April Moments

Maybe, just maybe, telling the story is just as important as the story itself

Encountering the dreaded question

One of the biggest challenges for women with fertility problems is being asked what I now call “the dreaded question.”

In my case, as someone with secondary fertility issues, most people see that I have one child and assume I can get pregnant again any month I choose. They don’t know that we’ve been “trying” for more than a year or that I’ve had a miscarriage. They usually don’t consider that may be the case. And, for that matter, how do they know I didn’t have trouble the first time around?

Just to set the record straight, I didn’t. Not one issue. I got pregnant right away and never had any problems carrying Elliot to term. Going for No. 2, I was naïve just like all the dreaded question askers. I thought I could get pregnant any month I chose. Months and months of irregularities derailed my plans. It took a miscarriage for me to realize I wasn’t immune to fertility challenges.

Now, it seems as though I cannot get away from that dreaded question – “When are you guys going to have another baby?”

On a recent Sunday, a man at church actually looked at my belly, as if he was gesturing, and said, “Are you having another baby yet?” Stunned, my eyes widened, and I simply said “No.”

The next day, my 4-year-old son, who has two pregnant aunts, asked me, “Why don’t you have a baby in your belly?” (I was not kidding; I honestly cannot escape that question!) “Well, Elliot, that is a good question.” I trailed off, never answering him.

Following those two incidents, I had conversations with several family members and friends regarding why people ask the dreaded question. My guttural reaction is to immediately accuse them of being nosy and wanting to gossip. I know that’s negative, but hear me out. The general consensus among my optimistic surveyees was two-fold. 1) Everyone loves babies. 2) People want to be happy for moms-to-be and anticipate the baby’s birth with them.

The point I then posed to my husband, however, was “But, are those people who want to be happy for someone prepared to be sad when her story is similar to mine?”

What if you ask a woman when she’s going to start a family and she immediately bursts into sobs? Are you prepared to deal with that very awkward situation? Will you know what to say? I believe the answer is no.

In any case, what are the odds that, when you ask the dreaded question, the answer will be, “Actually, we’re expecting!” Very slim in my opinion. The couple is most likely not ready yet, in the trying stage or having problems conceiving. If she was pregnant, you would probably already know. This all goes back to my original inquiry, “Why do people ask the dreaded question?”

Same reason Elliot did – good old, genuine curiosity. With a little bit of nosiness thrown in for human nature’s sake.

I will admit, I used to ask the dreaded question. Now, I realize my mistake. Can’t we just respect others’ decisions and keep our opinions to ourselves?

I know a couple women who have chosen not to have children because they are extremely career oriented. I know others who have, with their husbands, decided they will have only one child. And, I have other friends who have relinquished any form of birth control in favor of letting God decide how many children they will have. There is nothing wrong with any of these choices. They are personal decisions.

When someone asks me the dreaded question, I immediately begin swimming in a sea of conflicting emotions with thoughts like, “That’s none of your business.” I wonder, “Do you really want to hear the whole story? Because, if you do, it’ll take at least 15 minutes, and really, I don’t have 15 minutes to answer your nosy question.” Also, “I hardly even know you; you don’t deserve to know the whole story.” (I realize that point is moot these days since I am writing about this on the World Wide Web!)

I recently read an article in the “Stepping Stones” newsletter about how one way to respond to the dreaded question is to say, “Why do you ask?” I keep thinking that I’m going to use that strategy, but because there are several different forms of the dreaded question, “Why do you ask?” doesn’t always work. Despite the multitude of times I hear it, the dreaded question is still so overwhelming for me. I never give a good answer. I stumble over my words and usually end up blurting out something like, “Well, we want to have more children eventually.”

Not to repeat myself, but I would like to reiterate the point I made at the conclusion of last week’s blog: Please stop and think before you ask the dreaded question. I’d like to request that people stop asking it all together, but I know that will never happen.

And, if you are a woman who does not have an emotional reaction to the dreaded question (for example, if you are a mom who is at peace with having no more children), please consider educating the askers. Tell them there are lots of women in the U.S. (6 million, according to the American Pregnancy Association) who annually struggle with infertility in some form. Maybe we can reduce the number of times hurting women are overwhelmed with that invasive inquiry.

Originally published on ovparent.com.

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