ask a question
Pleading the Fifth
I think it’s safe to say at this stage that there isn’t much we keep secret about our family planning challenges and experience with the multiple pregnancy/loss scenario we have found ourselves in.
I think there’s a lot to be gained by being open and honest about your experience – it means others open up to you, you get the opportunity to support each other, and you don’t have to skirt around those awkward “when are you going to have kids” questions that people love to ask.
Most times, if people ask, I just tell them honestly about what our experience has been. Usually, people will take it quite well and often share an experience of their own or someone they know as well.
But every now and then we do find ourselves in a situation where we’re around people we don’t know all that well… and in order to avoid making them feel uncomfortable, there are times when I do skirt around the inevitable “so, when are you two having kids” *wink wink* *nudge nudge* with a fairly ambivalent and non-committal “I don’t know” type of response.
It happens more often than you would think… a couple of examples from this month alone include, at the pool shop, getting my groceries at woollies, and at a casual BBQ… sometimes it feels like you just can’t go anywhere without being asked the big question!
I know I openly promote the notion that if people just talked about their experiences more openly it would reduce the awkwardness of such conversations for everyone… and maybe people would realise that miscarriage and fertility issues are so common (1 in 6 people experience fertility issues and 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage) that to respond to the big baby question with your honest experience would just be acceptable.
But unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy.
Even though the question can make those of us experiencing difficulties feel uncomfortable… it’s hard to know how to respond to the question without making the other person feel bad for asking.
I don’t know that there’s a real solution, but I have found what works for me is – if it’s someone I know well (friend, family member or colleague) I will just tell them what our experience is.
Usually, most people are understanding and supportive.
If it’s people I know I’m going to see again, but don’t know well enough to gauge how they might respond, I give a fairly standard “I don’t know” type of response and focus the conversation back to being about their kids (people love talking about their kids). My reasoning here is, I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable for asking and I’m sure when I know them better I’ll tell them eventually.
If it’s people I’m never going to see again… I do tell them. I think if they think it’s reasonable to ask a stranger such a personal question, it must also be reasonable for them to hear my personal response, and generally, I don’t care if they feel uncomfortable about it.
Even though I have these standard types of responses in the back of my mind, there are other times when the question just completely catches me off guard, like it comes out of no-where and I really don’t know what to say at all…
But I do think there’s a solution to all this.
I think if people just spoke openly to their friends and family about fertility and loss (especially since it is impacting so many people in our community!) it would become more acceptable to just say why you don’t have kids when people ask the question (and perhaps less likely that people would ask the question in the first place!)
Although, I don’t think “the question” is the problem.
I think the inability to feel as though we can honestly answer the question is the real problem, and that needs to change.
People aren’t going to understand that these experiences are so common unless they hear it from the people close to them – their family and friends who are experiencing loss and infertility.
We are the only ones who can change this perception that it’s “not ok” to talk about loss or infertility.
So, don’t feel like you need to keep it a secret. The more people hear that these experiences are commonplace, the more it will become acceptable to answer, “when are you having kids” with “when we stop having miscarriages” or “hopefully when we start our next IVF cycle”.
What are your thoughts? Do you think if people spoke more openly about their experiences, the culture around talking about fertility and loss would change? Do you think there would be less of an overwhelming feeling to keep these issues a secret?
Look forward to hearing your thoughts.
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