Infertility & the Holiday-“When Are You Going to Have Kids?”

Dawn Davenport


Surviving the holidays with infertility

Being infertile is just plain hard during the holidays.

Well, it’s that time of year again—the holiday season, otherwise known as the annual trek to the extended family where you’ll be surrounded by other people’s children and subjected to questions you’d almost rather die than answer.  I can almost guarantee that during the next month someone will ask, “So, when are you guys going to have kids?”  I can also almost guarantee that it will cut you to the core.  Although it may not help at that exact moment, try to remember, you’re not alone and you will survive.

I think it helps to remember, that most people are not trying to hurt us.  In their own ineffective and intrusive way, they are probably trying to help us.  How, you ask?  Well, believe it or not, they might think that you are enjoying the child free life a bit too long and are unaware that you can’t wait forever.  Or maybe they are trying to show you how much they would love and appreciate a child of yours.  In fairness, we’ve often given them little information to work with.

Silence/Shame Cycle of Infertility

Part of the reason we get these insensitive questions is because of the whole secrecy/shame/silence cycle I’ve talked about before. In an effort to protect ourselves and what little shred of privacy we have remaining, we often remain silent about our infertility.  I also suspect that a heavy dose of shame is at work in perpetuating this silence.  The tape playing in too many of our heads is “We are a failure, we are less than a woman/man, we are a failure….”

I do appreciate that there are situations where it really is best to remain silent, but I suspect that these situations are fewer than you think.  It is also possible to share just enough information to give them a clue without baring your soul.

Suggested Replies to “When are you going to have children?”

It helps to have a range of responses depending on the intent of the questioner and the environment.  If you don’t want to get into a protracted discussion, change the subject at the end by asking them a question about food, the weather, or their children or grandchildren.

Well intentioned, but clueless:

  • We’re hoping very soon, but so far it hasn’t worked out that way.  We’ll be sure to let you know when we have good news to share.  Boy, this slimy green bean casserole drowning in nutritionally void cream of supposed mushroom soup topped with canned supposed fried onions is interesting.  How in the world did you make it?
  • As soon as God sees fit to bless us. Speaking of God, can you believe this wonderful weather?

Questionable intent, but still clueless:

  • That’s more personal than I feel comfortable sharing with you. Can you believe the outfit Aunt Agnes is wearing?!?
  • You probably don’t realize it, but that’s an insensitive question to ask.  Let’s talk about something less hurtful. Who are you rooting for in the game this afternoon?

Downright Snarky (No, you can’t actually use these, but you can have some fun thinking them while you say one of the above responses.)  With thanks to the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group.

  • I was thinking about it, but then I realized I’d have to quit drinking for at least six months and decided I wasn’t ready for that level of commitment.~ Melissa
  • After being around your kids, we’ve decided to remain childless. ~ Sarah
  • After spending some time with _______ (spouse’s name) relatives, we’ve decided to not propagate that gene pool. ~ Dawn
  • When my body decides it’s tired of having sex, sushi, drugs, and alcohol constantly.~ Marci
  • When you stop asking. ~ Elizabeth
  • We’re not having much luck and are wondering if we’re doing something wrong. What position do you recommend?  How often do you do “it”?  Oh yes, and are you pro or against orgasms when trying to get preggers? Wait, before you walk away, do you have a favorite lubricant or do you prefer good ole saliva?

Creating a Family has tons of resources both serious and funny to help you survive this next week, including podcasts, videos, and a wonderful Top Ten Tips for Surviving the Holidays With Lots of Kids and Nosy Relatives.  We also have a brand new multimedia guide on surviving the holidays when you’re in infertility treatment or waiting to adopt.

Now it’s your turn to share your best responses to the “When are you going to have kids” question.  Also, please share how your family has helped you cope with this trying time of year.

Image credit:Patrick Gensel
First published 2014. Updated 2016.

19/12/2016 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 23 Comments

23 Responses to Infertility & the Holiday-“When Are You Going to Have Kids?”

  1. Avatar Emma says:

    Hi from ICLW! I love these snarky remarks 🙂

    ICLW #61

  2. Avatar Erika says:

    Thanks, I just keep working out and spackeling on the makeup! LOL

  3. Avatar Jody says:

    Erika Spence, my husband is 50 and our sons are 11 and 3. I don’t think you are old at all!

  4. Avatar Erika says:

    I get the “Oh no, you are too young to be going through that yet.” I started going through menopause at 35. Now that I’m 44 I don’t get that comment anymore. Guess that means I’m old now.

  5. Avatar Jody says:

    I am so thankful for this community! I wish I’d had you all when I was going through infertility and then adoption. Just glad I can pitch in now and encourage others!

  6. Avatar Jody says:

    I truly despised the comment “Just relax and you will get pregnant.”
    I tried to bite my tongue, but my usual [hormone- induced] reply was, “I’m not sure I can relax that right fallopian tube out of a medical waste facility and back into my body, functioning properly!”

  7. Dawn, I couldn’t resist tossing out a tiny excerpt from my book (in which I address this question and more). Here goes:

    I truly despised the comment “Just relax and you will get pregnant.”

    I tried to bite my tongue, but my usual reply was, “I’m not sure I can relax that right fallopian tube out of a medical waste facility and back into my body, functioning properly!” Another thoughtless comment that an early obstetrician made was, “Just go to Victoria’s Secret and buy something sexy.” Even if Victoria’s Secret did sell negligees large enough to contain my Dollyesque boobs, it could not fix my problem. I despised the comment, “Wow, I just look at my husband and I get pregnant.” Perhaps I should have replied, “Well, I’ve looked at your husband, and I still don’t see how you got pregnant!” (from The Eye of Adoption)

    Waiting parents, I’ve been right where you are. Please have hope in knowing that your situation, though frustrating, is not permanent. You have many friends here who are rooting you onward!!!

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

    Jody Dyer

  8. Avatar Elizabeth says:

    I shared this blog at our RESOLVE support group meeting last night. We even broke off and did role playing to practice responding to questions from a close friend, a distant family member and an acquaintance. I’m pretty honest when someone asks me these days and get anything from, “Oh, I’m sorry.” to a coworker saying, in front of his 10 year old daughter no less, that he and his wife would, “make me one just like her.” If he was serious, I’d probably take him up on that!

  9. Avatar Lisa says:

    A good comeback for religious/church inquirers:
    “Please keep us in your prayers.”

  10. Avatar LA says:

    I used a few of these last week when my in laws came to visit. I’m flying home for Christmas so I’ll make a copy of this list to put in my suitcase to use when I get THE QUESTION. Love you site and radio show!!

  11. Avatar sacramento says:

    This Blog was so helpful this past week at my cousins house. Got the question 3 times and hubby got it once. I behaved myself and never used the snarky ones. It was nice to have them in my pocket though.

  12. Avatar Andrew says:

    Flying home for a couple of weeks soon and the wife and I are going to be prepared for the questions. Maybe this time next year, we’ll have something or someone to show so we won’t be getting the question. Love the show, the blog, and the website.

  13. Avatar Julie says:

    Oh, I had a slew of the snarky ones and yes, I was bitchy enough to use them…..

    Why, want to tape the conception for us?
    Me? Kids? Why? Cause it’s worked out so well for you!?

    However, my favorite was someone that I had gently rebuffed many times and wouldn’t leave me alone about it. It helped that he was a man but the last time he asked me when we were going to get pregnant, I simply told him…

    “well, you see we are having fertility issues. First my husband went and did a sperm analysis. Sure he get the easy part, just jerks off in a jar. Then I had to go for unbelievable amounts of blood work and internal ultrasounds. What’s an internal ultrasound? Oh, it’s just this foot and a half long dildo that’s connected to an ultrasound machine that they stick inside my uterus to see what’s going on in there. Oh, then I had this horrible test called an HSG where they stick me on a regular x-ray table and then they put in the speculum (you know what that is right??) and that hurt like hell cause you know, a regular x-ray table isn’t angled like a gyn table… wait… where are you going? Don’t leave, I haven’t gotten to the best part yet.”

    Was it something I said??? ~insert devilish grin~

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      OK, Julie, you when the snarkiest and funniest comment so far. At least you had me laughing and actually feeling sorry for the unfortunate recipient of this tirade.

  14. Avatar Michelle says:

    Oh and did I mention the singles who so want to have kids as a married person and dread just the marriage question because in their heads they hear the kid question ( even when not asked. )

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Michelle, yep, the kid question is often lurking behind the marriage question. I always wonder about the marriage question. Do they really think that you haven’t considered it or haven’t been open to it?!? I mean, why ask that question. Really.

  15. Avatar Michelle says:

    If couples think it is bad, try being single and have infertility issues and or age challenge infertility issues (ie.. too old). Not only is there the when will you be able to have kids but why aren’t you married yet. If you don’t hurry up you won’t have kids. or how could you consider being a single parent by choice? etc… In short, the double whammy. At least some the answers above are applicable to both!

  16. Avatar Eileen says:

    I enjoy reading your blog, Dawn. I have made several posts pertaining to childlessness and infertility on my own blog.

    When I talked to my mother-in-law (my mother passed away a few years ago) about the difficulties I have with sometimes well-intentioned people saying hurtful things or asking difficult/personal and hurtful questions, she told me to answer the questions, “When are you going to have kids” or “Why don’t you have any kids?” with a simple “Why do you want to know?” It tends to throw people off balance… and sometimes draws out their true intentions.

    Depending upon who is asking, I have on occasion made stupid remarks such as “We secretly hate children, it’s all an act” or “Why? Are you trying to get rid of one of yours” or “I already have one – My husband” but they tend to backfire on me.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Eileen, your mother-in-law sounds like a class act. And she’s right–coming back with “why do you ask” is often a good response, although usually the person will say something like they were just wondering, and that really doesn’t help you figure out what to say next. I truly think that most folks will be supportive if they only knew, so I’m usually in favor of giving some information which tells them that you’re having trouble conceiving, but not enough to open you up to a full blown discussion. Although, I do like your come back of “Why? Are you trying to get rid of one of yours”. It made me giggle.

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