My question was answered within the first hour of class.
We were discussing a research article and a classmate made the observation that the condition being studied was more prevalent in mothers 30 years old and older. The classmate shared, "This makes me nervous because I am getting close to 30." So regardless of what comments, if any, followed my classmate's comment, the fact is she just shared a very personal (and some would even say very private) worry with our class. And what does the professor do? She blasts all of us, effectively shutting everyone down. I saw it happen before my very eyes. Not only that one classmate, but at least a quarter of the class immediately stopped participating in discussion. And then the professor had the gall to tell us that we were "awfully quiet this morning, even more quiet than usual." Wow. Talk about not being able to read a room... Additionally, talk about being a thoughtless and insensitive person... So what was it that the professor said?
The professor (weirdly looking directly at me, more on that later) said:
"It's a major problem when women wait until they're 35 to have their first child."
She said that.
I can't even make this stuff up.
So... Let's unpack this...
- As I said above, my classmate just shared with the class a very personal concern of hers regarding a very sensitive issue and the professor provided no support and instead fueled her fears.
- My professor, who is not a medical doctor, stated her opinion extremely strongly and aggressively even though it was not necessary or even directly related to what we were discussing that day.
- My professor played into the fears that a lot of my classmates have, who are delaying getting pregnant because they are in this graduate program where we have been explicitly instructed not to get pregnant. (That in itself is messed up. I've said it before, but you cannot dictate other people's reproductive timelines.)
- The professor went on to talk about how women are the most fertile in their teens and early 20s and that it wasn't right that so many women "waited." First of all, I would bet a million dollars that this same woman would judge any teen pregnancy HARD. Don't have them too early (irresponsible), but don't have them too late (idiot), am I right? UGH!!!
- Furthermore, does she really think all people CHOOSE to WAIT? Maybe people don't want to have children until they can, oh I don't know, afford food, clothing, and shelter. Not to mention day care, health insurance, a car, car insurance, and everything else that costs money and adds up quick. Maybe some people don't meet their partner that they want to have a family with until they are 30 or 40. Maybe they spent their 20s overcoming an addiction or an eating disorder or cancer. Maybe a million other things that are out of people's control...
SO. MUCH. JUDGMENT.
I was disgusted. Of course, I had a visceral reaction. My body immediately got warm, and, even though her comments and attitude were so outrageous they didn't even warrant a reaction from me, I still got angry. I looked down, took some deep breaths, sent out love to all of my classmates whose fears were just preyed upon, and pictured my husband who has told me repeatedly, "Just don't cuss anyone out. You are almost done with these classes. Those professors are not worth your time or energy."
I said nothing. I am not here to argue with her. I am not here to educate her on the intricacies involved in the wrong assumptions about childlessness. I am here to learn as much as I can for my future profession (which apparently includes experiencing how I do NOT want to treat my future patients). I am here to keep my head down, mouth shut, and graduate. I cannot fix the culture of that terrible place. Not when the professors hold all the power and have no accountability to anyone.
But later I was thinking about how she looked directly at me when she said it. Now I know I can be hypersensitive, maybe even a little paranoid, but I have come a very long way in my recovery. I don't personalize everything anymore. I have lowered my expectations. I know this world doesn't understand my reality and when people say their ignorant comments it is about them and not about me. But I still thought about how she looked right at me. And then later that day while I was exercising, it clicked.
She knows I wanted children and she knows I don't have them.
And she is blaming me.
What a terrible, unhappy person.
I put a couple of pieces of information together in my head. I wasn't doing this consciously. I really want to spend as little energy as possible on those professors and that educational institution. I just want to learn the academic material and graduate with my degree. But my subconscious put it all together and the realization just rose to the top.
There was a short essay I wrote first semester. There was an email I sent second semester. There were the innocuous comments I made when participating in class discussions. I have never explicitly stated anything, but, regardless of her negative traits, she is a very smart woman. She connected the dots and you cannot convince me that she doesn't know, at least in vague terms, that my not having children wasn't my choice.
And this makes her cruel and evil.
I have nothing to say to her. I have no points to make. I will not change her mind. But what I can do is reach out to my classmates and agree with them that this woman is not a nice person. We are all sticking together to get through what has been an extremely disappointing experience.
I am fine. Don't worry about me. The situation has reached a point of ridiculousness that it's not even hurting my feelings anymore. I've told all of my classmates that if they ever find themselves in a similar situation in a future job that they should just quit. This is not normal; this is not okay.
Have I mentioned that I'm looking forward to finishing my coursework?