It’s time to stop asking women when they’re having a(nother) baby

I was out getting my toddler’s hair cut a couple of months ago, in the recent wake of experiencing my third miscarriage within a year. At the time, I was neck-deep in fertility testing, searching so desperately for an answer as to why I seemed unable to maintain another pregnancy past the first trimester. I was fresh with grief and exhausted—both mentally and physically—from the rollercoaster of the previous year. I thought I was in a “safe space,” out for a nice morning with my son, away from the all-consuming fertility world that I was living in. This all changed in an instant when my son’s hairdresser, a complete stranger, asked me one question:

“When are you going to have another baby? You have to give him a sibling!”

The floor dropped from beneath me. 

How could this person—this stranger—feel that it was OK to comment on something so personal? On an area so raw and vulnerable that I felt ripped open and exposed? I didn’t know how to respond in the moment, so I let out an awkward laugh and was mute for the remainder of the haircut. I wish I had spoken up, but I was caught off guard. Like so many of us existing in the isolating world of fertility challenges, I remained silent. 

Related: Pregnancy speculation hurts everyone

Think of the woman who yearns for a(nother) baby, but has suffered unthinkable loss.

This isn’t the first time I have been asked this question or received comments about “giving my child a sibling,” but it was the first time it came from a complete stranger. It felt invasive, and it got me thinking… why has this question been normalized as something socially acceptable to ask someone? Last time I checked, my sex life and my uterus are no one’s business but my own. 

Yet, this question appears normal to bring up in conversation. No one would ever think to ask my husband about his future vasectomy plans in casual conversation, so why is it acceptable to ask about plans for my uterus? When you think about it, it’s not.

I do realize that typically there is no malicious intent behind this question; it has simply become a common part of human interaction. I am also aware that there are likely many people who don’t care when they’re asked this. And if that’s the case, that’s perfectly OK. But there is another side to this, and I have spoken with several women who expressed how hurtful and emotionally triggering this question can be for a number of reasons. And I want to raise awareness as to why so that hopefully, people begin to think twice before posing this question.

Related: 8 things you should know about infertility

Next time you want to ask this question, think of her.

Think of the woman who yearns for a(nother) baby, but has suffered unthinkable loss. She has babies in the sky that she’ll never be able to hold. She is grieving, and being asked this question rips open her wounds. 

Next time you want to ask this question, think of her.

Think of the woman who has been trying desperately to get pregnant, but is struggling. Her life has been consumed by it, her body has betrayed her. The two week wait each month feels like an eternity. When only one line remains on yet another pregnancy test, her world collapses in. She wants it to be her time more than anything in the world, and this question is hurtful and offensive. 

Next time you want to ask this question, think of her.

Think of the woman going through fertility treatment. She is putting her body and mind through hell, but to her, it’s worth it if it means it’ll bring her a(nother) baby. Being asked this question is an insult to what she has been living through. 

Next time you want to ask this question, think of her.

Think of the woman who doesn’t have any children and doesn’t want to. She is perfectly content with her life, and asking this question suggests that her life is “not enough.” A woman is not defined by motherhood, so why are you assuming a baby is in her plans? 

Next time you want to ask this question, think of her.

Think of the woman who has an only child, and wants to keep it this way. She is hurt by insinuations that her child “needs” a sibling. This suggests that her family is inadequate, when in reality, her family is complete. 

Next time you want to ask this question, think of her.

Think of the woman who had a traumatic pregnancy or birth experience, or who struggled with postpartum mental illness. She doesn’t know if she wants another baby, if she could put herself through that again. Being asked this question brings up feelings of fear and anxiety; she is not ready to answer this yet. 

Next time you want to ask this question, think of her.

These are only a few examples of women’s experiences and how a simple question can cause so much damage. In reality, there are many more. Quite simply, if or when we have a(nother) child is no one’s business but our own. 

It’s time to stop normalizing asking women about having babies. We can change this, but it has to start with awareness. Let’s open the dialogue about women’s experiences with pregnancy loss, infertility and ideas around family and motherhood. We first need to inform society if we want to illuminate why this seemingly innocent question can be so loaded. 

So next time, before you ask a woman when she is going to have a(nother) baby, please think of her. 

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Today’s Parent is Canada’s #1 source for parenting content that informs, inspires and builds a sense of community. We help parents celebrate the happy chaos that comes with having a family and remind them that they are not alone. If you’re trying to conceive, pregnant or have children from newborn to ages 9+, you’ll get insightful information for all ages and stages on discipline, health, behaviour, education, plus easy and nutritious recipes and so much more.

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