There seems to be a standard set of questions in life that follow a pattern like this:
“Are you seeing anyone?” and when you are…“You guys have been together for a while! When are you getting married?” and once you’re married…“How’s married life treating you?” and after a couple of months, with a wink and a nudge…“So, when are you having kids?”
It seems our big life milestones are a favourite and without-boundaries conversation topic for other people. And the question of having kids is all fun and harmless… until it’s not. NOT.
When my husband and I got married, we knew babies were five or more years away so The Question never really bothered us, because the concept was so far away.
Fast-forward a few years, and there we were, pregnant with baby Donovan, numero uno. Briefly. For a glorious couple of weeks, I was hit with a bushel of textbook pregnancy symptoms, and as soon as I could test, I got my glowing positive. We hadn’t been trying, but it was a welcome surprise that we embraced fully. Unfortunately we soon learned that the pregnancy wasn’t viable, my HCG was dropping, and we were going to lose the precious new life that we had only just started to imagine.
For a week, I was stuck in limbo. My failed pregnancy hadn’t yet passed, and my heart was broken, just yearning for it to happen quickly and be over with.
In that week, two different people asked The Question. And all of a sudden the question was an absolute knife-to-heart clanger.
“So, when are you having kids?” a colleague enquired the day after I returned to work. I just stared at her, numb, not sure how to respond. We were not close friends, worked in different departments, and the question that had once seemed so innocent and casual now hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m an honest, open person, but I had absolutely no interest in telling someone who was no more than an acquaintance that actually, the cluster of cells that would have been our first baby was currently floating around uselessly inside me, waiting to be expelled.
The other was a Facebook comment, again from a friend with whom I’m not that close. I don’t remember the context, but The Question seared itself into my brain the moment I read it, “When are you guys having kids!?”
Don’t get me wrong, I have asked plenty of people The Question myself. I never thought anything of it. I liked to pull it out to tease newly-married friends, in that good-natured ribbing way that people do.
The thing is, when we blatantly ask The Question, we are assuming a lot:
- We are assuming the couple aren’t experience any sexual issues
- We are assuming the couple aren’t experiencing any fertility issues
- We are assuming the couple aren’t experiencing any health issues
- We are assuming the couple haven’t experienced any pregnancy losses
- We are assuming the couple aren’t currently pregnant, and nervously waiting to hit the 12-week mark before announcing
In fact, we are assuming that, prior to being asked ‘The Question’, the couple haven’t actually tried to get pregnant, which is actually a pretty big thing to assume.
According to IVF Australia:
- 1 in 6 couples of reproductive age experience issues with fertility.
- The rate of early miscarriage is about 1 in 4.
And sure, that means that for every couple faced with The Question, only a handful will experience these painful struggles. But why risk driving that dagger deeper, when it’s not even a piece of information that is pertinent for you to know, but merely a curiosity you want answered? I’ve even spoken with friends who are far from trying to conceive, yet don’t like The Question because they’re already nervous that they will experience issues – after all, you don’t know whether you can get pregnant until you do.
I know the people who asked me meant no harm, and I know they would have been horrified had they known the horrendous timing of their questions. But that’s the thing – they didn’t know. We don’t know, when we ask, what people are going through. Fertility and miscarriage are things that we tend to keep private, and that’s our right; our baby-making plans aren’t anyone’s businesses but our own. And yet, The Question remains as commonplace in conversation as remarks on the weather.
Next time you’re engaging in small-talk, please stop yourself from asking The Question. At the end of the day, it’s not a need-to-know piece of info and it can rub salt on a wound that we don’t even know is there. Just stick with the weather and the local news – it’s so much safer!