Meredith’s Musings: Please Stop Asking Me
article by Meredith McKinnie
I loathe the question, “When are you having kids?” I regret that it’s common, accepted, reflex even. It usually escapes the mouth of someone older, as if said stranger is making a homemade timeline of my life and needs that checked off today. My grandmother used to say it from time to time; she just wanted to meet the hypothetical little one. She never got to. But when it comes from someone my age, I resent the question more. We should know better. We’re the empathetic generation. Fertility struggles are part of our narrative.
I often wonder, what answer are you expecting? I don’t think those who ask even consider the weight of the question, the hurt it can cause. In a best-case scenario, one gets “I’m pregnant.” Yay, check. Another answer could be, “I’m not having children,” to which one gets scorned or chastised or berated. I know; I used to say that very thing. But the other two options cut deeper. When I’m asked three months post-miscarriage, it reminds me. It reminds me that I lost something. It reminds me that you see me as lost, because I don’t have that something. It reminds me that you feel entitled to know why that something is missing from my life, as if it’s any of your business. Why do we focus conversations on what we don’t have instead of what we do?
I believe the worst is when one is asked, and it’s long ago become all she wants in the world, something she’s tried for month after month and perhaps year after year. Do you want to hear that she has three apps on her phone to track her cycle, that she has an overpriced ovulation kit to track the best time for “intimacy with an outcome?” Do you want to hear that sex has become a mission, and without a baby, sometimes a burden? Do you want to know that each month when her stomach begins to churn, she prays it’s not the cramps she knows it is, that the next day won’t be heartbreak in the form of a red stain, that she’ll cry in the bathroom for her body doing what it’s always done, but not yet what strangers demand it do, that she will feel like a failure. That she’ll crumble and cry, and her husband or partner will meet her gaze and feel helpless. That she’ll drag herself to the side of the bed to grab the phone and check the intimacy hearts in that same app and pick a new pattern for next month, as if she did something wrong. She’s beaten herself up enough about not being pregnant without having to be reminded in casual conversation.
She’s already reminded enough when someone else is successful, and it’s gutting when it was an accident. She’s reminded when the bill comes in for the fertility treatments or the D & C from the last unformed fetus. People offer advice like, “It will come.” Will it? You don’t know that. You’re just sweeping my heartbreak under the rug to make it easier for you to compartmentalize. This is an uncomfortable few seconds for you, but for me, the non-mother, this is my life. The least you can do is stop asking me; stop reminding me I’m not a mother with your casual questions. Ask me about the job that I love, the charity work I do or the friends that fill my soul. Focus on my present, on what I do have, what I can control.
Having a baby is not like buying car. It’s not something everyone has to do, and unfortunately not something everyone can do. When we ask others when they’re getting married or having kids, it’s hurtful. No response is easy, and frankly, it’s undeserved. For us non-mothers out here, please stop asking us.