Through numerous discussions with other women in the same, or similar, shoes that I’m in, I’ve found some pretty common “tips” are out there for the infertile ladies. I’m sure that all of the advice that’s given is done with the best of intentions, but that doesn’t change the fact that the tidbits I’m about to share are at the very least ignorant, and at their worst, hurtful. So if by some chance you know of someone that has actually had the courage to share her struggles with you, here is a list of things NOT to say to her:
“You should just stop trying and it will happen” – This one has several variations. “You need to relax”, “If you’re stressed you can’t get pregnant”, “A friend of mine was tying for blah blah blah years, and as soon as she relaxed and stopped trying she got pregnant!”. I think this is one of the worst things you could say to someone struggling to have a baby. First, it’s pretty much impossible to relax about something like this, something that literally occupies at least some small space of your mind at any given point in the day. Second, women who have been trying for any amount of time are very in tune with their body’s signals and it’s literally impossible to not notice the fertile signs. So nope, we can’t relax and simply “stop trying”.
“It wasn’t even a real baby” – This one makes me see red. Literally. Having gone through two miscarriages, I can tell you that those babies were VERY real to me, even if they never developed past a small cluster of cells. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pro-choice girl to my core, and I believe in a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. The realness of my babies wasn’t based on an idea of life beginning at conception (though I know many do hold this view), but more so the hopes and dreams that instantly flooded my being with the promise of a positive pregnancy test. So don’t tell us our babies weren’t real simply because they never made it to the stage of ten fingers and ten toes.
“Don’t be selfish, you already have a child” – Secondary infertility can be just as painful as primary. Just because a family already has one child doesn’t make the inability to have a second or third any less painful. When you feel that your family is not complete, when there’s a child missing from your life, it hurts. A lot.
“Maybe God doesn’t want you to be a mom right now” – This one doesn’t phase me much, personally. But that’s just because I don’t believe in God, so for me God has nothing to do with it. I do have friends with deep faith, and I can’t imagine harsher words to say to these women. Not only are they dealing with the emotional strain of infertility, some also cope with feelings that their God has somehow forsaken them. Some question their faith, something I can only imagine is a painful process to go through. Not only has their body betrayed them, but many feel that their Savior has betrayed them as well. So seriously, don’t say that shit. What’s wrong with you?
“Have you looked into adoption?” – I realize that this is probably another well-intentioned suggestion, but it’s another one to keep to yourself. Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t. If they have, and they’ve already talked to you about their infertility, they would probably have mentioned that it is something they would consider. Hope can be a very fragile thread for women dealing with infertility. Try not to say anything that could somehow question what remaining hope they have that their body will eventually be able to provide them with a child. We have plenty of doubts on our own, thanks, without reminders.
“It’s not a competition” – One of the hardest things women struggling to have a baby encounter is other women that seem to get pregnant at the drop of a hat. So we oftentimes aren’t interested in hearing about pregnancy woes of others, or pregnancy announcements in general. So if you know someone who is struggling, and they say that they would prefer not to be around obviously pregnant women, understand that it’s not a competitive feeing to see who can have a baby first. It just hurts to see someone with the one thing they would give anything to finally have. And in that same vein…
“Will you throw my baby shower?” – Absolutely fucking not! Personally, I won’t even attend a baby shower at this stage of the game. Thankfully the only friends I have that I would feel bad about saying “no” to aren’t planning on more children any time in the near future. But if you’re close enough to someone to ask them to throw you a shower, you should care enough about their emotional well being to realize planning shower games with cute baby gifts probably isn’t on their top 5 list of ways to spend a Saturday afternoon. If they’re in good enough place to be able to throw you a shower, they’ll offer.
So what can you say? Sometimes nothing. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone listen to us vent about our fears and frustrations. Make sure that they know you’re willing to be a shoulder to cry on, tell them you’re sorry they’re going through this difficult process. We infertile ladies have very expensive doctors to “fix” our infertility, so that’s not the role we need our friends to play. We need compassion and understanding from our friends.