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?

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10 thoughts on “Please Don’t Ask That

  1. When I was being induced, 5 different midwife shift changes happened. Whenever a new midwife came in, she picked up my chart and before looking, she asked if this was my first. And each time, I had to answer. Bunny is only a couple of weeks old so I haven’t quite been out with her much. I’m dreading the question, and I have no idea how to answer. For now, I may just stick to: “Let’s just say we worked very hard to bring her home.”

    • This makes me cringe, Mo. Much like the notion of think before you speak, you’d think that they would learn to read before they speak. But I guess that’s a much bigger discussion on bedside manners these days.

      I really like your response to the dreaded question, and think I’ll incorporate that into how I answer next time.

  2. Hate this question. It seems it is always asked.

    Though, I found my way of answering assuming I ever get to bring a child home.

    No, I am a parent to one, mother of three.

    I love it.

  3. I’ve come to the conclusion that most people use that question as a cover for being really really bad at small talk. Kids are easy to talk about when they’re living and healthy. If your answer is complicated (like all of ours are), it instantly makes the conversation the opposite of “small talk”-y. I wish we had somewhere else to go with these conversations once the topic of the weather is exhausted, but I’m afraid we’re all destined to muddle through about our kids over and over.

    • That’s a good way of looking at it, T. I think part of it is that I’m uncomfortable not knowing what to say/how I want to answer. Perhaps once I find my answer, I’ll be able to say it and then just move on.

  4. Hi Erin – My friend Katie Halpin (previous coworker) shared your blog with me so I wanted to reach out. First off let me say I read your blog from front to back, your story is unbelievable. I am truly sorry for your losses, but also was so incredibly moved that you now have a son. While I cannot imagine going through 7 losses, I have gone through one myself (lost b/g twins a year ago this past Monday at 22 wks) and that was enough to break me. Reading your blog is like reading my own thoughts. I would love to talk to you some more if you have time. Just let me know.

    Thanks,
    Tiffany

    • Tiffany, I’m sorry for the loss of your John and Cynthia, and admire your courage to create and your blog. The name you chose, Beautiful Terror really sums up the mix of emotion that someone in similar shoes as ours feels. I would love to connect, and will shoot you an email. I’ll also thank Katie for connecting us.

  5. Their are SO many questions that I wish people would not ask. I realize it’s small talk and what they expect you to say is “two point five rugrats at home causing all kinds of trouble”. It just feels weird and wrong to me.
    I also had seven losses. I have a singleton and a set of twins (all very hard won). I am sure you can imagine the cornucopia of questions that is asked about all three of them. The questions about the twins are so hard for me as I lost a set of twins exactly a year before and two months before I had a surprise pregnancy with the twins I lost a singleton at 21 weeks.
    When it was just my daughter and lots of losses I always said, one daughter at home and lots of losses. That pretty much shut the whole conversation down. I didn’t care that people pittied me after so long…

    • First let me say that I’m sorry for your losses. I agree with you that it isn’t about people pitying you, rather you being true to yourself and your family. I’m glad you’ve found comfort in that too.

  6. These questions are so hard. I go to a mom’s group with my loving child twice a week, and at the beginning everyone introduces themselves and their kids. Most even mention older children that are not present because of school. So I have this battle every day. Do I mention Noah? On one hand, how do I not? On the other, I feel like it brings down the group every single time. And who wants to be responsible for that?

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