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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Guest Post: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell - Baby Edition

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Jared Jones views himself as an expatriate New Englander living in San Antonio. He resides there with his brilliant military doctor wife and his nearly five-going-on-45-year-old daughter. When he is not working, churching or family-ing he likes watching superhero cartoons. This blog post represents his first of a non-family variety.

My wife and I are the proud parents of a very beautiful and gifted 5-year old and are expecting our second child - a boy - due in November.

We had hoped to have our kids a little closer together, but due to various circumstances and choices both beyond and within our control we have a little gap. As mentioned in the immortal classic “A Bug’s Life,” gaps happen. During the time we prayerfully planned and hoped to grow our family, I was amazed how our choices somehow became everyone else’s business. To be fair, members of our faith are not the only people who do this. I had several weird conversations with co-workers as well. I think it may happen a little more frequently in the church setting, however, because of our focus on the family. Calling everyone Brother or Sister also gives us the illusion that we are closer that we actually may be.

Whether in or out of the church, people I did not have a close relationship with asked very personal questions. Questions like:

“Do you want to have more kids?”
“How many kids are you going to have?”
“You’re going to have one of each now - are you done with having kids?“

And my personal favorite: “Are you trying to have kids?”

With this question, people whom you barely know are basically asking you if you are having sex with your spouse. Sounds like perfect meeting house foyer conversation to me.

And yet, I went ahead and answered the question each time - trying to be polite, I guess. But the more I thought about it the more disturbed I became. Why do people think they have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of knowledge about other peoples’ reproductive plans? What’s worse, have I ever asked such questions? Have you caught yourself asking personal questions?

Section 21.4.4 of Handbook 2: Administering the Church provides some clear direction on this issue:

“It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spirit children of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.”

In addition to the issues of people asking about our family planning, we were also equally derided for waiting to tell people that we were expecting our second child until we were nearly 20 weeks along. Our family members and a few trusted, very close friends knew, but my wife and I wait to tell the general populace. As a physician, my wife knows of all the things that can co wrong in a pregnancy, and feels more comfortable waiting. Once we decided to tell people, instead of the traditional “When are you due,” we heard “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me” or “Why did you wait so long,” or “When were you going to let us know?” Suddenly we were “on the outs” with people I hardly ever spoke with. I guess I view any news relating to kids, birth and pregnancy as our news to tell to whom we want to tell it, when we want to tell it. Sounds crazy, no?

In the words of another great movie, “Let me explain, no there is too much, let me sum up”: Sensitivity, courtesy and discretion are all qualities that should be exemplified by any modern man - mormon or otherwise. That’s how I have tried to respond when I receive these unwelcome queries, but we never know what situation others are in. Perhaps they ache for children and cannot have them. Perhaps they recently suffered a miscarriage or are struggling with decision of having children at all. So the next time you or your spouse has the urge to ask - or you are asked yourself - stop and think.

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