Ask Dr. Zoe – How to Answer “When Will You Have Kids?” When Facing Infertility

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‘Liz’ Asked:

Dr. Zoe,

My husband and I are infertile. People ask us a lot when we are going to have kids. While this question is often asked with good intentions, it’s a painful question for me, as I wanted kids, so I always struggle with how to answer. I’m a little tired of stumbling through a polite, but usually untrue answer. At this point, I feel tempted to be brutally honest with the next person who asks me. Maybe then they will feel the awkwardness I feel. What’s a good way to answer that question without walking away feeling both hurt and dishonest?

Dr. Zoe Answered:

I love how you say you’re tempted to be honest. Girl, be honest! First of all, it’s a nonsensical question that I may be guilty of having asked myself. It’s just the way the world works. “Are you dating anyone?” turns into, “When are you going to get married?” and then of course, “When are you going to have a baby?” It would be nice if it stopped there, but no. After you finally manage to bring a baby home, the next question is, “When are you going to have another one?”

You need to be honest because no one is as invested in your answer as you are. They are being nosy or curious, but most people don’t really care. Your honesty is not for them. It’s for you.

Being honest doesn’t mean you have to tell them all of your business—but you can if you want to.

I recently asked a complete stranger how far along she was (and no, I wouldn’t have asked if she wasn’t practically about to drop the baby any minute). She spent the next 20 minutes telling me about her infertility struggle and all the trials that led up to that minute. It was an amazing conversation… that she wanted to have.

You are under no obligation to spare anyone’s feelings because they chose to ask you a very personal question.

I would simply tell them, “We can’t biologically conceive and I’m not sure if we will have children.” Or, if you have already decided that you won’t have children, tell them that—because you know the next question will be about adoption or surrogacy—as if you had never considered those options before.

Be as straight up and direct as you can and if someone is rude enough to ask more questions, feel free to ask them invasive questions about what their bodies can and can’t do. Or just clearly say that you don’t feel up to talking about that and change the subject.

My wish for you is that you don’t spend any more time and emotional energy thinking up partial truths in an attempt to take care of other people who are being rude to you. Say what you want to say in the moment.

The more you do it, the easier it will get. Speak your truth and move on, girl! You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace.

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