When I first saw two pink lines on my pregnancy test, I was hit with excitement followed immediately by a sense of dread in telling others — people will think I’m actually crazy this time, I concluded. My data set was based on announcing my fourth child, which was met with strange looks, some head shaking, and general confusion. People seemed genuinely baffled by why I’d want this many kids, on purpose. My brother asked if I’m Catholic, implying I must not believe in birth control. Sure, the last time 5 kids was the norm was around 1870, but is it really that strange? Apparently, yes.
I was pleasantly surprised when I started sharing the news — most close family and friends were excited and asked their go-to question, given that I already had four boys: “Do you think it will finally be a girl this time?” But a few did exactly what I worried they’d do: They avoided the subject when I was obviously pregnant, and in one memorable conversation, somebody asked if I was having that many kids “on purpose?” “Of course,” I replied — I obviously know how babies are made by this point.
While the jokes are mostly well-meaning, between pregnancies four and five they leaned more towards actual confusion, with a side of judgment. Older relatives joked about how poor we were going to be, based on their future predictions of the cost of gallons of milk with worsening inflation, and of course, what college would cost 18 years from now. Not things newly pregnant moms typically want to hear about.
But what was interesting was how the tone changed when I revealed the baby’s sex; it is, in fact, a girl. Suddenly, the naysayers seemed to have a “reason” for my overzealous baby-making habit. Now, my family would be complete to them. I was shocked at how quickly those who were casting judgment and jokes felt this fact somehow validated my pregnancy.
I was surprised by the strong opinions people already had on how my sons and daughter would interact, and family dynamics for a baby not yet even born. On my social media post revealing I was having a daughter, comment after comment poured in noting how “protected” my little girl would be with so many big brothers. Only one progressive aunt subtly changed the conversation from how many brothers would be scrutinizing her future dates, to a more balanced response: “That’s one lucky and protected little chicky. AND is also going to be a badda$$ and boss her big bros around,” she posted.
After weeks of various types of comments, mostly unsolicited, I asked my husband why people felt the need to share how “insane,” “crazy,” and “ambitious” we are. I was honestly not sure how to respond anymore to the “You must be a super mom” vibes, which even veered further towards one “You are a better woman than me” comment. His response was very simple, but it alleviated the distress: “They aren’t thinking about what we can or can’t handle. It’s about what they think they couldn’t handle.” It made total sense. They weren’t picturing my family expanding by one, with its already fun and chaotic vibes growing a bit, but rather they were picturing what five kids would be like for them. And for some, such as a naysayer who has an only child, that would be a big jump, and quite stressful.
This also helped me get to the root of why I was so concerned with their comments: I too wondered if I could do it. Would five be too many? Would we lose our minds, would our marriage deteriorate, and would our kids have enough $9 gallons of milk a decade from now? And instead of reassurance, I was met with doubt. But I quickly realized this negativity was taking away from what might be one of the greatest surprises and joys of our lives, especially after miscarriage in the past. So, I opted out of it.
So, I stopped taking comments personally, and changed my response: a blank stare coupled with an awkward joke — like how we must just really like sex, or how we are just seeing how many total we can make, to further confuse the confused among us. That worked much better, and led to some great laughs.
Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Alex is also mom to her four sons under age 7, who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting. For over a decade she has been helping publications and companies connect with readers and bring high-quality information and research to them in a relatable voice. She has been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Glamour, Shape, Today’s Parent, Reader’s Digest, Parents, Women’s Health, and Insider.
Alex has a Master of Arts in Teaching, and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications/Journalism, both from Miami University. She has also taught high school for 10 years, specializing in media education.