#1138: Help shutting down questions about future baby’s paternity.

Dear Captain Awkward,

My best friend (Willow, she/her) and her wife (Tara, she/her) are about to start a family. (I am writing to you at Willow’s request, and she has approved the contents of this letter). They are anticipating some intrusive and inappropriate questions, since this process will involve a sperm donor, and I was hoping you could help with some scripts to shut that down. Both Willow and Tara come from somewhat conservative families, who have not always been 100% supportive of their relationship, and who also tend to trample any boundaries they set. This is on top of the fact that a lot of people, even those motivated by care or innocent curiosity, seem to feel entitled to personal and medical information when a pregnancy is involved. Neither Willow nor Tara is comfortable discussing their process of creating a baby—how often are straight couples asked intimate questions about how their babies were conceived?—with family members, co-workers, acquaintances, etc., no matter how well-meaning the questioner. Having met some of their family members before, I can attest to the fact that “That is a very personal question *awkward silence*” will not work on everybody. Some of them will interpret that as an invitation to justify the question and/or ask it again in a different way. Do you have any ideas for ways to shut down this line of questioning that will make it clear that it is inappropriate without alienating the questioner?

Thank you for your help!


Concerned Friend/Future Cool Aunt (she/her)

Hey Cool Aunt,

You asked: Do you have any ideas for ways to shut down this line of questioning that will make it clear that it is inappropriate “without alienating the questioner?”

And no, I don’t. Because if someone is willing to keep pushing after “whoa, that’s personal!” or “do you ask straight couples where they got their sperm,” there is no secret set of guaranteed gentle-but-firm scripts that I’ve been holding back for a special occasion.

I think at a certain point you gotta either just keep repeating yourself until they drop it, or be prepared to say “Hey, you didn’t get the hint before when we said ‘it’s personal’, so let me be clearer: It’s none of your business and we are never, ever telling you about that. Stop making this so weird!” 

Maybe also try: “I know you are excited and you mean that as a fun, normal question, but it’s okay to just say ‘congratulations’!” Sometimes telling people the response you want gives them a rope to pull themselves out of the Pit of Awkwardness they just started digging for themselves.

And if they get alienated they get alienated – hopefully at that point they leave y’all alone for a while? Tara & Willow have a long history of dealing with conservative family members who don’t really respect boundaries, this is just another step in that dance. I wish there were a single conversation where it all becomes clear and people who don’t respect boundaries learn their lesson once and for all, but, nope. It’s an ongoing thing.

Part of the dance is figuring out when to tell people who aren’t the couple and very close friends/family any information at all. In Tara & Willow’s shoes, I might hold off on giving any info to people I know or suspect will be inappropriate & nosy until there is an actual pregnancy, for example:

Tara & Willow: “Yaaaaay, we’re having a baby!”

Family/Coworker: “But….how?”

Tara & Willow: “I don’t know, Google it! But also, a baby!” 

Family/Coworker: “But did you go to a sperm bank or :waggles eyebrows: you know….”

Tara & Willow: “Ew, why would you ask that? So, back to the baaaaaaaby….” 

Keeping it close to the vest might mean missing out on support and sympathy from people during the process, but if they are worried about intrusive questions, being selective about who is in on the whole “we’re trying” conversation when is a way to delay the inevitable, at least for a while. Like, it’s much harder to be “We’re thinking about starting a family & looking at sperm donors” and then be like “but we will never tell you our secrets about that so don’t ask” (even if that is a perfectly okay boundary to set!), especially with people that you know are likely to be nosy. So think about what people need to know and when they need to know it. I’m betting that nobody’s nosy-ass family changed between now and the last time they had to deal with them.

I hope everything goes as well as it can be and that your friends have very good news to share soon. ❤



271 thoughts on “#1138: Help shutting down questions about future baby’s paternity.

  1. Can Willow and Tara get away with saying, “That’s classified” or the like?

    I have to admit I’m giggling over, “Production made us sign a pretty binding non-disclosure agreement.”

    I’m also thinking that asking, “Why? Are you saying you won’t love this new family member unless they’re produced in a way you approve of?” would be amusing, but I’m sometimes not a nice person.

    1. Your suggestions are probably better than my idea to turn the tables and ask how they make teh babbies: “missionary or cowgirl?”

      I’m hanging on to this post for the next time my MIL makes cringey Facebook posts about me giving her grandbabbies.

        1. I don’t have a lot of privacy requirements, and I usually *will* answer questions like this, with the most uncomfortable answer that’s also true.

          If you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question.

          1. I’m absolutely the same way. And it’s great, because it kind of makes people feel awful. “when are you guys going to have a baby?” is met with “when the drugs that I’m being given to help me conceive start working. But when I roll out my next sexy times schedule for the month, I’ll copy you on it.”

          2. This is one of my favorite strategies, too. If the truth isn’t likely to make the person uncomfortable in my estimation, I fabricate a scenario that I think WILL make zir uncomfortable and go with that. In graphic detail.

          3. I would love it if that strategy would work. One of my dear friends has lived years in a polyamorous triangle and still their relatives ask them very direct and horribly indescreet questions like “How does your sex life work?” My friend tried answering with way too much information and a mirrored question – but this turned out to be very uncomfortable since they also did get the answer and the last thing they needed was a detaild description of Uncle Stephen’s and Aunt Hilda’s sex life and that was way too much information. It also does not help that we live in a culture of honesty so whenever someone asks “How are you?” instead of “Well, how are you?” they get a detailed story of the person’s hemorrhoids and constipation problems.

            I do not know my father – or I do know his name, but that is the extent of it. I am also very blessed: no-one in my family has ever asked anything about him. I also wish my mother would have told me more about him because now I am in a situation where I have hereditary physical health issues not present in my mother’s family and I have no way of contacting my father and asking him. Luckily genetic genealogy has been invented because it has helped me figure things out: now at least I know that part of my ancestry is Japanese, which explains quite a few unusual health related issues like an unusual blood type, unusual anomalies in my molars and dry ear wax. I just wish I would have known sooner so that I would have known the best way to care for my unusual teeth – I mean, unusual here. I wish so much I knew more.

            Sorry, getting off track here. I was wondering whether paxfelis’ suggestion might actually work: “We have signed a contract according to which we are not free to discuss the details of the future baby’s parentage.”

            In here this would actually be simple: “We do not know. Our future child has a possibility to find out when they turn 18.” if donor sperm would be used, or possibly “Probably some handsome redhead in Denmark” since the local sperm banks have bough Danish sperm.

            How much do these relatives actually know about the issue? Could Willow and Tara go with “We do not know.” It is indeed a very boring answer and whether or not it is true, it is none of the business of the nosy relatives. I only hope that the relatives would get bored? Would a helpful relative be able to bring up much juicier gossip when the baby becomes an issue?

            Since I tend to be mischivious I might give each relative a sweet and friendly reply – a different one for each of them, all exactly as untrue. Let them wonder and never figure out the truth.

      1. :O

        When my ex’s mom dropped boulder-sized hints about wanting grandchildren, I glibly told her the story of how, at the airport on the way there, my ex deliberately bought the last pretzel at the stand just because he didn’t want the whiny kid behind him in line to have it.

        Okay, that’s not relevant, but there are all kinds of ways to have fun with people who can’t mind their own business (especially related to relationships and babies), and I love all of them.

      2. I’m laughing at this, because I remember being 13-14 being at friend J’s house, when J’s older brother brought the news that his wife was pregnant with their second child, and that this one, like their first child, was going to be a girl.
        J’s mother offered a cheerful “Congratulations!” but then continued matter-of-factly with a perfectly straight face “You know, if you want to mix it up, maybe you should try the reverse position next time...?”

        I still don’t know what was the funniest, her comment, or the way J was cringingly stunned at her comment. 🙂

        1. As a plant biologist I have trid explaining this to the plants and all the bees, bumblebees and hoverflies doing the pollination – not to mention wind! All of them get this position thing wrong – and then one never knows what to expect. I just have to grow the seeds next year to find out. Science would be so much easier if gusts of wind carrying pollen would approach the plants from the right direction.

    2. .My son was created by surrogacy, and we have friends that used my husband as a sperm donor. In both cases, there was a contract, and to adoption my son we went through the whole formal court process. However, during both pregnancies, we thought it would be the best (before everything was legally set in stone) to say that we couldn’t comment based on the contract. Surrogacy and sperm donation can be in legal gray areas, and they vary from state to state, so this provides a lot of protection, for everyone concerned. And sometimes the state can even step in where it wasn’t needed or desired to put forth its own issues.

      For us, obviously, friends and family were curious. So were coworkers!
      We had the benefit of nearly everyone being happy, but that it is not a given for a situation.

      The best way to handle things is that, First and Foremost, you don’t owe any outsider anything in terms of explanation. If they don’t take “We can’t really talk about it” as a blanket statement, then f–k them.
      The only people that you need to talk with are your SO, your child (when they are old enough), any siblings (as appropriate), your lawyer(s), the sperm donor/surrogate, and their SO. The courts, as needed. No one else.

      Otherwise, tell people that you trust and will be supportive. You can be as clear or opaque as possible.

      Also, if you don’t want to field delicate questions, it is completely and totally okay to lie and obfuscate to intrusive or nasty people. See the above statement: you don’t owe it to people to field upsetting, intrusive, or rude questions about anything, much less intimate parts of your life.

      Basically, I’m a firm believer in that when people tell you significant milestones in their life, the only real answer should be “Congratulations!” (and even if you don’t necessarily feel that way, with a few exceptions).

      “I’m getting married!”: Congratulations!
      “We’re buying the house from the Money Pit!”: Congratulations!
      “We’re having a baby!”: Congratulations!
      “I’m getting divorced!”: I’m sorry and congratulations!

      That sorta thing…

  2. I’m completely with the Captain on this one. Tara and Willow are free and welcome to quit worrying about alienating people who clearly didn’t worry that they might alienate Tara and Willow by pushing past “those specific details are person and we don’t wish to share them.”

    1. Seriously. I wouldn’t want those people around in the first place. It’s natural for people to be curious, but it’s not their business, and if they can’t respect others’ boundaries, they don’t need to be around.

    2. This! Frankly I think Tara and Willow should worry less about alienating boundary-trampling jerks and said jerks should worry more about alienating Willow and Tara and not getting to spend any time with their adorable baby when they arrive.

    3. This. And these are not people who are going to naturally discovery boundaries once the baby is born. If pushing back against mild boundary-stepping NOW alienates then, think of it as a preventive measure.

    1. I love that. Or even “Forgive me for asking–” “No.” If you know you have to ask forgiveness for asking, you probably shouldn’t ask.

    2. I’ve had people ask this kind of thing and only work out half-way through that it’s a really personal question. It’s just genuinely such a new scenario that they ask first and you can see them start to backtrack and apologise before the sentence is even fully out.

      In some ways, that’s harder to answer because the kind of self-awareness creates trust and the first few times I almost felt more bound to answer than with people who are straight-up rude and don’t care. With a bit more experience, I usually handle that one by segueing into something like, “You know, it’s funny, people do feel entitled to ask stuff like that! I think it’s because it’s so unusual. One person even asked us, ~flagrant example~, can you *imagine*?” It works quite well as asserting your boundaries (and warning them off for the next queer parent they encounter!) but in a way that makes them part of “the group that gets why this is personal and shouldn’t be asked” rather than “the group that asks personal things”.

    3. I love this one – and will probably borrow it from now on. Thank you, panache!

      1. It might sound better phrased the other way around – “If you forgive me for not answering, I’ll forgive you for asking.” Drives the point home that asking in the first place was rude. Regardless – cheers, use it freely!

        I get caught off-guard by personal questions and sometimes overshare when put on the spot, then regret it afterwards. This response gives you a graceful way to shut it down completely.

  3. Nothing to add to the Cap’n’s scripts, just loving your choice of pseudonyms. (Unless by some delicious coincidence those are your friends’ actual real names, which would enter new dimensions of coolness….)

    1. 100% agree on the cool alias names. I’m only disappointed she didn’t sign off as Buffy. 🙂

      Also, maybe they can just say ‘a wizard did it’ when asked. And when pressed, they just say ‘wizard.’ with sharp emphasis.

      1. Bonus points if there’s a well known wizard name in their area. “Dr Granger at the fertility clinic wizzarded us up”

        1. I marveled at this, too. ❤ If Tara and Willow will ever get a cat, will they name the cat Miss Kitty Fantastico?

      2. Or if the conservative family are really religious, “God works in mysterious ways…”

  4. Oh man, this is so, so weird and true. My wife and I *still* field these questions regularly, with kids ages 3 and 4. (See also: do they have the same dad? why/why not? if you have another will you use the same donor?) Personally, I’m chatty and don’t mind sharing, so I usually answer Level 1 questions (who carried the baby? do they have the same bio father?) cheerfully and then move on to other kid-related topics. Level 2 questions (but hooooowwwww did you do the actual procedure?) get a friendly “well, that’s personal for most same-sex couples!” + subject change, and Level 3 topics (but aren’t you worried their father will show up and sue for parental rights? do the kids [they’re boys] have any male role models?) get blank stares. My wife, however, is verrrrry private so I think she abruptly changes the topic even for Level 1 inquiries, which works fine for her.

    My personal favorite awkward moment, when I told my (female, if it matters) then-boss that we were expecting: “How did THAT happen?!?” Like, there are a limited number of ways “that” could happen, and are you 100% sure you want to ask for details? I said “oh, the usual way!! We’re very excited,” which worked to trigger a the “congratulations” response that you’d think would be second nature. =)

    1. I also love “the usual way!” I was coming here to suggest “The old-fashioned way!” and then broken record it/ act icreasingly confused by their confusion.

    2. One of my students (university, not primary school!) asked me “How did THAT happen?” when she found out I was pregnant. I’m a lady, and she lives round the corner from me, so she’s seen me with my male partner. I have no idea what she was expecting me to say in response, but she looked a bit disappointed by “Um, the traditional way?” which was the best I could do at the time! Her follow up on seeing the baby was “is it REALLY HARD?”

    3. “How did THAT happen?!?”
      I’d be beyond tempted to say, “No idea! Must be a miracle. We’re taking bets on whether the kid is the Messiah or the Antichrist, if you want in.”

    4. Do you also get the thing where people completely forget that however you got pregnant, or probably wasn’t the usual way? Our daughter has bright red hair, and I ~regularly~ get asked, “is that yours or *partner*’s side of the family?” I usually stare at them for a minute or two and then they go, “oh! Oh yeah, right.”

      (ALSO it’s red hair, it’s recessive, it has to come from both sides, did you not do gcse biology.)

      1. I kind of get that, though, because I’ve done it with me and my wife. “Well, if the future kid gets X from me and Y from her, then. . .” And then I remember that future kid won’t be getting genetic info from both of us. I think it’s just such a common way to think that I still do it too.

        1. Well, genes aren’t everything when it comes to family resemblence. Kids with two moms in my circle often have various similarites with both parents that make it hard to guess the genetic link for people who don’t know – things like mannerisms and ways of speaking, clothing and hair for the older kids too.
          She may have her hair colour genes from only one mom, but she got her habits and facial expressions from both!

          1. That’s great to hear. Thanks for mentioning it! (I’m a cis woman in a queer relationship.) My children have my partner’s genetic material, not mine, but they’re both so young it’s hard to say how that will affect them. I had someone tell me recently that my 3 month old looked like me and my thought was, “Hey, I’ll take it!”

            I grew up mostly with my mom and whatever man she had in her life at the time. It was shockingly delightful when I reconnected with my bio dad and his family and recognized myself in them. I saw him and I have his eyes. Somehow I ended up with his sense of humor. I look nothing like my step-father’s family and that kind of disappointed me, you know? I would go to family things and look nothing like them.

            So I worry what impact that sort of thing might have on my kids, whether or not our household is more stable than the one I grew up in.

          2. Yes, this is absolutely true! Love seeing my partner’s mannerisms in our ridiculous over-dramatic three-year-old.

    5. A friend of mine and her wife have never, ever liked the “So who’s their dad?” question and shut it down HARD. Their sons have no dads, they have two moms, end of story. They also don’t field questions like “Who’s the sperm donor” from strangers, though at some point when I figured out the etymology behind the word “spunkle” that my friend was using, she was happy enough to confirm my suspicion.

      I think there’s a lot of ways to handle the awkward questions, and for my friend and her wife, what seems to have been most helpful has been talking to each other (and other queer parents) about it, find common ground on what kinds of answers they’re willing to give, and to keep a sense of humor as much as they can. The more they can keep a united front, and find the humor in the ridiculousness of the questions, the better.

    6. A colleague of mine (older, male) asked me that question when I told him I was expecting. I deadpanned “Magic. And science,” which was the name of a course offering in our department.

  5. So appreciate the scripts for how to deflect questions when someone keeps pushing. This applies for so many other people too!

  6. Not to be flippant, but I would be tempted to just keep answering “stork!” to any conception questions. The persistent questioner gets stork calls and flapping!

    But seriously, sorry your friends are dealing with this!

    1. I always thought babies were carried by pterodactyls.

      Or the eagles from Lord of the Rings.

        1. Don Whiteside, do you thin that the flying Nazgûls do baby deliveries? I am positive my babies were delivered by an eagle – but one never really knows. What about hippogriffs or pegasi?

    2. Do you know what, upon reflection I think this is the absolutely most perfect response! It’s an obvious deflection but humorous and cute while gently making clear how ludicrously inappropriate the question was. Nothing to take offense at, and no information unwillingly given. Perfect!

      1. And when family says “That’s funny, but you know what I meant.” All you have to say is “I’m going with my original answer to that insanely personal question! Howaboutthatsubjectchange?”

        1. Alternately, you could continue with ridiculous answers when they push. “Oh, I know what you meant. There aren’t storks this far south, so the baby’s probably coming via flamingo.” I love confusing nosy people, though.

      2. Oh believe me, if they’re anything like my mother, they can take offence just at being denied information they believe they’re entitled to, no matter how gentle or humorous the deflection.

    3. Made me giggle! Love the imagery. Like, the more they push, the more stork-like your behavior becomes, as though you’ve concluded they don’t know what a stork is and you have to demonstrate for them: high-stepping through an imaginary pond, darting your beak forward to grab an imaginary fish. “Stork! STORK!” Are storks the ones who do the mating dance? No, that’s cranes. No matter; the interrogators won’t know the difference. Do a mating dance. “Stooooooorrrrrk!!!”

      1. and they do some great dances, too. I use images of cranes for my computer desktop.

        I’ve always liked the answer that is, essentially, “you do realize you’re asking me about my sex life, right?”

        1. I’ve always liked the answer that is, essentially, “you do realize you’re asking me about my sex life, right?”
          Or, alternately, a medical procedure. Like, you also wouldn’t ask me exactly *how* they’re removing my gallbladder, right? (Right? Please tell me people don’t ask that…)

          1. People may not ask for details on gall bladder surgery, but some will ask “did they do keyhole surgery, or did you have to have the larger incision?” unless they’re talking to someone like me, who may volunteer something like “they weren’t sure they could do the keyhole surgery, but fortunately they could. I like modern medicine” without being asked. (Anyone who wants more detail than that will be told to google, not just because it could get gory but because I was unconscious the entire time.)

            If anything, I think there’s less sense of “that’s too private/personal” for details of medical care, if you have already mentioned having had surgery: “you’re asking about my sex life” may deter people who think it’s reasonable to ask even casual acquaintances about their internal organs.

          2. I guess the gallbladder wasn’t such a good example. Fertility treatments seem like they’d belong in the same category of medical procedures as, like, Pap smears and prostate exams and whatnot.

      2. I actually discussed this point with a crane couple this spring. I mean, seriously – or perhas not that seriously. I was rowing with my husband on a river and we encountered a pair of cranes resting on a meadow. I LOVE cranes (okay, it would be easier to list the organisms I do not love) so I asked them out loud: “So, do you deliver babies?” Both of them turned to stare at me. “Krrrr-keee-uuu!” one replied and the other joined in.

        So, does someone know what “Krrrr-keee-uuu!” means?

          1. Ah, so, they just confirmed it. Only storks do baby deliveries, not cranes.

            Still, it was adorable that they actually did resopond to me.

        1. ah, you have talking cranes too! my dad is friends with the local cranes (they’ve brought their babies to our porch before and we can walk right up to them as long as we don’t have the loud dog) and they definitely have a lot to say. they used to do tai chi with my dad at the park, too, but then a child chased one of them with a wiffle bat and they left and haven’t been back, which was sad. (the park does have an otter, though, who occasionally hangs out with a stray cat. it’s very idyllic.)

    4. That was my thought, too – especially after reading somebody upthread saying, “The usual way!” Seems like a natural follow up to that.

    5. I kind of love this, and I’m envisioning it being delivered with wide eyes and a straight face, with Will-Ferrell-in-‘Elf’ levels of naivete. Of course the baby was brought by the stork. How else would it happen?….

      Bonus points if you can keep it going long enough to get your interlocutor to explain the mechanics of sex and human reproduction to you.

      1. I’m just imagining this through to the inevitable conclusion where the mechanics have been explained and the Willow or Tara gets to get all wide-eyed and say, “Woooooow….yeah, not, that’s DEFINITELY not what sex is.”

        I mean, they might not be that kind of person (probably not, from the sound of the letter). But I am and I would *love* to be able to say that.

    6. I’d be tempted to do this or to treat them like a child who just asked me how babies are made. “I don’t know sweetie, why don’t you tell me how YOU think babies are made” Might be entertaining to watch them squirm.
      At my own baby-shower I had a 3 year old explain to me how the whole baby making / delivery process was going to work. I wasn’t even part of the scenario until the part where I had to take my new police motorcycle to the hospital for baby pick up. FYI – not a police officer nor an owner of a motorcycle. LOL!

    7. I like the idea of giving a playful answer in a serious tone and just sticking it. “Oh, we planted a cabbage seed and let it rest under the light of the moon for three weeks and would you know it, [baby] just popped out!” — “We sculpted [baby] out of mud from the garden after that three-day rain we had. Remember that storm?” — “Willow [or Tara] promised a hummingbird witch sugarwater for five years running and in exchange she transformed one of her new hatchlings into [baby]!”

    8. Came here to post basically this. “*quizzical look*. Stork. Same way as everybody.” isn’t confrontational or alienating (irrespective of whether nosy questioners *deserve* to be made uncomfortable, Tara and Willow might not enjoy making them so), and serves as a reminder of the standard social fiction that people don’t *have* sexual or reproductive lives unless they choose to tell you about them.

    9. But is that a European stork or an African stork?

      Also, I’ve been binge watching the Durrells in Corfu, and there’s lots of scenes of Gerald the youngest and precocious animal collector/zoologist doing his impressions of pelicans, rabbits, tigers, and other critters. So now I am envisioning the stork impersonation including the mating dance,,,

  7. You might want to make it a ‘policy’. Like- sorry, we’re keeping that private.
    “But you can tell me..”
    “Nope, sorry, Willow and I are in agreement that we’re not going to talk about that.”
    You can even sound apologetic, ‘cause like, what can you do? That’s the policy.
    You’ll probably get some snark but it cuts down on the arguments.

    1. Eh, sounding apologetic carries an implication that the question is inherently okay, which … it’s not.

      1. There are different types of ‘apologetic’… Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, but most people I know will say sorry in many many situations where it’s clear it’s not an apology per se. It’s just a well-understood ritual of friendliness.

        Like if someone bumps into you and you both say sorry, or if someone is in your way and you both know it’s their fault but you say ‘Sorry, could you move just a bit to the left? Thanks’.

        Or when a child wants something and you say ‘Sorry, no’ and your apologetic shrug is meant to convey sympathy for their frustration, rather than an apology.

        It sort of saves the other person some face, and lets them know that your intent isn’t to be mean.

        Of course if the questions make you really mad then it may not always be the right response.

        1. Also Canadian, fully concur. I know it’s becoming increasingly popular to discourage women from saying “sorry” when there’s no wrong to apologize for, but this gentle expression of regret can be a big part of the “without alienating the questioner” response.

          I find it is also a very valuable tool to indicate there is a problem when I have to repeat myself. When I say “I’m sorry, but no” apologetically the first time, and then follow it up with “I said no” without any apology I am setting a different tone for the conversation with relative ease, and I have had good success flagging people that way.

        2. Agree. In Canada and the UK “sorry” is polite but it is not actually apologetic.

          1. Yep, in Australia it’s not so much an apology as a polite refusal. And if said firmly enough, less a polite refusal and more a ‘hell no, rack off!’.

        3. Yeah, it’s literally the law in Ontario that saying “sorry” isn’t the same as admitting you’re at fault, and can’t be used in court as evidence that you thought you were in the wrong. This seems like something we should feel patriotic about, somehow. https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/09a03

          1. I am Canadian, and I had never heard of this legislation, and it is now my favourite thing on the internet today.

      2. Well, clearly, but she’s asking for scripts that don’t blow up the relationship. Sounding apologetic yet firm can often work- at least in customer service/parenting toddlers.

  8. So, not your situation, but I had my first baby at 40, and parents who had apparently been presuming I was child free to spite them realised it must have been a bit more complicated than that. Suddenly there was an interest in my fertility, and continuing fertility, that I did find intrusive. I don’t know if it helps, but “Ew, I don’t want to talk about reproduction with my parents!” shut down some of the more graphic questions. Unfortunately, although they would have accepted and loved a child of donor DNA on either side, that I could have headed them off before they found out what the genetic connections were. It seems almost more important in our society than knowing the gender at the earliest possible moment. Good luck, and congratulations!

    1. One of my dearest friends is pregnant with her first right now, and when she found out the sex of the baby, she texted us all “So today I found out if I’m having a feminist or a feminist. And it’s a feminist!” Which is the answer I’m providing to everyone in my life who knows her and might have questions.

    2. Yes. I am a young, hetero, pregnant female and get asked crazy invasive questions! It’s surprising and strange. Pregnancy is weird.

      Anyways- not the same as the above situation, I know…

      I’m also embarrassed to think back about when I was a really young adult and a coworker announced her pregnancy and I asked if it was on purpose (uhhh! I’m cringing now). I was just so young and had never heard this news from a peer before and… ya my reaction was really inappropriate. If you have the feeling some of the questions are coming from a more naive, clueless place like that (and you are feeling generous) it would be a kindness to let them know the question is intrusive and an appropriate reaction is ______.

      Congratulations on the pregnancy! A baby is coming. Woohoo!

  9. Last week, as I was walking up the street to my job, I happened to fall in behind a dude who was pulling a small wheeled trunk-like container with “BE A SPERM DONOR” emblazoned on it. Oh! I thought. That’s how it gets to [place where insemination happens]. Hoodathunk! Anyway, you could always say ‘the guy with the small wheeled trunk-like container brought it!’ And then enjoy the befuddled blinking that would be the reply.

    1. My long time friend used to drive a taxi and occasionally she called me just to chat (at that time in my life I was caring for my infant daughter and was happy to talk to another adult). Occasionally she would tell me: “I have a quiet passanger”, which meant that she was driving blood products, organs – or occasionally donated sperm in a special cold container in her taxi, whatever the medical needs happened to be. Apparently this is one way medical tissues are transported here in Scandinavia though I am sure this is not the only option.

  10. Eek. Fingers crossed Willow and Tara’s boundary trampling, somewhat-conservative families will be too scandalized by the thought of having to talk about non-standard procreation that this will somehow be a blissful, questionless time for them.

    LW, you ask “how often are straight couples asked intimate questions about how their babies were conceived?”– disappointingly enough the answer is all the time, holy shit why? (I’m a cis-het woman pregnant with my 2nd child and have been referring to the fetus as “Domingo” due to a series of escalating inappropriate questions my stepmom asked me, that culminated in her deciding my husband and I had sex on a Sunday). So your friends are unfortunately right to be anticipating nosiness of the first order at best. People can’t keep their creepy, invasive questions to themselves when everything appears to have been done The Traditional Way, let alone when there’s something non-traditional about the creation of a child.

    I also think “Science!” is a great response to any and all “…but how?” related nosiness. Regardless of how the sperm is acquired, “science!” is a bland, blanket and sterile acknowledgement that “we know two egg-producing people can’t create a baby.” It invokes images of brightly lit labs, not turkey basters or ::eye waggle:: antics. “What kind of science?” It’s technical and boring, but what’s exciting is BABY! Etc…

    1. Nosy Person: But how…?
      Willow: SCIENCE!
      Tara: She hit me with technology.
      Nosy Person: No, but how exactly…?
      Willow: SCIENCE!
      Tara: it’s poetry in motion
      Willow: Bleep bloop SCIENCE!
      [80s dance party ensues]

      1. I think I would just go to the “She blinded me with Science!” as my go to answer for this question…said in pure Thomas Dolby fashion!

      2. all the stars in the universe for this answer!! ****** Science dance party for the win!

    2. A friend of mine who has born children actually kept count of how many times she was asked if her pregnancy was planned, and the answer was shockingly high (as in, it happened more than once). I was gobsmacked.

      1. I was asked this at work by someone I’m not particularly close to. She works in HR. Of all the people who should know better!

        My answer? “To the minute.” + Big Smile. She didn’t ask for pregnancy details ever again.

      2. I (cis/het woman) was asked this when I was pregnant with my 2nd by a completely random dude in the grocery store checkout. Complete with eyebrow waggle. I was so incredibly skeeved out that I scooped up my 2 year old and abandoned my groceries.

        People absolutely suck when it comes to pregnancy. LW, sincere congratulation to Willow and Tara and it’s so awesome that they have such a supportive cool Aunt around!

        1. Oh, yeah, straight couples are far from immune to the invasive questions. With each of my three pregnancies (all with my husband at 2-3 year intervals), I got nosy comments. Whether they were planned, if I’d needed to do any fertility treatments, was the spacing because I’d stopped nursing…Then the invasive questions about my birth plans kicked in- medicated birth or natural? Was I nursing? Where would the baby sleep when (s)he came home from the hospital? Did I do an amnio to screen for birth defects?

          1. I get totally ‘momma bear’ about people asking BS questions around my pregnant sister (she’s had 4, and is quiverfull so likely more on the way eventually). Our *MOM* is pretty consistently the highest on the list of ‘offensive questions/statements” including while shopping for new maternity clothes, “wow, you have a lot more stretch marks than I did”… Really Mom? Really?

            This is also one of the many (admittedly more minor) reasons why I have no interest in attempting pregnancy, I have a hard time being civil with pushy people as is.

          2. Yeah, this is far from the only or main trepidation I have about ever attempting parenthood and especially pregnancy, but the ‘everyone’s business’ aspect does scare me a lot.

  11. Once a person asks about how the baby was conceived (aka: Willow and Tara’s sex life), all courtesy towards the asker is thrown out the window.

    Especially when the family has proven to be assholes.

  12. I’m really enjoying all the smart and funny answers so far! And —- A Baby!!! YAY!!!!!!!

  13. I would be so tempted to have a menu of silly replies to ‘how did that happen?’ Fairy dust, hole in the time-space continuum, or just nod knowingly and say ‘bitcoin’ and nothing more.

    1. “I swallowed a watermelon seed.”
      “The were having a sale at the cabbage patch so we decided to go ahead and get one now.”

    2. BITCOIN!!! OMG!!! I’m not even pregnant but I’m stealing that for future nosy-ass questions!

    3. Oh I’m so telling my gay friend about the fairy dus answer in case he & his husband decide to procreate!

      Storks, science, a hole in the space-time continuum…the humor in this group is wonderful.

    4. “BITCOIN”

      I am laughing so hard I’m missing Great British Bake Off. Goddamn I am saving that for if hypothetical!baby ever materialises.

    5. Last week, a classmate (who is a woman married to a woman) and I happened to be talking about pregnancy and kids and she was saying if anything, it would have to be her wife who got pregnant but she’d rather adopt.

      Today, in the same class, the professor asked if any of us know about bitcoin and how it works. I had a hard time not laughing about this comment. Watch out, classmate, protect your uterus from unwanted bitcoin!

  14. For this particular situation one idea is to reference the contract: “sorry we can’t tell you anything about the process due to a confidentiality (or nondisclosure) agreement.” Then repeat broken-record style as needed. In some (many) cases this has the advantage of being a true statement and shuts things down more broadly re: the entire topic. Good luck to your friends!

  15. When someone is prying information that I don’t want to give, sometimes it’s easier to respond with an obvious falsehood, and insist on it. In this situation, I’m thinking a stork or immaculate conception (depending on the relatives….).

    1. I think artificial insemination and IVF both count as immaculate conception. The tools and such must all be immaculate and sterilized to the fullest possible extent.

      1. *sporfle*

        “The tools and such must all be immaculate and sterilized to the fullest possible extent” made me VERY grateful I had not taken a large mouthful of tea before reading it!

        I’ve read to this point, and so far I’m missing some fun with Linus as the Prophet of the Great Pumpkin announcing Willow and Tara’s child. Alas, I haven’t the humor-feeling to do this myself…

  16. I like the Miss Manners approach to inappropriate questions: respond with “why do you ask?” and once you hear their answer, feel free to change the subject. For the really hard cases, you’ll need to use a more direct response like the ones suggested here, but “why do you ask?” derails all but the most persistent.

    1. There’s a cartoon where a dude approaches two female-presenting friends and asks them if they’re such close friends that their menstrual cycles have synced.

      The friends look at each other and back at him, and say, “interesting question, Alex. What will you do with that information once you have it?”

      1. In the same spirit, I wonder if a breezy “Oh that’s need-to-know” followed by an immediate subject-change might work. And need to know being defined as restrictively as Willow and Tara want it to be. Can be repeated and followed by “… and you don’t *need* to know” for indelicate people who think they should be on that list and keep asking.

  17. The answer I use for not discussing my disability may work, too:

    “Oh, it’s boring.”
    “No, no, I’m SUPER INTERESTED!!!”
    “… Are you? But, no. I mean, the subject bores ME.”

  18. I want to reiterate the advice that 99% of people in Tara and Willow’s life do not need to know that they are planning on starting a family. They should choose a handful of trustworthy people that they can talk about things with, commiserate if things don’t go as planned/take longer etc. and everyone else should get a group text/email when Baby is firmly established and they are comfortable sharing the impending arrival (I think sending a group-wide message may cut down on some of the in the moment inappropriate questions and garner more “congratulations!”).
    I had 2 friends who separately had a lot of trouble conceiving (multiple rounds of IVF, miscarriages) and it was a very hard time for them. They absolutely only talked about it with chosen people. The job of the rest of us was to treat them normally, and send congrats and well wishes when the babies finally did come (which they did!). Tara and Willow can proactively manage this pregnancy in the way that makes them most comfortable.

    1. I don’t think the question is “what do we tell people while we’re trying” so much as … if it’s successful, there are pretty obvious clues, like A Baby, that there’s a baby. That is, they’re anticipating future intrusions, not current ones.

  19. Be careful with the “how did you conceive YOUR kids?” response, not because it isn’t a valid point (it is), but because the Venn Diagrams of people who who would ask such a personal in the first place and acquantances who would have no problem at regaling with you tales of busted rubbers, IVF treatments, or the long weekend in Miami where they were stuck inside the whole time because of a hurricane definitely has some overlap.

      1. I’d be tempted to look scandalized and say, “I didn’t think you would actually ANSWER that intrusive question!”

  20. LW1+friends, all the internet hugs to you. Thank goodness for our friends when my wife was expecting. Some normally pleasant people get so unpleasantly intense.

    “We prayed a lot, we are so blessed” *cue big smile* +random baby related question worked surprisingly well with both atheist and church going acquaintances.
    To me the worst were the “but you’re not reaaaally the mom then” (I wasn’t the one pregnant) crowd. I admit I snapped a couple of times and said “I know right? I plan on asking the baby to call me Dad.”
    With my dear mom, I shut her up telling her “not real” grandmas would probably not get to spend time with Kiddo. She dialed down the “concern” after that.

    1. Fuuuck. Why are people.

      I hate the “real” language in regards to family relationships. I usually snap “Well, I/they aren’t fucking imaginary, are we?”

      1. Saaaaaame. My “real” dad is the one who was there, who knows when my birthday is and calls me on it even though he moved many timezones away and it’s a pain to get our schedules to sync up. My male biological parent only contributed some biological material, which in no way makes him my parent.

    2. When my partner was pregnant, I got “your [non-bio] kid won’t be my relative” from two of my close relatives. One has since apologized and made some effort to be decent to my kid. I’m no longer speaking to the other.

      Our kids say “I love you” to us and that’s the seal of approval that matters. ❤

  21. I’d be tempted to suggest they just explain how there was this ball of ancient mystical energy and the munks of the order or Dagon transformed it into a baby, Willow and Taras baby. But that might be to long an explanation and still lead to more questions.

    I’m always surprised how wierd people get around pregnancies, touching the belly without asking or asking about super personal things. Like normal ruled didn’t aply for some reason.

    Yay baby!

  22. I’d be tempted to go “Well, you see, when a Mommy and a Mommy love each other very, very much….” and then just sort of trail away. Or, alternatively, “Don’t you even know where babies come from? Gosh, I’ll have to get you a book for your next birthday!” (And then, yes, get them a book. I’m not very nice. This may explain why I have few IRL friends.)

    1. I have been known to say, “when a mummy and a mummy love each other very much, they give a shitload of money to a doctor, and…”

        1. I was so nervous about telling my dad that I was pregnant, and then he was just like, “BABIES! SCIENCE BABIES! Did I ever tell you that the original IVF research was done in some labs up the corridor from my lab during my postdoc and I carried out some of the assays for them? SCIENCE BABIES! 😀 😀 😀 :D”

  23. Lesbian mom here. From close family, the underlying question may be “is there a dad in the picture who will be part of our family?” It might be worth coming up with a really big-picture answer for that, like “The biological father isn’t going to be a dad; Tara and I are going to be Kidlet’s parents. Trust us, we have all the legal stuff that we need in place.”

    For fending off questions, “I won’t get into the details” sometimes works, followed by a shift to something that you’re willing to talk about. “Oh, I won’t get into the details, but pregnancy sure is awesome/awful!” “Oh, I won’t get into the details, but we’re so excited about wallpapering the baby’s room!” “Oh, I won’t get into the details, but what do you think about names/what baby stuff do you think is actually useful?” (Asking for advice about something has a really good chance of successfully changing the subject. You don’t have to take the advice, just listen to it.)

    (I don’t recommend “Oh, I won’t get into the details, but what was having a baby like for you?” as a subject change, because then you’ll get obstetrical/new-parent horror stories. But anything else baby-related is a good bet.)

    1. I was just thinking about the fact that, in some circumstances I probably would ask the question (AFTER the congratulations, of course!) – not in a “gory details pls” kind of way, but because I would want to know if the expecting couple were going to have a relationship in some way with the “dad”, and if there was another parent/involved person that we would be taking into account.

      I don’t think I’d ask acquaintances, but close friends or family, yes. It’s the same circle with whom I’d probably discuss other fertility/pregnancy/OMG NEWBORN POOP, RIGHT?!? stuff with (at varying levels of intimacy), no matter if it was a traditionally-conceived or special-effort pregnancy, if that makes sense.

      I also hope that if it was hinted that the parents-to-be didn’t want to discuss it I’d back off, but if I had an otherwise good and open relationship I think I’d be a bit upset and offended if the first answer I got was a blunt WALLS UP TSK TSK HOW RUDE FOR ASKING reply.

      For instance, if my question was genuinely along the lines of “Is the dad or donor going to be in the picture?” the Captain’s suggestion of “Whoa, that’s personal!” would make me feel embarrassed, and the “do you ask straight couples where they got their sperm?” ditto – especially since that assumes that I’m crudely asking about bodily fluids, rather than asking about a possible social relationship.

      I like Amtelope’s wording – I can’t imagine feeling put-off by it, it opens the way for more conversation, and THEN if someone kept pushing you could bring out the blunter replies.

      1. I think that there’s plenty of room to decide ahead of time that relatives who have been shitty in the past get the short answers. Nosy questions feel different when they come from concerned friends (actual friends) than when they come from disapproving relations, and it’s actually possible to tell.

        And if I were actually a friend, I’d be okay with getting an “Ugh, we’re sick of talking about that process” as an answer, and pivot.

      2. This is one where asking what you actually care about might be better: “is the biological father going to be in the picture?” or “is there going to be a third parent?” can be answered without discussing whether the baby was brought by the stork, found under a cabbage, or conceived via donor sperm or through PIV sex. (There might be three or more parents–people who are jointly raising a child–regardless of the mechanics of conception.)

      3. I’m not sure that if I upset and offend friends by continuing to ask questions they’ve deflected, that they have a duty to respond to me in a way that does not upset or offend me.

      4. But surely if they want you to know that, they’ll tell you, so if they haven’t or you haven’t already been introduced to the guy, then the answer is obviously no? I’d feel like I’d just told you my super cool news and you just wanted to know about a guy you’ve never met and I might not have either.

      5. The point about the potential social/familial relationship is well taken, and for any potential questioners reading, I second Vicki’s suggestion of asking directly about that rather than any “how?” questions.

        If you’re asked a “how?” question, it may help to be aware of that potential angle and see if that interpretation fits with what you know about the person, zir relationship to you, etc. I think the humorous, obvious lie response can still work well in that case, because it implies a boundary in a friendly, playful manner that people will hopefully interpret as less rude than a more blunt refusal, and it gives the questioner an opportunity to pivot to a less invasive social relationship question if that was the intent.

  24. I feel like if people asked me “But how” in that situation I would say, “Does it matter?”

  25. What about trying to distract people with other baby things people have endless opinions about?

    Person: So how did you conceive the baby? Sperm donor? Friend? Is the donor anonymous?
    Willow and Tara: We prefer not to discuss the details of that and would rather everyone focused on getting things ready for the baby. Say, would you have any name suggestions/product recommendations/where to buy baby clothes/etc?
    Person: *will hopefully blather on how Christopher is THE perfect name for a boy, know where to get a good stroller*

    1. Cloth, or disposable diapers?

      (The answer, btw, is probably both but definitely it’s a good idea to have cloth on hand. They are SO USEFUL in terms of spit-up, quick lie-down mats, kicked over drinks…)

  26. The least confrontational approach I’ve ever managed for overly personal questions is to act like they just didn’t know it was too personal, e.g., ‘Oh, that’s very personal, we’re not sharing that information, actually.’ This can even be in a pleasant tone of voice, with a polite shrug.

    For some people if you think there’s a chance of their listening (and if it lines up with what you actually think) you can point out that it’s not just personal to you and your partner, but to the child, and that they won’t be old enough to decide what they want to share about their life history for many many years.

  27. I love all the potential answers people are coming up with. I suspect LW’s friends’ biggest problem isn’t going to be the initial response, though–it’s likely to be how to interact with family members who feel entitled to this information and may be angry at their refusal to give it out, no matter how nicely they refuse.

    Willow and Tara, please know that it’s OK for your extended family to not get what they want. It’s OK for you to say no and stick with it. It’s OK for you to outright tell them to stop asking about this. If they’re reacting in a way that is impacting you negatively (e.g. yelling, laying on a major guilt trip, pestering you over and over again even though you’ve told them no a dozen times in the last half hour alone, etc.), it’s OK for you to exit the conversation–change the subject, and if that doesn’t get them to drop it, hang up the phone or physically get up and leave (depending on whether you’re face-to-face or not).

    If any of that feels rude or awkward or likely to cause drama….it’s not because of you. It’s because they’re asking a rude, awkward, drama-ridden question. You’re just refusing to carry the entire weight of their rudeness for them, and are instead opting to pass a little of it back their way.

    1. This. Consider dealing with annoying pregnancy-related boundary-crossing as practice for dealing with the inevitable baby-related boundary-crossing later.

  28. When people asked what my baby was going to be named, I told them the name would be Cantaloupe. Completely straight face, absolutely no giggling. I suggest that Tara and Willow do something similar (and they shouldn’t have to).

    Ugly Person “Soooo… do you know anything about the sperm donor?”
    Tara “yeah, his name, wanna know it?”
    UP “yeah, absolutely!!”
    Tara “Mr. N. Bidnesz. First name Nunya, second name Bidnesz”

    And then just walk away. I’m sorry people are so gross and awkward and that there really is no updated dialogue around babies. So many questions are SO inappropriate, but just because I am declaring that I had sex doesn’t mean you get to know all the intimate details.

    Congratulations to your friends.

  29. “We used the Force. Our midichlorians are off the chart! We’re certain that little Darth Babyous is going to make a fine Jedi or Sith, but we don’t care which as long as they’re healthy.”

    1. Petition to change all “”gender reveal”” (I hate that name AAAAA) to Force Alignment reveal parties. Don’t even need to change the colour of the merch, just direct it to lightsaber colour instead of gendered sales.

      1. The gender reveal parties make me so mad. I love crafts. I love making surprises. I love weird theme parties. I don’t want to treat gender as the defining characteristic of a person, tiny or otherwise. On the other hand, I’m not going to know if they’re Sith or Jedi or Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw until they’re bigger. (I mean, hopefully Jedi!)

        I just want a harmless but significant reveal party!

        1. A good friend of mine is pregnant, and we’ve dreamed of doing a “gender reveal” party where instead of pink or blue m&ms in a cake or whatever, we drop a banner that reads “gender is a social construct!” It’s an important thing to reveal 😉

          1. I have long dreamed of doing this for myself when I (someday, hopefully) get pregnant. But then I’d have to actually throw a gender-reveal party, which even though it would be a worthy prank still seems like an unnecessary amount of planning-while-preggo.

          2. Now, this is a wonderful idea! What about rainbow coloured m&ms? I did not even know that this was a thing, but then again, my kids are teenagers.

          1. That’s true. Since I’d already crossed “gender reveal” off my list of possible parties, I didn’t think to include it on my list of “things I don’t know to reveal”

      2. “It’s a sith!!!” Sobbing and hugging and happy laughing ensue as red balloons rise out of the box and a Darth Maul cake is presented to the happy couple.

  30. “how often are straight couples asked intimate questions about how their babies were conceived?”

    This gave me a chuckle because, while I know it’s definitely not the norm, my husband and I, who are a straight cis couple, actually did get this question the first time I got pregnant!

    For context, we didn’t start trying until I was in my late 30s, and when I got pregnant the first time, an Amish neighbor who hadn’t been able to have any kids up to that point (which is a Very Big Deal in our local Amish community) asked my husband if we had done “anything special” to get pregnant. (I’m guessing he thought maybe we had been having fertility issues since I was so “old”, i.e., 38, the first time I got pregnant.) My poor husband was left responding “Just the usual stuff.” 😂

    1. I understand this very well. When I was pregnant with my daughter there was only one couple who asked us about her conception – and exactly for the same reason as this Amish neighbor. They were very close friends so in their case we did tell everything we could, which, unfortunately was also “Just the usual.” I still wish I could have been of more help.

  31. Omg. This will become relevant sometime next year for us, so I’m appreciating this thread. I really thing non-sequiturs are the only thing that will help for the general public. One of my favorites, if I can do it with the right tone, is to say “oh, no thank you” like I misheard and thought the importunate asker was offering me a cookie or something. And then a super fast topic change. Most people, even tactless people, will go with the flow.

    It also may be good idea to have a canned speech ready for people who get to know the basic facts but don’t get to give opinions. My family (my wife’s in-laws) know that we want to have kids, and I’m going to be frank, they can be intrusive and their (unsolicited! super unsolicited!) brainstorming about where to possibly find a spermatazoa was, um, completely appalling. So we already had to have “We’ve decided to go with a reproductive health service. We think that that will be best for us” talks ALREADY, followed by lots of “We talked about it and it’s just what we wanted”. (Yes, we are semi-low contact with my folks – they’re not bad people, they just lead a completely boundary-free conversational lifestyle).

    This IS something that people get super weird about – I know someone who freaked out that a mutual acquaintance was KEEPING THE BABY’S FATHER A SECRET when it was obviously a married lesbian couple who had a baby. It doesn’t have a father! They literally ordered sperm off the internet! It’s fine! Calm down!

    But it is also a weird split, isn’t it – even for straight couples where it’s theoretically straightforward where all the materials came from, there’s a weird split where everyone switches from “sex is a dirty secret that we will never talk about!” to “pregnant ladies are public property! You had sex on president’s day, didn’t you!”

    1. purps, YAY! A baby will become relevant! ❤ Even though we are just internet strangers to each other I am still very happy for you – and for Willow and Tara. Best of luck to you – and may you find the best answers for nosy questions.

  32. “If you don’t know how babies are made, I’m not going to explain it to you.”


    “We’re probably going to have it hatched.”

      1. We hear there’s this guy Horton who’ll sit on the egg and keep it warm for us. Elephants being faithful, one hundred percent, we took him up on it.

    1. I mean, if you whip out a piece of paper and start carefully drawing an ovum and some sperm, that can work. Depending on your sense of humour and just how done with it all that day.

  33. How about a dramatic “It ….. was MAGICK!!!!!” with an elaborate flourish, a la John Lovitz, Master Thespian of SNL fame?

  34. OR:
    Nosy person: why girl get pregnet. How babby made?
    Tara or Willow: I … just don’t know! It’s a mystery!

  35. Family/Coworker: “But did you go to a sperm bank or :waggles eyebrows: you know….”

    This reply can be done totally deadpan (for a “you gross for asking” effect) or an overly saccharine tone, “It came from a healthy male, and that’s really all that matters!”

  36. “Whole Foods has free-range organic sperm now. It’s kind of a crapshoot, but we like surprises.”

          1. Choosing between Whole Foods artisanal sperm and Etsy is a hard choise. But what about second hand sperm? Now, that would be ecological.

  37. The inappropriate question most tied to my parenting is the fact that I’m a young mom. I usually say, “an accident with a contraceptive and a time machine”.

    /I have yet to encounter the situation a Douglas Adams quote won’t handle

      1. I also love this, and it would work with certain of my relatives to derail the “how babby” question to a rant about time travel and how much they don’t understand things like the aforementioned predestination paradox.

  38. Willow and Tara are making the mistake all new/prospective parents make, which is focusing way too much on the pregnancy and birth. The real question is, how are they going to set good boundaries for the next 20 years with their kid’s intrusive, homophobic (and no doubt sexist, etc) grandparents? GET A LAWYER AND SOME AIRTIGHT DOCUMENTS. And start talking now (preferably with an experienced, LGBT-friendly family therapist) about those boundaries. There is a lot to look forward to—good luck!

    1. Sorry, I mean parents who are making their families through pregnancy, not all new/prospective parents. Adoptive parents are real parents.

    2. It’s not a “mistake.” They are, in fact, practicing the boundary-setting that you recommend, and looking for some guidance. Whatever skills they develop now, during the pregnancy, will transfer when the baby is born.

      1. Hmm, good point. Personally, I think “we used a sperm donor from a sperm bank and we will both be the moms” (or whatever) is a perfectly good answer. If the grandparents are going to hang out with these kids, they should probably learn the correct words, including “LGBT family,” whatever the two parents will be called, and “sperm donor” (or they will say stuff like “I wonder if you look like your dad”—yes, I have been there).

  39. I don’t have any advice, I just wanna say I love the pseudonyms. This allows me to construct a headcanon that erases the shitty way Whedon did them.
    “Willow & Tara got married & had a BABY!!SQUEEEEE”
    And the baby has a wonderful concerned auntie on top of that? SCORE!

    1. Have legit been scrolling through these comments waiting to see if someone would acknowledge the reference. I was beginning to lose hope. 10/10

  40. How about something like “well it’s really going to be part of kidlet’s life story even more than ours. So we’ve decided to wait & let them decide what to say about it” maybe as a follow up if one of the funny answers doesn’t work?

    1. Just to be clear – I mean phrasing the answer to be clear that not giving an answer is about the privacy of the child not just the parents & that the parents-to-be are already acting as parents in protecting their child.

      (& maybe for bonus points ask the questioner to let others know that this is their decision – in effect getting the family gossip onside by giving them the decision to gossip about rather than the information the gossip initially asked for)

  41. Depending on how much they are willing to rock the boat, they could try: “I don’t want to talk about procedures that involve my/my partner’s private parts. I’m much more curious about *your* last prostate exam/pap smear.”

  42. If they are conservative AND religious they can come up with a religiously based non-explanation that can both praise god and not get into details.

    I know this can be a double edge sword given a lot of people are mad about the union of 2 non-cis people. However you can also take this opportunity to kill them with kindness. Kids are a blessing and with the right kind of people you could redirect the talk to “What a miracle life truly is, we are so blessed. It doesn’t matter how it happened, just that it is happening”.

    I speak this coming from a semi-religious and conservative family in Mexico, and I think once you bring god into the conversation, it is code for: “it doesn’t matter how because god makes no mistakes and questioning this would be super rude against him, and we don’t want that, do we?”


    I also like the answer mentioned above: Science!

    1. “Honestly? We have no idea. We talked to the Bishop and he’s contacted the Vatican, but you know how slow they can be to reply. Meanwhile, Tara has to sleep in swim trunks or the glow keeps us both awake at night.”

      I’m sorry, I found out our office is getting Windows 10 and it’s been kind of a bad day.

    2. Just a note. Nowhere does it say that they aren’t cis. (Of course neither does it say that they aren’t, so yeah I’m making some assumptions). Gender & sexuality are not the same thing. “Cis” just means that you agree with the gender assignment you were given at birth, it has nothing to do with your orientation/preference.

      TL/DR: Cis people can be Queer & Queer people can be cis.

    3. I love this advice. It’s pretty hard for such people who make themselves out and our aay “yeah, God, whatever, what I really wanted to know was if you used a donor”.

  43. “How often are straight couples asked intimate questions about how their babies were conceived?”

    I feel like pointing out that the answer is “a lot more than you realize.” Ditto for “why don’t you have kids, a 2nd, 3rd, etc.” and “Have you tried…” This isn’t a single sex couple problem but a “some people have no boundaries” problem where Miss Manners response of “Why do you ask?” is the best acceptable response.

    1. Let’s be fair, while all pregnant/attempting to be pregnant/never wanting to be pregnant/never able to be pregnant women are subject to special baby-monitoring scrutiny as befits Daring To Present Female In Public, there’s an extra level of homophobia inherent in the prying into a lesbian couple’s reproductive plans. This is both a “some people have no boundaries” problem and a “homophobic relatives will be icky” problem, and while some of the same tactics will work for both, let’s not erase that side of the story.

      Straight couples don’t tend to get asked “Where’d your precious bodily fluids come from?” as soon as a pregnancy is in the offering, even if they decided to go for donors or IVF. Having to be prepared to answer that question is kind of a pain, and I wish the LW’s friends the best of it.

    2. I am the proud parent of the single bio kid my hetero partnership will ever have or ever want. We planned it, we had it, we are done. But the number of people who tell us we make beautiful babies, and then stare expectantly, as if we are magically supposed to produce more on the spot for their aesthetic viewing pleasure — or worse the ones who are explicitly disappointed that we only will have the one — gah!
      This includes my in-laws who were “disappointed” that we went through with the vasectomy after the kidlet was born *as we had told them we were going to do*, as if the magic of babby! should have changed our long-term plans . . . . . ?

  44. Aauugh. “Why do you ask” sounds like it would make people realize they’re being nosy and back-off, but in my experience “why do you ask” brings on an answer, and never an answer you want. “Well, my cousin’s teacher was one of THOSE sorts of lesbians, and she said … and then the baby was born with all these things wrong with it and went on to become a serial killer …” Or they go into details about non p-i-v insemination and what’s wrong with it. Or they straightforwardly tell you that they’re asking because they want to know and besides have advice and opinions. This is followed by more wheedling for information.

    Be prepared for that last. One tactic boundaryless people take when stymied for information is to jump to incorrect conclusions with the manipulative intention that you’ll rush in to correct them. This is so natural to them that they don’t know they’re being manipulative. They just do it. When it doesn’t work in person, they may resort to spreading incorrect rumors so you’ll rush in to correct the wrong assumptions of other people.

    Really, I think not giving an answer is best, and I love the “science” suggestion. I also like recommending a book. “Oh, do you not know where babies come from” or “Oh, are you interested in where babies come from, I know a good book on the subject.” Then you recommend anything at all including a children’s book on puberty, a polemic on religious belief, or maybe your favorite book on lateral gene transfer, anything with a scientific sounding title and a lot of pages. It’s not like they’re going to read it anyway.

    1. Oooh, excellent point! I also suggest this couple really think about what they will do if weird rumors circulate in their families based on their unwillingness to answer. Over time, I’ve decided that having weird rumors about me out there is fine because the family members who spread them are also usually too passive-aggressive to actually confront me with them, which means they’re really not my problem if you think about it. But it may help this couple to consider that possibility so they don’t immediately jump into defensive mode and end up disclosing more than they want to. If you can make up your mind that it’s OK if other people think something inaccurate about you, then it removes a lot of their power over you.

    2. “Why do you ask” sounds like it would make people realize they’re being nosy and back-off, but in my experience “why do you ask” brings on an answer, and never an answer you want.

      Yes, they often do give dreadful answers. The next step is you acknowledge the answer and change the subject. e.g.

      “How did you get pregnant?”

      “Why do you ask?”

      “I knew a lesbian who used a literal turkey baster and she got a yeast infection. That’s why I asked. So how did you get pregnant?”

      “Interesting. My father wants to do a shower, but she’s not fond of my partner’s mother. How do you advise us to handle that?”

      Note that you get to ignore the rude question.

  45. I might just know people with a high bluntness-tolerance, but I find the only real way to shut down nosy relatives is to say (with a smile), “Oh, I’m not going to talk about that.” You can even affect a regretful tone. But a matter-of-fact “I’m not going to tell you that” or “I don’t want to talk about that” followed by a subject change does wonders.

    The best part is it’s self-contained. So you can go, “I’m not going to talk about that” and they can say “But WHY???” and you can say, “Because I don’t want to talk about that.” And if they go, “But I’m just curious/trying to be supportive/showing an interest/intrusiveness is my love language” you can say, “Oh, I know, but I really don’t want to talk about it. What are your opinions on baby-related subject change, though?”

    If you can maintain a slight smile and breezily change the subject to something else, people *usually* take the cue. I can’t say it works on everyone, but it does end the line of inquiry. And then maybe they go complain about you to your mother, and your mother comes back and tells you you’ve been very rude, and you say, “Oh, I didn’t know; I just didn’t want to talk about that,” and then you shrug and after a while it all blows over. That’s just my experience, though.

  46. “These days there are doctors for everything conceivable problem humans have.”

  47. As the lesbian mom of a donor-conceived child, I don’t totally agree with the Captain’s approach here! My concern with shutting everything down by saying it’s too “personal” or “we are never, ever telling you” is twofold: first, I worry that it could create a sense of shame around the parentage of the eventual child. When adults clam up about something, kids pick up on it, and the last thing anyone wants is for a kid to feel like their origins are some big secret they need to hide. My second worry is that that might not actually be true! Ultimately this information belongs to the kid, not the parents (unless the parents are planning on also shutting down the KID’S questions on their origin, which I would sincerely hope they don’t.) In my experience kids who have no shame about their origins, especially young kids, can be pretty enthusiastic about matter-of-factly telling anyone and everyone where they came from, so these parents should be prepared for the possibility that the kid themselves doesn’t think this information is especially personal and is not going to cooperate with the parents’ plan to never, ever tell.

    So practical advice: either give the information you’re willing to give and stonewall after that (i.e., “we conceived with a donor”), or say “Gosh, that’s kidlet’s information to share, so you’ll have to wait and ask them!”

    1. Good point. I actually saw a talk given by a donor conceived woman, and she felt a great sense of shame, to the point where she was in tears during the talk, that her (cis-het) parents refused to acknowledge she was a sperm donor baby. Hence I decided that it wasn’t going to be a taboo topic that my daughter will be a sperm donor baby.

    2. That’s a good point, and of course it is also possible to be open in some ways while keeping other stuff private. I know a friend’s child was a donor embryo, but I don’t know any more than that and it isn’t my business. Choosing to say “Yes, Pumpkin was donor conceived” doesn’t mean that the line can’t be drawn at that point.

    3. As a person who does not really know her father I found Molly’s points very illuminating. When my mother was alive I could never ask her anything about my father, it seemed to be a big, shameful secret – and I would actually need information on him and his side of family due to hereditary health reasons.

      So, please do not do what my mother did and never tell the child. In the place of reliable information I have had to resort to pricey gene tests which do not even provide that much useful information. In my case there are also questions about race and possible relations to Sámi people. I am white passing but with physical and health related features which are very rare here in Scandinavia but apparently common in Japan. I wish I would have known when I was a teenager how to best take care of my dental hygiene because the practices usual in here do not work for me. I do not mean that there is anything wrong with my teeth and gums, they are just, well, different. Now I am left wondering who I even am. I was severely bullied in school because I “looked different” and I began thinking that I was bullied because I did not know my father.

      So, if there are any issues related to race, identity or health, please take care of it that the child is properly informed, that they know that their origins are not some hidious secret. It might also be beneficial if there were other children with similar origins in their life so that the child would not have to feel different from everyone else

      1. Right there with you. Contemplating genetic testing for similar reasons. Sigh. My mom flat out stated last year that we are never having that conversation. I’m middle-aged now, and getting that information from science seems more and more important.

      2. I think you have brought up a really important point- the ultimately important conversation isn’t what to say to to a rude question, it’s the ongoing dialogue between parent and child. As the parent of a biracial child born through ART, I feel like it is critical that all the adults in her life remember that she has the right to as much information as is possible, as well as parents who can separate any issues they have surrounding her conception from her.

        I’ll be honest, I think it is inevitable that my daughter will feel different from others…. she is biracial and as a preschooler already knows that she is different from many of the people in our community. Her “origin” story is substantially different from virtually 99.9 percent of her peers. While I can’t change that, my hope is that despite those facts, she will have enough honesty, support and acceptance from her family to keep those differences from feeling like alienation.

        1. I do not ring like a bell, that is very well put in words – and also my thoughts exactly. When I was conceived in the 1970’s my mother was a feminist of that era and she wanted to show (to the world, I am not sure) that she did not need a man. In hindsight to me it feels like she completely missed the point. By erasing all the information concerning my father she just proved that it would have been useful.

          Your daughter sounds so lovely, please pass a Jedi hug to her, if you want. My daughter’s oldest friends are a biracial girl, a boy whose parents are immigrants from Asia and a boy adopted from Africa and I love them all so much. When we got to know them my daughter had just started kindergarten and I had been worried sick that she might have trouble finding friends because of her visual impairments. These children – now teenagers – proved me wrong. I believe we were lucky; in that kindergarten the origins of all the children whose parents wanted to share the information were openly presented to the children by their parents. The mother of the adopted boy had a presentation of his country of origin and their journey together ever since they became a family; a mother whose parents had arrived to our country as refugees prepared food traditional to her culture for all the children… In the end they managed to create an environment where it was completely natural to the children that all the people are different. I personally warmly support openness in the important relationships (which nosy relatives are usually not).

          I love your thoughts about what is important and I completely agree: a balance needs to be found so that the future child will not think that their conception is somehow shameful – but how does that relate to the original question? What would be the best thing to say to nosy relatives (though none of this is really their business) so that when meeting those relatives in the future the child would not get information which would be harmful? Would the best answer be to tell them something positive, like “The child’s father is a world famous inventor/brilliant doctor/environmentalist who has dedicated their life to saving manatees” no matter whether or not that would be true?

          I wish I had other kind of advice than “do not do what my mother did”.

          I wish everyone here all the luck in the world! ❤ Yay, babies! Yay, science!

  48. I’m a cis woman, and my wife is a trans woman. When we were still considering me giving birth, we had that whole extra layer of people wanting to know a trans woman’s surgical status to worry about. Hell, just talking about thinking about it with my mother, she attempted delicately ask if my wife would be providing genetic material. I ended up going with, “Um, not really an option,” and let her draw her own conclusions. (For the record, there are definitely reasons a trans woman who has not had bottom surgery would not have the option, including really not wanting to do that. So it may imply a surgical status to the uninformed, but it’s actually pretty evasive.)

    As soon as that happened, I knew we needed to be thinking about this exact issue. We definitely did want to imply a donor, or at least that my wife was not contributing genetics, but definitely did not want to answer questions about known or unknown, as both were options.

    Some options I considered included (and it’s been a few years, so this list is not exhaustive):
    “Donor number 8675309.” (with the number sung to make the point)
    “I’m a witch. I used magic.”
    “I’m a witch. I’m going to wait until one of the neighbors wants to eat the greens from my garden, and then demand their firstborn. I’m afraid the baby may end up named Chard, though.”
    For the phrasing “Where will it come from?” “From my curly parsley patch.” (A Victorian euphemism for a vulva.)
    “I’m planning on looking under cabbage leaves in the garden.”
    And, most simply, “I’m not going to answer that,” repeated as often as necessary.

    I also planned to have tshirts made for myself. One for the baby shower and family gatherings that said “Nunya Bizniz” to point at, and a few more in different colors for being out later in the pregnancy that said, “No you may not touch my belly unless you want broken fingers.”

    I’m still sad sometimes that giving birth is not really an option for me anymore (age plus health problems). But I do NOT miss the notion of having to deal with intrusive questions.

  49. When it comes to answering questions you don’t want to answer, there’s only really one way to do it: answer only the question you want to answer. Politicians do this one all the time – just listen to them when they’re being interviewed. So, trot out your set of pre-determined answers to questions you’re willing to answer, preface them with “I’m glad you asked that question,” and do your best impersonation of your least (or for even better results, their least) favourite politician.

    Alternatively, as suggested elsewhere, go back to storks, cabbage patches, birds and bees, and so on. Also, as someone on the autism spectrum (who can bore for her nation at Olympic level) might I raise a positive word here about the joys of going into deep, picky and utterly unnecessary detail about minor issues – such as the advantages of appropriate soil development, or having the correct sort of shovel or spade for cabbage cultivation, etc. Bore them enough and they’ll stop asking you questions for fear you might answer them.

  50. A friend of mine answered all intrusive questions about the sperm donor for her and her wife’s baby as if it was Elvis. “He’s from Mississippi. Dark hair, brown eyes. He’s very musical.” The fact that Elvis had been dead for 25 years at that point just made it even better.

  51. Close friends of mine had babies this same way. One couple went with the information overkill method. They got down and dirty with medical information, medical terms, minute details of every medical appointment. When the person who asked would say something like, “geez, I didn’t need to know all that” their responses were always, “well, you asked!”

    Another friend of mine – same situation, liked to say “in the back of a Volkswagen.” Because everything about that is ridiculous and there’s nowhere to go with it.

  52. I can’t speak for Willow and Tara’s family and social circle, but being about to give birth to a sperm donor baby myself, the overwhelming majority of people just don’t care, or if they do care, it’s more curiosity as to the whole process, rather than wanting to intrude. Eg ‘How does the whole ‘sperm donor thing work? Does the baby get to find out who he is? What do you know about him?’ I’m happy to answer these questions, but in my case, the majority of these were asked in good faith, by close family and good friends, as they were simply not familiar with the process, and they were curious as to how things would look for my daughter. Anyone who is asking in good faith would probably be fine with a ‘I’d rather not talk about that thanks’, and a change of conversation. As the captain says, anyone who isn’t asking in good faith doesn’t deserve anything polite.

    I just announced the news like I would any other piece of exciting news, and because I’m single, I knew the inevitable question would be ‘who’s the father?’, so I shut that down by briefly mentioning ‘I did ivf/sperm donor’, and moved right along. Since I was clear with how I was presenting the news, everyone responded in kind, with a couple of exceptions, who knew I was trying to get pregnant, and shut up once there was an actual baby on the way. I was pleasantly surprised by the reactions of my otherwise conservative parents. Minor acquaintances who didn’t get the news this way were just told ‘I’m having a baby in October, yay!’, and they too responded in kind. A couple of people asked ‘…. how?’, and didn’t really ask beyond that. Eg, my neighbour noted she hadn’t seen anyone new visiting me lately, because she was curious if there were a secret new partner in the equation.

    Like I said, I can’t speak for their family and friends, but my experience was to just take the tone you wanted them to emulate, and they would follow the social cues like most decent people.

    Best wishes for their hopefully soon to be baby!

  53. They could always say “That’s on a need-to-know basis, and quite frankly, you don’t need to know.”

  54. Yeeekh. The only appropriate question to ask, and only in a setting where the questioner is reasonably expected to acknowledge all parents (such as establishing emergency contacts/after-school pick-up lists/financial responsibility), is, “Is the father involved?” And the only appropriate response to “No” is a polite acknowledgement of that “No.”

    Otherwise, LW, feel free to be as rude as you like, because all crotch questions deserve rude answers! Anybody who doesn’t like you anymore because you wouldn’t be nice about their crotch questions didn’t actually like you in the first place.

    1. I’d add that if you’re getting “Is the father involved?” as a question in the settings mentioned above, it may be worth pushing back about the wording of forms/required questions, because that’s really not how schools or organizations should be asking for information. It’s often worth advocating for a shift to “Who are Kid’s emergency contacts?” (followed by accepting whoever’s on the list, and not asking about hypothetical other people), “Who is authorized to pick up Kid after school?” (ditto), “Does Kid live with a parent or parents? Please have each parent in the household fill out this required information” (for financial aid purposes), etc. Inclusive language helps not just kids of queer parents, but kids with other kinds of family structures that aren’t traditional nuclear families.

  55. You know it seems like all interviewees nowadays say, “That’s a great question” at some point in a cheerful, welcoming tone, and then either take a deep breath to think about the answer or veer off into the topic they plan to discuss.

    I wonder how far they’d get if they just said, “That’s a rude question, but what I do want to talk about is how expensive baby clothes are. I know this kid is just going to keep changing sizes every two weeks for 6 months, and I kind of just want to wrap them in large squares of fabric instead of bothering with actual clothes. I guess I’ll have to practice my wrapping techniques.”

    I mean, they’d have to practice it so they could say “That’s a rude question” in the exact same way people say, “That’s a great question” and use their own infant related musings for the hard subject change, but it both includes the rebuke and gives everyone a chance to just move on.

  56. I kinda want to hold a dance-off between Team Stork and Team (Blinded Me with) Science! 😊

  57. Another evasive phrasing, for anyone who asks “How was baby conceived?” or “How did Tara get pregnant?” is the accurate-but-unhelpful adverb, followed by a change of subject: “How was the baby conceived?” “Very well, thanks. What do you think of Murgatroyd as a name?” “Thoughtfully,” “happily,” or “deliberately” might also work there.

    This comes to mind because of Convallaria majalis’s comment about her friends being asked intrusive questions about their sex life, which reminded me of the person who asked me “How do your relationships work?” to which my immediate answer was “very well, thanks.” (That unpremeditated remark gave me the choice of changing the subject or inviting my friend to be more specific about what she wanted to know; LW’s friends would definitely want to use “very well, thanks” as a segue to any of the vaguely baby-related subjects that other people have suggested.)

  58. Sometimes I really really wish the English language shared that Romanian expression that translates literally as “And why does the concern f*** you”?

    1. You could learn and memorize the relevant bible passage: “An angel of the LORD came down until me and said do not be afraid, for you are blessed among women…”

      (Or however that goes, I’m just making it up)

      1. Frighteningly, I think you got that pretty close: King James says “Luke 1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.” and also “Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

        (In case you ever want to be able to pull up bible quotes in a hurry, BibleGateway lets you choose your preferred translation)

  59. Do you not want them to *know*, or do you not want to *have the conversation*?

    In cases where you don’t want to have the conversation but you don’t object if people know, an option is to authorize a trustworthy person at a crucial nexus in the gossip network to disclose the information if asked, with the caveat “But you’re not supposed to know, so don’t let on to them that you know about it.”

    Kind of the converse of this option: if the person closest to you in the family (who people are most likely to press for information) is onside, have them act shocked that someone would even ask them. “I have no idea how they conceived their child! Why would I even ask them such a thing?”

  60. The simplest answer is just to channel Jeff Goldblum and keep insisting that LIFE FINDS A WAY….

  61. Until this letter, it never occurred to me to wonder. Not sure why but I know several gay couples who had kids, male and female couples and I just assume sperm donor (don’t care about origin) for one and surrogate for other. I mean, it’s weird folks want to know details. It’s gross like asking about someone’s sex life! Could you just say ‘gross, really?!?’ A lot? Their relatives are creepers. And a long silence isn’t the worst thing

    1. Very personal, maybe, but hopefully not gross… That’s kind of sad to me. Thinking of your parents having sex is gross because they’re your parents (and because children find sex weird because they’re not ready for it themselves). Not because sex is actually ‘gross’. And neither are any of the other ways of having a baby.

      I think it’s perfectly natural and great to be curious about different ways of having babies… It can be fascinating and beautiful.

      The problem is asking people very personal questions about something that’s private to them, that they haven’t chosen to start a conversation on themselves.

      Not the curiosity itself. Googling, reading articles about it, etc are all great ways to educate oneself without invading anyone’s privacy.

      1. The ‘gross’ isn’t the fantastic creation of a human, in whatever form that takes. I find zero about that gross. It’s fantastic. What i find gross is the boundary violation. They’re asking about something personal and deeply private, that doesn’t specifically involve sex (maybe) but invokes the imagery, hence ‘gross, ewwww!’. If you read what i actually wrote ‘it’s gross like ASKING about someone’s sex life’. And i’m Sorry but yeah, asking about that is, to me, a gross boundary violation. It’s got little or less to do with homosexual conception, but the point is, it doesn’t matter, it ain’t our biz.

  62. When I get awkward questions about my visible impairment, I look confused and say “er…sorry but how is that anything to do with you?”

    Nearly always they backtrack and apologise. If they don’t, then you have to say “my private life is none of your business!” which is awkward, but you’re just throwing the awkward they raised back on them.

    Go for it, Willow and Tara – and good luck making a baby!

  63. I understand completely the idea of a snappy comeback that shuts down uncomfortable questions. When our surrogate was pregnant, there were definitely some people who I shut down hard with snark. However, if we are talking about family members who very well may around for a long time, that has a real potential to backfire.

    My daughter wasn’t even two weeks old when I started talking to her about how she came into the world. This wasn’t because I thought she would somehow remember the conversation, it was to start a lifelong conversation about identity. Donor and ART conceived children need to feel that questions about their “origin story” are absolutely okay to ask and that whatever feelings they might have about it are okay. Period. Full stop.

    The problem with the snarky comment as I see it, is twofold. First, some of my dysfunctional family would take that as permission to “joke” about the topic. Those jokes would vary from mildly ridiculous to verbally abusive, so while that might not be an issue for Tara and Willow it is something to consider.

    My bigger concern is that children frequently take their cues about important issues from their parents. While I don’t think rando stranger deserves every detail about how my twins came into the world, and there are some questions that are so rude the best answer I can give is a cold stare and a “wow.” (Questions that get this response “How much did they cost? Where is the ‘real’ Mom?).

    What worked well for us was to be proactive about these conversations. We sat relatives down, told them the outline of our plan, and asked them if they had questions. Some of those questions were intrusive (No shit, one of my aunts asked if ‘babies from jacking off are as healthy as other babies. I will admit that I paused for a full five minutes before I answered that semen can fertilize eggs and make healthy babies regardless of how the sperm leaves the penis.). Some of them reflected genuine concern. There were some uncomfortable conversations, but I felt then and I still feel today that I would rather have many many uncomfortable conversations with other adults in order to do everything I can to make sure that my kids don’t have process that baggage. We did get a lot of “concerns” about our decision. I just told them I appreciated that they cared about us but didn’t engage in “what if” games. We ended every conversation with a variation of “We know that you love us and you will love our children, and I know we can count on you to help us do what’s best for Theoretical Baby”.

    My daughter is almost four. She will regularly tell people that in order to make a baby you need a working uterus, eggs, sperm, and a very stubborn heart. Some people have all those things with two parents and some parents need others to help them. She knows that K shared her eggs, S shared her uterus, Daddy gave sperm and Mommy had the very stubborn heart.

  64. My go-to response to intrusive questions is “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

  65. I am really looking forward to reading all these comments at a later date and getting some solidarity and more scripts myself, but while comments are still open: I’ve had a lot of luck lately with a brief pause, a hard look, then: “Oh, doctors were involved” or “At the hospital” and a subject change to other kid-related thing (or possibly the ice storm that happened while we were at the hospital after kid was born). Well-meaning people sometimes get flustered. If my kid isn’t with me, I let them. If my kid is, then I say, “Oh, that’s OK!” and reissue the subject change. Since it was true for us that doctors/hospital were involved with both the conception and the delivery, I like that this blurs the lines of what we’re even talking about (especially for little pitchers with big ears).

    I was pretty open/oversharing with folks during the whole pregnancy and tiny infant time, ’cause that’s me (I think my wife was more private), and got some really horrifying comments via this route (though at least then I knew who not to trust in the family and coworkers scene with personal stuff forevermore, before the kid was there to be listening in). But I have been dialing it waaaaaay back ever since we progressed to very verbal toddler, ’cause the kid’s conception is also the kid’s business, you know? So, maybe not an appropriate playdate topic!

    Fistbump to Willow and Tara – this is such an exciting and scary and wonderful journey, but they’ve got this. (Also, find out if they have the Mommy, Mama, and Me board book by Leslea Newman. If they don’t, that might make a great baby shower present someday. I wept sentimental tears over that book in the nursery before the baby came, and it has been very popular with the wee one, too. Oh, and Everywhere Babies might be another good baby-shower title.)

    1. After reading comments above: just to clarify, we do talk about How You Came Into the World with the kid. Just not on playdates so far. I’m wrestling a bit with how much social smoothing I want to do in front of the kid generally (apparently my female socialization automatically kicks in more when I’m out and about in the world as A Mother?) but so far on this topic, Make This Conversation Go Away Now has usually been winning out over Pushing Back on Other People’s Entitlement. Hopefully in a few more years I’ll be able to get some guidance from the kid on how they’d like this to be handled.

      I wish I had better scripts for shutting down nosy family, since we pretty much just gave our relatives huge infodumps. Which may have been useful, since now they aren’t curious anymore and the topic was kind of played out by the time the kid became verbal? But I would add, that in my experience, if the family is not brought sharply into line by the prospect of a new adorable baby and don’t start listening well and apologzing to the mothers who will be the gatekeepers of all hte adorableness, then it might be just as well to alienate them as soon as possible, and get it over with. For us, anyway, the people who maybe dropped a brick or two but basically behaved well during the pregnancy continued to behave well afterwards, and people who behaved badly just got worse later on. (We ditched them and kept the baby, which was a great trade – the baby is so much better than any number of badly-behaved relatives!)

  66. Go with blunt. When I got pregnat over a year after getting married “How’d that happen?” My response – “So you’re asking if husband and I are fucking like bunnies and or misusing birth control? That’s not really any of your business” Their response. Stunned silence.

    I’d go with – “We’re having a baby and really exited about.” But how?! Then I’d be tempted to say that when two people really love each other, it sometimes makes a baby. Or “We signed a non-disclosure agreement, but we’re having a baby and really excited about it.”

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