Friday, February 3, 2012


"It's uter-us Marge, not uter-you!" 
~ Homer Simpson

This is a touchy topic... I think its paradoxical because it comes up often yet we hardly talk about how it makes us feel.

"When are you planning on having children?"
           - a question that is everywhere

"How is that your business?"
           - a socially unacceptable reply, that most people (if they are honest) long to say

One would think - one would HOPE that my current condition would preclude any questions about how soon we will have children - that's not the case. Most days I function as a toddler and depend on my husband to carry out basic needs for me. In no way could I begin to care for a child. Yet more often than not, I get the mention of babies. This comes from acquaintances ("How long have you been married now? Oh a year and a half! So are you trying for little ones soon?") and from close family members ("I just saw a picture of Neil as a baby - he was adorable - I can't wait to see how cute your kids will be.")

Every time we say to someone on Neil's side of the family that we need to tell them something - anything - from Neil got a promotion to 'lets meet at 7 for dinner' -  it ends with them saying "oh,... I thought you were going to tell us Em is pregnant."

So for a person that should clearly never get the question - I get it a lot. Which means other people must feel just inundated. I don't mind it all that much because having kids is the last thing on my mind. But my sensitivity has grown because now I know people (a lot of people, in my immediate friend group) who have experienced the following painful situations:

*difficulty getting pregnant
*difficulty getting pregnant for well over a year
*difficulty getting pregnant after already having a child
*miscarriage after 20 weeks
*miscarriage after already having a healthy child
*multiple miscarriages
*failed adoptions
*and often a combination of more than one of the above

Thats a lot of variables walking around in our world - a lot of women for whom the seemingly innocent questions of "when are you having a chid?" or "when are you having another?" will sting like arrows. I'm confused by the fact that no one realizes they are playing emotional russian roulette - there's a good chance you ask this to a woman who's been trying for ages, on the same day she happened to get her period (or worse yet, miscarry). Still we'll load the question, spin the barrel and aim.

And we risk bringing up such a heartbreaking and personal topic because.... because.... why again? Is it asked because thats the standard small talk? Is its asked because its a go-to when we run out of other things to say?

I don't suggest we abandon the topic of fertility altogether. If you are close enough friends, hopefully you'll be able to talk to them in a way that they know you are really caring. Maybe start with "if you guys decide to start trying to get pregnant and its difficult - I want you to know I'm here to listen." (But honestly, this is an area I don't feel confident with and could use work)

If you aren't very close friends, then maybe new and creative filler conversation needs to be invented. "Oh you've been married two years now? Thats great! Is there anything fun you have planned this year?" or "What has been the most surprising or wonderful part of marriage so far?"

Are you just tired of this question too? I'd be curious to hear of more helpful (and tactful) ways people have broached this topic. I'm at the point now where I'd like to find out from a few friends how they are doing, with out infringing on what can be so personal. Are there any phrases you've found to be non-offensive?


  1. It is amazing that people seem very comfortable asking something so personal -- though I did cringe a little bit when I read "I thought you were going to tell us X is pregnant," because I know I've said that once or twice (and am opening mouth, inserting foot now).

    And we heard the same thing from family when Kyle got his new job and we had something to share -- everyone was like "Oh, okay -- I thought Carrie was pregnant. You will be soon anyway." Wait, what?!

    I really don't have any idea how to broach the topic appropriately. Also, "How is that your business?" is a great reply. Another option: "I'm sorry, I don't discuss my sex life." This is probably especially effective with older family members ;)

  2. How's this for a one up - someone asks, "When are you going to have kids?" and you answer with an ambiguous, "Oh, it's in God's hands." To which the other person presses further, "Are you having trouble conceiving? My daughter is having trouble conceiving." True story. Talk about multiple levels of inappropriate. When people ask me such questions, I go with one of two options:

    1) "We're actually not able to have children. Thanks for bringing it up!"


    2) "I'm not allowed to be around young children. It's one of the conditions of my parole."

    1. Tim, your second response is priceless!! thanks for commenting - I was thinking of you and Melissa (among many friends) when I wrote this. I hope people learn to ask you better questions soon because you give good answers