Wednesday, April 11, 2012

15 Well-Meaning, but Horrible Things to Say to an Infertile Couple

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.

8 comments:

  1. I'm sorry. That just sucks. But thank you so much for writing this! I wish it read far and wide!

    (And, I hesitate to say it at the risk of looking nitpicky, but I don't think Immaculate Conception means what you think it means...)

    That aside, I say kudos to you for this article and I wish you and your husband happiness and the best of luck!!

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  2. Wow, this is so true! We tried for years and years and eventually conceived through IVF (and now have a healthy, beautiful son) but in that time I heard every single one of those!

    The only one I would add is, "You should try _____. " When you experience real, true fertility, you've most likely given up coffee/tried accupuncture/taken dong quai (or whatever other helpful tip they have to offer) YEARS AGO! When people turn to IVF, it is because it is their last resort and they've tried everything else, so just because Clomid worked for your sister doesn't mean it worked for me.

    Okay, rant over. Love the article (Just came across it from another parenting website that shared your circumcision article). :)

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    Replies
    1. I hear you! I LOVED all the unsolicited advice I got...not. ;)

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  3. Thank you for sharing. This trully helped me with knowing that I am not alone in feeling this way. My husband and I have been married for just barely two years and since our wedding day (yes, it started that soon) we've been getting all of that.

    We wanted to have time to enjoy being married and then start trying. Every time that i'd hear these things, i'd think that there was something wrong with me. I'd think that we were wrong and selfish for not starting the baby making right away. It got to the point where our parents and family assumed that we didn't want children because we were waiting.

    Now, we're just starting to try, and everyone is saying everything from "when will you get pregnant?" To "when you stop trying, it'll happen" to "why haven't you gotten pregnant yet? Are you broken?"

    It seriously hurts. And it makes things difficult because it adds stress to the already stressful situation. Yes, we're enjoying trying to make babies, but I'm not phsycic. I don't know when any of this will happen. I don't know why I haven't gotten pregnant yet. The doctor says I'm healthy, but that's not reassuring me.

    What really irks me, is my husband, books, and even some other people keep telling me to not let it get to me. When you hear it every day from litterally every coworker, friend, and family member, it makes it really hard to just brush it off or not let it get to me.

    We're not at the ivf stage yet, but if it comes to that, I know which blog I am gonna look up.

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  4. Thank you for sharing. This trully helped me with knowing that I am not alone in feeling this way. My husband and I have been married for just barely two years and since our wedding day (yes, it started that soon) we've been getting all of that.

    We wanted to have time to enjoy being married and then start trying. Every time that i'd hear these things, i'd think that there was something wrong with me. I'd think that we were wrong and selfish for not starting the baby making right away. It got to the point where our parents and family assumed that we didn't want children because we were waiting.

    Now, we're just starting to try, and everyone is saying everything from "when will you get pregnant?" To "when you stop trying, it'll happen" to "why haven't you gotten pregnant yet? Are you broken?"

    It seriously hurts. And it makes things difficult because it adds stress to the already stressful situation. Yes, we're enjoying trying to make babies, but I'm not phsycic. I don't know when any of this will happen. I don't know why I haven't gotten pregnant yet. The doctor says I'm healthy, but that's not reassuring me.

    What really irks me, is my husband, books, and even some other people keep telling me to not let it get to me. When you hear it every day from litterally every coworker, friend, and family member, it makes it really hard to just brush it off or not let it get to me.

    We're not at the ivf stage yet, but if it comes to that, I know which blog I am gonna look up.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for this article, I have had most of those said to me. My brother said to me once " your just doing it wrong ", my reply: oh really, well I stop by with some popcorn and you two can show me the 'right' way. ERRRRR

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  6. I hear ya. I was struggling to conceive in an office where two of the women got pregnant twice on the first try and the two others got pregnant while on the pill. I heard all of the above and it was infuriating. We finally have our little bundle of joy, but my heart always breaks when I hear of another couple struggling with infertility.

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  7. All of those things are very hurtful. You are right. Even though I experienced something similar I only knew how I felt. I will never know how some one else feels. Ever.

    To quote celtic-sakura some one asking "are you broken?" is just grounds for nasty words out of my mouth and possibly a bunch of tears or a wished violent reaction.

    The one that kills me is that my situation was due to the fact that my ex= husband and I both had medical issues. We never did conceive and then people would say oh well that should have been a sign or you should take that as a blessing since he wasn't the right one for you.... This makes me want to bite the heads off of nails.

    My 2nd husband and I finally did have 2 beautiful boys and for that I am thankful but I hate people some times. THank you for posting this article.

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