncomfortable. But sometimes, sometimes, someone will say ‘Oh! but you have Tyrant?!’ Opening the door for me to briefly explain about the little known Asherman’s Syndrome, thus raising awareness of it, and my missing space, Cacia.
So, my plea to all, ask a question, receive an answer, be prepared for whatever answer you get!