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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 this day and age 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.
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.
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 children’s 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.
It’s been 37 days since I’ve held my baby girl. I pray to God no other parent feels this pain. My heart is with you @nicolehughes8 as we walk this journey together. And thank you @scarymommy for helping us spread awareness. PLEASE READ! Link in bio! Drowning is the NUMBER ONE cause of death in children ages 1-4. We talk about vaccinations, car seats, organic foods, screen time, etc at length…but not the number one risk your childrens’ lives face…a silent killer. It takes SECONDS. Please share and help us spread awareness. It’s the first step to preventing these types of tragedies. #drowning #drowningprevention #truthaboutdrowning
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 it was 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?
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 2019 – 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!