Before we had problems conceiving, I know I have been personally guilty of saying a handful of these comments. In all honesty, I had no idea how unintentionally hurtful some comments could be. When I met my first friend that had fertility problems, I remember thinking oh God, what do I say?
As we grow older, we have this uncontrollable need to fix things and to solve every problem we encounter, whether its our personal problem or someone else’s problem. That’s what we do as genuine and pure humans – we want to fix everything. But every so often, while on our pursuit to fix everything, we stumble upon things that we simply cannot fix.
Something I have learned over time is to stop focusing on what to say to “fix” whatever life circumstance is unfolding but rather, to just provide a listening ear. That’s really all they want. Say I’m so sorry, I can’t even imagine what you are going through but if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here. Or even be honest, and say I’m so sorry, I don’t even know what to say. If you have ever said anything below know that we genuinely know you didn’t mean to say anything wrong, and we know you’re just trying to be supportive.
Here are some of the things you should try to avoid saying to someone who is facing infertility:
- If it’s meant to happen, it will – as simple as this one seems, in really plays into this complex we face that maybe we aren’t worthy enough or meant to be parents. If the universe thought we would be good parents, we would already have had kids by now. But that is not the case, we are worthy, we just aren’t fertile.
- Maybe you are doing “it” wrong – in a completely non-sarcastic way, this one is my favourite and actually made me laugh when I was asked this. I paid attention in the sex-ed portion of health class. No guarantees my Husband did but I am pretty sure I acquired enough information about the basics to cover him on this front.
- My Mom’s, sisters, best friends daughter had the same thing and they got pregnant naturally after 12 years of trying and multiple failed IVF cycles – we know you are so desperately trying to provide positive incite to us that happy endings do exist (and we are so happy to hear that your Mom’s sisters, best friends daughter got pregnant!) but what we focus on is that we might still have a long emotionally and financially draining battle ahead of us.
- Everyone always gets pregnant on vacation, you just need to go away with your husband and get really drunk and you’ll come home pregnant – we can’t afford a vacation after all the medications, clinic fees, trips to the clinic we have to pay for and there is no proof that vacations have anything to do with conception, its just luck.
- If you just stop trying, it will happen – ever since I was younger, I never had any clue of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I switched between astronaut, ballerina (still contemplating despite my inability to dance or touch my toes), teacher, etc., but I always knew I wanted to be a Mom. When you want something so desperately, it is impossible to just stop trying or wanting to have a family. It doesn’t go away, and over time you long for more and more.
- Don’t stress, stress isn’t good for you, don’t you know? – we know how terrible stress is on the body, but sometimes you can’t help but be stressed. It is inevitable.
- Just do IVF or adopt – the process to adopt or do IVF is so time consuming and can last for months to even several years, let alone the huge financial burden it comes with (starting at $15,000 for IVF and over $20,000 to adopt).
- Trust me, you don’t want kids. They ruin your life and they are so expensive – you say that today because your toddler had a tantrum at the supermart or your teenager just snuck out of the house for the second time this week, but we know you don’t mean that and at the end of the day, every decision you make is for the best interest of your kid(s). We can’t even imagine how expensive kids are, but if you think they are expensive, you should try infertility first and then kids.
- You can just have my egg and/ or my husbands sperm – I feel like one doesn’t even need an explanation, but really until we have explored all our options using our own egg/ sperm, there really isn’t a need to explore other options yet. But most of these times this is offered, it is an empty gesture and another unintentional flaunt of how infertile we are.
- I’ll be your surrogate – I have had friends and family offer this, if it was the only solution to go forward and I know in a heartbeat that they would. But there is no reason as to why my body wouldn’t be able to carry, we just need help on the conceiving part, so a surrogacy is really irrelevant for us at this stage.
And I have also included (5) bonus ones because I think that they are also so critical for people to familiarize themselves with too.
For your friend that has had a miscarriage(s), whether or not they struggle with infertility:
- At least you know you can get pregnant – you are a hundred percent right, it is amazing because they were able to get pregnant! But the problem that arises now is: can they carry to term? Every following pregnancy will bring so much uncertainty and anxiety. Some people have no problem getting pregnant, they just struggle with keeping their pregnancy. You really don’t know if this is there first or sixth miscarriage so it’s always better to error on the side of caution.
- Oh you were only _ (insert number of weeks) along – it doesn’t matter if you were 6 weeks along, 20 weeks, or had a stillborn, a loss is a loss. For those few weeks or months, you are carrying a baby, planning your whole entire future, and dreaming of who your baby will become, and to lose that is earth-shattering and completely devastating.
For your friend facing secondary infertility:
- You should be grateful for the kids you have, some people can’t even have one – all good parents deserve the amount of kids they want, whether that is only 1 or 10. If your heart is longing for more, the kid(s) you have will fill the ache of your empty arms, but not the ache in your heart of wanting more.
For the friend that pursues adoption:
- At least now you don’t have to ruin your body or experience the aches, pains or morning sickness pregnancy brings about – I can probably guarantee that although your friend is so excited to be a Mom through adoption, there is a small part of her that would love to carry and feel her baby kick.
For your friend that is pregnant, regardless if struggles to conceive were present or not:
- Was this baby planned? – regardless if you tried for 13 years, got lucky on the first month, or had an “accidental” pregnancy, a baby is a blessing regardless of how it arrived and how it came to be, should never take away from the excitement of their pregnancy.
More than anything, I hope you learn that sometimes as innocent as your intentions are, words can be unintentionally hurtful. Despite some of our best efforts to provide comforting affirmations, we try our best to shrug off the remarks, but some days those words can sting more than others. Sometimes the simple actions of listening, being there, and distracting your friend(s) briefly from their reality is all they need. Call them up. Go to the movies with them. Have dinner. Go for a walk. Whatever it is that you can do to show that you are there for them through it all.
Be kind, be compassionate, but mostly, be there.