What Question Should We Stop Asking Couples?

What Question Should We Stop Asking Couples?

              So, when are you going to have a kid?

miscarriage, infertillity, pregnancy loss, Sarah Philpott

Do you want more kids?

Are you finished having kids? 

Why don’t you have any kids?

When we reach a certain age, these questions come directed at us with sniper-like speed, don’t they? They are asked by the sweetest, most well-meaning people ever: the little old lady who sits at the end of our church row, the older-widowed gentleman who is behind us in line at the grocery store, and the man at the party who doesn’t know a follow-up question to “what do you think of the weather.”

But, these questions are also asked in a taunting and teasing manner. You know the ones: “So, when you are you and Vanessa going to get that baby making started? Do you need me to tell you how it works?” ( wink, wink) says your husband’s business colleague in the middle of the company party.

Tisk, tsk, tsk. Neither Emily Post nor Amy Vanderbilt would approve of such banter as appropriate. I’m sure it is mentioned in their etiquette books between the chapters of “how to address a wedding invitation” and “how to fold a napkin.” To put it simply, “baby makin’ ain’t a topic for small-talk.”

IT’S JUST A SIMPLE QUESTION. WHY DO YOU HAVE TEARS IN YOUR EYES?

The reason questions related to procreation can be uncomfortable is because a large percentage of couples face the reality of infertility or pregnancy loss. For these couples, their heart’s desire and the timing of God fail to intersect at the same point. It can bring with it angst, sadness, and confusion. These couples have learned that creating a child isn’t as easy as making a dinner reservation, and they don’t necessarily want to share their personal details with the man standing behind them at the grocery line. It’s not that they want to keep this a secret; it’s just that they don’t really want to unleash real, raw emotions in the middle of Publix.

WHAT ARE WOMEN REALLY THINKING?

Let’s examine the thoughts of ten women when they are asked the innocuous question: “Are you going to have kids?” You can read how emotionally laden such a simple question might be:

???SO, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE KIDS???

Woman THINKS
Woman SAYS
Oh, how I wish I could have more babies! But you know what- I didn’t choose to have that emergency hysterectomy that stole my uterus from my body.  
No, I think we are finished.
We’ve been trying for two years & have lost four babies due to miscarriage. Yes, we want more babies, but it’s not working out.  
We will see.
I check my temperature every day, my husband is on-call for when I ovulate, and I have seen 36 negative pregnancy tests. We would have a house-full if it weren’t for infertility. 
We will see.  
I delivered a precious still-born child last year. I’m too afraid to start trying again. I’m not over that loss.

 

We will see.
Yes, sir we do want kids. We have visited every fertility specialist on the east coast and right now I’m on my third round of IVF.  
We will see.
Can you not see the dark circles under my eyes? I’ve been up all night for 13 months! I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired! My husband doesn’t help at all. I barely have time for a shower, much less time to make another baby.  
We will see.
You are going to call me selfish if I tell you the truth. You are going to argue with me. But the truth of the matter is, my husband and I just don’t want children. I’m not less of a woman if I choose to be childless.  
No, I don’t think so, but we will see.
We are researching adoption options. Just want to keep it quiet while my husband and I prayerfully consider the options.

 

We will see.
I can’t just snap my fingers and get pregnant! We’ve been “trying” for a year. Nobody told me if might be hard. I’ve got an appointment with the doctor next week to find out the details of my husbands “sperm count.”

 

We will see.
I’m eight-weeks now! But, waiting to announce until we tell my family. I’m so excited!!!
We will see.

As you can read, this simple question can trigger a variance of emotional responses for many women and couples.  Fertility issues are invisible burdens that many couples bear; we should acknowledge that possibility before asking such a personal inquiry.

I say, “Enough already!”

Questioning in the middle of the grocery store- not okay. Questioning over a cup of coffee during an intimate conversation- okay. Questioning in the middle of church “hand-shaking” time- not okay. Questioning in the middle of a private conversation at church-maybe okay.

We should definitely give grace and forgiveness to acquaintances whom inquire about such personal matters. Many have a motive of pure kindness and are not privy to inner struggles. Also, opening up to other people about struggles and fears can be extremely helpful; it is through conversation and vulnerability that we find out that others might have faced similar circumstances and might be able to offer us hope, wisdom, and kinship.

Those of us with fertility issues might also consider responding with the truth-  even if the question-asker is put in an awkward position.  Responding by saying, “Actually we do WANT children, but we have complications with fertility.  Do you mind praying for us?” Answering this way can be powerful, freeing, and makes a social statement that infertility and pregnancy loss are not topics of shame.

But as a society we should all stop using the question of children as small-talk. Only ask if you are prepared for a real answer and ready to provide a listening ear (or a slap in the face).  Likewise, let’s all  (men, I’m mainly talking to you) make a concerted effort to stop teasing people (mainly your fellow guy friends) about having or not having kids.

Readers, repeat after me, “I will stop teasing people about whether or not they have children. I will stop asking acquaintances if they want more or any children. Instead, I will ask about the weather or summer vacation plans.”

And we all say, “Amen”.

So, what’s your favorite small-talk question to ask someone? And, what’s your favorite way to answer the “Do you want to have kids?” question?

 

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

FERTILITY FACTS:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm

Fertility problems are quite common. According the CDC, about 11% of women in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.

Men are not immune: based on a 2002 survey by the CDC, 7.5% of all sexually experienced men younger than age 45 reported seeing a fertility doctor during their lifetime—this equals 3.3–4.7 million men. Of men who sought help, 18% were diagnosed with a male-related infertility problem, including sperm or semen problems (14%) and varicocele (6%).

           

About Sarah

Sarah Lewis Philpott, Ph.D lives in the south on a sprawling cattle farm where she raises her two mischievous children (and one little baby!) and is farm wife to her high school sweetheart. It's quite the chaotic household, but she adores the blessings God has provided. Sarah is represented by The Blythe Daniel Literary Agency. Her book, Loved Baby: 31 Devotions for Helping you Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss, will be published in October '17 by Broadstreet Publishing. You can go ahead an pre-order it on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and at Christian Book. Sarah is a lover of coffee (black), rocking chairs, the outdoors, and Hemingway. Visit with Sarah at her All-American Mom blog where she writes about life on the farm and cherishing life in joy & in sorrow.

24 thoughts on “What Question Should We Stop Asking Couples?

  1. Thank you for this post. My husband and I have been TTC for over 8 years. It gets harder every year. I hate that question. My husband has just as hard a time as me and he gets asked that question as well. Sometimes I go home crying afterwards. All I ever wanted to be when I was a kid was a teacher and a mom. I made the teacher thing happened, but haven’t been a mom YET.

    1. It is such a hard question. After my two miscarriages I would be asked this at church and would go home crying. It’s also very hard for the male. I’ll be praying for you! Thank you for sharing your heart.

  2. I conceived all three kids back to back while I was on birth control. And I was very young. I got a lot of the, “oh you guys are busy! Another one?” I went home and cried too. My life and my body felt out of control. I couldn’t sit there and explain all the details of my personal life and the strain it out on our marriage, specially when we were on welfare, unemployed, and underemployed. And we were treated like we were so irresponsible. But I was unapologetically pro-life! So either way I whole-heartedly agree that questions about children and sex in the marriage should be well intentioned and private.

  3. Sarah, you have said what I’ve been wishing to be able to articulate for a very long time — as the couple’s mother, though, instead of the couple.

    I am often asked when my daughter will be starting her family. How do I tell well-meaning friends that there are complications without crossing over into territory that is so very personal to me?

    I’m sorry to say that I’ve been very rude to people who ask me this question. It’s hurtful to me, and I can’t help but lash out. I will answer something like, “I’ve never asked her, that’s really none of my business.” Which I means, of course, that if it’s none of MY business, it’s certainly none of YOURS.

    I know people are just making small talk, and what you say in this post touches me in a very special way. I will share your post on my FB page. I want everyone to read this and understand how casual words can hurt. And maybe they’ll recognize me in this comment and know I didn’t mean to lash out!

  4. Great post and reminder for all of us! I struggled with infertility for years and it was so heart breaking to have to answer the questions about children. Thank you for sharing your heart, hopefully it will help others think before speaking 🙂

  5. What I would give to be a mommy!!! It’s the saddest thing me and mike have to deal with everyday. There’s a million things I could say about the hurt and anguish I go thru. Even just the silence in the house after you’ve been around family and friends. You question everyday what did I do so wrong. People look at you like your not a real women they question what could be wrong with you. It’s hard when people that have kids say oh I understand. No no you don’t even have a clue of what we go thru. Sometimes it’s easier to try to convince yourself that’s it ok and we’re here to be just awesome aunts and uncles!!

    1. I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how hard it must be- especially for two people who are so loving & great with little ones. I know you must appreciate your nieces & nephews so much. You’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, but i can’t imagine how that longing in your heart wishes to be filled. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. You are such a sweet & special person.

  6. This is awful. And I was asked, after my first child was born with Down syndrome, “Are you having more?” There was a nudge, nudge about my age and that look of “maybe you shouldn’t.” I have two, with disabilities, and if I had my way, it’d be three, but God has provided me with enough challenges with my two girls, who bless my heart EVERY DAY. So don’t say something like, “I don’t blame you for not having more.” GRRRR. My girls are not less, they were perfectly made by their Creator, they bless me daily and they have made me a better person showing me things that “neurotypical” people have no clue about.

  7. I am a single woman who wants to be married one day and have kids, so the reaction I had to this post was gratefulness to know how some women feel about this subject. And my heart goes out to them. Even if they don’t tell you all that’s going on, their hearts may be hurting, and tact and kindness are the way to go! A simple question can stir up many emotions. So my heart goes out to those who struggle with infertility. We all struggle with something, but this struggle needs a special hug and prayer. Thank you for the post. Praying for miracles and grace to handle life’s battles!

  8. Thank you for this post. I ‘m 57 years old, deeply in love with the man I married 38 years ago, and am childless. The question still comes with a slight twist on the words. . .Why didn’t you have children? It wasn’t our choice. It was God’s. Way back then I was no one’s Mom. Now I’m no one’s grandma. It’s okay, but it stings. Even now so thank you again for sharing this tender topic.

  9. Yesterday my husband and I were asked by our tax preparer – whom we only know because he prepares our taxes – why we have decided not to have children. I was dumbfounded and could feel my sweet husband almost cringe in the chair next to me as he waited for me to lash out … er, graciously respond. I immediately thought of your post and simply asked him to pray for us as we continued to navigate that journey – a path we have been traveling for over 6 yrs. He simply nodded and I knew it had touched him. Thank you.

  10. Great post. As a mom of 7 I get the opposite questions…”When are you going to be finished? You know what causes that right?…” Basically, either way we can’t win for losing as the old saying goes.

  11. This is such a powerful post! I love being reminded that these questions are not the best to ask. We need to be considerate of other,s so important. I will be sharing this post on my facebook page! Really enjoyed the insight!

  12. Great post! I agree! People should just stick to safe topics because you never know what is really going on between a husband and a wife. Visiting you from #livefreeThursday.

  13. Beautiful and needed, Sarah. This needs to be viral because it just might change the topic of conversation.

    I’ve stood by and watched people ask questions like this of my beautiful daughter, mom to two handsome, amazing little boys, who just happen to be adopted.

    Are you going to have children of your own?
    Um, they are hers. (ours)

    Who is the real mom?
    Um, the woman who got up in the night last night three times to rock and love her little sick guy.

    Or the questions (so many) about the biological parents that are so intrusive, but worse spoken in front of a child who doesn’t quite understand his history yet.

    We’ve got to do better. We just have to.

  14. Yes to everything in this post! Can we also strike from our collective cultural vocabulary the question “Is this your first?” It’s one of the first things people ask when you’re pregnant, but for a significant fraction of women the answer is complicated and painful. (For me, it’s complicated and painful because my first daughter died when I was 18 weeks pregnant. I’m now 12 weeks pregnant with a son and just starting to get those questions — I’m small, and it turns out you show earlier with your second even if your first didn’t go to term…) That’s currently the question that I hate the most. It just reinforces how clueless most of the population is about pregnancy loss and infertility, and I love your suggestion that when we’re feeling up to it we should answer the question honestly to help bring these issues into the consciousness of more people.

    1. “Is this your first” is really a challenging question. That is also one that should definitely be struck from our cultural vocabulary. Thank you for opening your heart and congratulations on the conception of your second baby.

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