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Why It's Not OK to Ask 'When Are You Having a Child?'

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

It’s not OK to ask, “when are you going to have a child?”

This simple question has such an impact on too many people for numerous reasons including that it can be extremely heartbreaking. You don’t know what someone else has gone through or is going through. It can also be frustrating. There is no set plan in life for people to follow. This is their choice and you shouldn’t question it.

I understand sometimes it’s general chitchat but if that’s the case rephrase the question to something like, “Do you plan to have …”

Be aware you may be put into an uncomfortable situation as their story behind it could be very upsetting. And they don’t have to answer it. This topic is sensitive to many people and is also a very personal question, so I would find something else to chitchat about.

There are so many different stories as to why people don’t have children or more.

These situations relate to men and women.

  1. They could be the 1 in every 6 couples that have trouble conceiving, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Every time they try, they will see that negative pregnancy test and break down. IVF could have been refused, unsuccessful or too expensive. They could have experienced miscarriage after miscarriage. With their chances of having their first child / more children crumbling away.
  2. They could be a victim of domestic or sexual abuse. Maybe physical contact is still traumatic. Maybe they had to have an abortion in the past because of this. Many people who are sexually abused blame themselves.
  3. They could have health issues impacting their fertility, their capability to raise a child or it could be too dangerous for them to get pregnant. Not having a child or more could be a decision they have to make or maybe they never had the choice. Some woman may have even had a hysterectomy or had chemotherapy.
  4.  They could have experienced a traumatic birth and be too scared to go through it again. They could also be suffering with PTSD or postnatal depression.
  5. They could have lost a child and not want to go through the heart break of raising another or it could have been a stillbirth, which the CDC reports affects 1 in 160 pregnancies. They could feel guilt, that they are replacing the one they lost.
  6. They may not be ready for children. Whether they don’t feel the relationship is ready for that next step, they are working on their career, they don’t feel mentally ready for the commitment or they don’t feel financially ready. That is OK. There is no set timeframe to have a child. So don’t push them. I’m pretty sure they already know fertility reduces with age so you don’t need to tell them time is ticking. Did you know that according to the CDC, more women are giving birth in their 40s?
  7. They may not want children, or more children, and that’s OK too. Not everyone has to have children and you don’t have to have more than one. It doesn’t make them any less of a person and an only child doesn’t have a bad upbringing. Let them have as many children as they want whether that’s none, one or seven. It’s their business.
  8. Some may not enjoy sex, which we all know is needed to make babies. It can be too painful or their sex drives could be low. Whether it’s a health issue, medication or just in general. Did you know that sex doesn’t interest some people and that is OK. Again it’s their choice. It may seem different to you, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

The list goes on ….

There are many reasons why you should never ask this question and hopefully I’ve highlighted some important ones for you to think about.

You’d be quite surprised how often loved ones ask these questions despite knowing your personal circumstances.

For myself and my husband, we get …

When will you be having babies? Who will have one first (him or his sister)? Why aren’t you trying? Why don’t you try other routes?

a couple holding a baby onesie that says "it's not OK to ask when"

At the age of 28 I never thought I’d be in my current situation and I find it heartbreaking. I feel like I’ve let myself, my husband and my parents down.

I always wanted children by the age of 23 but I wasn’t in the right relationship at first and I had only just got with Dale (my husband) at that time. I accepted it wasn’t the right timeline for me and set another goal to have my first child at 26.

I already had the career and a house of our own so we were financially ready, however I knew Dale wasn’t mentally ready and our relationship was new so it wasn’t right to make that big step then.
Having children is a big commitment, no matter how ready you feel you are.

We were planning to try for children after we got married (I’d be 25 and Dale would be 29) but the year before, my health started deteriorating. I was in the hospital close to death and in the space of a year had four major bowel operations.

Along with my gynecological problems this makes my fertility questionable.

I wonder if I will ever be able to conceive. So why don’t I try? Did you know there’s other routes?

I’ve always said I’d adopt if I couldn’t conceive but my health has continued to deteriorate. I am unable to get out of bed most days so it would be impossible for me to raise a child. I also had to give up my career so financially we wouldn’t be able to manage. I find this extremely hard to accept … knowing I may never have children is soul destroying. It’s one thing I’ve always dreamed of and I was ready to achieve. But right now it’s not our time.

You shouldn’t need justification on someone’s personal life.

It’s also not OK to ask when someone is getting engaged, married, moving out, changing jobs etc. These are all personal goals and that is none of our business.

Support them on whatever route they choose.

It’s their journey not yours.

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Follow this journey on Making the Invisible Visible.

Photo submitted by contributor.

Originally published: November 21, 2020
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