October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
In Canada in 2016 1,741 infants died within the first year after birth and 3,063 babies were stillborn. One in four women has experienced or will experience a miscarriage.
Chances are, you know someone who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss, even if you aren’t aware of their loss.
Asking the following questions, can feel to those women like a knife to the gut. No matter how kindly meant, these are not innocent or innocuous questions. I’m one of these women. I’m the one in four. My son is a stillbirth statistic.
Many women also deal with a long wait to get pregnant, either by needing to wait for a partner to be ready or through a struggle with infertility. The desire to be pregnant or have a child is a huge, personal and private journey.
Getting pregnant and staying pregnant are not easy things.
Are you pregnant?
Twice, I’ve had coworkers ask me this question when I was not pregnant. One of those times, my coworker actually put her hand on my stomach and congratulated me. Again, I repeat, I was not pregnant. But I really wanted to be. My husband and I had been trying for months. And my period had shown up that day. I was devastated already and to get this questions was a painful reminder that also made me feel bad about my body.
Think about it, asking a woman if she’s pregnant based on her appearance says something. It says you think she’s gained weight. Most women are already conscious enough about their physical appearance. Now imagine what it’s like to have someone point out that they think you’ve gained enough weight to appear like you have something the size of a watermelon growing in your belly.
But what if she looks like she’s 9 months pregnant, you say, then it’s okay to ask, right? No. It’s not. Unless you are her healthcare provider, it is NEVER okay to ask a woman if she is pregnant. Even if she’s your daughter/sister/best friend. If she’s pregnant, that is her news to share when and how she wants. If she’s not pregnant, you’re saving yourself a lot embarrassment and her a lot of discomfort or hurt.
My personal rule: Wait for her to bring it up. Even if she appears super pregnant to you, wait for her to bring her pregnancy up in the conversation. Because you never know what her journey with pregnancy has been. And it’s never your right to know. So, please, stop asking. If she wants to share it with you, she will.
When are you going to have a baby?
As a thirty-year-old married woman, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked this question. It started the day of my wedding. I kid you not.
I had a coworker who asked me this multiple times and followed it up with “I need you to have a baby so I can snuggle it”.
The first time she asked me this, I desperately wanted a baby, but my husband and I had agreed to wait a while to get our finances in order before we started trying. Whether it’s emotionally or financially, many people have to wait until both they and their partner feel ready for kids. This wait can be excruciating. But it’s necessary. And it’s a part of their journey that you likely are not aware of.
The second time this coworker asked me when I was going to have a baby was in the weeks after my miscarriage. The miscarriage that I told very few people about. I didn’t tell my mom about my miscarriage for eleven months. And if you know me personally, this may very likely be the very first time you’re hearing about it. Many people assumed that my son’s stillbirth this past summer was my first loss. We chose not to tell the world, or even many of our family members, about our miscarriage for many reasons. One of which was to save others from the pain or discomfort of it. We thought we’d get pregnant again quickly.
Asking someone when they are going to have a baby may seem like a sweet or innocent question. It may even be a funny joke to you. Unfortunately, you never know what someone’s journey with pregnancy has been. And it’s never your right to know. So, please, stop asking. If she wants to share it with you, she will.
My response to this question has been “one day”. And that’s my hope. That one day, I’ll have a baby that I get to keep.
Are you trying to get pregnant?
Think for a moment about what you’re asking here. What you’re actually asking is: are you and your spouse having lots of unprotected sex?
I don’t care how curious you are about if your sister/daughter/friend is trying to get pregnant. Or when you’ll get nieces and nephews or grandkids. If you ask this, you’re giving them permission to ask you all about your sex life too. Remember, you never know what someone’s journey with pregnancy has been. And it’s never your right to know. So, please, stop asking.If she wants to share it with you, she will.
When are you going to have another baby?
So, your friend/daughter/coworker/sister has one kid. You might be curious about when they will give that child a sibling. You can be curious. But you should not ask.
Getting pregnant is not an easy thing. Carrying that baby to term and taking them home is not guaranteed.
I know women who have had multiple miscarriages. I know women who tried for years to get pregnant and stay pregnant and finally got a child through thousands of dollars of in vitro fertilization (IVF). I know a woman whose child has a debilitating, terminal genetic condition that any future children have a high likelihood of also getting.
You might be curious. But again, you never know what someone’s journey with pregnancy has been. And it’s never your right to know. So, please, stop asking.If she wants to share it with you, she will.
The journey to having children takes many routes, many of them perilous and painful.
I get it, you’re trying to be friendly, to tell this woman that you think she’d be a great mother. Pregnancy can be beautiful and joyful. But pregnancy is a deeply personal, and often painful thing.
When you’re tempted to ask a woman about her reproductive situation, pause for a moment and remember, you never know what someone’s journey with pregnancy has been. And it’s never your right to know. So, please, stop asking. If she wants to share it with you, she will.
To learn more about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, see www.october15.ca.
Take a look at these tips for how to support someone whose baby died.