I once heard a comedian say, “Never ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless you actually see a baby’s head coming out of her legs.” Sage advice — too bad no one ever takes it. I can’t tell you how many times people asked me if I was pregnant, if I was planning on getting pregnant or what I was waiting for to get pregnant.
Illustration by Angelica Alzona/GMG
What was I waiting for?? God, science, my fertility doctor to come back from holidays, my husband to get supersonic sperm, a time machine to go back ten years so I could have younger eggs, more time to have children. But alas, there was no Hot Tub Time Machine and no way to avoid these questions. So here are some suggestions for how to deal with them.
Consider Who’s Asking
Pause. Take a deep breath. And before you say the first thing that comes to mind, look at who has the nerve to ask. Is it a close friend? A family member? Your husband? Your nemesis from college who always has to one-up you? Or is it just some random clueless person trying to make casual conversation and didn’t get the memo yet that pregnancy questions shouldn’t be on the list. Also ask yourself what their motivation is — even though there are times the question feels intrusive and even downright mean, most people don’t have nefarious motives. Determining who is asking and why will help you figure out what to say.
Create Some Stock Answers
I remember when I was in college and a friend had a nervous breakdown. After, whenever anyone would ask, “Hey, how are you?” she’d stop and give a lengthy truthful answer beginning with what she did that day. My point is, you don’t owe anybody anything: not deep, introspective soliloquies on the state of your womb, nor the whole truth, which they probably couldn’t handle anyway.
Come up with a few good lines that will keep everyone happy:
“When it happens, it happens!”
“That’s a great question!”
“I’m not sure. How’s your baby?”
Go on the Attack
Look, when you’re hopped up on hormones and sleepless from those fertility drugs and yourself wondering if you’re pregnant, if you’re ever going to get pregnant, if your pregnancies will ever stick, it’s not easy to keep it together in social situations — especially the loaded ones like holidays, kids birthday parties, friend’s birthday parties, any parties … you get the picture. My stepmother once spent an hour telling me what she was knitting both my brother and sister’s future babies and I thought, Do you really think I’m strong enough to handle this?!! I was this close to losing it. So while it’s probably better advice to hold your tongue, sometimes you really, really can’t. Here are a few good lines:
“You’ll be the first to know … after my doctor, my husband, my mother and her entire Mah Jong Club …”
“Why, do I look pregnant? Oh my god, you think I’m that fat? No, it’s just the hormones.”
“I’m not pregnant. How’s your sex life going? Still getting any after the kids stretched out your hoo-ha?”
“Kids are so overrated. We’re getting a dog.”
Educate the Masses
“We weren’t even trying and then I discovered I was six weeks pregnant. With twins!” Sometimes it seems like everyone has gotten pregnant the old-fashioned way. But trust me, most people have had some trouble or know someone who has. That’s why, if you’re up for it, you can be honest and open — in a nice way.
“A woman’s chances of conceiving at age 30 are only 20% per cycle, and declining from there.”
“Did you know that even younger people can have fertility problems — especially if they have endometriosis or PCOS?”
“Men contribute to 1/3 of fertility problems.”
Be Prepared for Unsolicited Advice
No matter how you answer the question, people are going to have their opinions — and share them! — whether it’s telling you about how long it took them to get pregnant (a whole two months!) or about that fabulous friend who tried and tried and then gave up and fell pregnant herself.
No one is a doctor or fertility expert but everyone has advice from, “Just relax!” to “Why don’t you adopt?” Most of it will not be helpful. If you want to shut it down in the most polite way that combines all of these tips, try this sentiment:
“Fertility is such a sensitive subject these days, the best way you can help a person is by waiting for people to share their stories with you.”