I recently got married and there is one question that is driving me crazy: “Where is the baby?”
Now let me explain the circumstances. We have been trying for a baby for about a year and a half, but only a handful of close people/family know about this. Therefore after the wedding, these questions tend to sting a little, even though I know it’s not the “asker’s” fault.
My question to others out there is, how do you answer this without getting emotional or rude, and letting them know it is a personal issue? And all without conveying our issue in that department? -Noelle
I am going to actually argue with you on one point: It IS the “asker’s” fault. I’m a staunch believer that your reproductive choices are personal — not something to be discussed over dinner, or inquired about in passing. In short, these people should NE-EV-ER ask “where is the baby.”
It took about FOUR YEARS for close friends and family to stop asking me about whether or not that guy I married was going to shoot his sperm into my body in the hopes of fertilizing an egg, in the hopes that I would start forming a human that I might incubate, birth, and raise. FOUR YEARS of people asking me about those deeply intimate activities and choices. Dah fuk, people!?
Which leads me to my second point…
I also believe there’s NO reason to be polite. The people asking you about your sex-havings and reproductive choices aren’t being polite to you. I think four years of our response of “hell fucking no” was jarring enough for people to never forget, and stop asking.
I am a self-professed child-free lady. A fellow child-free friend recently announced she was unexpectedly pregnant. I can tell she's feeling pretty rattled and struggling... Read more
In short, I suggest giving it to them straight: “That’s actually a deeply personal issue, and I’d rather not discuss it.” I guarantee that response will not only stop them from ever bothering you about it again, but it may actually stop them from putting another couple in this awkward situation in the future.
A few very related posts from our archived sister site, Offbeat Families:
- Why I’m tired of the mentality that marriage = babies
- How can I politely tell people that my reproductive goals are none of their business?
- Family planning is personal: I’m learning to stop asking questions about what other people are doing
Oh, but Homies, I have ISSUES about this topic. Maybe you’d be less angsty? How would YOU answer the awful question “Where is the baby?”
Comments on The question that is driving me crazy: “Where is the baby?”
My mother in law for years would ask if we were having kids. She finally got a clue after about 6 years that if we had kids, it would “happen” (natural or adoption). We don’t have kids and people don’t even ask anymore (esp. since I am pushing 41). Unfortunately people will ask. It will piss you off, as it did me. So you WILL have to find your own way of telling people to mind their own business. It is peoples natural question once you get married and some people don’t even realize it might be offensive to you and some ask for other reasons (nosiness, religious reasons (Marriage = babies)).
How about the standard “I appreciate you feel X, but Y”.
So maybe “I (appreciate/am really happy/pleased) that you’d love an extra addition to our (family/friendship circle/community), but that’s something that me and (name of partner) need to figure out in our own time.” Then firmly but politely change the subject.
It softens it up a little bit if you feel that’s appropriate, but it’s direct enough to get the point across.
My husband and I struggled to have a baby; it took us over 3 years. My favorite answer to people who were not close friends who were asking, “When are you going to have a baby? ” was to say, “Nine months after he knocks me up.”
That seemed to end the conversation (and subsequent questions) pretty quickly.
I love this response!
Nearly a year into ‘trying’ (hate that word) and four months after a very difficult silent miscarriage I’ve just started batting that question straight back at people by being honest – I say that it’s just not working for us at the moment and it’s quite traumatic. People don’t half look sheepish then! I initially thought it was oversharing, but then thought that every person I overshare with might think twice about asking that invasive question of someone else.
I agree that it is the askers’ problem and they are frankly rude, but TBH a few years ago I used to ask the same question without thinking, and had someone pointed out to me why it’s not OK then perhaps I would’ve stopped sooner!
It would be nice if it actually worked that way, but one of the worst offenders in my world was an old family friend of my husband’s. She had lots of trouble conceiving her first son but had no problem publicly harassing me about “why wasn’t i pregnant yet?” and I’ve found that most people don’t stop when asked politely top do so. It sucks.
I like your fierceness and openness, and of course it’s your decision how you react, but I somehow feel that if we answer these things truthfully, it’s a validation of the question.
You know, just because they ask, we’re not obliged to give answers.
And I fear if the inquirers keep getting the information they want, they won’t be likely to stop asking.
I think the only way to not play their game is to revolt against the question per se.
ETA: I like that you admit to having asked questions like these in the past. I did, too, until I got more aware of personal boundaries and especially how women’s bodies seem to be public domain.
Having been the rude person myself, it’s even more important to me that we help others to see why it’s not okay to ask these things.
I’d answer exactly the same way. Sometimes I also ask for suggestions on the best sex positions and sex schedule for conception. That usually quiets the room.
Depending on how off putting you want to be –
“Wow, are you seriously asking about my sex life?” Eye roll, change topic.
“I can’t believe you just asked that. Cripes. I mean, how much money do you make and how much does your spouse weigh?” Eye roll, change topic.
“Whenever it happens.” (Some people might say “Whenever we’re ready” but having been through years of infertility we were ready way before it happened – and have the medical bills to prove it!)
And yes, it is definitely their fault for asking!
The response I always got to: “whenever we’re ready.” Was, “oh, you know there’s never a good time to have a baby, you just learn how to get through it!”
This was a huge problem for me. I have fertility issues and my husband is trans (we joke about his low sperm count). People asking about when we were going to have a baby became a real problem. The question coupled with the influx of pregnant women at our synagogue made it impossible for me to attend without leaving in tears. We are a small community so I think people finally figured it out and stopped asking and now we are foster parents so the sting has lessened. I never really knew what to say.
My hubby & I have never really felt like we wanted children but always said we were both welcome to change our minds & we’d discuss it if we did. More recently we’ve been wavering on the fence & discussing it. But in the past I’ve always said “I have a family; me, hubby & our dogs. I don’t know if we’ll add to the humans but one day we might get a cat!” Most people took the hint. But if they were really persistent, I would say, very sweetly, “look, we do not know if we want children but if we decide we do, I’ll send you my ovulation chart & detailed plan for conception.” (I think that response actually came from a comment on Offbeat Families at some point!) Most people would be too shocked to make a comeback & I’d be able to escape. I’ve found having a default party line is useful, then if someone is making me emotional I can resort back to it & get out of the situation quickly. Because most people no longer ask we have decided not to tell anyone about our fence-wavering, just to save the stress of people enquiring again.
If it’s family or friends who know you are trying, they really should be more sensitive. But I might say something along the lines of “I know you are asking because you care but please could you not as it is a very personal subject.”
Actually, I think it is a little bit the askers fault. It’s a rude question to ask and it really shouldn’t be that difficult for them to understand the great many reasons it could be insensitive (at the very least) to ask it. Especially if asked in that way. I got questions like that too, and it hurt. It only took us 4 months to get pregnant too, so WTF? It’s not like we just flip a switch and this time sex will get me pregnant! Like 4 months is so unreasonably long. Ugh. If I could go back in time I would tell people just how rude and hurtful those kinds of questions are, and I would have your back if you chose to do the same.
“Well, my husband and I are both very sub-fertile, and we’re really hoping for a pregnancy that sticks, as I miscarried before we went on our three month trip to Europe. It’s the reason we went away, actually, as nice as it was to learn we could use a less expensive method than IVF, it was also nice to think about something other than the miscarriage for a while”.
Enough detail that I think they’re unlikely to ask anyone the same question again, and especially not us!
That said, I was asked by a reasonably close friend early last year, just as we were going through all the medical tests, and all I could do was blurt “we’ve been trying for three years!” at her before leaving to cry somewhere more private. Reeeeeeally didn’t help that she was pregnant when she asked.
We got married undecided/leaning towards no for kids. But our agreement is that we would decide together.
My mom started in on the kids questions, and I told her 1. you have a grandkitty and a granddog already. and 2. you will be the first to know about any news on that front as long as you don’t keep asking me about it!
I go back and forth between how to respond to that question, and it definitely varies based on the relationship you have to the asker. Sometimes I think brutal honesty is a great way to go, especially when fertility problems are involved because they are relatively common! They happen and people should be aware! So when a barely acquaintance asked me about when I was going to have kids, I told her “It’s not in the plan right now for us. But you know you should be careful about asking that question because you never know if people very private about that or having fertility issues.”
I think it really depends on how the question is asked.
“Where is the baby?”, “When are you going to give us a grandkid/nephew/whatever?”, “Not pregnant yet??”: generally asked by a distant relative you see once in a year or your mom, these questions are unthoughtful bordering on rude, driven by a will either to make unconsequential conversation or pry, so in my book it’s totally fine to ignore them, adjourn the topic or make the person feel uncomfortable.
“Are children in your future?” “Are you considering becoming parents some time?”, “What do you think about having children?”: these are more sensitive questions, generally asked by friends who know it can be hard to conceive, and they’re OK since they’re about what we WANT, and not what we do. And they usually garner a sincere answer, a.k.a we’re so remaining childfree right now.
SO true. Not all ways of asking the question are equally offensive. Nosiness is one thing, solidarity another. I myself am tempted to ask our fellow newlywed friends if they want kids, because I want someone to sympathize with. But I’m too nervous about seeming nosy that I keep my mouth shut.
Totally agreed. I have the “do you think you going to become a parent?” conversation with my friends all the time. Those are actually super-interesting talks, sans all the assumptive creepiness of “so when are you getting knocked up?” <– a totally real question a human man once asked me a week after being married.
Yes, there are definitely good ways and bad ways to ask the question, and I was flabbergasted every time I got the bad way. (It doesn’t stop after you have one, either; I got the first “when are you having another?” question THREE DAYS after I got back from maternity leave. We are one and done for many reasons, but I usually just make a joke about how this one is perfect, so why would we need to try again.)
I hope you were REALLY RUDE to that guy, Megan. Ugh.
Just when we started trying I was talking to a friend who just had a baby after years of infertility, a number of miscarriages and losing a baby. She was so happy to have a baby to hold and she was talking about how hard all those years were. We had just started trying and I didn’t mention that but I think she figured we were trying and she said some really supportive things to me that made me feel a lot better. Since we had just started trying I was having a hard time dealing with my excitement and the let down of not being pregnant, plus knowing that this friend and my SIL had struggled for years and that I had nothing to complain about since it was only my second month of trying. Anyways, what my friend said really validated my feelings (e.g., being upset about not being pregnant) even though I hadn’t been trying long and it made me feel a lot better. That is definitely not the type of conversation I have with most of my family (other than my SIL) or my husband’s family. (When I told my father that I was pregnant and I said my morning sickness was really bad he said “what did you expect? your mother’s was bad, your SIL’s was bad, your step-sisters’ were bad.”)
I think you have to find a balance between yes it’s SO rude they’re even asking, but accepting the fact the society has conditioned people in such a way that this is acceptable. We’ve made it pretty clear from day one of even dating that we were never going to have kids, but you we still get the comments and questions. We try to take the approach of saying some variation of this: “Although we don’t find it very appropriate that you’re asking, we’ll tell you now that we’re not going to have children and would appreciate it if you would respect us enough to not discuss this personal decision further unless we bring it up.” This covers all the bases–pointing out the rudeness, squashing their hopes & dreams, and setting the boundary that this conversation is actually over.
Step one. Make direct eye contact
Step two. In a calm , pleasant voice say ‘I didn’t realize you were so interested in our sex life.’
Step three. Laugh as the person freaks out and tries to take back their horribly rude and invasive question.
“Where’s the baby?”
“We can’t figure it out either. I don’t know if we’re doing it right. Can you explain where the penis goes?”
Or “THERE WAS A BABY?! CRAP! DID WE MISPLACE A BABY?!”
“Where’s the baby?”
“In its cage.”
ROFL on all of these. Going to steal
We joke, but a former workmate of mine who was studying midwifery at the time told me about a couple who had come into the hospital for fertility tests because they had been trying for ages with no luck.
They’d been putting it in her bellybutton.
Oh lord. Another reason we need better sex ed…
With my MIL, I finally had to produce some tears and go into explicit details about all of the ways my necessary medications can harm a baby, all the ways my diseases would make parenting difficult, and all the unpredictable elements of my health that have to align perfectly for it to be the right time to take a YEAR to get off my medications before starting to try to conceive. And that I won’t be able to function without my meds unless I’m basically in med free remission. And that my health is likely to get worse while pregnant. Oh, and then the fact that my diseases or meds might have effected my fertility. So, no, I can’t tell you when or if I’ll be giving you a grandchild. I never thought I’d get through to her, but oversharing and letting her get a little window into the emotions at play finally shut her up. I really shouldn’t have had to do that.
Usually an absurd answer will make the asker realize how absurd they are for asking.
Our standard answer was: “We left it in the car, but don’t worry, we left the windows cracked so it will get some fresh air.”
I’ve gone with “Under an up-turned laundry basket at home. But don’t worry, we weighted it with an encyclopedia and left an open bag of Skittles.”
I had a lot of difficulty in conceiving as well. If people asked about when were planning on kids, I was very open about the issue with our friends and family in a “this is what’s happening. I don’t want to talk about it. if I change my mind I’ll let you know”. This mostly made people feel SUPER awful about asking in the first place (especially in those particularly emotional/hormonal moments of treatment when I would burst into tears). I hope that by being honest and making those people feel bad for asking that in the future they will think twice before asking insensitive questions.
I love the comments from people that offer absurd and funny responses. That is exactly what my husband would do. When people asked, his most common response was “I don’t know but practice makes perfect and we practice a lot” or ” I don’t think we can pregnant the way we do it.” Then sometimes we would follow it up by making some lewd “make-out” gesture with each other which grosses out our family and friends enough (knowing its all in jest) to move on from the topic. However, we both come from families and have friends that are pretty crude and have no shame about asking inappropriate questions. Thus our responses often reflect that although they may be perceived as rude by other people – its just how we, our family, and our friends communicate.
I would also consider a response that is perceived as emotional/rude (pretty much calls out the inappropriateness of the asker) because it makes the point that people shouldn’t ask those type of questions. You don’t even have to give specifics on your situation. You can politely say that many couples might have some obstacles in fertility or lost a pregnancy making that question very invasive. Tell the asker they could be pouring salt on an open wound by asking what they think is a simply question. I know quite a few people who did not ask me if I was pregnant when I clearly was because they knew it was rude and learned the hard way. They asked someone how far along they were and the person responded by clarifying that they were not pregnant. People have to learn somehow.
I don’t even try to hide my discomfort with this question–if I look miserable and mutter that I don’t know, usually the asker realizes his/her mistake and backs off. People need to realize that their words affect others, so showing the results in real time is often the best way to help them do that. I’m not rude to anyone but why should I pretend I’m not upset when I am?
I do wish people would stop asking this question. It’s bad enough that I get asked daily, but I have several friends that get asked and I know they’re having serious problems conceiving. I just shrug it off with a “not yet, we’re still doing couples stuff”, but I have fertility issues and I know it’ll take a long time when my husband and I eventually do decide to have a baby (‘if’ we do – both of us are majorly against it right now!)
We got the “Are you knocked up?” jokes from family for a little while, but when we had to go down the IVF route, they stopped. But we were ready with the “I’m not sure if we’re doing it right – can you watch and tell us what we’re doing wrong?” comment for some. And I was blunt with one person when he (yes, he) pulled the “Being a father is the most amazing thing in the world! When are you and DH going to have a baby?” thing. My response was “Hey, did you see the article I had published?” — http://offbeatfamilies.com/2012/02/infertile-but-not-defective
That shut him up quickly.
Thankfully people seem to be learning more about fertility challenges, and are asking less. Those who don’t know our journey may ask if we have plans for a second child (we had a surprise natural pregnancy after the article I wrote), and we just smile and say we’ll see what’s in the cards.
Whenever someone asks my husband and I when we’re going to have kids (which we aren’t), I look at them square in the face and say “it’s actually really creepy that you’re wondering about the unprotected sex (Husband’s Name) and I are or aren’t having.” That usually causes an awkward laugh and the shutting of traps.
With my very conservative grandmother, when asked, I replied, “Are you asking if I’m having unprotected sex with my husband?”. That shut her up…
I think what’s so hard, is that this question has not caught up with the times. Historically it falls right into a totally socially normal form of small talk, but now it’s 2015 and things need to change! But we might need some other question to be created to fill the void. Typically small talk serves to enter into deeper conversations, and asking about children sorta used to serve the purpose of beginning the conversation about family/personal life, where when someone asks ‘how’s work going,” it leads into business related conversations.
I try to take the approach that people aren’t purposely pushing my buttons and go with a softer first approach, like “we have discussed it and we’re not ready yet, we’ll let you know when we are.” If it becomes a chronic problem then I might need to use more strongly worded language. For some family, when we were on the fence about kids, we played it down and just told people we weren’t going to have kids and that stopped conversations until we were ready to have them.
I usually go with “How’s Life?” no need to ask invasive questions and lets the person share or not share.