6 reasons why I won’t ask when someone plans to have another baby
As an OB/GYN, I get to be involved in the happiest moments in many families’ lives: the birth of their babies. However, the territory comes with some sadness, too — infertility, miscarriages, preterm birth, and the challenges that a growing family can place on a marriage.
I learned pretty early on that two well-meaning questions could upset a woman dealing with one of these issues. These were the seemingly innocent, “So, when are you going to have a baby?” or “When are you going to have another baby?”
For some women, they start fielding this question as soon as their first child hits the one-year mark. It seems that’s the time their friends or family think it’s time to start working on having another. Others get this question as soon as they announce an engagement or right after they return from the honeymoon. Still others have to hear it at every family gathering, and it only becomes more intense as the number of years they are married (without a baby…) increase. Here’s why I’ve stopped asking:
1. They might be dealing with infertility. Any couple going through the infertility battle knows how hard it can be to constantly have to explain why they haven’t had a baby yet. You might say, “Well, they would tell me if that was an issue!” But many couples don’t want anyone to know, and that is their right. In addition, secondary infertility (or the inability to get pregnant after having a baby) could be affecting their ability to conceive, and oftentimes couples in this situation have even less support, since they are often told they should be happy with what they have.
2. She might have just had a miscarriage. Nothing hurts more than when a well-meaning mother-in-law says she’s getting antsy for a grandchild right after a woman has suffered a miscarriage. Even though this is common, many women don’t want to talk about it — even to their closest friends or family.
3. Previous pregnancy complications might make getting pregnant again too scary. Whether it was HELLP syndrome or a very stressful preterm delivery of twins, complications can make the dream of a normal pregnancy seem impossible. And the cost of a NICU stay or extended stay in the hospital might make affording another baby impossible right now.
4. They might not be financially stable right now. Not having enough money but desperately wanting another baby can cause great heartache. And being constantly asked why you’re not having another baby when it is exactly what you want — but aren’t stable enough for — can just keep reminding you of this.
5. One might want a baby, but the other might not. Consider if you ask this question at a birthday party only to later find out that he really wants another child, but she absolutely will not consider it. Talk about awkward. I have seen this really challenge some marriages, and the constant deluge of questions never helps the matter.
6. The child they already have needs a lot of attention. Again, you might think that it would be obvious: the family where a child has autism or developmental problems, for example. But again, it can be more subtle — and for the sake of the family’s and the child’s privacy, they may not talk about how adding a new baby to the mix would make parenting their current child next to impossible.
So when it comes to the baby-making plans of my friends, I try to never ask when they plan on expanding their families. Despite it being my job, I don’t ever assume it’s my right to know. If they want me to know, I’m sure they’ll share.