Infertility affects 1 in 6 couples. That’s a lot of people! That means that someone in your family, or circle of friends, or one of your colleagues is affected by infertility. That means someone you know has been poked and prodded, experienced the devastation of negative pregnancy tests every month, cries when they hear yet another pregnancy announcement, likely deals with depression and anxiety, copes with daily emotional triggers everywhere and all the time and lives through a grief that not many can understand. Every. Single. Day.
1 in 6.
Most suffer in silence because infertility comes with a lot of pain (and shame) and it’s just easier not to talk about it. Most struggle in silence because they know people don’t get it and they’ve heard one too many ridiculous suggestions about how they can get pregnant, like maybe they should just relax. Maybe they’ve been told that they’ll get pregnant eventually, so they should stop worrying, just be positive and it will happen. What you don’t know is that person literally does not ovulate. Dude, you cannot get pregnant if you don’t ovulate. So no amount of yoga or positive thinking will help that. After hearing unsolicited advice time after time, it’s easier to just shut up, smile and nod. Trust me because I’ve been there. I am 1 in 6.
So let’s (those with infertility) speak up here, and discuss 10 things NOT to say to someone suffering through Infertility. By the way, these are all things that have actually been said to me and others. So here we go!
1. You should put your name on an adoption list! I have a friend whose sister’s friend’s cousin couldn’t have kids. Tried for seven years, put their name on an adoption list and, BAM! TWINS! She’s super happy now.
Ok… NO. First of all, you only hear about those happy endings. What you don’t hear about are the many, many people who can’t have biological children and pursue adoption and it doesn’t happen. They’ve been on a waiting list for years and it’s just not happening. Can you even imagine how difficult that would be? Not to mention the invasive and costly home studies, tests, interviews, visits and the grief of giving up the idea of biological children. Also, it costs A LOT of money. It’s not easy process and it’s not a solution to everyone’s infertility.
2. Just relax! Don’t think about it. Go on vacation. Try this special diet. Think positive!
Cool! Is that really all I need to do to get pregnant? I just need to give up potato chips and go on vacation? Man, had I only known. Guys. That’s not how it works. Would you say that to someone with diabetes? Ah man, you have diabetes? You should just relax and it’ll go away. Of course not! Because it’s a medical condition, just like infertility. There are reasons why one cannot get pregnant. Relaxing is not going to make you ovulate. A vacation will not increase your egg count. Capiche?
3. Why don’t you take my kids for the weekend, you’ll change your mind about wanting kids. Ha ha!
Are you serious? Would you change your mind about having your kids? Exactly.
4. When God’s timing is right, he’ll bless you with a baby or, maybe it’s just not meant to be, it’ll happen when the time is right.
You don’t know God’s timing, so maybe stop speaking on his behalf.
5. You’re still young! You’ve got lots of time!
How is this helpful? I don’t want time. I want a baby.
6. At least you know you can get pregnant now!
This was said to me after miscarrying. Yes, I can get pregnant. Will it happen again? I don’t even know. Will I miscarry again? Possibly. Fact is, I lost my baby and knowing that I can get pregnant is the least of my concerns as I grieve this loss. This comment minimizes the loss. Like oh well, you miscarried. Would you say this to someone who lost a spouse? At least you know you can get married! You can just get married again…Yeah, didn’t think so.
7. It wasn’t actually a baby yet…
Yup. This was said to me. Three weeks after I miscarried, by my boss at the time. Regardless of your views, this is probably one of the worst things you can say. You are basically telling someone their baby didn’t exist or matter. Not cool.
8. Your baby probably had some defect and your body was telling you it wasn’t meant to be.
Not helpful. Not at all what someone wants to hear after losing their baby. Defect or not, that baby was loved and it’s still painful that they miscarried.
9. Trying is the fun part!
Really? There are so many reasons why trying is not fun when you’re dealing with infertility. Pressure, guilt, anxiety, exhaustion, sadness…just to name a few. Trying becomes complicated. It’s not the fun part. There is no fun part of infertility, including sex.
10. What?! You don’t have kids yet and you’ve been married for how long? Better get working on it!
First of all, it’s none of your business. Whether you’ve been trying and can’t conceive or you don’t want children at all, it is never your business to tell someone that they better get working on it. If it’s not your uterus, stay out of it. Have some respect.
So, what DO you say? What DO you do? How DO you help?
Just be there. Listen. Say things like, “I’m sorry. That must be so hard.” “I’m sorry you have to go through this. Is there anything I can do to help?” Less is more. Let your friend or family member know that you care and that you are there for them. To be honest, there isn’t much to say that will help, but these ten things mentioned above definitely will not help.
No one is perfect. I’ve said plenty of hurtful things to people. I’ve put my foot in my mouth more times than I can count, but I’m learning! I know that people mean well and that yes, it’s awkward. People are uncomfortable when it comes to grief and loss so maybe you don’t know what to say. This is why I write. This is why I share my story.
To raise awareness and hope that at least one person will read this and maybe not say something hurtful to someone dealing with infertility.
I know the internet makes it hard these days. People are offended super easily and it feels like you can’t say anything right. It is nearly impossible not to offend anyone, but why can’t we just learn to be more careful with our words and think before we speak? Let’s be aware of what people are going through, creating more empathy and compassion for those that we love.
By Katie Jansen, warmwoollymittens.wordpress.com