“Why Aren’t You Pregnant?”

How to handle rough questions from family members.

Posted Nov 20, 2019

Source: Photo credit: aldomurillo

The holiday season is one of joy and celebration with friends and family. But at any family gathering, you may be feeling anxious, wondering if you’ll be asked, “Have you met someone yet?” or, “You’re getting older. Why aren’t you pregnant yet?”

The impending gathering may be even more dreadful if you’re going through fertility treatment. The process is emotional and you may not be ready to be overwhelmed with questions. Plus, there are often babies and children running around the living room, which may cause added anxiety, sadness, jealousy, and dread.

But before you decide to skip it all and stay home, here are some strategies for dealing with your family’s well-meaning but insensitive questions:

1. Be Self-Protective. Before you spend time with your family, remind yourself that you are entitled to make your own life choices and don’t have to feel defensive. If you are not ready to start a family, or are struggling to start one, you don’t owe anybody your personal or medical information, not even your family. Tell others only what you want to share, and only when and if you decide to share it. You can always tell, you can never un-tell.

2. Take Control. If a family member gives you advice you don’t want or don’t need, take control. Let them know what you do want or need. Say something like, “I’m on advice overload but thanks,” or, if it’s a close relative, “I just need a hug and a laugh today.”

Rather than feeling like a victim of the conversation, you will be in charge and probably feel a lot more comfortable. You will also be helping others understand that even though the questions are coming from a good place, fertility and family building are very personal topics and it’s not always wise to breach the topic. 

3. Pivot. If the inquisitor is not a close relative or a favorite, just pivot. That means that when you are being asked if you’re engaged or pregnant yet, pivot the conversation to talk about another milestone or achievement: “Well, no, I’m not pregnant, but I’d love to tell you about my recent promotion.” This takes the spotlight off the question while still being able to catch up with your family member.

4. Be Honest. If you choose to talk about your age, your love life, or your fertility with family members, brave the conversation head-on. The statement, “I am struggling with infertility,” for example, will usually turn intrusive questioning into sympathetic support. If you feel like opening up more, you can do so. If you don’t, be honest about that, too, and then change the topic or walk away.

5. Label It. When all else fails, you can usually stop intrusive questions by labeling them. For example, you can say, “That’s an upsetting question," or “That’s an embarrassing question.” It’s a powerful way to remind people to put themselves in your position. It also gives them feedback without direct criticism; you are labeling their question, not them. They usually get the hint.

Family time is hard, especially when you’re facing emotional situations like infertility, so make sure you’re in a good headspace before and after seeing friends and family:

  • Prioritize your self-care. If you are waiting for extra time to take care of yourself, there really isn’t much of that during the holidays. Go to the gym, get enough sleep, and skip the junk food. The gift wrapping can wait.
  • Appoint a buddy. Before you go to a gathering, find someone in your family or partner who can be your escape buddy. This person can be given a code word that signals them to jump into the conversation or interrupt to take you outside.
  • Pause often. Try to slow down your thoughts and connect with the here and now. It can be the sunlight on your hand, the aroma of cookies on the table, holiday music, or the conversation around you. Do this before, during, and after a family gathering to help you catch your breath and your perspective.
  • Give yourself a break. After the holidays, give yourself the time you need to mentally and emotionally recover. Whether it’s just a solo day watching your favorite show or hanging out with friends, make sure you incorporate such time into your plans. 

When friends and family question your life choices like family building, and it feels like an added pressure, give yourself permission to handle the questions in the way that makes you feel most comfortable. That could mean avoiding the question, educating your loved ones, or being honest with them. After all, your relationship with yourself is as important as your relationship with your family, and it also needs to be supported and nurtured.