conception

Cheatsgiving: How To Shut Down Conversations About Your Biological Clock At Thanksgiving

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I’m not sure where this all started, but apparently someone somewhere decided that women’s bodies are up for grabs, quite literally, all the damn time. Pregnant women get unsolicited belly rubs, commuters get the occasional subway groping, and all women everywhere watch as their bodies become fair game for any and all judgement, questions, discussion, and interest. Every single choice we make is fodder for unsolicited advice or an opinion, and what common sense would tell us are private matters are apparently public business.

It’s hard to see this demonstrated more clearly than with reproductive issues – I’m looking at you, pregnancy, birth control, birth, and abortion. Whether it’s a public official making it harder for women to access necessary medical procedures like abortion or a stranger on the street declaring that “it’s definitely going to be twins,” there seems to be an idea that women’s reproductive happenings exist in the public sphere. When one woman gets an abortion, we all get an abortion. When a woman gets pregnant, we all get pregnant. Too bad women’s bodies actually don’t operate as a vessel for all the collective consciousness’ opinions and judgement, because people sure as hell have opinions to share.

This doesn’t just happen in legislative chambers on or a street corner. It happens in my house. Every single family function has become an opportunity for someone to look me up and down and ask “So, how old are you these days?” When I answer, I watch them mentally compute how many more childbearing years I have left (the answer is a lot), and inevitably say “When do you think you’ll get started on having some children? I’m sure your parents are ready for some grandchildren!” Some will even comment that I’m “getting up there,” which is inaccurate. Because I’m a human person, I hate this. I specifically hate the “when are you going to give your parents some grandchildren” line, as if changing my life significantly is the same thing as buying them a puppy.

Normally I say something along the lines of “Oh, I’m a long way off from that. Did you see where the appetizers went?” But in recent years, people don’t seem to take that as an acceptable answer, and pry further. They can’t understand why I haven’t made a Google calendar with my as of yet nonexistent conception timeline and shared it with the whole crew, so they can weigh in. The idea that deciding to have a child wouldn’t involve them or their life plans seems to go right over their heads.

In the past, I’ve felt pressured to share my reasons for not actively trying to have a baby at every single moment. I’ll say something like “oh, I want to be established first” or “I’ve got plenty of years left!” This is patently absurd for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t owe anyone an explanation about when I plan to have a child.

If you’re a pre-mom like me with years to go before trying for a baby or a mom who gets harassed to give little so-and-so a sibling, I feel you. I’ve brainstormed some answers to use when you inevitably get cornered this Thanksgiving and asked “how many freaking eggs do you even think you have left in there?”

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57 Comments

  1. Jayess

    November 20, 2013 at 11:08 am

    oh my gaw, that moonwalking pony. Can I just put that gif on my phone, and the next time my family members ever so “subtly” remind us that we’re the only ones left without kids (omg, really? Wasn’t one of those mine? No? It’s yours? That’s so weird) I could just drop that pony like a smokebomb and (moon)walk out of the room entirely.

    • Litterboxjen

      November 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Next time they remind you, maybe try to claim one of the ones that’s been around for awhile as yours? Just say it was a secret, and not to tell the kid’s mom.

  2. NicknamesAreDull

    November 20, 2013 at 11:11 am

    If you’ve had a permanent birth control option, you can describe the procedure in detail!

    “When are you going to give little Snowflake a sibling? She looks lonely!”

    “Oh, well we only wanted one kid. To ensure that, my doctor made a small incision on my abdomen. From there, he clipped and cauterized my Fallopian tubes. The Fallopian tubes are a part of the female reproductive system. They allow the egg to travel from the ovary to the uterus. By tying and burning them, an egg cannot be fertilized. My husband also got a vasectomy. His doctor made a small incision on his scrotum. From there, she clipped the vas deferens, and cauterized it. This stops the sperm from mixing with the semen. But don’t worry, we still have an excellent sex life, since that’s what you were asking about.”

  3. alice

    November 20, 2013 at 11:25 am

    i made the mistake of telling my mom that we were going to have at least a year of pregnancy-free marriage AND we’re going to plan one more awesome vacation before we start TTC.

    so now instead of hearing “when do you think you’ll start trying?” i get inquiries about my travel planning progress. “so where are you going? when do you think you’ll book? you should book something soon…”

    • Jayess

      November 20, 2013 at 11:51 am

      are they also thinking that “one more awesome vacation” = “one awesome babymaking vacation”? Cause we want to go away when husband finishes his masters, and everyone is like “RIGHT?! SO YOU CAN MAKE BABIES?!”

    • alice

      November 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      they definitely are. as if i’m going to plan my airfare around ovulation. (and even though there’s no scientific basis to be afraid – i think i’d feel guilty trying to get knocked up while i was most likely drinking 18 hours/day)

    • Jayess

      November 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      hmm yes, right, I see that it is the 20th of the month, so if we get on a plane within the next 14 days we can expect impregnation within the next three, and then we can come home! Perfect. I didn’t need to get blasted at the pool bar anyways, yes, yes.

  4. libraryofbird

    November 20, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I’m the youngest of 5 and the only one not to reproduce (yet, it may happen someday) I also have a niece that has beat me to motherhood. All that being said I just kindly remind people that some of my siblings have made HORRIBLE choices in picking partners to breed with and that I am avoiding being that dumb. I do like to tell my mom that if I don’t have a significant other by the time I’m 35 I will just go to a sperm bank. That started as a joke but now that 35 is very soon it’s becoming a pretty good option.

  5. pixie

    November 20, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Aw yeah, moonwalking pony.
    I’m glad that my family doesn’t really care when/if I have kids (cuz most of my family is awesome). I’m worried about my boyfriend’s family, though, because one of his cousin’s is getting married sometime soon, which will probably start the “oh, when are you two getting married” thing. Then the kids thing. And ugh.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      November 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

      It really is a vicious and unending cycle. Before I dumped my boyfriend last year, I was in the, “When are you going to get married and have kids?” phase of it. Now that he’s gone, it’s back to, “So, are you seeing anyone?” To which my response will be, “Yes. I’m seeing you all up in my business right now. Hold on, let me take off my glasses…there! Now if I could find a way to block you out auditorily as well, my life would be perfect!”

    • Toastlette

      November 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      “Yes. I’m seeing you all up in my business right now.”
      So totally awesome! If I wasn’t hitched, I’d borrow that quote.

    • TattooedLittleMiss

      November 21, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      I’m polyamorous and that was the family’s favorite question. Time of my life being able to say, “Yeah, three somebodies!” Now that I’m in a more monogamous relationship with a committed partner from a few years ago, I look forward to the marriage questions, especially since my stepsisters are both talking about getting hitched (again).

  6. G.E. Phillips

    November 20, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I’ve gotten asked a few times by family friends, cousins, and distant relatives if I’m going to give Face a sibling any time soon. My patented answer now is, “Well, I really want to, but I don’t have one of those husband or boyfriend-type of people to help me with that. Say, maybe I could borrow yours? I’ll give him back at some point, I promise!”

  7. staferny

    November 20, 2013 at 11:51 am

    A friends dad remarried a much younger woman a few years ago and now she has a 1 year old half sister. Anytime she gets asked about when she’ll have kids she replies with “When my dad stops having them”.

    • Natasha

      November 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Yeahhhh, our kids are older than their uncle. (Hubs dad married a 22 yo at 68) so that’s fun.

  8. kay

    November 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

    If you look them in the eye and say “You know how they say practice makes perfect? We want a perfect baby so we’re practicing. A lot.” people won’t ask anything else.

  9. SHUTDOWN

    November 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I was direct and it WORKED. My husband and I have been married 3 years. My inlaws only brought up the baby timetable one time. And it wasn’t even to me. I overheard it, stopped my conversation to slowly turn to my FIL and said with a straight face, in a low even voice… “Every time you ask… you WILL wait another year”.

    I looked him in the eyes for about two seconds seriously. Then broke in a big animated smile and turned back to the other conversation I was in. Hahah, it was a total brain grenade to FIL, and it has NEVER been brought up again. Score.

    • Julia Sonenshein

      November 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Brilliant!

    • EcnoTheNeato

      November 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      I always figure that’ll be my go-to response, in a way, “When are we having a baby? When you stop asking, and I TELL you…”

      (or, in a more graphic but less snarky way: “When we start having unprotected sex”)

  10. StealthGent

    November 20, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    I’m sure Thoman Beatty (The Pregnant man on TV a while ago) Is an awesome dad and a great guy, but I kind of hate him because it makes my family think that dusting off the ovaries is back on the table and I should hold off on this whole transgender thing and make some babies, because that will help.

    They also alternate between really graphic questions about future surgery surgery/my junk and trying to talk me out of surgery. Being trans means everyone’s suddenly really preoccupied with your genitalia, and it’s creepy as hell. Having a uterus means everyone is really preoccupied with whether or not it’s working, and it is also creepy as hell. Send help.

    My best response is that for every invasive question, they get to hear one more thing their precious innocent good christian son has pierced, and the ears don’t count. I work from top to bottom.

    • meteor_echo

      November 20, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Aww yiss. Shock the crap out of them, dude, your in-laws and parents deserve nothing less >:]

  11. Lindsey

    November 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    If it is my MIL or FIL, I let them know that there will be grandchildren, but they will be in the future. And that’s it.

  12. JLH1986

    November 20, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    We haven’t shared the fact that we are TTC to avoid the monthly “are you?” questions. So for now when someone asks I just give them dead face…and walk away. Their stupid question isn’t worth an answer.

  13. Aimee Beff

    November 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    This question used to always come up at family gatherings, which was super fun as I had been diagnosed with female infertility till I got pregnant this year (YAY DRUGS). Which most of my family members didn’t know – because it is none of their damn business – but boy, is it an awkward transition from “Soooo when are you going to start a family?” “Hahaha well who knows and HOW ABOUT THAT LOCAL SPORTS TEAM?”
    Side note now that I have escaped from the “when are you going to have kids” question: if another family member tells me that we’re “finally a family” or that it’s “about time we became a real family” I am going to implode hard enough to punch a hole into another dimension. A dimension where people don’t act like total fuckstronauts at family gatherings.

    • Julia Sonenshein

      November 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      “Fuckstronauts” has made me boundlessly happy. But yes, your implosion would be well warranted!

    • Andy

      November 20, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      Yes, I HATED hearing that my husband and I were “finally a family” after DD was born-like the eight years of marriage we had under our belts were just kids playing house or something.

  14. Anna

    November 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    In the 70s my parents waited 5 years to have kids. This is the advice she gave me.

    “When someone asks get teary eyed, sniffle, and say “I don’t want to talk about it.”. That person will never ask again.”

    • Andy

      November 20, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      Yeah, in the 70’s my parents waited eight years to have me, and I’m the only one they spawned. On top of that my hometown is a podunk little place in southeast Texas, so you can imagine the amount of shit they had to hear from people prying into their personal life. My mom came very close to telling people that they had been tested and my dad had a low sperm count (because if it was HER fault, she’d never hear the end of it).

  15. meteor_echo

    November 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    My typical reaction to the “When are you having children?” things is looking the offender straight in the eye, slowly putting a completely deranged, slasher smile on my face, then bending over to them and whispering in their ear: “Never.”
    Creeps ’em out so much they never repeat.

  16. AP

    November 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve always been tempted to say, “Well, we’d love to have kids, but I don’t have a spare $30,000 lying around for daycare and health insurance for an extra dependent. If you’d be willing to help us out, we can make that happen pretty soon.”

    • meteor_echo

      November 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      DO EET!

    • StealthGent

      November 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      I like the way you think! I tried that, my in-laws insist that all you need for a baby is looooooooove.

  17. Alexandra

    November 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    “Excuse me for a moment, my mom is frantically waving an EPI pen I have to make sure she injects the right person.”

    Made me spit up water LOLing
    Thank you!!!

    • Julia Sonenshein

      November 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Thank YOU!

  18. Kay_Sue

    November 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I would say that I can’t believe people are this nosy, but that’s a lie. I once had someone ask, while I was carrying my youngest child, if I knew what causes that. The only response I could think of was, “Yes, it’s just a damned shame we are so good at it!”

    Good luck to those of you facing these questions this year. You should report back on what retorts work the best–maybe we can create a “how-to” for the childfree holidays. 😉

    • Litterboxjen

      November 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      My husband and I went on a trip a few years ago. The month after we got back, we conceived our daughter. My MIL kept asking if she was conceived while we were away.

      Fast-forward to this summer. We were up visiting some of his family as part of a big family reunion. The month after we got back, we conceived again (ended in miscarriage, though). My MIL was asking if we’d conceived this non-baby (never formed into fetal tissue) while we were away. Fun fact – we stayed in the room next to his parents, with not-fully-formed walls (house was in renos), and had our daughter sleeping in the room with us. She’s two. No, no sex in front of the baby with the in-laws down the hall.

      Also, please stop asking where we conceive babies. Otherwise, I’m going to start assuming you want video proof next. Or just phone calls after we finish having sex each time. Urg.

    • Kay_Sue

      November 20, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Extremely explicit phone calls. Maybe just call right before, and leave the phone on during? That would satisfy them, right?

    • Julia Sonenshein

      November 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      Jesus god WHY DO PEOPLE CARE WHEN YOU CONCEIVE? I think a video tape is the only logical solution. Fuckers.

    • EcnoTheNeato

      November 21, 2013 at 7:19 pm

      Agreed. A due date is good enough. I can do the math and then giggle about how close it is to their anniversary or valentine’s day BUT I WILL NOT ASK BECAUSE THAT’S WEIRD!

    • nikki753

      November 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      Really? That’s just freaking weird. Super awkward. I, on the other end of the spectrum, hate when I know facts about someone’s conception. What? You’re exactly two weeks pregnant? Oh, so it was that night that we all went out to dinner and you two showed up a little late and kind of disheveled?!?

    • pixie

      November 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      That is super awkward. The only time I’ve ever been curious as to where someone conceived their children was when I found out the names of a family friend’s two kids (they have city names). I didn’t ask though, and my mom kind of did but more like “So what inspired you to name your kids after those specific cities?”(and we were also just curious as to the story behind their names).
      Like I said, this person has been a family friend for years and has the type of personality where if she named her kids after where they were conceived, she’d be honest. She wasn’t offended. And no, her kids weren’t conceived in those cities (as far as she’s aware lol), she wanted their first names to fit with their last name.

  19. nikki753

    November 20, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Really it’s usually anyone you haven’t seen in a long time. I think they’re trying to make meaningful conversation during that “What’s new?” “Um, really… nothing. More of the same. Walk dog. Go to work. Leave. Drink a fancy beer or two. Clean. Watch American Horror Story. Go to bed. Change the exact details but essentially, repeat.” Still, it’s a really stupid personal thing to ask. You never know if she just suffered a miscarriage, found out that babies are going to be complicated and expensive, found out that babies aren’t possible, has a serious medical condition to consider (such as epilepsy or whatever) that she doesn’t want to talk about, or is just happy with how things are right now and doesn’t want to be forced to justify it. Personally, I just laugh like they asked something completely crazy and tell them we’re enjoying life as it is right now.

    • TattooedLittleMiss

      November 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      I don’t want kids, but my stepfamily doesn’t take that as an answer, and my boyfriend’s sister probably will not be pregnant when next I encounter his family, so if they’re the type to care about that sort of thing, she won’t be distracting them next time I encounter them. However, last year I was diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and neurological AND reproductive issues in a matter of months and fully intend to awkward people with my medical history if anyone lights into me this year. Nothing would seriously prevent me from having a child if I wanted one, but the pregnancy would be complicated and the resulting guaranteed PPD and recovery would be absolute torture, so it’s a pretty safe excuse.

  20. Himani

    November 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    “When are you gonna have a baaaabbyyy?”
    “You know we’re perfectionists, so we’re gonna keep practicing until we get our positioning just right.”
    They will never talk to you again. It’s wonderful.

  21. Rachel Sea

    November 20, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    My response now is to say, “Not everyone gets to have kids,” and excuse myself from the conversation.

  22. Savannah61

    November 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    This will be super handy this year. My husband’s older sister is pregnant with her 2nd and due in January. His younger sister is pregnant and due in May. I am not pregnant, although I’d really like to be. We are currently in the “not really trying, but not exactly not trying” stage. My husband still has some grad school to finish and we’d like to save a little more first, But, that hasn’t stopped baby fever from taking over full force these last few months.

    Right after my younger SIL told us she was pregnant, I thought I might be too. Turns out I was just late, probably due to stress (it was parent teacher conference week at school). But, I was a lot later than I had ever been before, so I got my hopes up a bit. My younger SIL is not in a great spot in her life and was not trying to get pregnant. The mix of stress, fatigue, and hormones made her news pretty hard for me. I just kept asking myself why she conceived and I didn’t. She was using birth control and condoms. I’ve gone off birth control, but we still use condoms. Or not sometimes. I knew that I shouldn’t be upset, but it’s been hard for me, even though we aren’t really trying right now. I know it makes me sound a bit crazy and it’s hard to explain why I feel like I do. On the bright side, I can still drink at Christmas, which is good because it’s gonna be hard to survive dealing with my MIL’s new boyfriend without lots and lots of booze!!!

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  24. Andy

    November 20, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    My husband and I waited eight years before having our first, and we heard this question a lot before our daughter was born-to the point that I just stopped talking to certain family members because I didn’t want to say something I’d regret in anger. Then after she was born I had PPD and didn’t feel up to having another one until close to her third birthday. So, we now have a three and a half year old girl and a two month old boy. During that gap, whenever people would ask, I would candidly mention my mental break with reality, and it tended to shut down the questions pretty well. Now, if people start up, I can show them my fairly recent c-section incision, wrecked abs and stretch marks-I think that will do the job nicely.

  25. Anderson

    November 21, 2013 at 7:21 am

    When my family asked me that I’d ask them if they’d cut their perinium with a scissors and dislocate their hips for me. Then whine ‘why nooot? Don’t you love meeeee?’

  26. the_ether

    November 21, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I favour the menstrual product conversation route! As a cup user, this is one of my preferred topics of conversation anyway. Do you want to see my new orange Lunette? SO FETCHING.

    I liked all the advice, really, especially since my response to these type of questions is a mirthful “oh, maybe someday!” before I go cry quietly in the loo over still not being pregnant yet.

    • Julia Sonenshein

      November 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      They come in orange??!!

    • the_ether

      November 22, 2013 at 12:05 am

      And purple!

  27. Magnet

    November 21, 2013 at 8:04 am

    “When are you going to have a baby?”
    “When you get some manners”

    • Julia Sonenshein

      November 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      love that

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  29. Nony

    November 23, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Almost all of my adult cousins have young kids, so I hear that question a lot. It hurts, because I’m poor and a lesbian, and as badly as we want kids, neither one of us can afford to go to a sperm bank. I usually just look down at my crotch, look at my wife’s, and look back at them and answer dryly, “Sure, I’ll get right on that” before walking away. My little sister just got married this year though, so I’m hoping she takes the brunt of interrogation over the holiday season.

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