Stop asking What are you Pregnant

It’s 2018 – stop asking ‘What are you, pregnant?’

In Living Abroad by Carly15 Comments

Why this one question needs to be banished from our collective vocabularies!

If you are a woman of a certain age, or of a certain relationship status, or simply a living, breathing female, it is likely you’ve been asked this question. Your response may vary from the politely gritted teeth smile, to the flippant joke, to barely suppressed rage…or worse, quiet despair and devastation.

But undoubtedly, you’ve had the inevitable phrase uttered in your direction…

‘What, are you pregnant?!’

Can we all agree here and now, that in 2018 it is no longer ok to ask this question?

In what possible universe and scenario is it a) Any of your business if the person in question is or not, if they HAVEN’T ALREADY MENTIONED IT and b) possible to answer that query without getting painfully intimate in your own personal life choices around child rearing?

Yes folks, today I’m tackling this thorny subject head-on, because to be honest, not only am I sick of hearing it myself, but it is infuriating to witness the casual way friends, family, co-workers and complete strangers ask intimate and potentially hurtful questions to women in the same breath that they ask about the weather.

So here are a few reasons why it’s NOT OK to be asking this question in 2018.

My Uterus, My Rules

Unless you are in the habit of regularly asking how my ovulation cycle and periods are faring, and receiving a rather intimate response on the frequency, cramps, hormonal impact and side-effects, there is no good reason you should be asking whether my eggs have been fertilized yet.

No uterus, no opinion gif Friends

Think about it – pregnancy is supposedly one of the most intimate, physically impactful, life-changing events in a woman (and couples!) life – but asking about their ability to successfully receive and fertilize their partners sperm is kind of like monitoring if a bitch in heat has whelped some puppies yet.

Point is – no matter how nicely you ask, unless you have an established conversational connection with the nature of someone’s uterus, there’s no need to go way, way over the line and ask if they’re pregnant as a topic of casual conversation.

In return, we won’t ask when you last ejaculated in an effort to procreate.

What to say instead: Think of literally any question you would ask a man, and ask that instead.

You never know the full story on miscarriage and fertility issues.

Let’s say you are very well-meaning and genuinely interested in whether your dear friend/co-worker/niece is pregnant yet. They may have mentioned a few times that they are ‘trying’ and hopeful for kids, but you haven’t seen them in a while nor heard anything since.

You – kindly – ask ‘Omg, what, are you pregnant?!’ over coffee the next time you see them, trying only to share in their excitement.

But your question is like a kick in the stomach for someone who’s just suffered a miscarriage. Or their third, fourth and fifth unsuccessful round of IVF treatment.

One in every 5 pregnancies in Australia ends in miscarriage before 20 weeks. The loss can be devastating, no matter how far along in the pregnancy the mother is. Many couples and women struggle with grief and a deep sense of loss after losing an early pregnancy. Casually asking if they are pregnant yet only brings that pain jarringly back to the surface.

There are more tactful ways of asking how your friend is going in her life goals, is what I’m saying.

What to say instead: How’s the family planning going? (Even THAT is edging close to a sore spot) What’s been happening with you lately? If you guys are close, she will tell you in her own time about her struggles.

 You might just ruin their big surprise

I have a friend who had arranged a full family dinner, big anniversary group of friends together, and just as her partner raised a glass to toast and announce the big exciting news, her sister blurted ‘What, are you pregnant?!’ in front of everyone.

The stunned silence confirmed that yes, actually she was, and that moment of announcing it to her loved ones had just been taken away from her in an instant.

Why we need to stop asking women,What are you pregnant?

Luckily those two are close enough that they made up shortly after, but can you imagine asking that of someone who was just about to share her families great news with the world? Sometimes, even if you *know* something is up, you have to let your friends and loved ones come around to sharing the news in their own time, and in their own way*

*note this goes for new relationships, engagement announcements and any other major life events!

What to say instead: So, any *big news* you wanna tell me?  This could be obnoxious but at least gives her a bloody chance to share on her own terms, or avoid your question entirely!

Sometimes we’re not pregnant, just hangry

When I asked on Instagram stories for the best bad stories about being asked if you were pregnant, an overwhelming amount of responses came back about times where women were happily going about their day only to be told by complete strangers that they looked pregnant.

Is there no humanity left in the world I ask you?

It baffles me that complete strangers feel the right to ask these things and presume from a woman’s size she must be pregnant.

Because obviously we are all just waiting around for the blessed moment of conception to grace us and not like, loving the shit out of fresh burgers from Le Burger on a Sunday night. Ahem.

Just because I’m not drinking, doesn’t = pregnant.

Ya know what Susan from accounting, just because I’m passing up on the fifth round of office drinks this week, doesn’t mean I’m carrying spawn.

It miiiiiiight just mean I’m not drinking today. Or tomorrow. Or heck, maybe I’m just trying to be healthier these days and don’t need that 5pm mimosa to get me through a Wednesday.

If one more person asks me in a social setting, when I happily order a soft drink  instead of wine, if I’m pregnant, I’m seriously going to cut a bitch.

Repeat after me: It’s not ok to ask ‘What, are you pregnant?’ to a tableful of friends and colleagues, mmmkay.

Because honestly – what if I was? Or what if I wasn’t sure yet and didn’t want to take any risks?

Or – more to the point – what are you trying to achieve by asking me that passive aggressive question there? Somehow implying I’m a ‘pussy’ or better have pregnancy as an excuse to drink soft drink, because not drinking booze falls outside the norm of social interactions you’re comfortable with?

Yeah, there’s no good way to play this my friend. Just be polite and let me order my delicious refreshing lemon soda water in peace, cheers.

What to ask instead: ‘Cool, what wine do you recommend here?

Some mothers lost their children way too early

On the ‘you never know the full story’ topic – some mothers and families lose their children far too young.

Illness or God forbid a tragic accident can snatch away young childrens lives all too unexpectedly. You only need to look to high profile cases like the recent awful accidental drowning of Bode Millers gorgeous daughter to see that it can happen to anyone.

So imagine, if you have suffered such drastic trauma, and gone through the inexplicable pain of burying your own child, and are perhaps still struggling with grief, or carry a piece of that with you every day. You might decide having children again is too painful, and you might *still* be asked by acquaintances and friends ‘What, are you pregnant?’

As one of my lovely Instagram friends advised ‘Unless there is a small childs head crowning out of her Vagina and she is actively giving birth, it is NEVER ok to ask a woman if she is pregnant’.

Why we need to talk about it

This topic became blazingly clear to me at our wedding in April. No, not because we had a pregnancy scare (can you still say ‘scare’ when you’re in your thirties?) but because the #1 asked question at the wedding was around Stefan and I having kids.

And look, I get it, you hit one major life event milestone, everyone wants to know when you intend on checking the next tickbox. But that presumption, that ownership society feels over the right to ask a woman about her reproductive decisions is just another way we strip women of their selfhood.

We assume the right to impose our beliefs that women of a certain age and health should be contributing to society by raising kids. We ask the question because it is implied that motherhood is the only logical path and that we, the audience, are entitled to know when it will be happening, over and above the individual rights and privacy of a woman.

To be fair – we were also surrounded by adorable toddlers of our friends for a large part of the wedding week, so of course its going to come up.

But you know what I thought of everytime someone innocently asked?

What if I’d just had a miscarriage, like one of my friends in Vienna suffered the week before I went to Bali?

What if I’d been diagnosed with infertility like one of my friends attending the wedding?

What if I’d had an abortion in my twenties and was so far from wanting kids it wasn’t funny?

What if, and stick with me here….it wasn’t anyone’s business what I decide to do with my reproductive organs?

Stop asking What are you Pregnant

I’m a healthy, well-adjusted, married white woman in a western country. So, dripping with privilege, but this issue speaks to the larger disrespect and lack of privacy women must endure, where strangers feel entitled to ask questions and pass judgement on whether you are adhering to the norms of society by having children.

Because you can bet your ass the invasive questions won’t stop if/when I do get pregnant – my currently pregnant friends have complete strangers touch their bellies, spout child-rearing advice and a thousand other inappropriate responses. All because the right to privacy for women in relation to their fertility and baby-making is somehow considered a topic of public debate.

And it needs to stop.

So please, it’s 2018 – stop asking women ‘What, are you pregnant?’ – because there is no right way to answer to that question, and above all, it is incredibly invasive and rude.

Instead ask – ‘What’s new with you?’ and give her the agency to share or not share her intimate reproductive status with you as she sees fit.

Have you experienced this or ever considered how weird it is that we ask this question? Let me know your experience and opinions in the comments below!

 

 

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Comments

  1. I agree with you but what I realized is as a woman in your thirties you don’t get treated anymore like a woman. You are supposed to be a mother or a mother to be. That’s what makes me angry. And I just don’t get it why people want that other peopIe are having kids it’s just not their business. I’m also wondering why most of the time I got those stupid questions asked by men. And in 2018 a lot of women just wanna live their lives and don’t want to become a mother or maybe not at the moment but are still getting those questions all the time. This generates a lot of pressure and makes it not very enjoyable being a woman at that age.

  2. Oh hell yes. Sharing the shit out of this, I’ve had so many rants on this topic I’ve lost count!

    1. Author

      ahahah thank you I so know what you mean! Glad I’m not the only one 🙂

  3. I’ve had years of this, my partner and I have been together 14 years, people just feel it’s their right to wade in with ‘will you have kids’ and @has he made an honest woman of you yet?’ to which I replied, I’ve always been honest!

    1. Author

      argh so frustrating! Well done you guys for enduring 14 years of that scheisse!

  4. So so SOOOO true! I had my cousin a few weeks ago telling me she’s being “bullied” by her colleagues (female colleagues I want to point out!) because now she’s 30 and she’s married so they think it’s perfectly ok to ask her (like every week) if she’s pregnant and why is she hiding it… she’s struggling with fertility issues and this is really making her depressive. And she just doesn’t want to tell everyone about her fertility issues so she has to endure it – because i mean what is a good answer?

    I’m totally sending her this article – maybe she can leave a copy on the desk of every one of her colleagues…

    1. Author

      oh my god DO!!! I really don’t understand how people don’t see how invasive and hurtful those questions can be. I hope your cousin can find support and strength to resist their rudeness and really pass along my support to her!

  5. How very strange! I’ve never had any of that, it’s 48 years since I became pregnant the first time and I was 22 which at the time was quite old to start but no-one asked why I wasn’t pregnant before, no-one touched my bump unless I offered (children loved to feel the baby in my tummy).

    The only question I found very odd was after my husband left me before the baby arrived and one person asked if I was keeping the baby.

    1. Author

      That’s super interesting that maybe its a recent cultural development…I wonder if its a generation thing or and age thing? Certainly with so many more single or working women in their 30s these days its likely become more prevalent but interesting to hear that its maybe changed in the last few decades. Thanks for sharing – and you should definitely unfriend whoever asked you that horrible question!

  6. On my wedding day my mother said, “You know, nine months from now will be my birthday. I’d love to be a grandmother.” (Spoiler: it didn’t happen for several years, and not on her birthday.) But our families are very Catholic, so this was expected.

    When we were indeed expecting, my husband called his (older and still single) brother and the conversation went like this:

    Husband: “Hey, Brother. I’m calling with news!”
    Brother: “Wife isn’t pregnant, is she?”

    My husband hung up on him.

    Aside from that, I/we were never asked if we were expecting, or when/if we were going to have children.

    Once we were expecting, though, oh my goodness did the unsolicited advice flow…

    Keep working! Stop working! (I drove myself to the hospital from the office when Baby #1 decided it was time. Baby #2 chose the weekend to appear.)
    Don’t Travel! Now’s the time to travel! (Traveled overseas at 7.5 months expectant just fine. All the grandmas in Prague touched my stomach and offered me a seat or a cup of water. Flight attendants treated me like a princess.)
    Eat This! Don’t Eat That! (If I named my children after my food cravings they would have been named “Spicy Thai Green Beans” and “Steak.”)
    Don’t adopt a puppy now! Adopt a puppy now! (we adopted two before Baby #1)

    Our families flipped their shiznit when we (we are American) hired a Muslim nanny for Baby #1, born just weeks before the September 11 attacks. My family refused to come to Washington, DC (where we lived) for the Christening.

    The bottom line is that I understand why people ask; babies, and the idea that there is a bun in the oven just makes (most) people happy. Suggesting that people stop asking is fair, but it won’t be the last time you’ll be given parenting advice. Or be judged.

    1. Author

      Of that I am sure – in fact the judgements probably only get worse once you are pregnant and raising kids! Its unbelievable what women go through, and yes I understand it (mostly) all comes from a good place, but man, if people knew how impactful their words were. Thank you so much for sharing your story here, sounds like you’ve experienced all ends of the spectrum!

  7. Yep… well said. There are so many strange questions people begin to ask as women age. I guess it is just passed down from generations of awkward questioning? Good read and a great conversation starter for sure!

  8. Wow.. This is deep! Before I had my children, I always had someone ask me, “So, when are you going to have babies?” Not knowing I had fertility issues. I had surgery to help with my fertility problems, but it still didn’t stop the questions. I finally became pregnant but it was a risky pregnancy. And then the questions changed to “why did you wait until you were in your 30’s? That’s too old!” So I got to the point in just telling people, “it’s none of your business “. Thank you for sharing!

  9. I am so over being polite to people about this – I used to laugh it off but now I bite back! Even to really close friends, as one recently found out… She had the nerve to tell me about how she and a mutual friend of ours had been discussing how I ‘should just get pregnant’. I absolutely lost it (I miiiiiiiiiiiiiight have been a couple of glasses of wine down at this point and it just so happens that it had been a really sore point recently…) I took no prisoners. I’m done being nice to people who want to publicly discuss my reproductive efforts, or lack thereof. Charlie xo

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