Please Don’t Ask That

“Do you have kids?” It was the dreaded question, and it wasn’t even being asked of me this time. I was in a business group setting, and as each person went around the room introducing themselves, that was the question that was posed again and again. It seems harmless, and to many, it probably is harmless. But I couldn’t help but wonder if there was anyone else in this room who had walked in shoes like mine. This seemingly unassuming question is so painful for many of us to answer.

As a baby loss Mom, this is one of many questions that make me cringe. Another one is, “Is this your first?” Both are questions I hear a lot now, especially when I’m out with Baby Boy. I struggle with how to answer the question in a way that feels genuine to my family, yet won’t alienate (read: freak out) the person I’m talking to.

My general rule is: if I don’t know the person, and will probably not see them again, I tend to say a quick yes and move on. Yet in my mind—and especially in my heart—I don’t move on. I feel like I’m not being fair to Baby K, Benjamin and Sarah, and the others. And not being fair to myself or Double A. But what do I say that covers all of this?

It’s a conversation I’ve often had with my baby loss Mom friends. One answers with “Two in heaven.” Others answer, “We have/had another daughter, but she died.” While not easy answers, clean and understandable. But why ask this at all? And what about when it’s not so easy to understand? Or that many people would consider only babies who were born to be “actual” children. It’s all so complicated that often I don’t want to get into it. Sometimes I say, “Not exactly, but he’s the first we were able to bring home,” and leave it at that.

What I don’t understand is, why is it common knowledge that you don’t ask a woman if she’s pregnant, but you can ask if she has kids? Or how about if she wants kids, and when is she going to have kids? Can these questions be reshaped as to not be so offensive? Do they need to be asked at all? The more we talk about miscarriage, still birth, baby loss and infertility, the more we will be able to inform and educate the greater community that questions like these are loaded and hurtful.

What are your dreaded questions? How do you respond?