18 things you should never say to a woman

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My wife and I have struggled with infertility. We brought you into our journey HERE and HERE.

When God brings you through pain and suffering and confusion, you’re marked forever. You’re not the same person. You don’t process life the same. You don’t grieve the same. You don’t celebrate the same. You don’t see other people the same way.

Experiencing a miscarriage has caused me to treat women, and couples, differently. I’m more cautious when talking with them about children. I think before I speak about pregnancy. I don’t bring up the idea of children with couples that don’t have any, unless they bring it up first. There are certain questions I don’t ask and statements I don’t make. There are jokes that I refuse to say, or laugh at. Ever.


image credit: Matt Gruber, creationSwap

I’ve found that there are certain questions you should never ask a woman, whether she has 4 children or none. Whether she’s pregnant or single. Young or old.

How did I learn you should never ask these?

My wife and I have been asked (or heard others being asked) each of these. In church. At Starbucks. At the grocery store. Over the phone. Or in an email. And there’s something inside of me that burns with anger when we’re asked. I know that most of the time, these questions are harmless.

But they’re hurtful. They bring up past pain and suffering. They bring up current pain and suffering. They remind us that we may never, ever give birth again.

If you want to walk through life with people in a way that builds healthy relationships, take note…and never say these things.

Things you should never say to a woman

Have you thought about having kids?

When are you going to start your family?

By the time we were your age, we had __ kids already!

You know it only gets harder to have kids the older you get, right?

What’s wrong with you, that you guys haven’t had kids yet?

You’ll never know what real parenting is until you have more than one.

Are you just not ready for another child?

Are you just being selfish? Why don’t you want children?

You guys would make great parents.

It’s about time you guys had a baby. The clock’s ticking!

To people specifically dealing with infertility

I know exactly what you’re going through…

We had 3 miscarriages before we had…

You can always adopt.

At least you have one child already.

Did you know that there are doctors out there that can fix you?

When are you going to try to have another kid?

Having one miscarriage doesn’t mean you’re done. Just keep trying!

Well, at least you’ve got each other.

Have you ever been asked hurtful questions about your children/pregnancy?



Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://kathyfannon.blogspot.com Kathy Fannon

    We tried for two years (and did all the testing) before I got pregnant for our daughter, and were married almost four years when she was born. Two things still stick in my mind from comments made.

    Specific was my mom, with someone else’s baby in her arms, wasn’t listening to what I was trying to tell her. When I protested, she said, “Have one of these, then I’ll listen to you!” (Still stings, and my daughter is now 24.)

    But the one that ticked me off the most…”God has a plan!” Yeah…..I know.

    Will be praying for you and your wife, Ben. It can be a painful, rough road to walk.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Wow. That’s hurtful, Kathy. Sorry you had to walk through that.

      Totally agree with you on “God has a plan.” Turns out that’s not all too helpful in the moment.

      Thanks for the prayers!

  • Kanaan

    We love you and Laura, Ben. There are so many who have had similar experiences and you would never know it. We did fertility and lost two babies…..its been a long road. God is good through it all though! We heard lots of hurtful things, but I know no one means to hurt. — You guys are strong and will forever be able to relate to a certain crowd and be able to minister to them through your experiences. — Praying for you all!!!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      We love you guys too, Kanaan!

      I never knew this was a part of your story, too.

      I appreciate the encouragement. It means so much. Hope you guys are doing well. Welcome back to the States!

  • http://www.churchthought.com Matt Steen

    Just this week I was in a conversation with someone who asked me to “tell me about your kids.” I can normally play that off pretty well by saying something like “I haven’t met them yet,” or “we’ve got a some time for that,” or whatever. In this conversation, however, my pithy comebacks rang a little more hollow than normal, and the little voice inside my head was far more aggravated than usual… probably because he went on to talk about how great being a parent was, and how much kids will change our lives. He is right, the two children that we lost to miscarriage have significantly changed our lives. In many ways I am grateful for the experiences, in a Romans 8:28 way. But at the same time, the gnawing pain of loss, of want, and the reminder of a dream deferred sneaks up and reminds us of that which we can not yet have.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      I get that completely, Matt. Some times those comments seem to get to me more than other times.

      This is a sanctifying process, for sure.

  • Elizabeth Christmas

    I was 21 when we found out we were pregnant and my family was very excited but several of our friends were not. They weren’t ready to have kids and they pushed their issues with children and body image on to us. It was really hard to be around them because they were so important to us but they were being so mean.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Just be patient with them, Elizabeth. This is a difficult issue, and your pregnancy reminds them of what they cannot yet have.

      It’s not your fault. It’s also not fair, because all you want to do is rejoice over the gift God’s given you. Hopefully this post just helps make you aware of the hurt that many people experience.

      I wanted to write this so that people who don’t struggle with this could get a glimpse into how seemingly innocuous comments can have a big impact in someone else’s journey.

  • Mandy Costello

    I respect and admire your family so much. I imagine it takes apt of courage and stength to share the way you have. It breaks my heart at times as I have watched several close friends and family members walk this hard road. I have struggled on the other end of the spectrum; questioning God why it has been so “easy” for me to have 3 babies?? I’m certainly no more worthy? Not a better mother? It has been a great source of grief and guilt at times.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Don’t let that be a source of grief and guilt, Mandy! Stop that! Rejoice in the gift God’s given you, and love those kids with all you’ve got.

      It’s not a matter of feeling guilty for the children you have, it’s about being sensitive to the pain that some people experience through the questions you ask and the statements you make.

      I have no doubt you’re full of care and love. No doubt at all, Mandy.

  • Mindy M.

    I had a friend (who did not want children) make a flippant comment about her unintended pregnancy & subsequent miscarriage, “Thank goodness I had a miscarriage.” She didn’t know it, but Anthony & I had JUST had a miscarriage & desperately wanted to be pregnant again. That still hurts.

    I have to admit that as a young adult I probably made a few of those comments, but after having a miscarriage myself & having a couple very close friends share their struggles with infertility & the hurtful things people have said to them (like strangers asking if their multiples were conceived “naturally”), I have become a lot more careful about broaching the subject with other women.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Wow. That’s incredibly hurtful, Mindy. Hard to believe that was actually said out loud.

      Thanks for being sensitive with other women…they love you for it. I promise you they do.

  • Jeremy Riggs

    Yeah, we’ve heard those before. Specific to adoption, we also heard things like, “I know lots of people that have gotten pregnant after they adopted.”
    “Do you have any kids of your own?”
    “Why did you adopt foreign kids. Don’t you know there’s lots of kids here that need a home?”
    The list goes on. I think I wrote a post about it once. But you’re right. Most of the time people’s intentions were innocent enough. For the most part we were able to give grace, but every once in a while it was just too much.
    And yes, there’s still pain.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Wow. That’s hurtful, Jeremy. People have seriously asked you those questions?!?

      I wrote this not to make people feel guilty, but to make them aware that intentions don’t necessarily change the way those words make people feel. They’re still hurtful, even if you don’t mean them to be.

      I pray for you guys regularly!

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  • Anonymous

    I had a baby at 16 years old and placed him for adoption. People ask, “Well, why didn’t you just terminate the pregnancy?” Or they say, “Oh, I’m so proud of you. You made the right choice.” “So, how is he?” “You’re too young to have kids.” “Omg, you look so sexy, I can’t believe you had a kid!” And just generally treating it like it’s not a painful issue, like there is no hole left in my heart that I’m still struggling to let Jesus fill is hurtful. It’s not a thing you casually bring up. It’s not necessarily something I’m ready to talk about. Just don’t ask unless I bring it up first. Don’t talk about teen pregnancy like every girl who gets pregnant in high school is a slut, and like it’s something that never happens. It will make girls who have gone through it feel alienated and alone.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Dang. Sorry you’ve had to endure those hurtful things. Thanks for the heads up on not making people feel alienated and alone.

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  • Victoria York

    I desperately wanted another child after I had my son but it never happened. A couple of Christian friends “prophesied” that I was about to be pregnant, blah blah blah… They definitely meant well, but true prophecy and wishful thinking are not the same thing! Thanks for this post.

  • Chet

    Next question. .. what are the 10 things we should say or do if you bring it up?

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Listen. Cry. Pray.

  • Jimmy Muraco

    The worst was my mother-in-law. She told my wife (yes, her own daughter) “I will love you more when you have children. Until then, I want to spend my time with your sister who has two kids.” The second-worst comment was “Infertility is not a medical condition but a curse from God. One or both of you must have done something bad in life to deserve it.” Nice, eh?

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Ugh. Horrible!