5 Questions You Should Never Ask Intended Parents

These days, an increasing number of couples are dealing with infertility and a world of alternative baby options is opening up. Around the global, advanced fertility science like IUI (intrauterine insemination), IVF (in vitro fertilization), ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) and surrogacy are helping couples build families. Even adoption is becoming a reasonably viable option. Unfortunately for the rest of population who are fortunate enough to have a family the natural way, this infertility journey is often a black hole that they do not understand and, understandably, very curious about.

Whether it is your family member, close or distance relative, friend, colleague or mere acquaintance, curiosity can kill the cat. Know that if a couple is seeking or have sought alternatives in fertility (these couples are called intended parents), they are guaranteed to have been through years of emotional, physical and psychological pain and trauma. They have spent many desperate countless nights reading, researching and looking for answers. Unless they are seeking your advice, this baby announcement whatever it is, is their chosen path. You can safely assume that they have weighed all their options and picked the best one they can handle and accept. For most intended parents, by the time they announce the news of their pregnancy or expectant baby, they are well-committed into the journey and appreciate a ‘I’m here to listen‘ kind of support.

Before we belt out a slew of seemingly innocent questions, hold back and exercise restraint because questions of this nature can almost always be received very differently. For some, these questions come across insensitive and hurtful as it makes the intended parents recall deep-seeded emotional pain and struggle. For others, it simply may not be the right time divulging in personal details.

Unless the intended parent feels safe, comfortable and ready to volunteer information with you, there are 5 rude, tactless and shocking questions you should NEVER ask.

Question #1: How much?

It sounds totally offensive doesn’t it? Well, you will be amazed just how fast people spit this out as their first question. When intended parents open up about their infertility journey and announce they are finally having a baby via alternative means, this question is guaranteed. How does how much have anything to do with the news and happiness of actually expecting a baby? Would it be helpful to you if you got an exact figure of $500,000 or $50,000 or $5,000 or even free? If the answer is no difference, then what is the point of asking. Do you get asked how much your baby cost? Common sense will have you know its not going to be chump change. Unless the intended parents have asked to borrow your money or you have serious plans on becoming an intended parent yourself, please do not ask this question. Drop it and be happy for the intended parents instead.

Question #2: Is it your egg and your husband’s sperm?

For intended parents undergoing ivf and/or surrogacy, this is one question I cannot understand but is guaranteed the follow-up to the first question. Even worse when distant relatives (whom you hardly see once every few years and wouldn’t normally care to know you) feel a privileged right to ask. Well, of course it’s your baby! Whether it is naturally harvested or donor, the point is there is a baby. Is a yes answer more acceptable? Or, a no answer mean the baby is less your baby? I fail to see how this question matters in the bigger picture. Let’s flip the table around – if you were questioned about your child’s genetic origins for whatever reason (let’s face it, there are many biological kids who look nothing like neither of their parents while others are exact carbon copies of one parent and nothing like the other), wouldn’t it sound ridiculous and a tad offensive? This is a good time to practice “think before speak” to avoid looking like a donkey’s ass.

Question #3: From where?

Here is a throwback question: is the birthplace or adoption country really that important or relevant to you? I can understand if family or friends are concerned about legal documentation and sorts, but unless they are lawyers who can give practical and helpful advice, there is not much point to this question. Sometimes intended parents may not get to pick the baby’s country or nationality of choice. It is what is given, available and works. Ever heard someone say “This baby found us instead“? This type of answer is extremely profound and requires the person asking to be well-versed in the infertility Universe themselves. When to comes to adoption, country of origin and race may play a bigger part in the intended parents decision. I get it. But unless the intended parents have volunteered the information or if you have interest in adopting a baby as well (in which case, there are other ways to ask the same question), best to leave this question alone.

Question #4: Who is carrying your baby? Can she be trusted?

This is one of the most asked questions for intended parents going through surrogacy. While the underlying nature of this question is one of sincere concern, it seems tactless. Surrogacy is a highly structured program where surrogate mothers – also known as carriers – are routinely screened and monitored by fertility doctors and clinics. Contrary to what most people think, not any body can be a surrogate mother. They need to have pass through comprehensive and stringent personal and medical screening to be registered with a fertility agency or clinic before being matched to a couple. And yes, there is an element of trust required, but to me, asking this question is like asking your dentist if he or she passed dental school. A better way is to rephrase the question to address the concern could be ‘have you met the surrogate?’ and ‘what is your impression of her?‘.

Questions #5: Is it legal?

Unless the intended parents have a history of partaking in illegal activities and questionable vices, this is an inappropriate question to ask. Why? Because if it wasn’t legal, they would not tell you anyways. Most countries have strict laws and national interests governing against human trafficking and child protection. Did you know that 80 out of 196 countries in the world have signed a global treaty called Hague Adoption Convention? It is an international convention regulating and dealing with international adoption, child laundering and child trafficking in an effort to protect those from corruption, abuse and exploitation. 

Most people think having a baby through alternate means is purely a matter of resources. Those who have been through it will tell you that adopting a baby or engaging a surrogate is actually quite difficult on all fronts. No wonder many intended parents give up before even trying!

My advice is if you have received news about an unconventional pregnancy and wildly curious about the journey that you cannot contain yourself from asking more questions, find an appropriate time to do so. Ask if the intended parents would be comfortable to share more details with you. Put yourself in their shoes and know what you are asking and its significance (to you). Understand that this is a personal journey, that at some point has consumed lives, coloured with extreme emotions and rides a delicate line of having one look like a god or a lunatic. Approach with maturity, tact and respect; or simply just share in their joy and happiness.

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