A few days ago, one of my loved ones asked another “when are you having a baby?”, and I cringed, because it can be a very insensitive question to ask someone. Sadly, many of us just aren’t aware of this. The very next day, I sat her down to break it down for her how insensitive it is asking someone when they’re having a child, because I understand. Truth is, a few years back, I wouldn’t have thought there to be anything wrong with her question, hence I do not judge anyone for doing so. They too may simply not know. The Merck Foundation’s “More than a Mother” campaign first brought this insensitivity to my attention. The campaign aims to empower childless women through access to information, health and change of mindset, as well as initiating a cultural shift to de-stigmatise infertility on all levels.
One of the main reasons you don’t ask is because many individuals and couples struggle with infertility. Globally, an estimated 49 million to over 180 million couples suffer from infertility; the majority of those affected live in developing countries. To top it off, in many cultures in Africa, there is a lot of stigma towards infertility, and women are solely blamed for it. The women suffer discrimination, violence and mistreatment due to their inability to bear children, although 50% of infertility cases are due to male infertility.
When you’re unable to bear children, it can be difficult to talk about it. Many couples keep their infertility struggles a secret. Some have made their peace, and others are still coming to terms with it. Who wants to explain their medical history when you’re still processing everything? These men and women have probably thought about their options countless times, and considered all of them. You don’t know what their situation might be, so it’s important to be mindful that it can be a tough question for some to hear if they’re going through difficulties.
There are many other reasons why someone hasn’t had children yet; maybe their relationship hasn’t taken that next step. They could also just not want to have a baby for personal reasons, e.g. finances, health, careers and other factors you take into consideration when trying for a baby. Having children is a personal decision between two people. Even if you mean well when asking, try to remember next time that your question can be emotionally triggering or upsetting. Since you just never know what a person is going through behind closed doors, asking someone when they are having a baby is not an OK question. Be considerate and mind your own business.
Paula Christoph’s column concentrates on positive and inspirational write-ups every second Friday in the New Era newspaper.