“When are you having kids?!” It’s usually a well-intentioned and often throwaway line, but for many couples, this question sparks complicated feelings.
Content warning: This post discusses infertility and miscarriage
Good intentions aren’t good enough
“We have some travelling we want to do first”
“I’m just focusing on my career right now …”
“These are just a few of the reasons I used (with a forced smile) to mask what was really going on,” Melbourne mum Adele Barbaro – who blogs at The Real Mumma – admits.
She’d been dealing with queries about whether she was going to “have a family” at the very same time she and her husband were battling fertility challenges.
While those doing the asking were almost certainly trying to show an interest by floating this often-asked question, they’d perhaps not considered just how personal this query can be.
“It’s not that f*cking easy”
For Adele, it was very personal, a sort of slap in the face when she’d been trying desperately to conceive. She says she didn’t always hold her nerve when on the other end of this query.
“One day I responded with ‘it’s not that fucking easy, you know’. I had just got my period that morning…. again,” she wrote in a Facebook post that aims to challenge the wisdom of quizzing couples about their baby plans.
“The odds of conception and retaining a pregnancy are actually pretty shit, topped off with the huge amount of people that are reproductively challenged with polycystic ovaries, endometriosis etc etc. And I was one of them,” Adele wrote.
-we are just enjoying being newly married-we have some travelling we want to do first-I'm just focusing on my career…
“That brave face wears thin”
After fearing she’d never become a mother, Adele and her husband began the difficult process of trying to conceive via IVF.
“It is the most time consuming, invasive, expensive and emotionally painful roller coaster I have been on,” she revealed. “It actually broke me. You have so much invested in the process, financially and emotionally that it consumes your every thought.”
“When you are having difficulty conceiving, it seems everyone around you is falling pregnant. It’s easy to be happy for them at first but that brave face wears thin after a while. I even started to decline going to certain get togethers and attending baby birthdays were just painful. I became quite bitter, desperate and depressed.”
After years of trying, Adele and her husband finally did conceive. She’s super grateful but also keen to save others at least some of the pain that she endured.
When you catch yourself asking about someone’s plans to have children, she hopes you’ll think again.
“Many couples will be trying for years,” Adele points out. “And some may never succeed and my heart goes out to them. And what about the couple that doesn’t want kids? Or the couple that had a child but can’t afford to have another? Or those that have lost little ones?”
“Next time you go to say that ‘throw away’ comment to the newlyweds or the couple that have been together for ten years, be sensitive. Don’t ask them when they are having kids. You never know what’s going on.”
Just zip it
Commenters on Adele’s Facebook page wished people would shut up about babies too.
“About three days after I started miscarrying, I was asked ‘when are you going to hurry up and have kids, you can’t wait forever, you don’t want to be too much older’,” one commenter recalled.
“I wish people would stop asking me ‘when are you having your second??’ We’re not, I reply. ‘Oh you can’t have an only child!’ Actually … we can,” someone else posted.
“So thankful for those of you who are mindful of people like myself who find it difficult to conceive/stay pregnant,” another woman wrote, “it makes life a little easier not having to explain all the time and answer the dreaded question.”
“These questions should never be asked. Along with congratulating someone who you suspect is pregnant. Unless they are all but going into labour in front of you it’s still not ok to ask,” a wise commenter reminded everyone.
If you’re struggling with the loss of a baby, please don’t go it alone. SANDS counsellors are there to support you and provide helpful advice about living with loss.