Once a woman is married, the most common question she seems to be asked is, “So, when are you going to start having kids?” Once a woman has had her first baby, people feel the need to ask her when she’s going to have more. Why do we as a society think this is an okay question to ask someone? I myself was guilty of this, even after I had my own children. I learned the hard way though that this is an extremely personal question that shouldn’t be asked so flippantly.
My fertility dreams died at the age of 29.
I was pregnant with my third son when I found out I had to have an emergency hysterectomy immediately after his birth. It was a life or death situation, so I didn’t hesitate with the decision. It was a very hard pill to swallow though; I never dreamed the door to having more children would be shut in my face so abruptly and at such a young age. After the birth of my son, many people who didn’t know what had happened asked me the inevitable, “So, are you going to have more kids?” Or my favorite, “Are you going to try for a girl next time?” It was at this point in my life when I realized how hurtful and offensive this question was; despite what I wanted, babies weren’t in the cards for me anymore. I would lightly brush them off by saying, “No, we’re done and happy with our three boys,” but internally I wanted to cry every time it was asked.
It was also at this point in my life that I realized every woman, no matter her circumstances, has her own fertility story.
It doesn’t take a surprise hysterectomy for that question to hurt someone. Many, many women struggle daily with getting pregnant. They see one doctor after another, take monthly treatments, pay lots of money out of pocket for IVF, and pray every day for a baby that doesn’t come. These women would give anything to have a child, so they don’t need the constant reminder that they don’t have one when asked that question.
Some women are perfectly content with the number of children they have. Whether it’s one, two, five, or fifteen, some families don’t feel the need to keep adding babies to their home, even if they are young enough to keep doing so. Many women don’t have the financial ability to add another mouth to feed, so they’ve stopped with a number with which they’re comfortable. Some women have their hands full with the children they’ve got, so they stop to save their sanity. Occasionally, even after having one or two babies rather easily, unknown fertility issues arise, and despite desperately wanting to add more children to the mix, it just doesn’t happen.
Many families are deep in the trenches of adoption with no end in sight. These women are moving heaven and earth to get a baby, but sometimes the door doesn’t open. Other times medical issues, previous high-risk pregnancies, and the need to stay healthy enough to care for the children they have trumps the want to have more. And, sometimes, women choose not to have any children at all. Careers and personal choice often take a front seat during the childbearing years, and that’s okay…not all women are called to be mothers, and that’s their choice.
As tactful adults, we have a running mental list of questions and topics that shouldn’t be asked or discussed in public, but for some odd reason, “When are you having kids?” isn’t on that list. No matter what situation or circumstances surround a woman’s fertility, it’s a deeply personal issue between her and her family, not a hot-button issue up for debate with a casual acquaintance. If a woman wants to discuss why she has or hasn’t had kids yet, or if she’s adding more to her family, she will. Join in the discussion if she brings it up, but be sensitive and sympathetic to what she has to say. If she doesn’t broach the subject, just let it go.