How To Respond When Someone Says They Don't Have Kids: Medical Edition

Infertile Phoenix wrote recently about an experience at her mammogram that included a lovely response to the "no" when asked "do you have kids?"  It was refreshing to have someone say "I'm sorry" and end it there. In that case, the medical professional said she also didn't have kids, which was an additional bonus. It's lovely when you're not a total outlier. 

It reminded me that although unfortunately, I've had multiple experiences with medical professionals lately, they have all been positive on the no-kids front. 

Colonoscopy Nurse

When I got my colonoscopy last month, the office was in the same complex as the primary fertility clinic we spent time at to no avail. It was around back of it (ba dum-bump) and I could see it from the parking lot. It came up when they absolutely could not get my IV in a vein easily, and I said, "it's probably all the time I spent at Strong Fertility getting poked, my veins haven't really recovered from that." She said, "Oh, how long were you there?" and when I answered she said, "Did it work?" and I said "No." And steeled myself for a litany of things I could "still" do or should have done. 

But it didn't come! She just said, "oh, I'm really sorry." And I said, "Thank you, it was really awful when we were going through that but we have a beautiful life now." AND THAT WAS IT. There was no invasive magnifying glass into my personal life or choices. There was no overselling of having children in the first place. The subject got changed and we talked about teaching instead. It was glorious. 

X-Ray Technician at Urgent Care

When I left school to go to Urgent Care because my knee blew up, they did an x-ray. And you could have blown me over with a feather because THEY NEVER ASKED ME IF I WAS OR COULD BE PREGNANT. Before concerns about that come up, here's what happened: 

Bryce had met me there and was in the exam room, so as they got me on the x-ray table, the technician said, "Is that your husband?" and I said "Sure is!" She said, "he is very nice, do you have kids?" 

"No, that didn't work out for us." 

She looked at my chart before starting the x-ray and said, "You are not too old...maybe..." and I said "I don't have a uterus," and she said, "oh, okay." And then, she launched into a personal story.

"Oh, that happened to my sister! She got married at 35 and then found out she had the endometriosis, and went through the IVF but then was told she would never have a pregnancy. I was very sad for her, but she seemed like she just went in a different direction and she is very happy, so I am very happy." 

This led to a rare and wonderful conversation about how IVF fails ALL THE TIME but if we don't talk about it nobody knows and just sees the stories where it does work out, and clinics are certainly not going to highlight failures. That more people are talking about it and making it clearer that IVF sure does fail and you can end up without kids AND have a happy life. She told me about another person she knew who doesn't have kids and tried IVF. IT WAS SO REFRESHING! She ended by saying, "Well, he takes care of you and you take care of him, it's good you have a happy life." Amen. 

Not once did she ask me if I adopted or why I didn't. And she didn't make me feel like I was a sad sap. And, she made the inference that I'm not pregnant and didn't have to ask me explicitly! 

Orthopedic Visit

This is less a story about handling it well, and more about NOT ASKING AT ALL. When dealing with my knee, the aspiration, the cortisone shot, the fitting for a new jointed brace, and discussions about what I can do from a non-surgical standpoint at this time to mitigate the INSANE AMOUNT OF ARTHRITIS I have in that knee (pretty much bone-on-bone), no one asked me about kids at all. You know why? IT WASN'T RELEVANT. No one asked if I had them, there was no need to go into my medical history. I never even had to think about it. 

I do think one reason is because all of the appointments (minus colonoscopy) were through the same hospital system, and they have all my records there. Like, why ask me to fill out my long and sordid history if you don't look at it? It seemed like they actually did in all these appointments. Also, interestingly, the orthopedic appointment was with a younger doctor, and I feel like (generalizing of course) younger people are far less likely to ask about kids in part because they are generationally less likely to have them. 

So what do these experiences all have in common? 

  • No one pried into my personal business. If it came up, it was because I brought it up. 
  • No one offered me pity. 
  • No one offered me "solutions," they accepted my reality.
  • No one responded in judgment or examined my choices.
  • When it wasn't relevant, no one asked. 

I wish all medical appointments were like these. I am increasingly appreciative of when I don't have lay out all my trauma, or feel judged, or have to explain why I didn't do this or that, or... it's assumed that I have kids. That used to happen a few years ago, where the assumption was that I was a certain age and married and so doctors would be like, "oh, you're running after your kids, that's why!" or "you grind your teeth like all mamas do!" Ugh. Glad that's not a thing anymore. 

I hope this is a trend, and people are realizing that a) not everyone has kids, b) not everyone wants to talk about why or how, c) we don't want your pity or suggestions, and d) it's not necessary to ask in every context. 


  1. I love that you experienced this 3 times (amid your recent healthopallooza). I noticed, perhaps like you, that gradually I aged out of judgy-feeling comments about my family building. I think it's because both I got wiser and somehow so did they. Weird, but I'll take it.

    Hope you are feeling better and that your knee is going to get some relief.

  2. Ugh, I can't believe doctors said those things to you. (I mean, I believe you, but arrgh!)
    So nice to have sensible conversations - or none at all - wtih health professionals. My lowest ebb was when I was in hospital with my second ectopic/suspected trophoblastic cancer, I was sent for an x-ray by the gynae ward, and they asked if it was possible I was pregnant. Good grief! I was annoyed at the ward, AND the technician. Pointing out that yes, I was pregnant, but no, the pregnancy wasn't viable hence the X-ray. Didn't even get an "oops" or "I'm sorry." Sigh.

  3. That last part: yes. May it indeed be a trend.

  4. Whoa!! I sure hope it's a trend too! :)