The one question we need to stop asking women

There is a question that makes my blood boil. It turns my insides out, it makes me clench my fists and my teeth. It is a question asked by men and women…but it’s usually only directed at women.

It’s a question that is selfish. Rude. Inconsiderate. Abhorrent. Nosy.

The question is, “When are you going to have a (another) baby?”

Perhaps, to you, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this question. Perhaps you are a regular asker of this question. If you are, you need a heavy-handed reminder of why you have no right to be asking this.

I am guilty of opening my mouth and feeling the words spill out. It’s almost indoctrinated into our DNA to check on people’s milestones – When are you going to get engaged? When are you going to get married? When are you going to have a baby? When are you going to add a sibling? When are you going to die? Am I mentioned in your will? It’s never-ending.

So why is this question so bad?

This question can be heartbreaking

The question, perhaps innocent in its intent, is demeaning to women who are struggling to conceive.

  • Imagine, for the 12th month in a row, the pregnancy test has been a negative. You turn wearily to your partner, your heart at your feet, that pounding thud in your mind that beats “there is something wrong with you” and you show them yet another broken dream.
  • Imagine you have just experienced a miscarriage. It is so fresh that you are still wearing sanitary pads. Someone, a friend, a family member, a random stranger asks you “So when are you two going to finally try for a baby”. You feel the uncomfortable dull ache in your womb and you wish to scream “I did try, and now what’s left is collecting in my knickers!

When you ask this question, you have no idea what that person is going through. You have no idea how many tears they have shed over one blue line, over a scan that didn’t show a heartbeat and upon looking back into the toilet and seeing the first drop of blood.

When you miscarry, you feel labour pains, perhaps not so severe – that totally depends on the woman and how far along the miscarriage happens. When it happened to me, I lay on my couch with a hot water bottle feeling my body contract and remembering that the last time this happened, I was pushing out the most beautiful girl in the world.

Some women don’t want children

You might be asking this question to someone who has no intention of having children and on this topic, people have far too many opinions. If a woman doesn’t want children, you do not have the right to shame her for this. You do not need to tell them “you’ll feel differently when you have your own” because that is the most ridiculous statement ever uttered. I’ve never had heroin but I’m also pretty sure I’ll feel differently after using it.
Some women do not have the desire to have children and some women feel that, religiously, they are not being called to be mothers. I think it’s commendable to feel that strongly. As long as no one is mocking anyone’s life choices then why does it matter to you?

By asking someone when they are going to have a baby, you are perpetuating the belief that to be complete as a woman, you must have a child. This might be a religious view or a patriarchal view, for the former, here’s how I would like to disprove that:

In Genesis, God commanded man to go forth and populate the earth because there wasn’t anyone in it. He didn’t demand it because without a full womb, or someone to pass along your family name to you are nothing. Throughout the bible there are many great men and women who never had children. In sacrifice to their God they faced armies, lions, disease, crumbling city walls and they did it without a little one running around.

You are not the sum of your offspring. If that was the case, we’d have to discard almost all the books of the bible. Sorry Luke, your teaching is invalid because a) you didn’t get married and b) you didn’t open a woman’s legs.

In the New Testament there is reference to a number of strong women (Phoebe, Junia, Tabitha)…and no reference to their children. I take this as a sign that whilst God loves family and delights in the joy of children, His plan for our lives could never be limited to whether we bare babies.

Some families just want one sibling

Did you know, it is possible to have ONE child and be ecstatic. I know, you’re gaping open-mouthed at this truth right now. But I’m not making it up. You see, I know plenty of people who have one kid and are so content with life.

I also know plenty of people who struggled so damn hard to get pregnant in the first place that they never want to struggle again.

I know close friends who had an awful labor- so frightening that they almost died – so the thought of near-killing themselves for a second child is not in their future.

Whilst biological issues could be counteracted by adoption, the red-tape process of adoption and fostering in South Africa is harrowing and it takes a lot of dedication and 100% commitment to be able to go this route.

So who can actually say anything

Your partner. Your own child. Your shadow. Your pet. Possibly the friend you tell absolutely everything and anything to. Possibly mother and/or father who knows you like the back of their hand.

Who shouldn’t say anything

Strangers, acquaintances, work colleagues, the boss, a man (I personally find it very weird when men show interest in my reproductive system), gossipers, family who aren’t close, family who aren’t blood related to you (I’ve heard nightmare stories about mother-in-laws who keep pushing for answers. Thank God I have a MIL who is loving and respecting of my space), friends, people on social media.

If in doubt, SHUT YOUR MOUTH. Let them tell you. Let them choose the space and time that they choose to share.

My final words on the matter are this

I knew I wanted to have children with Mr H, that was part of our family journey. After Rosie, we left it a good amount of time and when we tried again, we reached 6 weeks and I miscarried. It affected me because I felt powerless. I felt helpless. I felt as though I had let down my husband and my family. To have people asking me when I was going to give Rosie a sibling, after sharing that news on my blog, made me want to violently attack them. We are blessed with another baby on the way but I hold my fellow women in such high regard, I do not ever wish for them to have be questioned or judged.

If you still think I am wrong, if you still want to carry on asking this insensitive question, ask yourself this: Why am I so interested in other people’s sex lives? Because really, when you’re asking folks about when they are having kids, you’re really just asking them about how well they get jiggy with it. And that’s just creepy.

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  • Reply Melissa Javan March 12, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Yes please! You are so on point with this post. Thank you

  • Reply MrsFF March 12, 2018 at 11:58 am

    This post hit the nail on the head!!! I actually commented on this on twitter last week! People find it weird that I never ask that question but after battling with infertility I know better than to ask. Between very close friends we might tease and joke about having 4-5 kids but that is where it ends and even say to one another right after a birth time to start trying for the next. I have learnt you don’t know someone’s story and you really don’t know if they want kids or not. So it is none of your business. I had people ask me before I had a kid – you know you are not getting any younger and even after the kid was born it was always when is the next one coming. Not sure how that is their business. My MIL was the worst she could never ask me directly but would ask my SIL who thankfully would tell her I think you should ask your son not me 🙁

    • Reply Shante Hutton March 13, 2018 at 7:20 am

      Sometimes you can joke, when you know who you’re joking with. I have no problem with my mum asking because she knows everything about me but if you’re not that close with someone, you’re treading into a mine field. Better to never ask than see the pain reflected in someone’s eyes

  • Reply Sarah March 12, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Literally cannot agree with you more – I get asked all the time and little do these people (some close to me) know that I’ve actuallh just taken another (negative) pregnancy test. I also had a miscarriage and I couldn’t believe how insensitive people were – “so are you going to try again now because you’re so fertile after a D&C”. Can you even ?
    Drives me up the wall

    • Reply Shante Hutton March 13, 2018 at 7:17 am

      It makes my skin crawl this lack of empathy – are we just programmed to blurt out these impersonal questions? Never mind the fact that you need time to let your heal and yourself mourn after a miscarriage and now they want you to throw yourself into it straight away!

  • Reply Heather March 12, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Oh yes. Thank you. I agree with you so much. Although people have generally stopped asking now. I do tell them I did try to have another one (unsuccessfully) I don’t mind telling them that. But it’s still invasive.

    • Reply Shante Hutton March 13, 2018 at 7:18 am

      I’m thinking of, when someone asks me, of turning the question around and asking them how often they have unprotected sex….

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