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Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Duchess of Cambridge and the Culture of Pregnancy Nosiness

by ldsbishop (bio)

Just as Britain was sinking into the depths of a winter depression after a summer celebrating the Olympic Games and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Wills and Kate for those of you that get your Royal news from supermarket tabloids) performed the most solemn of duties to ensure the Commonwealth has an heir to the throne likely to survive into the 22nd century.

Ever since the former Kate Middleton walked out of Westminster Abbey with her new husband, there has been endless speculation as to when a bun might start baking in the Royal oven. A stream of "is she, or isn't she" stories have appeared in the gutter press since the Royal wedding night. Recently, that speculation was finally ended when it was announced that Kate was in hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum and expecting a baby. The world's media camped outside the hospital as the poor Duchess heaved inside.

Church members are taught 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" (Handbook 2, 21.4.4). However, I've observed that the speculation the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge received on a global scale also occurs on a much smaller scale in most wards and branches.

When Mrs. ldsbishop and I moved into a small ward soon after getting married, we were seen by some as a one-couple team that would stock the ward's Primary for a new generation. Below are just a few examples of that pressure:

1. Mrs. ldsbishop is lactose intolerant and would occasionally get bouts of nausea if she had too much dairy. When she was serving on the YW presidency she suffered an attack and overheard her fellow counsellor remark to the YW president "She's pregnant, I guarantee it."

2. Shortly after this incident, one of the brethren in the ward, who wasn't exactly known for his tact, approached me and congratulated me on my "little blessing." I had no clue what he was talking about and he got embarrassed when I asked him. It turned out there was a false rumour going around that Mrs. ldsbishop might be pregnant.

3. After nearly five years of marriage and still no baby (by choice) people were starting to get frustrated. We had a senior missionary couple serving in the ward at the time and first time we ever met them, the husband asked Mrs. ldsbishop how many children she had. When she mentioned we didn't have any he said, "Hmm, I better go and have words with your husband. That's not on!"

We did consider playing tricks on our ward but we chickened out. Mrs. ldsbishop was tempted to slowly add padding to her clothes over a period of nine months and then suddenly remove it. If questioned about it she would deny anything was going on. I was also tempted to start a rumour that my penis had been severed after an industrial accident and we were therefore unable to have children. However, I thought that would go too far and I really wanted to avoid people taking sneaky glances at my crotch to see if the rumour was true.

Eventually we ended up expecting a baby, followed a few years later by another. Two incredibly boisterous sons are enough for us and we feel that we're done. However, that hasn't stopped the speculation and nosiness regarding when we might have more. How many children do Mormon a couple need to have before they are asked "Aren't you done yet?"

I suppose that the teaching that it's "God's Commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth" (Family Proclamation and elsewhere) along with the cultural perception that Mormons have large families mean that we have reproduction on the mind in more ways than one. However, I have sat with enough families who have lost children in pregnancy or cannot have children, to see that the speculation and rumour I've spoken of can become an unwelcome and incredibly upsetting intrusion.

So, to William and Kate: congratulations on your wonderful news. I'm very sorry for the intrusion into your lives regarding your pregnancy. Many Mormons sympathise.

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