A Lack Of Tact

So the other day I was at lunch with some colleagues.  Some I know well and others I do not.

Somehow the subject of children came up.

Somehow the attention turned to me, and I was innocently asked if we had any news to share, with a literal wink and nudge.

At this point in time, I just assumed everyone in our lives knows we are adopting.  And when it comes to work, I have not exactly kept our miscarriages a secrete.  In fact, I have been very vocal about our adoption plans as I view it as a necessity to tell my clients that I might fall off the face of the planet for a few weeks if we get an instant placement that requires us to travel for a few weeks.

So, needless to say the person asking isn’t someone I know very well and she had no idea.  Yet, I was taken aback by her statement, no-one has asked me about having kids that way in a long time.  I was so taken aback that I think it showed in my response, both verbal and body language.  I sort of mumbled, something like ummmm….nope, no surprises from me.  After 5 losses I can assure you we are doing everything in our power to avoid that possibility as we know it wont end with a living child.  I may have even said something about not wanting a dead baby.  Seriously, it wasn’t my finest moment, particularly considering it was in a professional context.

The lady at the table who asked the question was clearly confused and uncomfortable.  Heck, I think everyone at the table was uncomfortable! Clearly in that moment, I was flustered and had no tact.  Ops.

Before I could try to start extracting my foot from my mouth, someone else at the table jumped in.  She knows me a bit better, and saved the moment with a nearly perfect response – well there will be news to share when your adoption happens!

This person was my hero that day.  She clearly saw I was bothered and she took away my awkwardness.  She made the original comment normal in our context of adoption.  She made the conversation safe again for me and for the person who innocently brought up.

We then proceeded to discuss adoption and the unknown timelines until the conversation moved onto something completely different.

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25 Comments on “A Lack Of Tact

  1. you don’t have to feel bad about having this sort of reaction. It may be uncomfortable for the person who innocently asks such question, but I said it already, people have to learn to avoid asking those children questions. So she just has to deal with your answer. It made you uncomfortable and that’s why you react the way you did. I remember I just blinked when asked that question and then looked away without saying anything. What a great way to handle it. I could feel the non comprehensive stare of that other person.

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  2. I can understand why you’d get flustered when you weren’t expecting that kind of question. Happy there was somewhere there that was able to make a follow up comment to put things back to normal. Sending hugs my friend…those situations suck.

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  3. Definitely don’t feel bad about your response to the question. You were taken aback. You’ve had this conversation many times, I’m sure, but it’s been a while since you’ve had to have it.

    I’m glad your co-worker/friend rescued the conversation, and I’m sending you hugs.

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  4. My goodness we live parallel lives! You should see my post from yesterday…I had a very similar experience! I think I did okay but it’s always so awkward when someone brings it up innocently, not having a clue what they are really asking, considering our histories. I am proud of you for being vocal…I am working on that every time and it’s hard to be so vulnerable with acquaintances! Bravo.

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  5. Sigh. I hate these moments that remind everyone awkwardly that we’re not normal child-bearing women, especially when they happen at work. I agree with littledragon above that you just can’t let yourself feel bad about them, especially when someone is asking you a direct question about childbearing and you answer it honestly. If they’re uncomfortable, well… maybe they’ve learned a little something about asking personal questions.

    I had one of these moments with the senior member of my department the other day. He stopped by and asked how the pregnancy was going and when I was due, and then somehow we got on the subject of grandparents (maybe because he became one recently) and I mentioned that my mom has been following everything avidly, particularly since she’s a women’s health nurse practitioner. Then he went on to say that, oh, won’t it be great to have her there for the delivery? And I said, well, she’s certainly invited — she was there when I delivered my first baby and she was very helpful. And then he got awkward and ended that conversation fast. And I felt bad about it… but not too bad, because it was my totally natural response — at this point, I’m usually very matter-of-fact when I talk about my daughter, and I didn’t feel emotional about responding that way at all. But it clearly freaked him out. Ah, well. These things are never easy.

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  6. I’m confused as to why that person would have asked you something in that manner to begin with? My first thought, if I was you, would be that she thought that I looked pregnant, and I would be highly offended by that. I don’t think your reaction or response were wrong, whether in a professional setting or not. Her question wasn’t professional, so you responded in like. It sucks when people bring things up like this to remind us that we’re struggling in the first place. I’m sorry that happened, but thankful that your other coworker jumped in to help out. Maybe the other person will learn not to ask such personal questions to someone they don’t really know, especially during a work function!

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  7. It’s awesome that you have a friend/co-worker who stepped in! Don’t be too hard on yourself for your response though. You were blindsided and we can never prepare for those moments. You response was truthful and raw and there is something to be appreciated about that honesty. It continues to amaze me that people even ask questions like that. In fact, yesterday my husband came home and said that his nurse said something along the lines of “I don’t know why people continue to ask me about having children….we’ve been married for 17 years and it hasn’t happened yet….what they don’t know is that we can’t have children.” Even HE has realized that there are some subjects you just don’t broach with people unless they bring it up. It’s as if most people walk around assuming that everyone can just pop out healthy children. I think this is yet another lesson that our situations have taught us. We’ve learned how to respond to people and what to ask/not to ask.

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  8. I love that coworker! I wish I could follow you around and help defend/ protect you in these situations. Haha that sounds creepy 🙂 But you had a brave and normal response– I am glad she was uncomfortable. Maybe she will think twice next time and not ask that type of question. Xo

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  9. Turnabout is fair play! If you’re going to ask an uncomfortable question about something as intimate as someone’s reproductive life, prepare for an uncomfortable answer!

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  10. It happens sometimes when we’re caught off guard with uncomfortable questions. Sorry you were put in that situation, but happy to hear your friend came to your rescue!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree. You shouldn’t have to go through your life airways having your guard up – and if you let it down and someone comes along and puts you on the defensive, then it is totally acceptable to defend yourself! Glad your coworker helped.

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  11. Honestly, your reply was perfect. Think of the pain you have saved someone else by teaching this woman to think twice before asking that question of people she barely knows! Yes, it was awkward, but imagine if someone had just found out they had their billionth failed cycle or another loss and was asked that question. Hopefully this person has learned from this. Hugs, sweetie!

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  12. I remember the days where I would ask that very question. Once you’ve experienced losses, there is no way you would ever ask that question again. I sure don’t. It’s none of my business, and I do not want to bring up feelings of hurt or sadness regarding a situation I know nothing about. I wish people would understand that when they are the ones asking. You’re lucky your co-worker/friend was there. She sounds amazing!

    Even after my second loss my co-workers would ask if I were pregnant again quite quickly. Unfortunately in my profession I cannot hide my pregnancies (I give chemo and work with diseases you shouldn’t expose a baby to if you can help it) and it sucks that my whole story is shared amongst everyone.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been following you since I had my first miscarriage (before I knew there would be two more). I guess I’m brave enough to comment now…time will do that. You’re an amazing writer with great perspective and I am so thankful for you and countless other bloggers who make me feel less alone through these trying times.

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  13. I know the feeling being on the spot and being wishy washy on how to respond. Do I give the absolute truthful version or??
    That is an awesome co-worker and thanks be for her intervention. Much love!

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  14. I don’t think you should feel bad. I think if everyone was a bit more honest then miscarriage wouldn’t be such a hidden thing and people wouldn’t ask those kind of inappropriate questions. And it is an inappropriate question.

    You put someone on the spot, someone you don’t actually know or are friends with and would have known the truth of if you were. It’s unprofessional as well and not only may someone not want to answer for upsetting personal reasons but they may also be pregnant and not wanting to share it yet or worry about the very real possibility of being judged for ttc or getting pregnant while working- which is another thing that really bugs me. Who wants to share they are ttc if it may cause, and sadly it’s human nature and will (from some of my previous job experience), people to look at them like they could pop off for a year mid-career?

    I now hate that question not because of my career but because it hurts like hell to be reminded of my loss and trying, and failing, to conceive again so far. I usually answer with ‘no, not yet’ but on a bad day I’ve almost been honest too.

    Your other co-worker was awesome.

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  15. Oh man – with a wink and a nudge????? I hate winks and nudges!!!! The question alone is vile enough. I’ve even considered ceasing my facial regimine as to visually age myself more quickly out of this misinformed debacle that is unfortunately still considered acceptable social protocol. I’m 43 and a half, and at least somewhat look my age. I mean really.

    Ok, now that I’m done with my rant, I think what you said is great! I’m sorry you had to field that question, and for all of the hard hitting emotions that likely swarmed in with it. What if the more candid and messy we are willing to be, the more likely people will be to learn and think twice next time?

    I put tons of pressure on myself to be clear and articulate in these situations, and sometimes it’s just too much. There’s only so much we can do in any given moment in the face of society’s ignorance coupled with the depth of soul stopping emotions our experiences can bring. So I try and remind myself that, when I’m able, something is better than nothing. It’s our silence that gives the greater collective permission to keep overlooking and minimizing our very real and significant stories.

    Just maybe we don’t have to always personify grace – to go without it sometimes is quite the humbling experience, and that’s not a bad thing. In the face of these situations I think it’s important to remember that, ultimately, we haven’t done anything wrong.

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  16. It’s very reflective and kind for you to take all the responsibility on yourself. I think sometimes “innocent” inquiries like this one need to be shut down at times with some awkwardness so that people learn an important lesson about prying and assumptions.

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  17. Good grief – who asks a question like that of someone they don’t know well??? I’m a social klutz of lifetime standing, and even I know that questions about someone else’s uterus are out of line!

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  18. As a child, I was taught not to ask people questions if I wasn’t ready to handle their truthful answers. I know it’s a common small talk topic, but knowing how personal having children is, i don’t think it’s appropriate to ask colleagues about it unless they bring it up. I’m sorry you were caught so off guard. I hate when people refer to surprise pregnancies. It seriously burns my ass that people can get pregnant and give birth by accident, given how hard it has been for all of us in the IF/RPL community. The way that questions are asked also doesn’t leave room for other routes to becoming a parent. Anyways, I’m glad a colleague took the reigns for a moment so that you could catch your breath, and rejoin the convo when it felt safer for you.

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  19. It is a blessing that someone instinctively knew how to save the situation, she is someone you want on your team. So many times have I been put in a situation with a direct question about having children or references to my losses and I am frozen to how to respond and often awkwardly change the subject before i burst into tears. Catch me on the wrong day and I could easily respond how you did. Maybe you are now thinking you should not of reacted that way but it was a natural heart felt response to a question that should not of been asked and maybe it will make her think before she asks inappropriate questions like that again.

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