Hi all! Lemme jump right in to this one.
Firstly, trust me, people are fully aware if they don’t have children. They didn’t forget. It is not your duty to point it out.
They are inundated with baby this and baby that on a daily basis. (I mean, Instagram + Facebook alone is a cuteness overload. Then include baby announcements, showers, birth stories, advertisements/commercials/even Pandora ads, pregnant bellies everywhere, friends with kids, a lifetime of expectations being unmet, pressures from society/family/friends/neighbors, that cursed biological clock. BABIES!) And mostly they love seeing your cute kids. It is most likely the case that they haven’t just pushed it to the bottom of the priority list.
In fact, it may just be a very painful trial that they are facing in their life. There are a myriad of reasons someone may not have children yet. I’ve heard different statistics, like 1 out of every 10 people has infertility issues, or 1 in 6 couples. Additionally, some have medical problems, some have strained financial situations, some have marital or family strife, some have other big unknown trials that you don’t see on the surface, some are just not ready or some don’t plan to have them at all.
Yet somehow, as a society, we think it’s cool to ask people about it like we were asking about their new shirt.
I have now been married a little over 2 years. (I know. What?) I can’t tell you how many times in that time frame I’ve been asked about having children.
Like, “…No, I’m not pregnant yet… Well, we’ll have them when they come, I guess. Yes, we’d love to have kids. Yes I do know how it happens. Yes, (not that it’s any of your business) we have been trying for a long time. Yes I know our beige/caramel babies will be beautiful. Yep… I think about it all the time. Can’t wait. Oh, you got pregnant right away, did you? An accident, was it? Congratulations. Yes, I know my little brother is having one before me. No, I’m actually really happy for him. Ha ha, so you’ve got jokes. Hilarious. Yeah… I know, I’m 29. I know, many of my friends have 3-4 kids by now. Yeah, I know the risks go up after 35. Yep, I know my parents want grandkids. Yeah I know it’ll happen when it happens. Yep. I know it will be on God’s timing. Yeah, everyone says I still have time. Yes I have been to see a doctor. Yeah, it’s been very difficult and thanks for delving into such a painful subject. Yep. I’ve thought of that. Yes, we’ve tried that. Yeah, I’ll keep having faith. I know. Yep, we have thought of that. Yes, that’s what everyone says. Okay, thanks for the recommendation. Yep, we’ll just keep enjoying our time together before kids… like I was trying to do before this interrogation started. Yyyyep.Thanks for judging.”
I’m sure you can imagine or have experienced the questions that fly at you about an intensely personal subject from barely-acquaintances. And then, for lack of something to say, they turn to their cliche condolences that make you want to scream.
“It will all work out for the best. All in the Lord’s timing! Just have faith! Don’t give up hope. So-and-so that I know had that problem and now they have 5 kids – anything can happen. You never know!”
Or they suddenly become a renowned expert in the field and dole out advice and/or people to see. “Well have you tried this? What about this? I know someone who did this… I know this great healer who can work wonders for that condition, etc.”
*Note, this does not apply to family and friends with whom you open up and share because a relationship of love and trust has been established and they already understand the situation. This generally applies to acquaintances, strangers, or less close friends.
But my favorite hilarious moment came from the mouth of one of my very favorite 3 year-old boys:
*grabs my collar and peeks down my shirt* “I see yo boobs!”
*snatching my shirt back closed* “Haha! Yep, there they are.”
“How come you have boobs if there aren’t any babies at yo house?”
*me laughing,with no idea how to respond*
*he checks my stomach just to make sure* “Nope, no babies in there!”
*me laughing to keep from crying because he was so right, no babies in there.*
(Not actually because I love him.)
Now, just to be clear, there is an important difference between insensitivity and furthering the conversation about infertility, because the latter desperately needs to be done. A large portion of the population struggles with this issue and more education should take place so there are less assumptions, judgments, and incorrect ideas circulating. People in this situation want you to understand. It’s unfortunate that it’s something of a taboo subject – like an invisible curse. People who have never dealt with it don’t even remember that it’s an issue. This is understandable, but raising awareness can help prevent a lot of ignorantly hurtful conversations. A good place to start is a website like this: http://www.infertilityeducation.org/factsheets.php or a pamphlet like this: http://www.infertilityeducation.org/pdf/Infertililtyfeelslike.pdf.
Basically it comes down to this: if you know too little, don’t say too much. Don’t fall back on cliche phrases, just be kind and understanding and loving, unless you’re a hilarious 3 year-old, in which case you are free to say whatever you’d like. 🙂