Imagine this . . . you’re sitting around the table with family and friends; good food, good conversation, kids playing together in the background, everyone just happy to be together. It’s the “Norman Rockwell” version of the perfect holiday. You see your niece (substitute for nephew, grandchild, cousin, sibling, friend); they’re the “right age” and you just know they’d be an amazing parent. So you lean over to ask when they’re planning to have a baby – add to the family joy. We’re family and we’re close, so it’s a reasonable question right? Wrong.
Actually, it’s seriously wrong.
Nothing ruins a holiday faster than inappropriate questions – no matter how well-intentioned. People can laugh about the turkey that was overcooked, or the pie that the dog ate before it got to the table – in fact years from now those will be the stories told in a fond nostalgic way. But the hurt and pain caused by asking inappropriate questions; well, no one will be looking back fondly on that.
“Why is it so wrong?”, you ask.
To have a baby should be an easy, uncomplicated, and joyous time, but for those experiencing infertility (including recurring miscarriage) the results can be very different. Infertility and miscarriage affect couples as individuals and as partners in a marriage, leading to feelings of loss, frustration, anger and even depression. A year after her miscarriage, Stacia Naquin wrote this for 12 News:
Most people don’t know anything about it.
They don’t know we’ve tried for years.
They don’t know I was ever pregnant.
They don’t know about the miscarriage.
They don’t know that the doctor diagnosed me with postpartum depression, as I struggled for months to break through the fog.
They don’t know about the tears that have been uncontrollably shed.
They don’t know that I’ve been poked, prodded and stuck with all sorts of needles and taken all sorts of medications.
They don’t know that my husband and I are exploring all of our options in the hopes of finally starting a family.
Most people don’t know, because it’s something we chose not to share — for a variety of reasons.
The reality is you simply do not know who has been struggling silently with infertility, or who’s suffered through a miscarriage. Sure, there are couples who don’t think twice about sharing that info – but there are equally as many couples who prefer to keep these details to themselves.
But they already have a child; they’re not infertile.
When someone already has one or more children, family and friends might not even consider the pain and anxiety brought on by secondary infertility. “When are you having more children?” might seem like lightheaded conversation, but it can bring on feelings of sadness for someone who has had a miscarriage after one or more successful pregnancies.
If you knew that something you said would cause pain to someone you love, would you say it anyway? Of course not. So with 7.3 million people in the United States affected by infertility, it’s entirely possible that the next time you ask someone, “When are you going to have a baby?” you have a one in eight chance of unintentionally being an insensitive jerk. And let’s face it – it’s really not your business anyway. Instead, ask what they’re excited about right now, or what was the best part of their week. If they want to let you in on something as personal as their plans to have (or not have) children, they will tell you.
So please don’t ask, “When are you going to have a baby?”
If you’re concerned that you just might open your mouth and say something inappropriate, fill your mouth with another piece of your aunt’s awesome pie, or an extra helping of candied yams. Your niece (nephew, grandchild, cousin, sibling, friend) will appreciate it. You can thank me later.
Resources on coping with infertility and miscarriage: