BY YVONNE HUGHES
Yesterday the bank manager of my local branch asked me if I was ‘expecting.’ I’m not.
Now this is a risky game whichever way you play it. I actually can’t think of any circumstances where it’s okay to ask that, unless you’re about to get on an x-ray table or a rollercoaster.
And if the question wasn’t bad enough, when my reaction obviously told her I wasn’t pregnant, she followed it up by saying ‘Don’t worry, I have a stomach too.’
Okay, so she basically just called me fat. Enough to put a dampener on your spirits, surely? But for many women, a careless comment like that can trigger much deeper pain, because there are often bigger problems below the surface.
One in six couples are infertile, and one in every three women over 35 will have fertility problems. It is also estimated that one in every five pregnancies will end in miscarriage. This makes these big issues, but sadly very common too. Common enough to apply common sense to.
Questions like ‘are you pregnant?’ have no place in small talk. And the same goes for ‘when are you going to have kids/another child?’ There are no prizes for guessing, and trust me, your friends will tell you when they’re ready.
There are countless reasons why having a baby might not be a possibility. In my case, breast cancer treatment messed up our plans for no.2. It also messed up any chances of getting back into a bikini. Nothing to put in the top bit, and an excess below the waist. Yes, my friends, weight gain, rather than weight loss, is the more common side effect of treatment. A good complementary look to go with bald.
Now, nearly a year post-treatment, I’ve lost a lot of the steroid weight. However, after a double mastectomy my belly is still larger than my chest. To the untrained eye this could look like a little baby bump. But it’s not that big – it could also just be a big lunch. But yesterday it seems it looked more like the former.
I wish I could have just shaken it off. Water off a duck’s back. But I was properly upset.
I called a friend. ‘Why are you upset?’ she asked. ‘Is it the weight thing, or the no baby thing?’ I thought about this – it was mainly the baby part, but really, none of it was rosy.
I called my husband. ‘Outrageous,’ he said. ‘You should complain.’ I will, I thought. I was halfway through dialling the bank’s Customer Relations department when I paused: what if she loses her job?
‘So what?’ the hurt, angry part of me said.
‘She mustn’t do this to anyone else,’ the activist part of me said.
‘But she will get in trouble,’ the compassionate part of me said. ‘And I’m sure she was just trying to make pleasant conversation.
What would you do? Complaining because she ruined my day isn’t a good enough reason. It’s just paying forward a negative. But complaining to help others is another thing. So I’m not going to complain to Customer Relations, I’m going to complain to you. And I’ll feel even better if I leave you with this thought: I know we live in a time where political correctness is in overdrive, but this one isn’t a stretch – unless she’s obviously pregnant, and by obviously I mean you can see that baby kicking, don’t ask the question.
Yvonne Hughes is a writer, a mother and a breast cancer survivor who’s just released a book, One Piece of Advice: Words to Guide You Through Early Breast Cancer. Like One Piece of Advice on Facebook or follow her on Twitter here.
Is the ‘are you pregnant’ question ever okay?