So, I recently had a complete stranger in the local pub start a conversation with us as he was wanting to say hello to Tinker (our puppy). He had two children with him who Tinker had taken a liking to and this encouraged him to express his opinion on the fact he thought we should “definitely think about having children” and asked “are they on the agenda?”. Now, this man is a total stranger, I have never met him in my life and in all honesty will probably never meet him again, and I was left completely dumbfounded by his ignorance at making such an off-the-cuff comment and asking such an invasive question to two people he does not know.
Now, I do understand that he was saying this with all good intentions, and I am sure no malice was intended. However, what he did not realise when he let this slip out (to two people whom he did not know) was that this couple is desperately doing all they can to achieve this, and battling on a daily basis the impact of iffy fertility. So, why did he feel in this moment he had the right to ask such a question? To be perfectly honest I would never think of asking someone I did not know such an invasive question, maybe it is because I have experienced the torment of fertility struggles, or perhaps because I am a slightly more socially aware human, but I don’t think I would be able to bring myself to ask such questions to someone that I do know – if they wanted me to have that information I am sure they would volunteer it, it isn’t my place to put someone in the awkward position of either feeling like they have to answer it, or to try to be polite and skirt around the question at hand. In this instance I just laughed and said we had “enough on our plate with the puppy as it stands” (he caught me on a good day). But it left me wondering if I had felt open enough to answer his question honestly, “actually, myself and my husband have been trying for 3 years now, we have suffered miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, and now we are waiting on some tests to work out whether my one remaining fallopian tube is in fact functioning as it should”, how that would have left him feeling, and in turn would I then feel bad for cutting this stranger down for a fairly innocent (although damn right intrusive) question? Most likely. So it’s kind of a lose/lose situation from where I am standing, all because someone has decided to be nosy and, in my opinion, damn right bloody ignorant.
Some couples don’t wish to have children, and that decision is theirs, and although it is still personal to them it is most likely not as painful as when you’re coping with infertility and the choice is taken out of your hands. Being asked a question like this reminds us suffering of our torment and loss. With infertility, it isn’t about not wanting to have children, this decision is taken completely out of our control, and this kind of question can remind us of that when we are least expecting it, and the chances are we are already asking ourselves this question daily, “when is it going to happen for me?!”.
I recall shortly after my ectopic at any sign of a bit of tiredness, or perhaps I was feeling sick from too much dinner (wine) the night before I was asked countless times “you’re not pregnant are you?!” – um, firstly if I was – it isn’t any of your bloody business, and I will tell you when I am good and ready. Secondly, no, no I am not pregnant because right now I am doing all I can to avoid such a thing because I am truly terrified of experiencing the same nightmare as I had experienced at the start of my fertility journey. But thanks, thanks for reminding me.
Asking a woman whether they are pregnant, or when they are going to start “trying” can be seriously triggering. It brings back all sorts of thoughts and emotions which we are doing all we can on a daily basis to put to the back of our jumbled, messy minds in order to continue with our lives. I know, for me, when I am asked such things it puts my mind into a negative space, and that doesn’t seem very fair.
In planning this blog I decided I wanted to write some advice for those guilty of asking such questions; if you find yourself in the position where you feel inquisitive, please ask yourself this first – would you ask this person how many times a week they masterbate? If the answer is “no”, you don’t know them well enough to ask if and when they are going to have children. Having children is such a personal decision (just as personal as discussing how often you have some one on one time with yourself) so please, learn the boundaries, it will save someone like me a lot of upset. Please also keep in mind that there could be other things going on in their lives that you have no idea about that might make having a child impossible at the moment (not just fertility issues, but financial issues, family problems, health issues, etc.).
If you do feel like you know the person well enough to ask such a question, please be mindful of how you ask, and the circumstances surrounding you asking such a question, and the location in which the conversation is taking place (some people may not feel comfortable to answer a personal question surrounded by other people or in a public place). Finally, please don’t be offended if the response you get is not what you hoped for, if you are asking a personal question be prepared for an answer that you may not be expecting.