A friend of mine updated his Facebook status this morning, simply saying “I can’t believe it.” Setting aside the issue of cryptic statuses (made worse when the person responds to any questions with “I’ll inbox you”), it was one of the replies that disgruntled me the most. Someone immediately asked “are you having a baby?!” with little baby head emoji’s. Somehow, people’s reproductive circumstances become something public, something to leap on as possible news. Why is it, that people think it’s okay to ask such personal questions? For many of us, we might not be upset by this question, instead just seeing it as interest into our lives. But we’ve heard so many stories about people who have trouble conceiving. I imagine, (and this is not a stretch seeing as many people have claimed this to be the case) that such a question would be like a dagger through the heart if you were having difficulty conceiving, or if you had suffered from one or more miscarriages. Trying to get through a difficult time might be all the more painful if you were constantly being asked about why you didn’t have children yet, or why you weren’t ‘progressing’ through life ticking off all the boxes you’re ‘supposed’ to.
So please, just don’t ask. If a person has confided in you several times before (not just once on a single drunken night or similar) and you are in a private setting, then use your judgement. Even if you think someone you know is looking a little bigger, then ask a couple of other questions. The friend can then offer the information if they feel comfortable sharing it, without you putting them on the spot. Even if someone is looking a little bit bigger, it could just be that the person has put on a few pounds. If that is the case they probably won’t be too happy hearing that they look pregnant. They might have been struggling with body image too if this is the case, and nobody likes hearing that they’re looking a bit fat.
If you happen to forget this, and the question does fall out of your mouth, then don’t get defensive over it. I’ve seen people sulkily saying ‘I only asked a question!’ as though this exonerates them from insensitivity. It might be just a question, but words are an incredibly powerful tool. If someone is struggling to conceive, then they don’t also want to be feeling blamed for their reaction to your comments. Words can start wars, they can end friendships, and they can pull families apart. So don’t underestimate them, and remember that an apology will always help.