Are you pregnant? The Response of a Childless Woman…

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of a woman wiht a quetion mark in front of her face & another with an exclamation point on "Are you pregnant? The Response of a Childless Woman," on Not So Mommy..., an infertility & childless blog
SENSITIVE POST WITH WOBBLE WARNING:  As the title suggests, we are talking about one of the dreaded questions…  Are you pregnant?  I speak candidly about my recent response to this.  And I share an image of my pregnant-looking endo belly.

Recently, I was flying back from Oklahoma.  My Grammy passed away on October 18th, so I made an unexpected visit to attend her memorial service.  At the airport, I was selected for “random screening.”  Ugh.  An older woman came over and explained that she would be rubbing the back of her hands across my stomach and around my hips.  After rubbing over my belly twice, she questioned, “Are you pregnant?!”  To this, I emphatically stated, “No.”  My head was swirling.  I once again said, “No.”  And as I shook my head, I expounded…  “I am childless.  I can’t have kids.”  As she told me I was free to go, she put a kind hand on my arm and told me to have a good day.

Reaction #1: Irritation…

As I walked away from security and towards my gate, I was a bit irritated.  You see, I have spent the past 10 weeks diligently watching what I eat—specifically carbs.  Though I am often described as “thin” by others and told I have “nothing to worry about,” carbs really inflame my endo belly.  I was becoming uncomfortable, so I knew it was time to get serious about my diet.  Over the past couple of months, I have lost approximately 13 pounds and one pant size.  My stomach is flatter than it has been in years.  And I was (well, am) feeling so much better, so much more confident.  So, the “are you pregnant” question really irked me.

Reaction #2:  Grief…

Once I shook that off, realizing that I will never have a completely flat belly…  (Haven’t since I started menstruating in middle school…)  I thought of her kind hand and soft “have a good day.”  Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized she was empathizing…  Saddened about my loss, my childless life.

Reaction #3:  More Irritation with a bit of Anger…

And then, I shook my head and became a bit irritated again because my life isn’t sad.  Just because I’m childless does not mean I need to be pitied.

Oh my gosh.  I am still grieving the passing of my Nana.  Then, my Grammy passes away and another layer of grief is added.  And now, I’m dealing with a misunderstanding about being pregnant because of my endo belly.  I hate my endo belly.

Honestly, it’s not just endo belly.  I’m also battling a hormonal, postmenopausal belly.  Yes, though I’m only 44-years-young, I’ve already gone through menopause.  Did you know… Only 5% of women go through menopause before the age of 45.  Only 1% go through menopause before age 40.

Some Final Thoughts on “Are you pregnant?”

After processing irritation, a brief moment of grief, more irritation, and even a bit of anger, here’s where I am…

It’s okay that this sweet TSA agent asked, “Are you pregnant?”  I mean, I’m technically young enough.  And my belly does mimic that of a woman in her first trimester.


It’s also okay that I spoke my truth and told her that I’m childless.Photo of endo belly on "Are you pregnant? The Response of a Childless Woman," on Not So Mommy..., an infertility & childless blog

I wish I would have let her know that I’ve grieved and I’m really okay.  My life is pretty darn great, actually.  But in that moment, I just couldn’t.  I wanted out of there.  As quickly as possible.

I do hope I enlightened her about the fact that not every woman can get pregnant.  That it is a very personal question and you really do have to be careful about making assumptions…

I really do love you, fabulous ones.  And I’m so grateful that I can talk with you about the moments that cause a wobble…

Next week, I’m going to talk about another conversation I had recently.  One that clearly shows that childless grief is disenfranchised grief.  One that shows we must have the hard conversations if anything is ever to change…

Did something resonate, fabulous one?  Tell us about it in the comments…

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Featured Photo: Created by me, using Canva

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May November 12, 2021 - 11:53 pm

Sorry to hear you have lost a precious one & I hope you have happy memories to treasure. It’s sad that you had this experience but it’s a blessing that you have now processed your feelings around it because next time you will manage it the way you would like to. You were particularly vulnerable to this trigger because for your grieving state for your loved one & of course, grief for a loved one triggers the grief we had for the loss of the dream of biological children, the failed fertility cycles, the end of fertile eras as the emotions are the same; loss, sadness, despair. After my miscarriage, a friend said I looked like I’d given birth to two kids. It was a cruel comment to make. It’s very traumatic at times to recall.

Brandi Lytle November 15, 2021 - 10:22 am

May, I am so sorry for your loss. And I am sorry that you had to deal with such an insensitive and ignorant comment. I can imagine the intense pain that caused. Sending you loads of hugs…

Mali November 8, 2021 - 11:05 pm

I don’t think it was okay that she asked that question at all! It was completely unnecessary, unless she was running you through an x-ray machine! Or that she rubbed your belly twice. (I’ve been patted down at many airports internationally – though not the US I will admit – and have NEVER had my belly rubbed once, let alone twice.) I wonder if she does that and asks that to overweight women? Women who might have just had a miscarriage or stillbirth? There are so many different scenarios when that question can hurt, and is invasive.

I would also like to think that her kind hand and “have a good day” was more of an apology than pity. But I suspect I might be wrong. Grrr.

Brandi Lytle November 9, 2021 - 2:28 pm

You know, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Which is why I initially stated in my blog that it was “okay” for her to ask this question. You are right, however, Mali. There are so many stomachs that could mimic a pregnant belly. And that stomach might belong to someone who just miscarried or who just gave birth to a baby sleeping… So, truly, asking a complete stranger if she is pregnant really is invasive.

As for her kind hand and “have a good day…” I truly think it was more of an “I’m sorry you are childless.” While part of me appreciates the empathy, the other part is irked that she believes my life to be sad… Childlessness is so misunderstood.

And as for the rubbing… I’ve been pulled aside twice for “random screening.” Both times, the TSA agent used her hand to rub across my body–this time my stomach (five to seven times total). The time before, it was my thighs. It seems that it’s standard protocol here in the US. It’s definitely more invasive than a pat. I don’t like it, but you aren’t given much of a choice.

As always, thank you for reading and giving your perspective, Mali. You always make me think. And I truly appreciate that. You really are fabulous!

Sherry Stout November 8, 2021 - 4:04 pm

I know she did not intend to hurt, but the question really did not need to be asked… sorry for the jab of hurt, grief and anger.❤💚💜

Brandi Lytle November 9, 2021 - 2:22 pm

Thank you…


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