Almost as soon as you get married, or settle down with a new partner, it doesn’t take long before someone asks the age old question “Are you going to have kids?”, “Is the pitter patter of tiny feet on the horizon”, or even, from those feeling particularly brave, “Are you trying for a family?”.
Even after you’ve had a child, these questions, normally asked with the best of intentions. don’t disappear. It soon follows with “Are you going to have a second?”, “Are you going to give her a sibling?” or “Isn’t it about time you had another?”.
I will never forget two occasions in particular when I was asked these questions as the moments have stayed with me forever.
The first, was when my 3 year old daughter and I were at an indoor play centre. I was around 7 weeks pregnant and just before allowing her in to play, I had been to the toilet and noticed some spotting. I was familiar with the signs of miscarriage, and remember thinking that this didn’t look good, but tried my hardest to stay positive, convincing myself it was just implantation bleeding and nothing to worry about. When I bumped into an old friend, there with her daughter of a similar age and a newborn baby; she smiled and asked politely “Are you going to have another?”.
The question, although genuinely interested, completely floored me. Part of me wanted to shout from the rooftops – “Actually I’m pregnant right now, I’m due in July” but deep down I knew that I may be losing my baby right there and then. I knew that my daughter’s sibling might not actually make it to this world and it took every ounce of my being to smile back at her and say “Hopefully, yes.”
Sadly, a few days later I did go on to miscarriage and lost what would have been my second child. I was heartbroken, but convinced myself that this pregnancy simply wasn’t meant to be. When the time was right and we both felt comfortable, my partner and I would try again.
Just a few days after my miscarriage I returned to work; wanting to keep myself busy to distract myself from the fact I was mourning the loss of the child I would never get to meet. A colleague was passing around her own scan photograph in the staff room, with lots of squeals from friends and the other women in my team. One of them looked me straight in the eye and laughed “Come on Lucy, it’s about time you had another too!”. I wanted to cry. I laughed it off and made some excuse about still waiting for my eldest to sleep through the night, but it stung. It was about time, and I did want another; but honestly, if only it were that simple!
See here’s the thing. As much as our curiosity can get the better of us, and as much as we genuinely think we are being friendly when we ask, we never really know what’ going on in other’s personal lives behind closed doors.
The woman coping with infertility; having to cope with the prospect of never having a child to call her own.
The woman struggling to conceive and having to keep a smile on her face when every month is met with the same crushing disappointment when her period arrives or the test reads negative.
The woman who has just miscarried, potentially not for the first time, and is wondering why her body won’t seem to let her carry a pregnancy full term.
The woman who has lost a child, and isn’t yet ready to even think about bringing another into the world.
The woman who is currently pregnant, but is in the first trimester, and wants the fact to remain private until she has confirmed her pregnancy is viable.
The woman who quite simply has decided she doesn’t want to have children and shouldn’t feel the need to justify why.
These simple questions can hurt for all sorts of reasons, so even if you mean well, please don’t ask. If someone wants to volunteer the information they will. A simple “How are things with you?” should suffice!