My husband and I were ecstatic to announce that I was pregnant. All of our family, friends, and acquaintances gave us very positive responses and well-wishes, but amid all of the felicitations, there was an odd question that kept cropping up, “Were you guys trying?” and it never got less awkward or surprising.
The question wasn’t malicious; these people were genuinely curious if our baby was… an accident? A surprise? I’m still not entirely sure what they were trying to ask us, and I’m still left wondering why the question even mattered. I understand that in the moment people (myself included) can lack a certain finesse, but there is no correct answer to the question, “Were you trying?”. This leaves the expectant couple with two uncomfortable answers: “No, we weren’t trying.” but then feeling like they have to profusely explain that they are happy about the surprise. Or, “Yes, we were trying.” Which I found was quickly followed up with people wanting to know the time-frame of conception. Neither option is what the excited couple wants to talk about when they announce they are pregnant, so it’s unfair to ask the question in the first place.
My husband and I were indeed trying, and when we awkwardly nodded our heads to confirm that our baby was planned, it inevitably led to that other awkward question; “How LONG were you trying?” Short answer: My husband and I didn’t have the fastest conception story, there were a few months of waiting, and trust me, a few months with no baby was enough to make me anxious about our ability to conceive. Then it happened; I thought I was going to get my period a few days early (I was crampy, bloated, fuzzy-headed) and I peed on a stick and confirmed our greatest joy—I was pregnant. In the grand scheme of things, we didn’t have to wait long, spend a ton of money, and endure years of worry. We had it pretty darn easy, but I couldn’t help but wonder how the question, “How long were you trying? made other couples feel who had to struggle to get pregnant.
Fertility stories are something that should never be dug out of a person. It’s a personal journey that someone honors you by sharing—in their own time. I couldn’t begin to imagine how painful this question might be to someone who had a much longer and complicated conception story. Sure, there are some women who love to talk about their journey and scream from the mountain tops about their pregnancy when it finally happens, but there are others who would rather not re-hash that painful time in their lives. They should not have to feel obligated to talk about it. We are all curious by nature, but sometimes we have to remember to reign in those inappropriate questions, especially around the topic of babies and fertility.
Then there is the other side of the binary of planned vs. unplanned pregnancy. What if my husband and I weren’t trying to get pregnant? Did these people really expect me to say, “No our pregnancy was not planned, lets clear that up right now so we know what to tell the baby when he asks.” If I don’t know a person well enough to share that our pregnancy was unexpected, then they have absolutely no right to ask that question. If a couple is announcing they are pregnant with smiles on their faces, it doesn’t really matter if the baby was planned or a total surprise. A big “Congratulations!” is probably all they are looking for. Proceed with questions about their hopes and dreams for their little bundle, rather than nit-picking the conception.
I learned after planning a wedding and a pregnancy that acquaintances can exhibit strange behavior during these momentous milestones in our lives. I can usually shrug off the awkward questions, or change the topic, but this particular question really stuck out as completely uncomfortable. I don’t like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Which is why I awkwardly nodded my head when I explained that the pregnancy was planned every time I was asked that question, and I reluctantly talked about the time it took to conceive. I learned early-on in my pregnancy that people assumed I was an open book because I was growing a baby inside me, and no questions, gestures, and comments were off limits. Pregnant women are unfortunately the target of unsolicited advice, inappropriate questions, and super offensive comments. We must remember that pregnant women still deserve respect and privacy.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF MILES MCKEE PHOTOGRAPHY