Around age 5, I decided I wanted to have a kid. A bold move, sure, but my ability to take care of my sister when she was sick, coupled with the intoxicating new baby smell my little brother emitted had convinced me: I got this. How hard could it be, right? I can handle poop and puke, that seemed like basically all there was to it.

Fast-forward 25 years to a time when that overly-confident kindergartener is a grown-ass human woman with a job, surrounded by people actually having kids, despite having none of her own. I now answer the “Are you planning on having kids?” question with vagaries. I should’ve formulated a stock response by now but I mostly make jokes about it—”It sounds like a pretty big deal, you know, to make another person. What am I? A scientist?”—my way of dealing with how awkward the question makes me.

What made it worse was that I was convinced there was something wrong with me for being uncomfortable with it in the first place. I’d certainly asked the same of other people without giving it much thought. No need for me to get all high and mighty. People are just curious.

That said, this past week, a woman I met responded with incredulity when I told her how often I get asked if children are in my future. Our exchange helped me sort through what I think about the question—one which is asked often and rarely handled well by the asker or the asked. To my mind, it assumes too much. It assumes that the person you’re asking wants to have children, when perhaps they consciously chose a different lifestyle for a myriad of private reasons. They may have spent years coming to this conclusion. Maybe they just don’t want to share this with you.

It also assumes that the person you’re asking is able to have children, when maybe something medical prevents them from doing so. It’s possible that person and their partner have been trying for years without success, or maybe they’ve miscarried in the past. I can’t imagine how painful it must be for someone who’s experienced this to be asked about their baby plans.

I’m so grateful for the conversation I had with this woman since these were things I don’t often consider. I’m equally thankful that this conversation prompted another one with my unborn-child-who-is-still-just-an-idea-but-whom-I-speak-to-in-my-mind-sometimes. It was short and sweet and went something like this: 

Hey there, little idea. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately and when you might come and who you might be. But today I’d like to let you know who you will not be. You will not be the answer to a void I feel in my life. That’s way too much pressure to put on you. You will not be a last-ditch effort to fix my marriage, should things there suddenly go sour. That’s up to your Dad and I and no one else. You will not be another notch on my belt. You will not be a decision I make because I feel like I’m supposed to, given my age and marital status. You are not a house, a car, or a leather couch. But I can promise you, if and when you do make an appearance, no one will be able to pry you away from me, and not just ’cause of your new baby smell.