When you’re single, everyone asks “oh, when will you meet a nice young man and settle down?”. You meet said young man. Now people want to know when you’re getting married. You tie the knot, settle into your home, but the inquiries don’t stop there. The next inevitable question: “When are you going to start a family?“
When you get married, having children seems like the next logical progression. But for many couples, being faced with the dreaded question regarding their reproductive status is exhausting, and sometimes heartbreaking.
The baby boom is over
My parents were baby boomers. My dad had 6 siblings and my mom had 5. Big families were a norm at the time. Nowadays however, couples are choosing to have fewer or no children, and for those not used to that concept, it may seem an odd life choice.
During the baby boomer generation, which peaked in 1959, the fertility rate in Canada was 4 children per woman. Compare that with today’s fertility rate of 1.6 children per woman according to Statistics Canada. Things have certainly changed.
The people in our society accustomed to big families and lots of children may find the shift in child-bearing ratios strange. But nonetheless, we need to respect the choices of other couples. Bombarding them with “What do you mean you don’t want children? That’s part of getting married!” is, to put it bluntly, a little rude.
We would rather be dinks
There’s a term my parents use to describe people without children. DINKS. Double Income No Kids. For whatever reason, these couples have chosen not to have children. And that’s fine.
I know many couples who are perfectly content living their lives with only each other. It does have it’s upsides: pursuing your career, furthering your education at will, more travel opportunities, you get to sleep in on your days off, you can drive a sports car rather than a minivan – the list goes on.
It was not the right choice for my husband and I, but I accept that it is the right choice for some couples. I remember talking to one couple who laughed and said, “We’re just not good with kids. We would be crappy parents.” Touche. At least some couples are cogniscient of their parent abilities (or lack there of). I call that making an informed decision!
Still others have expressed “I would rather be the cool aunt. Buy gifts, play with them when they’re happy. But when tantrums start or there’s a poopy bum, back to mom and dad they go!”. How can you argue with that logic?
I know another couple still, who chose to have no children of their own, but instead, volunteer several weeks of their lives every year working at orphanages and schools in other countries. They love kids, but instead of having their own, they want to use their time and resources to brighten the lives of children in developing nations.
My point is, there are many reasons couples choose to not have children. It’s really none of our business what those reasons are. It doesn’t make a couple selfish, or uncommitted. Hearing that badgering question of offspring over and over is undoubtedly tiring for the couple content with only each other. But for other couples, it’s not only tiring, but heartbreaking.
Trying, and trying and trying…
Some couples do not have children, but it isn’t because that’s what they want.
Infertility is on the rise in Canada. Studies show that “In Canada, the prevalence of past-12-month infertility rose from 5% in 1984 to a range of 12-16% in 2009/2010.” Meaning the number of couples who have spent more than a year unsuccessfully trying to conceive has risen by nearly threefold since the mid-80s.
Why is this happening? There could be a number of contributing factors. More women are choosing to have children later in life. It is normal for a women having her first child to be aged 30 or older. The older a woman is, the less effectively she is able to birth, compared to her younger years. That’s not to say it cannot happen, but the odds of complication (miscarriage, multiples, etc.) are higher.
Our chemical-laden society may also be contributing to infertility. From pesticides on our food, heavy metals in our water, the phthalates in your perfume and the toluene in your nail polish, all have been shown to have detrimental reproductive side effects.
As well, there could be something biologically going on with either the sperm or female reproductive organs contributing to infertility.
Whatever the reason is, it hurts. Not being able to have a child, or miscarrying a child, is heartbreaking. It’s stressful, it’s a waiting game, it’s an assault on your emotions and your mental and physical health. You feel like your body is broken. Suddenly you notice everyone around you is either pregnant or is pushing a stroller. Desperate prayers are said. Money is paid to fertility clinics. And everyday is another day of your cycle to document – and another day to wait.
What should I say?
Prying into a couples journey to parenthood (“When are you guys going to start trying for kids?”) is just an invitation for a flood of feelings of grief, helplessness, frustration and sorrow. If a couple is having fertility issues or suffered a miscarriage they don’t feel like sharing, then they are looking for distractions; not a reminder of their struggles.
A couple looking for someone to talk to about their infertility struggles, or support after a miscarriage, will ask for it. Some couples are more private about these things and would rather keep it to themselves or very close friends/family. They don’t want to be the subject of gossip, and they don’t want your sympathy – they want to keep life rolling. I only speak from personal experience.
What can you say instead?
If you’re curious as to why a couple doesn’t have any children, just remember – curiosity killed the cat. Consider the onslaught of emotions and potential heartbreak you could be opening up for a couple before you ask. Just consider whether you knowing the answer is worth the pain for the couple you’re asking.
You will find out if the person chooses to share with you, or if they eventually end up pregnant one day.
You can always talk about the weather, about the Oilers, talk about the Carbon Tax – just respect the couple who don’t have children and you don’t know why.
NOTE: This post is based on my personal feelings. I’m certainly sure I don’t speak for everyone. Just for me.
*All photos taken from unsplash.com