I love reading your blog and I have a question I'd like you to answer: We meet a lot of new people, and during introductions eventually the question of "Do you have kids?" comes up. What is the right thing to say when your question is answered with a "No." Is there even a right thing to say? I know there are all kinds of wrong things but how do I fill that awkward silence with something positive or at least something kind? And what do I say when I find out about secondary infertility? Most of the time I don't say anything because I really don't want to say anything hurtful. But I'm at a complete loss for what would bring hope/encouragement to the woman/couple. Thanks so much for opening my eyes about infertility and being an encouragement to those women who are going through this and even those who aren't. Keep up the good work!
The quick answer: Avoid the question. It can be a little tricky, but it is really the best way. Usually, if someone has kids, they will provide this information to you. Or, if they don't, you can probably figure out another way to get it (i.e., ask someone they know or check their Facebook etc.) While it can be a difficult question to avoid, even for a veteran IF'er (infertility-woman) like me, make yourself NOT ask it. Think of other things you can talk about and ask about as best you can.
Exception: If the person asks you the question first, then it is sort of "expected" that you ask it back. It is my opinion that if they ask you, you can ask it back. It's only fair and they have to know that that is how it is going to go.
One blog reader shared that she always found the question, "Tell me about your family," made her a lot more comfortable. It is more open-ended and offers different interpretations. I loved her suggestion and definitely wanted to make note of it here.
[A sidenote: If you have lived overseas, you will quickly notice that people don't ask the very personal questions like Americans do nearly as readily. They don't often ask about jobs or kids or things like that. I've tried to take a lesson from them and find other things we can talk about.]
If the question does come out and you are met by awkward silence or by a "no" that appears to be painful, my advice is to take the fault for it. Say something like it, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked that. I have a few friends dealing with infertility and they have all lectured me to avoid that question."
As for secondary infertility, this is not as clean cut, and it is why secondary infertility can be even more painful than primary infertility. If a mother is out with her child and attending mothers' functions, mom questions are sort of "fair game." I still, however, try to avoid the, "Are you going to have another?" question. Just don't ask it. You'll want to ask it, but chances are, you can find out the information from someone else, or, if you get to be very good friends, it will ultimately come up.
If it comes up and it is painful, tell her that you have been reading a blog that is educating you. Instead of trying to fix it, say something like, "That really stinks. I'm going to be praying for you." You may also have the opportunity to ask for her input as to how you can make it better. "I know we hang out with a lot of women popping out babies like crazy. Is there any way I can help pad those announcements for you?" I also would always provide that woman a knowing glance or say something like, "I know this is hard," when yet another friend announced their pregnancy. Sending a message on Facebook when there has been another announcement, anything to let her know you are praying and thinking of her and acknowledging her pain is helpful.
Have a comment or question about this topic? I'd love to hear from you -- whichever side of infertility you may be on.