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To want to shake this woman

(36 Posts)
pouffepants Sun 12-May-13 17:03:49

Was sat next to a woman at church this morning who I vaguely know. Last time I saw her she was hugely pregnant, and now she had a baby of a couple of months with her. An absolutely gorgeous one, so I dutifully cooed over it, and congratulated her.

This is her fifth child, all of which are about a year apart. So she has children aged about 4, 3, 2, 1 and 0. So I (cheekily) asked 'are you all done now?' And she, with a heavy sigh, answered 'I did hope so.' I guess I probably raised an eyebrow because she then quietly said that she thought she might be pregnant again.

She said, I keep telling DH to 'use something', but he doesn't like it. I asked if she hadn't thought of 'using something' herself, and she said her dh didn't want her to, so she couldn't. I said, well surely you're going to end up with about 12 kids then, and she muttered probably, but I really hope not.

Her dc are all clearly very cared for, clean, well dressed, well behaved, and her dh is very hands on with them. But as she said, that's just sundays, the rest of the week he's working long hours, and she said she's exhausted with it all.

It's not a catholic church, so no teachings against contraception, but even if the reasons were religious, she didn't mention them at all during the conversation. I did weakly attempt to tell her that she should tell her husband more of how she felt, but I felt really uncomfortable since I hardly know her. She then reiterated that she hoped her husband would 'do something' about the situation and then moved on. i just wanted to scream and shake her. The very thought of feeling that you've got to have untold amounts of children made me feel very depressed.

shewhowines Mon 13-May-13 09:28:50

It might be worth another conversation with her,telling her that you've been thinking about her situation and are worried. Ask her if she is mildly or really unhappy about the situation and encourage her to talk to the Gp for advice about contraception/talk to the vicar/womens aid etc, if necessary.

I wouldn't get too embroiled but try to get her to talk to relevant authorities to help her. She may not have questioned her husbands control before. Give her/make sure she has the tools and knowledge that she doesn't have to just put up with it, if she doesn't want to, and then it's up to her.

Don't just walk away. The fact she told you so much information says to me, that she's crying out for help.

SirBoobAlot Mon 13-May-13 09:05:54

I don't think I'd shake her. Offer her a cup of tea and some information on the fact she can use contraception without her husbands knowledge.

RiotsNotDiets Mon 13-May-13 08:54:45

I would say that if the woman has asked her husband to use condoms and when he said no asked to use female contraceptives which he also refused then he is pushing her into a situation where she is having sex that she is not comfortable with and that, in my eyes, is rape.

It sounds like the husband is abusive and controlling, I'm not really sure how churches work, but could you speak to the vicar?

loofet Mon 13-May-13 07:44:30

Hmm. Well I won't/can't use contraceptions because the hormones in them send me doolally. So if we want to protect against pregnancy we have to use condoms something which neither of us are very good at (we end up feeling like awkward teenagers! Aren't they just so awkward and easy to forget 'in the moment' too?) We also have had 3 kids a year apart but definitely NOT wanting another yet. So we've had to turn to NFP.

It's hard because i'm still bfing the youngest so I don't have steady periods yet but it's basically tracking when ovulation is and avoiding it like the plague. Tbh I don't really let my DH near me anymore full stop grin and this is the longest between pregnancies I've got (9 months!) so I think celibacy might be the answer, not that my DH is a fan wink

However with her it sounds like her DH is calling the shots.. If she is happy with contraception she could just go get the injection or coil herself or take the pill, in secret if she has to although sounds a bit of a controlling and unhappy marriage if she'd have to hide her contraceptive...

Could also be 'God' perhaps, the old fashioned view that it's against God's plans to prevent pregnancy. It was fairly nosey of you to ask in the first place though, I hate getting asked that dreaded question 'having anymore?', none of your business.

Jux Mon 13-May-13 00:18:49

Sounds like she's stuck with an abusive bastard, to me, taking it at face value.

Maybe she felt she could say those things to you as a stranger, when she didn't feel safe to talk to someone she knows.

Or maybe she's come across a few people asking her intrusive questions, and just decided she'd make something up.

Unless you befriend her, you'll never know.

Jan49 Sun 12-May-13 23:32:22

"Finally, she speaks to a vicar/priest (I forget which) who tells her that God has surely been satisfied by her work in the area of procreation and she should go home and tell her husband that. Which she does".

I just had to laugh at this.grin

But OP, if anyone asked me the question that you did I would have wanted to shake them for asking such a personal and intrusive question.

thecatfromjapan Sun 12-May-13 19:33:58

I X-posted with WafflyVersatile. I (v. much) agree with what she has written.

thecatfromjapan Sun 12-May-13 19:32:14

Yes, that would probably be my interpretation.

The "doormat" thing might easily come about from prolonged abuse, possibly low-level at first, rising in intensity. I find "doormat" a bit <eek> as a description, to be honest. I f she has lost control of her body to this degree, been alienated from her physical integrity to the extent you suspect, "doormat" is just the very most wrong place to start thinking about what's going on.

Passivity to the degree that you seem to be describing may well be an indication of quite thorough abuse. she might be so alienated from her self/feelings that she may no longer really have a language to convey how she feels about her situation. she may not believe herself to be in an abusive position, consequently that will prevent her from articulating her situation as such. And that may be true even if her emotions are screaming at her to be heard to be saying something different. Which is a horrible thought, but it's not uncommon if you read the "Relationship" board on here.

Or it might be none of that. she might be OK with all this, if a little miffed about particulars.

Only you really can know, because you were the one she spoke to.

WafflyVersatile Sun 12-May-13 19:25:57

If someone is a controlling asshole it's a little unfair to say their partner is 'an extreme doormat for no reason at all', especially on a site where many, many people have spoken about their difficulties in 1. knowing that they are being abused in the first place 2. feeling able to leave even when they do know.

It's not what you bargained on hearing. If you feel able maybe chat to her a little more and let her talk if she wants and gently point out that she does not have to accept his behaviour. If you don't feel able that is also fine. It is not your responsibility.

That she is effectively getting pregnant within a few weeks of giving birth each time makes me sad I can't imagine there are many women keen on loads of sex so soon after every single childbirth. If a woman wants to use birth control and her partner refuses to let her I would class that as abusive.

pouffepants Sun 12-May-13 18:59:54

No they're not, I'm obviously expressing myself badly.

I actually think it's incidental that we were in a church, but I know that they're christian so it seems reasonable to consider that as motivation. most people who have responded on this post have mentioned the religious aspect so I've tried to respond to them on that point.

I think I'm also struggling with the fact that it might not be religiously motivated, because that would mean that he's a controlling asshole and she's an extreme doormat for no reason at all.

thecatfromjapan Sun 12-May-13 18:36:07

Hmmm. Years ago, I read a book called "Tiger Country" by a woman called Penelope Rowe.

The main character is a girl, in a large family of boys. Her father is deeply authoritarian - using religion as a means of control, really. More charitably, you might say he was using a type of interpretation and practice of religion to underwrite his authority.

Part of that authority included control of his wife's body.

Throughout the book, the wife apparently consents to everything that the father demands, including numerous pregnancies (and physical and psychological abuse of the daughter). Finally, she speaks to a vicar/priest (I forget which) who tells her that God has surely been satisfied by her work in the area of procreation and she should go home and tell her husband that. Which she does.

It is, I suppose, her act of rebellion, but it is sanctioned by the authority both husband an wife purport to follow.

The point of this extended anecdote is two-fold: firstly, a vicar may not necessarily be old-fashioned or monolithic in his/her interpretation of the bible but is quite probably fairly pragmatic. Especially if you are in a liberal congregation, the response may be a fairly liberal, low-key but effective intervention. Even in a more traditional community, the response is likely to be less laissez-faire than you might think. Secondly, the fact that things may be expressed in religious discourse doesn't make them wholly an issue of religion.

I am a little confused about your response. You say that she didn't mention religion/God at all. Yet your response - your anger with her; your reasons for not responding - are all couched in religious discourse (a concern with what god/religion may say about contraception) - which, again, you say this woman didn't mention. I find that odd.

pouffepants Sun 12-May-13 18:03:28

I'm a VERY peripheral member of the church, and in fact prob not a traditional christian at all. i use the church meetings as a thinking starting point.

I'm pretty uncomfortable talking to the leaders about anything tbh, because it's very difficult not to end up in a situation talking in christian mantras, and people offering to pray for me. If people think that contraception is wrong, then that's fine with me, but they will have to justify their standpoint theologically, not just go into a woolly 'we must trust god/god moves in mysterious ways/just trust and believe' type thing. That's the sort of thing that leads to people not feeling they're in charge of their actions.

But, as I said, at no point did she mention god. Even if it were her dh's view you would think she would say that he thinks it's god's way, but she didn't. She said she had asked him to use something, and gave the impression that he sometimes did but didn't like it much.
But he completely vetoed her using anything at all.

I would actually have more respect for their situation, if she'd just said outright that it was her opinion that god should control family size.

thecatfromjapan Sun 12-May-13 17:34:13

You know, the poster who suggested you bring it up with your vicar, priest, pastor, or some other appropriate person in the church (that you trust) made a v. good suggestion (just imo).

If it were a school, for eg., referring it on, in confidence, would be a v. good move.

How would you feel about that?

thecatfromjapan Sun 12-May-13 17:32:26

Right. That's what came across from your OP.

OK. What do you feel about that? Remember, there is no law that says you do have to help, or what that help should be. There may be 1,000 reasons why you can't help, or aren't the right person. It does not make you a bad person.

pouffepants Sun 12-May-13 17:29:30

I expected either and emphatic 'YES' from my question or a coy 'maybe' from my question. A 'bog-off' would also have been acceptable. I certainly didn't expect what I got, and it almost felt like she were asking for help

thecatfromjapan Sun 12-May-13 17:25:56

I think that the reason you want to shake her is because you have realised, at some level, that you have received more information than you bargained for. You feel powerless and overwhelmed.

If you were scrupulously self-honest, you would acknowledge that this was an unintentional but nevertheless inevitable result of your own actions. Furthermore, you would realise that it is a degree of moral cowardice that has led to these unacknowledged feelings of powerlessness on your part: you didn't ask her for further information because, at base, you knew that if she gave you information that made you further feel you were morally impelled to act in a manner that overstepped boundaries of social convention or even your own inertia, you would be forced to go against that moral call. And that would make you feel even worse.

In short: you know you bit off more than you could chew; it was almost inevitable given what you asked. And then it made you feel bad/clashed with your self-image as a good, socially involved, concerned-for-others sort of person.

Result: you have a choice to feel bad about yourself, or angry with her. Hence "wanting to shake her".

This is very normal. It'll pass, though you'll probably feel a swift wash of shame, followed by a stronger feeling of contempt for her every time you see her for, maybe a year? 6 months? (depending on what you are like). And then you'll forget.

I think everyone does this from time to time. It doesn't really matter.

HollyBerryBush Sun 12-May-13 17:24:41

yellow - yes she did - see the OP

So I (cheekily) asked 'are you all done now?'

I'm not going to apologise for thinking it's rude to question someone on the size of their family.

Being pregnant/having a baby seems to open the floodgate for inappropriate behaviour and question - from randoms rubbing your tummy without asking, to being asked whether you want more/have finished/was it an accident hmm/want a specific gender/have a disappointment over gender. It is nosey and bad form.

pouffepants Sun 12-May-13 17:21:53

I agree that 'are you all done yet?' is a personal question. But was clearly a joke related to the fact that at that precise moment she had at least 4 of them clamouring for her attention.

hiddenhome Sun 12-May-13 17:21:03

She could use NFP if her husband objects to conventional contraceptives.

pouffepants Sun 12-May-13 17:20:19

No great answer to that I'm afraid. DH has ended up having a vasectomy which went quite badly wrong.

YellowDinosaur Sun 12-May-13 17:19:55

No she didn't Holly. The woman volunteered the information.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Sun 12-May-13 17:19:53

There's the copper coil, LastTango. And sterilisation, of course.

LastTangoInDevonshire Sun 12-May-13 17:18:28

pouffepants - can I just ask you......what alternatives are there that do not use hormones? I know someone who also cannot have hormones and is using condoms (with which they are very unhappy).

pouffepants Sun 12-May-13 17:18:19

She didn't mention god at all during the conversation. It seemed incidental that we were in a church.

And yes, it was a very private conversation. I expected a silly answer to my cheeky question. It was her that immediately volunteered the info that she may be pregnant, and the probs with preventing babies. I kept trying to end the convo because I felt so uncomfortable. But also felt that I ought to help her see there were ways in which she could have power over her situation.

HollyBerryBush Sun 12-May-13 17:16:00

TBH OP, you initiated the conversation. You asked her a very personal question. I would have been very unchristian and told you to MYOB, with bells on. Let alone having unsolicited advice given. You totally overstepped social boundaries.

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