Most people who ask nosy personal questions are just trying to make conversation — I’ll give them that. But there are certain questions people should refrain from asking at all. The one question that tops the list: When are you going to have kids?
A couple’s reasons for not having kids can run the gamut from something as simple as not being ready yet, to something deeply painful involving infertility. Honestly, it’s probably better to zip up those lips of yours if you think this question has any chance of slipping out.
Better yet, take Adele Barbaro’s advice. In her mega-viral Facebook post, the Australian mother of two and blogger at The Real Mumma sums up why you should never ask parents this exasperating question. In her words, “You never know what’s going on.”
Exactly. You really don’t. Barbaro, who suffered from infertility and went through IVF treatments to conceive her first child, is no stranger to the pain that can result from a question like this. She’s taking to the Internet to ask meddling strangers and acquaintances far and wide to just stay the heck away from this personal question.
Barbaro opens by reflecting on what it was like to get this question as a mom struggling to conceive. She says that she would answer with pleasantries like, “We are just enjoying being newly married.” Or, “We have some travelling we want to do first.” But inside she’d be falling apart. The real reason she didn’t have children involved a personal and hidden pain that was destroying her from inside.
“These are just a few of the reasons I used (with a forced smile) to mask what was really going on. I wasn’t always that pleasant,” Barbaro shares. “One day I responded with ‘it’s not that … easy, you know’. I had just got my period that morning…. again.”
Barbaro reflects on what life was like during the time she and her husband were deep in the throes of infertility. She talks about when she learned that trying to conceive would be “a long road ahead,” and how embarking on the difficult journey of IVF treatments would be her only hope.
“IVF sucks,” writes Barbaro. “It is the most time consuming, invasive, expensive and emotionally painful roller coaster I have been on. It actually broke me. You have so much invested in the process, financially and emotionally that it consumes your every thought.”
Barbaro then explains what it was like to interact with the rest of the world during that time. As someone who spent 18 long months trying to conceive my first son, all while everyone else around me seemed to be having babies no problem, Barbaro’s words really hit home:
“When you are having difficulty conceiving, it seems everyone around you is falling pregnant. It’s easy to be happy for them at first but that brave face wears thin after a while. I even started to decline going to certain get togethers and attending baby birthdays were just painful. I became quite bitter, desperate and depressed.”
This is such a relatable tidbit for anyone who has struggled with infertility issues. It also highlights just how important it is that we choose our words carefully when it comes to asking women about such intimate things like starting a family. You just never know a woman’s story.
Barbaro shares that she was finally able to conceive her first child after one year, remarking that she and her husband “were one of the lucky ones.” But that doesn’t mean that Barbaro doesn’t vividly remember what it was like to be in that hopeless place of not-knowing. And that’s why she urges all of us, again, to think before we speak to couples without children; our words might just cause more damage than we realize.
And, as Barbaro dutifully points, out, it’s not just couples dealing with infertility who are vulnerable to these sorts of questions. “What about the couple that doesn’t want kids? Or the couple that had a child but can’t afford to have another? Or those that have lost little ones?” she asks.
What might sound like an innocent and friendly question to one person can be the thing that unlocks a well of hurt in another. So please, do us all a favor and don’t ask. There are many reasons a couple might not have children — and none of them are anyone’s business.