I was never overly sensitive to other people’s comments about my life. Innocuous observations about how long my husband and I lived together before we were married or why I chose my particular low-paying career or even how obsessed I was with my dogs rolled right off me.

At least that was until my husband and I faced three-and-a-half long years of unexplained infertility.

While we desperately sought answers, it seemed everywhere we turned someone was asking, “When are you guys going to start a family?”

There are hundreds of emotions that a couple faces when they are unable to get pregnant: shame, despair, guilt, embarrassment, recurring disappointment, and pain, just to name a few. Many closest to us knew that we were struggling. We shared the news that we suffered a miscarriage and that we were seeking help from specialists.

But to those who didn’t know us–a neighbor we only spoke to occasionally, a work colleague, the elderly woman at the dog park–we became experts at deflecting.

“We are focusing on our careers right now,” we’d respond. Or, “We can’t wait to have kids, but we’re kind of enjoying being newlyweds!”

Of course, it was all code for, “Please mind your freaking business,” but you get the drift. 

My hope was providing these canned answers would stop the incessant questions, but unfortunately, some people continued to prod. “Don’t wait too long, you’re not getting any younger,” a relative would say. Or, “I get pregnant when my husband just looks at me,” a girl at work would comment.

I knew these people were well-meaning, I knew they meant no harm. But infertility has a way of making you irrational and overly-sensitive–and I just wanted people to leave me alone.

A viral post from Adele Barbaro sums this up to perfection. Shared more than 37,000 times on social media, Barbaro states, “When you are having difficulty conceiving, it seems everyone around you is falling pregnant. It’s easy to be happy for them at first but that brave face wears thin after a while. I even started to decline going to certain get togethers and attending baby birthdays were just painful. I became quite bitter, desperate and depressed.”

Exactly this. Trying to remain positive when facing infertility is hard enough without having to explain yourself over and over.

Read between the lines when a woman gives you a stock answer to what is probably a very complicated question for her. There is usually more than what meets the eye.

Says Barbaro: “So, next time you go to say that ‘throw away’ comment to the newly weds or the couple that have been together for ten years, be sensitive. Don’t ask them when they are having kids. You never know what’s going on.”



Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.