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When Will You Have a Baby?

Lifehacker recently had an article on how to answer the “when will you have a baby?” question when you’re infertile.  It’s an interesting read, and I’ll give you a second to go through their advice if you’ll come back to discuss.  Are you back?  Good.

Part of the problem is that this article assumes the question is being asked in a straightforward manner.  Someone pleasantly looks at you and says over their drink, “Say, Melissa!  When will you have a baby?”  And then I can politely answer back with one of their stock answers.  Conversation tied up with a bow and… scene.

But that’s not how it goes.

More often than not, the question is not actually asked as a question.  It’s made as a comment.  Or it’s part of a joke.  People don’t ask the question insomuch as they poke you with their words, as if they’re trying to dislodge the answer by virtually shaking you, much as one does a snack item stuck in a vending machine.

I’ve never had someone thoughtfully pose the question in the same way that they asked me where I was applying for college, looking for a house, or applying for a job.  Once I entered the land of marriage and baby, people came at the topic sideways.  Assumptions were made about the timing and inevitability of the lifecycle event, and then jokes or remarks followed.  The intention of the jokes or remarks was to get the information the listener wanted, indirectly.

I guess I wondered what everyone else has experienced.  Has the topic arrived in an intrusive but direct question, or have people broached the topic of babies through implication, comment, and unsolicited advice?


1 Mali { 08.09.17 at 8:06 am }

Yes, many times the question is asked in a passive-aggressive manner, as a joke or as a teasing question. I became pretty good at deflecting it, giving an answer that wasn’t an answer. “Ask me in ten years,” worked for … well … ten years or so. I’ve never really felt I owed anyone am answer. It was my business, not theirs.

I think you could use some of the advice in the article. I’ve written a post or two about comebacks to comments and questions. My favourite was “the cats (or dogs) are allergic,” but I’m not sure I’ve ever had a chance to use it.

2 Beth { 08.09.17 at 8:36 am }

I think the article over simplifies. No one really ever asked me directly. My stock response was usually “we aren’t having kids” and after enough of that (5 years) people believed me.

I agree with Mali that it’s usually a “joke” or teasing type situation which isn’t, of course, actually funny. My most memorable was being put on the spot in front of a huge group of my mother in law’s friends and co-workers. It was phrased as a “haha” moment of “got the daughter in law!’ but was in fact so horribly uncomfortable. I wish I could say I handled it well but I did not. I cried on my way home and still cringe about it to this day.

Lifehacker’s advice is not designed for these passively rude situations when the questioner doesn’t actually care about the person they are pressing and therefore doesn’t worry about tact or hurt feelings – in this case the woman was sucking up to her boss (my mil) because she just “wanted, needed and DESERVED to be a grandma!” I wish articles would address when the infertile person is the collateral damage or the pawn because there is no good comeback that I ever found.

3 Jill A. { 08.09.17 at 9:02 am }

30, 40 years ago, in my world, it was common to ask or be asked if you were planning on having children. Also, when a pregnancy was announced, to ask if this was good news, bad news or in between news. Maybe it was different because we were still coming to terms with what it meant to possibly be able to plan the timing of a pregnancy. Coming to terms with the supposed control reliable birth control gave us.

4 a { 08.09.17 at 9:06 am }

I guess my take on the article is a little different – to me it seems like she’s trying to write a lighter piece on a traumatic subject without unloading all of her baggage. She’s trying to prepare people to deal with rude people by having a glib response prepared. It doesn’t really address how to deal with your own emotions, but it’s probably a good idea to prepare so you’re not blindsided. It just seems super-obvious, since every woman is subject to the commentary from the moment we become adults. Hell, I gave my friend a card for her wedding that said something like “Congratulations on getting married! Now, when are you going to have a baby?”

I even got commentary yesterday about giving my daughter a sibling. She’s 10 – if it was possible, it would have happened by now. So now I just say “it’s too late for that” or “not gonna happen.”

5 Working mom of 2 { 08.09.17 at 10:06 am }

What’s strange is that I married at 27 but never really got asked that when I was (presumably) fertile. At least not that I recall,but perhaps I don’t remember bc it wouldn’t have bothered me then. Then by the time I started trying (incognito) I guess I was old enough that people didn’t ask. But I do recall the head honcho at work sort of grilling me at my final interview about hobbies–I think he was trying to find out if I had kids. We were deep in IF then and in fact this was a few days after my 1st m/c. Good times.

6 Nicoleandmaggie { 08.09.17 at 10:07 am }

People always asked me directly. Sometimes DH’s extended family, who got, “we’re working on it” (and eventually news of our struggles with infertility got through their gossip grapevine), and sometimes inappropriately by people in work settings such as interviews (which I handled in ways that guaranteed I did not get the job) and in front of job candidates. Eventually I shut up regular asking by some of my senior male colleagues about why I hadn’t had a second yet by going into graphic detail about just what I had to go through to get my first.

7 dubliner in deutschland { 08.09.17 at 10:23 am }

I’ve often been completely caught off guard by the question and then end up saying something vague back and quickly changing the topic. It’s just so awkward especially when someone you dont even know that well is asking!

8 Dreaming of Diapers { 08.09.17 at 12:34 pm }

Yes…that question. I got asked it twice on our wedding day…uh huh. And it just went downhill from there…what blows my mind is that most people truly believe that if you want kids, you can have them…just like that. And, I guess, for most that’s true. So when my husband and I didn’t have kids after a couple years, they didn’t get it. Why would we “choose” not to have kids. Or, “You guys would make some cute babies..better start before it’s too late”….that one always got me. So then…we just stared answering with a cookie-cutter answer”Some day” and that was usually enough for most people. And for some that dug, I might respond with, “It’s not that easy for a lot of people” The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that most people(who haven’t battled infertility) won’t ever get it. And by me, trying to make them “get it” just hurts me. I’ve accepted it..and usually keep most of it to myself….well, and all of my blog friends…the ones who truly get it.

9 torthuil { 08.09.17 at 6:17 pm }

I usually had a stock evasive answer to the “are you having kids/another kid” question. If I didn’t know the questioner well i would break eye contact and change the subject which I think pretty clearly signaled “uncomfortable”. If I thought the question came from a place of caring then I’d usually share a bit about our challenges. Now that we have a child and hopefully another on the way I feel like I have more freedom to talk about our experiences instead of being ambushed. It’s liberating.

You got me thinking about direct and indirect questions. Direct questions bother me less because I feel they give me permission to be direct back and I tend to communicate directly. So it’s my comfort zone. What made me stabby furious and uncomfortable was when people were “cute” about it and – ugh! – poked me. That physical contact was just the last straw. I got to the point where if anyone mentioned babies and poked me, I could have hit them. Luckily as our fertility issues became better known among family, people stopped those behaviours- and therefore didn’t get any bruises. I still can’t do cute though: no cute announcements, no cute parties, no cute innuendoes. Luckily my daughter is cute enough that mommy doesn’t have to be lol.

10 Deathstar { 08.10.17 at 12:42 pm }

Oh, I had the question hanging over my head for years….and so since I was unsuccessfully battling infertility for 7 years, it got really tedious. First I would say, “we’re trying” and then that got old and I got tired of all the platitudes, diet recommendations, miracle pregnancy stories, and so forth. Even adopting lead to even more invasive questions and still since my kid is in grade school now it’s “Just the one?” Which has lead to all sorts of smart ass comments from me like, “Yep, he’s my miracle baby”, “I call him downpayment cause that’s what it took to get him”, “Yes, I have no more money for more”. And now it’s “Seriously, you have no idea how old I am”. Dammit, it’s hard being a woman.

11 Melissa N. { 08.10.17 at 4:26 pm }

Over the span of the last 9.5 years, we have been asked this question more times than I can count. It was especially bad right after we got married in 2006 because we’d been together since we were 15 and 22 when we got married so people were READY for us to have kids…and were happy to let us know. After I had open heart surgery in 2009 to correct a congenital defect gone rogue, the questions almost all but disappeared, because I think people assumed (incorrectly) that I couldn’t carry children due to a heart issue. But the worst was when, just a mere week after our daughter passed away, two different people told us, “I’ve known other people who have had that {so nice to have your child’s death reduced to a ‘that’} happen to them and they’ve gone on to have other children. You’re still young, you can have another.” …1) it took us 8.5 years to conceive our daughter, 2) it’s none of your business if or when we have any future children, 3) even if we did, he/she would certainly NOT replace Evelyn, and 4) Don’t EVER say something like that to a grieving parent. Ever. *sigh* Another one we get now is, “Have you considered adoption?” Huh. You know what, no, in all these years, that’s never crossed our mind! Thank you for bringing that option to our attention. Ugh. Feeling a bit sassy today, I guess…thanks for the outlet.

12 Amel { 08.16.17 at 3:58 am }

The last time I had people ask me that question, I just laughed dryly. It was about three years ago, when I last visited Indo. I remember lashing out once online when someone told me, “Go on and make a baby soon!” (another typical sentence said in Indo) as at that time I was still so raw from the pain of infertility.

What was funny was when I visited my old church with my mom (to meet with the priest who officiated our wedding), after the service was over the priest’s wife and some female church members asked me if I had kids and I said no. Cue confused looks. Then they asked me if we used protection and I simply said no. With even more confused looks on their faces, one of them said, “Ah, then maybe not yet.”

I got the feeling that they had assumed that we didn’t really want to have kids or we wanted to postpone or something like that…perhaps all the more so because I married a foreign guy. However, I wonder if infertility didn’t even cross their minds at all because their confused looks were genuine.

P.S. One time I was discussing this online and someone told me that a friend of hers was so sick and tired of that question that she simply answered, “I’m going to go and make a baby with my husband tonight. Happy now?” The other person was shell-shocked to hear that answer. 😀

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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