Infertility - What Not to Say...an article for everyone

September 2013

Infertility is a tough topic, whether you are experiencing it or watching its effect on someone you care about. For me, it's a hard subject to write about. After struggling to conceive my oldest two, suffering losses and fertility treatments, I am joyously carrying a surprise blessing. I remember well the feeling of wanting a child and feeling like my body wouldn't cooperate with my heart. As I write this, my thoughts are with the people reading it who are feeling that pain everyday. I hope, with all my heart, that your dreams come true.

Here are some of my tips on what NOT to say to a couple struggling with infertility.

Never Hide Your Own Joy

While it may be hard to hear someone else's pregnancy happiness, it's harder still to think that they aren't overjoyed at something for which you'd give up so much. Don't gloat, compare or be mean, but never act like you're not happy about expecting.

Don't Complain (Too Much) About Pregnancy Aches and Pains

Pregnancy comes with a lot of discomfort, don't get me wrong. But constant complaining about how much you hate being pregnant just hits the wrong way for those who desperately want to be in your shoes. It's okay to say that your back hurts or that you need a pedicure because you just can't reach your toes. But try not to act like it's the worst you've ever felt. This one is a good reminder to yourself, regardless of how it effects anyone else. It's always worth it in the end.

Don't Offer Trite Comfort

Never, ever, ever (no matter how good your intentions may be) tell someone struggling with infertility to "relax and it will happen". First of all, take it from me, it's impossible to relax about it. Secondly, without knowing the individual's circumstances, you might be completely wrong. Maybe they know that they'll never conceive without IVF or surrogacy. No matter what the situation, this statement just plain hurts. It makes the person you're speaking to feel even more like their lack of conception is their fault. Offering comfort is wonderful, and much appreciated. Just think before you speak. Say "You're an amazing person and I hope you receive your blessing", or "I honestly don't know how this makes you feel, but I am thinking of you". Simple, to the point, and not hurtful.

Children Aren't Interchangeable

This one is true in two circumstances; in both secondary infertility situations, and when someone has a loss. Saying "Well, at least you have one" does not negate the desire to have more children. And when someone is going through the pain of a loss, those often-used words "You can always have another" just don't help at all. Please remember that a loss, even at very early stages, is a loss and the grief is just as real.

Expecting After Infertility?

Is someone you know expecting after struggling with infertility? There's a few do-nots in that scenario too.

Don't Tell Horror Stories

Honestly, I think this should rank up there with all the other things not to say to any pregnant woman. No "You're HUGE!" comments, no judgment on food intake, and no horror stories. Particularly with an infertility survivor, every little concern is going to feel gigantic because of the emotional investment involved in just getting pregnant.

No Comments About this Being "It"

I'm 35. This will be my 3rd child. I have had more people than I can count, say something along the lines of "But you're done after this, right?" I don't know, I might be. But after the struggles to have my precious boys, if I was somehow granted six kids to love, I would consider it a gift.   The worst comment I've gotten is "So, are you going to figure out what causes this?" I wasn't very polite that time, I ruminated out loud on the cost of fertility treatments and exactly how much it cost to "cause" my life's greatest blessings.

I know there's a lot of dispute about whether or not our world has gotten too hung up on political correctness. These tips are not my path to political correctness, but just my two cents on human kindness. I recognize that no one made comments like this to hurt me. I presume that they just didn't know. And those of us who are or have been on the other side of the fence also need to remember that our pain isn't understood by everyone, and remember to be kind in return.