Saturday, November 22, 2014

"When are you going to have children?"

Mr. M's Musings again-

Preparing for the Thanksgiving/Advent/Christmas season is mostly a joyful process for Ecce and Mr. M. Time to get the old dust off of the decorations. Time to start signing hymns and carols. Time to put together a magical, culinary shopping list for a glorious gastrointestinal pleasing feast. And, above all, time to pray a little more deeply into the mysteries of the seasons of Advent and Christmas. Above all, it is primarily about Christ at our house. (Etymology lesson: holiday is a short hand way for saying holy - days!!! Put that into the secular mainstream and they wouldn't be able to greet you with anything at department stores without offending people!)

Yet, the holidays bring an extra challenge of preparation for those struggling with infertility. It is a time to prepare our hearts for the inevitable obstacles of the holidays. Yes, you probably know what I am talking about - dealing with all the little children running around, the pregnant relatives, the surprise pregnancy announcements over a cup of egg nog, and the questions. Our least favorite question - "When are you going to start to have children?" 

I wish we could say it was rare to get this question, but it is not. We got this question last year from a well-wishing cousin who we see once a year. To make matters worse, it came on the heels of his own completely unexpected pregnancy announcement. Ecce immediately headed for the bathroom in emotional upheaval and I was left face to face with the perpetrator of privacy. So my mind thought in a split second - do I brake out in anger here? Do I play the privacy card? Do I pretend I didn't hear him? What do I say? The holiday cheer was quickly slipping into holiday gloom.

I think I mumbled at first and then I was honest since he asked. "Well actually we are struggling with infertility." I didn't want to say it. I mean we have an anonymous blog for a reason. But I said it. So I left those words hang in the air for what seemed like an eternity. I didn't intend to be mean or to steal his joy, but I was just shocked by the question - so I gave him an honest answer. 

That was the most gracious response I could come up with at the time. But it's that time again and I need to get ready spiritually for the questions. So I am putting together an action plan ready with the right response this time. Here is what I have come up. 

To that soul-piercing question "When are you going to have children?" We could answer them with an equally invasive question "Did you have sex last night?" If that makes them uncomfortable because it is private, then perhaps they would realize that the result of that sex act is also private! But given that this blog post is not about "how to alienate your family this holiday," I am seriously contemplating giving this answer this year: "we have been blessed with none so far." 

Ecce in a moving piece has talked about "being blessed by one" here, but I think if we truly reflect upon our infertility that it has had blessings in it too. Despite the pain, I think we could truly mean it and say that "we have been blessed with none." Of course, infertility has been major heartbreak after major heartbreak. Most days, we would probably like to respond in scrooge like fashion that "we have been cursed with none!" Can you imagine the family's expression after that one?!

But really, do I wish I wouldn't have to say "we have been blessed with none so far?" Yes, I like privacy. Do I want the person's compassion? Yes, I need it for healing. And do I want them to know that we have been trying to have children and we are suffering! Absolutely. But I also want them to know that we remain blessed despite the broken biology. Even more importantly, I want them to know that family size is neither indicative of the absence of God's blessings nor proof of a holy life. And I want others to know how blessedness can come through brokenness. Isn't that the whole Christmas message after all? A light is revealed to the world in the darkness.  I think this phrase "we have been blessed with none so far" captures all of those sentiments and is a statement of our faith in a hope that goes beyond whether or not we receive children. It is statement of faith in what matters this holiday season - our love and fruitfulness in Christ. 

What do you think of my response? Too cheeky? Too awkward? Too unreal and other-worldly? 

What do you do with the holiday questions? 


  1. I think my answer to "When are you going to have children?" would be "Whenever God blesses us with them." Then I would probably continue on with the information that we have been experiencing IF for almost 4 years, though you could certainly stop there.

  2. The holidays. So wonderful, and so difficult. For better or worse, most of my family has stopped asking me if I've met anyone (I think they've given up on me!), so most likely I won't be dealing with that. However, I have 2 (much younger) cousins planning weddings right now and 1 that may be announcing an engagement at any time. Who knows on the pregnancy announcements. My family is pretty amazing and don't tend to make me feel like something less since I'm not in the same place, but I hate that I still don't and may never have any particular news to share with them. Anyway, all of this to say that I have felt that moment of suddenly being confronted one way or another with the pain in the midst of the celebrating. I think both you and Stephanie have excellent answers to those prying questions!

  3. My answer is usually some variation of "God hasn't blessed us with any yet," at least when I'm on my game and feeling polite. If I get caught off guard or am feeling like the person is being invasive I might give an answer like "when my body decides to start working". Although I'm sure its not very charitable, people usually get the point after that.

  4. I also have been nervous about the upcoming holidays and my birthday. Just don't want to be another year older without being a mama.I love your response, I think it is good to reflect on the hidden blessings of infertility and also acknowledge that it is hard. People may not quite understand what you mean at first, but it is a great way to open up a potentially fruitful conversation. Love this "Yes, I like privacy. Do I want the person's compassion? Yes, I need it for healing. And do I want them to know that we have been trying to have children and we are suffering! Absolutely. But I also want them to know that we remain blessed despite the broken biology." Wow.

    we have been very open about infertility struggles with friends and family. They are definitely blessings and challenges that come with this. Overall I'm grateful because everyone has been pretty sensitive.

  5. I think your response is brilliant. More importantly, taking time to prepare for the question is also taking time to prepare your hearts. I think that effort will be rewarded. I'm praying for the holidays to be gentle this year.

  6. Love that response! I think it's perfect and will hopefully help family and friends to realize, in a subtle way, that they're asking far too personal questions. I was very comfortable trapping any "when are babies coming?" questioners with a long discussion on infertility and the journey we've been through. For some reason, I felt it was my duty to educate them. But I totally respect that you guys don't want to dive into all that. Privacy is also wonderful, especially with such personal information. Let us know how that response is received!

  7. I love your answer. I may have to borrow it. :) Sometimes I will dive into a lengthy discussion of our IF journey, but not always - it depends on my mood and the situation.