Somewhere there is a woman: 30, no children. People ask her, "Still no kids?" Her response varies from day to day, but it usually includes forced smiles and restraint.
"Nope, not yet," she says with a chuckle, muffling her frustration.
"Well, don't wait forever. That clock is ticking, ya know," the sage says before departing, happy with herself for imparting such erudite wisdom. The sage leaves. The woman holds her smile. Alone, she cries...
Cries because she's been pregnant 4 times and miscarried every one.
Cries because she started trying for a baby on her wedding night, and that was 5 years ago.
Cries because her husband has an ex-wife and she has given him children.
Cries because she wants desperately to try in vitro but can't even afford the deposit.
Cries because she's done in vitro (multiple rounds) and still has no children.
Cries because her best friend wouldn't be a surrogate. "It would be too weird," she said.
Cries because her medication prevents pregnancy.
Cries because this issue causes friction in her marriage.
Cries because the doctor said she's fine, but deep inside she knows it's her.
Cries because her husband blames himself, and that guilt makes him a hard person to live with.
Cries because all her sisters have children.
Cries because one of her sisters didn't even want children.
Cries because her best friend is pregnant. Cries because she got invited to another baby shower.
Cries because her mother keeps asking, "Girl, what are you waiting on?"
Cries because her in-laws want to be grandparents.
Cries because her neighbor has twins and treats them like shit.
Cries because 16-year-olds get pregnant without trying.
Cries because she's an amazing aunt.
Cries because she's already picked out names.
Cries because there's an empty room in her house. Cries because there is an empty space in her body.
Cries because she has so much to offer.
Cries because he'd be a great dad.
Cries because she'd be a great mother, but isn't.
Somewhere else is another woman: 34, five children. People say to her, "Five? Good lord, I hope you're done!" And then they laugh... because those types of comments are funny. The woman laughs too, but not in earnest. She changes the subject, as she always does, and gives the disrespect a pass. Just another day. Alone, she cries...
Cries because she's pregnant with another and feels like she has to hide the joy.
Cries because she always wanted a big family and doesn't see why people seem so disturbed by it.
Cries because she has no siblings and felt profoundly lonely as a child.
Cries because her Granny had 12 and she'd love to be just like her.
Cries because she couldn't imagine life without her children, but people treat her like they're a punishment.
Cries because she doesn't want to be pitied.
Cries because people assume this isn't what she wanted.
Cries because they assume she's just irresponsible.
Cries because they believe she has no say.
Cries because she feels misunderstood.
Cries because she's tired of defending her private choices.
Cries because she and her husband are perfectly capable of supporting their family but that doesn't seem to matter.
Cries because she's tired of the "funny" comments.
Cries because she minds her own business.
Cries because she wishes others would mind theirs.
Cries because sometimes she doubts herself and wonders if she should have stopped two kids ago.
Cries because others are quick to offer criticism and slow to offer help.
Cries because she's sick of the scrutiny.
Cries because she's not a side show.
Cries because people are rude.
Cries because so many people seem to have opinions on her private life.
Cries because all she wants to do is live in peace.
Another woman: 40, one child. People say to her, "Only one? You never wanted any more?"
"I'm happy with my one," she says calmly, a rehearsed response she's given more times than she can count. Quite believable. No one would ever suspect that alone, she cries...
Cries because her one pregnancy was a miracle.
Cries because her son still asks for a brother or sister.
Cries because she always wanted at least three.
Cries because her second pregnancy had to be terminated to save her life.
Cries because her doctor says it would be "high-risk."
Cries because she's struggling to care for the one she has.
Cries because sometimes one feels like two.
Cries because her husband won't even entertain the thought of another.
Cries because he husband died and she hasn't found love again.
Cries because her family thinks one is enough.
Cries because she's deep into her career and can't step away.
Cries because she feels selfish.
Cries because she still hasn't lost the weight from her from her first pregnancy.
Cries because her postpartum depression was so intense.
Cries because she can't imagine going through that again.
Cries because she has body issues and pregnancy only exacerbates it.
Cries because she still battles bulimia.
Cries because she had to have a hysterectomy.
Cries because she wants another baby, but can't have it.
These women are everywhere. They are our neighbors, our friends, our sisters, our co-workers, our cousins. They have no use for our advice or opinions. Their wombs are their own. Let's respect that.
A version of this post originally appeared on NadirahAngail.com.