Pregnancy

This Writer Deserves a High-Five for Her Scathing Response To Invasive Baby Questions

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Fetus Sucking ThumbAs women, our reproductive choices seem to be a matter of public record and debate. Friends, family, and total strangers feel at liberty to ask about things like if one is going to have children, when one is going to have children, how one is going to have children, and more. People who would never dream of asking a person how much money she makes are more than willing to ask if she has ever had an episiotomy. And it isn’t just women who have to deal with it, I’ve heard from gay male friends with children that total strangers at the play park will ask, “So, did you guys mix up your sperm and just inject it?” as though that were not an extremely graphic and personal question to ask a total stranger by the jungle gym. When it comes to babies, people ask a lot of inappropriate and unwelcome questions, and it really needs to stop.

Writer Emily Bingham was speaking for a lot of us this weekend when she posted a Facebook status update exhorting her friends and family to lay off the questions about babies. First she got everyone’s attention by posting a photo from a random ultrasound, and then she posted this exquisite rant:

“Before you ask the young married couple that has been together for seemingly forever when they are finally gonna start a family … before you ask the parents of an only-child toddler when a Little Brother or Little Sister will be in the works … before you ask a single 30-something if/when s/he plans on having children because, you know, clock’s ticking … just stop. Please stop. You don’t know who is struggling with infertility or grieving a miscarriage or dealing with health issues. You don’t know who is having relationship problems or is under a lot of stress or the timing just isn’t right. You don’t know who is on the fence about having kids or having more kids. You don’t know who has decided it’s not for them right now, or not for them ever. You don’t know how your seemingly innocent question might cause someone grief, pain, stress or frustration. Sure, for some people those questions may not cause any fraught feelings — but I can tell you, from my own experiences and hearing about many friends’ experiences — it more than likely does.”

Bingham’s post struck a chord with a lot of people, and it has been shared nearly 40,000 times since it was posted. Just the fact that it resonated so closely with so many people indicates that this is a problem that far too many people are facing. I think she spoke for a lot of us who have been sick to death about being hounded with questions about when we’re having children, if we’re having children, when we’re having more children, and more. People need to butt out. If a person wants you to know if he or she is expecting a baby, you will be told. You genuinely don’t need to ask.

Bingham was doing more than just venting her spleen on Facebook. She was doing a public service for all of us who are tired of explaining our reproductive habits or choices or troubles to complete strangers at parties. She told The Detroit Free Press that she finally made her post when she’d had enough after going to an event with her boyfriend and being inundated with probing questions about the state of her womb from his family members.

“It’s a sensitive topic,” she said. “People aren’t intending to be hurtful, but the questions can be insensitive and cause people grief.”

Some people suggested that people are just asking invasive questions about babies because they think it’s small talk and they need something to ask about other than work. For those people, I might suggest a few alternatives. For example, “What is your favorite color?” “What are you most excited about this fall?” or “How was your day?” Those are all perfectly appropriate questions that do not involve a person’s genitals. Hell, ask them if they like cilantro. It’s just as likely to start a conversation as “Why don’t you have babies right now?” If all else fails, try reading any one of a thousand books on being a good conversationalist. They all have a lot of good advice, and none of it involves asking a stranger about semen.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/Getty Images)