Women have been blessed with the magical ability to grow and carry life. Naturally, once women are a certain age or have reached certain milestones in their life, people start asking things like:
“When do you plan on starting a family?”
“Are you going to settle down anytime soon?”
“But, how will you have time for children?”
You all know what I’m talking about. Now, I am not disregarding how beautiful, exciting and worthy this is of celebrating. I am equally as obsessed with Beyonce's pregnancy photos as you are. I’m also not saying I don’t understand why people ask these things. I’ve even been guilty of jokingly baby-pushing on my family members or close friends. I’d love nothing more than a few more little cousins, or god-children to love.
These questions might seem innocent and harmless. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case to the woman being asked. These questions can be intrusive, insensitive and even triggering. Some women may feel obligated to tell you what you want to hear, others may feel backed into a corner and forced to disclose things about fertility, sexuality, or their personal life in general.
First, by asking these kinds of questions, you are implying that fertility is not an issue. In the United States, 7.5 million women ages 15-44 battle infertility and about 10 to 15 out of 100 known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Not to mention approximately 1 in 10 women have disorders that can affect fertility and the reproductive system like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome. For those of us that have miscarried, battle infertility, or have that very real possibility looming over us, these questions can be difficult to respond to. Knowing of these struggles but asking anyways, is incredibly insensitive and completely invalidates the severity and heartbreak of the situation. It is also putting these women in a position to have to discuss or acknowledge something they may not be comfortable with. If they are open to talking about it, listen. If they aren't, respect that.
Second, asking these questions puts women in the position to justify their relationships, sexuality, career choices. Just because someone is a certain age, at a certain place in life and in fact, has a uterus, does not mean that they want to reproduce anytime soon- or ever. There have been studies over the last few years showing that about 1/3 of millennials don't even want kids.
Why is it that after I graduated college, several people asked me about my plans to get hitched and have a family, rather than ask me about my career?
Why is it, that starting in high school, when I talked about my career goals and plans to attend graduate school, I was constantly discouraged and pushed towards a more suitable career and adult life to be a mother?
Why is it that when expressing interest in adopting or fostering, I am questioned about that decision, as if it is not a perfectly viable option that can be completely independent of fertility?
Many of my peers and women before me have told of similar stories, starting from adolescence and even childhood on. We should not be teaching little girls before they even go through puberty that their worth depends on their fertility or desire to have children. We should not be belittling their accomplishments and aspirations just because they do not involve reproduction or motherhood.
Yes, most women are blessed with fertility. Many of us will go on to be amazing mothers at various ages. Many of us will use a surrogate, foster, adopt. Many of us will have the ability to choose to make motherhood a priority. But, many of us won't have that opportunity. Many of us won't have that desire. The ability or choice to reproduce does not define our worth, our success, or our role as women.