It's innocent on the surface. Small talk, even. But I want to try and shed some light for those people who might be unaware of how emotionally-charged the subject of pregnancy and family planning can be for your average 20- (or 30-) something year old woman.
I was recently at a baby shower where there were more girls who were pregnant than were not. A couple of new moms and a grandmother or two were there also, but the majority of the guest list had a bun in the oven.
And all I could think of was how hard that must have been for the girls there who are currently trying to conceive (or adopt) and are either still waiting for it to happen, or are running into obstacles.
I had no idea about the demographic of girls my age who struggle to begin their family until recently. Infertility was something I thought happened to older moms, but I've learned this just simply isn't the case.
I've seen so many tears shed. I've heard the disappointment in so many voices every time a period starts or a pregnancy test is negative. I've prayed for (and with) so many women who desire nothing more than to have a baby, and they are the first ones I think of every time a pregnancy announcement pops up on facebook, because I know the joy has got to be tinged by jealously, and while they are happy for their friend, they are also heartbroken.
I could write a novel about the journey of infertility that so many women go through, but what I want to suggest is that we be careful with our words when we ask women, "so when are you going to have kids?"
Because the answer is hardly ever easy.
For me, the honest answer would have been
"My husband is ready--but I'm terrified that I will be a horrible mother and I don't think I will have any maternal instincts but I guess I better get a move on because I'm not getting any younger?"
Another woman's response could be
"I miscarried last month. We are trying to heal from losing our first baby before trying again."
"we came home with our adopted daughter, but the birth mother changed her mind when our baby was 2 days old and we had to give her back."
"I've miscarried several times and we have spent tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments."
"We've been trying for several years. We've decided that we're going to give up because we can't afford in-vitro"
These aren't random musings.
These are stories of women I know personally.
And these responses aren't exactly something that you confess to co-workers, acquaintances, and distant relatives, so the woman being questioned is practically forced to say "oh, some day."
And even though I haven't struggled with infertility, I remember being so tired of "the question" that I dreaded going to baby showers or other events where it seemed inevitable that it would come up. When a lady at a shower asked about my job, I clung onto her words like a drowning person to a raft. "Yes! I work for Sharp Electronics! Let me tell you about it!!!"
Please hear me. The last thing I want to do is to suggest that we all walk on eggshells; to never ask a personal question towards a woman of child-bearing age for fear of offending her. I am suggesting that when these questions and conversations do happen, remember that your words, and how you say them, have the power to encourage or to crush.
Asking a woman about her plans for family planning is not on the same plane as talking about the weather. It is deeply emotional, personal, and private. If a woman wants to share her plans, her fears, and her heart about this subject with you, she will.