My husband and I struggled to conceive a baby. At first, we just went about it the all-natural way and figured nature would take its course. Didn’t happen. We got a little more creative. (More on that later – perhaps another post on all the creative ways to get oneself knocked up.) Still nothing. I researched and tried EVERYthing. Nada. After finding that I had a slew of medical issues, some of which were correctable, some of which were not, we ultimately resorted to in vitro fertilization. We were the only ones we knew who had ever gone through infertility and IVF. We were all alone, but not without loads of well-meaning, but truly horrible and often insensitive comments and advice such as this.
• When are you two going to have a baby?
o Well, now, isn’t that a good question? Um, I don’t know. I must’ve misplaced my crystal ball. I’d venture to guess about 10 months after conception. Oh, you mean when is that going to happen? From where I’m sitting, probably never.
I mean, what are we supposed to say to that? It’s not that easy for us. It’s not just a decision we make and *poof* it’s done.
• I know just how you feel.
o No. No, you don’t. Not a single person in our lives had ever experienced infertility or IVF, so not a single person in our lives knew how we felt. Furthermore, even if you’ve experienced something similar, you can never know how anyone else feels. You can only know how you felt.
• Just stop trying and you’ll get pregnant.
o Really? Is that how it works? Immaculate Conception it is then! Sweet! The pressure is sure off now!
• If it’s meant to be, it will happen.
o This is such a fatalistic attitude and I don’t buy into the idea of fate, so this is bogus to me. Would you say to someone whose child was born with only half a brain that it was ‘meant to be’ or not? Would you say to someone whose child died in a car accident that it was ‘meant to be’? No, never. Then why is me being able to have a child or not just what is ‘meant to be’?
Besides, what if me becoming a mother isn’t ‘meant to be’? What does that say about me?
• Enjoy your time now, before you have kids.
o I’m not miserable sans kids, but I’m ready for them now. I enjoyed the time before trying and now I’m ready to take on the next step in this adventure. I’m ready to enjoy my time with kids. It’s not like we’ve rushed into anything here.
• Just relax and it will happen.
o The number one thing people said to me and the number one thing I wanted to scream at them for saying. I relaxed for the first year when it didn’t happen. Something is wrong with my body. It cannot do what most others can. If one (or more) of your organs wasn’t functioning properly, would you be able to relax? If the possibility of you not being a parent, the only thing you’ve ever wanted in life, was slipping out of reach, would you feel calm?
• Bet you’re having fun trying.
o Nope. Not anymore. After trying for so long, it’s a job, it’s a chore, it’s not fun. Sure, I get it, that’s now how it is supposed to be, but it’s the truth. You chart everything, time everything, schedule everything in your sex life and tell me how much fun you’re having with it.
• It took us 9 months to get pregnant.
o Great. Thanks for sharing. It’s been a lot longer for us. The average length of time it takes to conceive the first time is one year. We’re well over that. Nine months, or however long it took you, may have seemed like forever to you, but it means little to us.
• There’s always adoption.
o First of all, adoption is wonderful . I’m a huge fan, so I resent making it sound like second banana to the other way of having children. Secondly, I cannot silence the need I feel in my mind, heart, and body to grow and birth a child made up of me and my husband.
• It could be a lot worse.
o This is true. What is your point? Does that mean what I’m going through isn’t hard? Does that mean that my feelings are less valid? There is always a ‘worse’ that things could be, but I’d rather take care of things before we get to that point.
• Want one of my kids?
o Don’t be trite and glib. No, I want one of mine. How ridiculous. And it really irks me how many people don’t seem to see their children as amazing gifts, when all I want is an amazing gift of my own.
• A friend of mine tried for 10 years before getting pregnant.
o Oh, well, now I feel better. Should I just keep trying as I keep aging, never having any guarantees that it will work, but hanging my hat on the fact that one person after ten years managed to conceive? I’m a doer. I am an impatient doer, at that. I do not have ten years to wait for that which all evidence says is not going to happen.
• You should start the adoption process and you’ll get pregnant right away.
o First of all, we had started the adoption process. Surprisingly, we still didn’t get pregnant. Secondly, if I could get pregnant by the mere act of filling out paperwork, I would not be in this position. I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure the act of starting adoption proceedings is not what actual impregnates someone. Maybe I’ve had it wrong all these years.
• You’re still young.
o I’m young in comparison to you, Grandma, but not when it comes to my fertile years. And even if I am (but I’m not), I shouldn’t be concerned and devastated that I’m unable to conceive naturally and have only a 20% chance of conceiving via in vitro fertilization because of my youth??! If I were actually still young, I’d probably be stupid enough to believe that logic.
• Oh, it’ll happen for you. I can just feel it.
o This isn’t like feeling that it’s going to rain because your old football injury is acting up. This is my body – my faulty body – and unless you’ve recently gotten a job at the Psychic Friends Network, your feelings don’t really hold any weight with me.
Then, when we lost one of the two embryos that were growing inside of my body – my son’s twin:
• At least you still have the one.
o My son was not a reserve fetus! Both lives inside of me were and are precious to us. I keep writing and deleting what I want to say here, because I can come up with few things not laced with swear words. You’ll have to just use your imagination and know that sentence should never be uttered…ever…to anyone…ever.
What TO say:
• I’m sorry. That just sucks.
That’s it. That’s all you can and should say. Anything else comes off bad, inappropriate, hurtful, ignorant, and insensitive. Be there if someone needs to talk, be on the sidelines if they don’t. Hug if they need a hug, wait if they don’t. It’s not really about you. You don’t have to have all the answers. You’re not being judged on your stellar responses. Well, actually, you are. Offer up any of the first sixteen responses and you’ll be judged harshly and likely not invited into this couple’s confidence again. Offer up the last, and you’ll be judged as worthy to help them through their struggles.
One last note: Now that we have our most perfect son and everyone in our family and circle of friends knows about our struggles, the new thing we hear all the time and we caution you not to say:
• When are you having another one?
Um, did we not just cover this? Please start over at the beginning.