5 Things NOT to Say to an Infertile Couple

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October 6, 2014 by mamacravings

My husband and I are coming up on that 2 1/2 year mark of trying to conceive this go-around (It took about a 1 1/2 years before we found out we were pregnant with our son.). Throughout the process, we have had some really lovely encouragement from people around us as well as some really ignorant remarks. Honestly, the most hurtful comments have been from the people who love us most. None of them have been said to cause pain, but they still cut deep.

It can be difficult to know how to respond to a couple who is telling you their trying to conceive woes. While walking on eggshells isn’t the answer, it is necessary to be aware of how not to make the ache of empty arms even worse. Here’s 5 things not to say to an infertile couple:

 

1.) If you would quit trying, you would get pregnant.

This tends to be comment numero uno when we get asked why we only have one child or when I open up about infertility. This is also the comment that makes me have to choke down some serious snark. The reality is that our degree of trying has not rendered me infertile.

This comment is a “no” for couples who have been trying for a whole day or for a whole decade. It’s insensitive. Yes, I realize that lowering stress and being physically relaxed helps couples to conceive. That may even be the case for those in your life who want a baby, but I’m going to be very bold and un-moving on this: It is not your place to say it.

2.) You should try to adopt! That always works.

This comment can be lumped with any extreme diet or any herb that can be ordered from Amazon. Trust me. If it’s out there (whether over-the-counter or Rx), we have tried it.

The “adoption” advice is doubly offensive, because adoption is not a consolation prize to a biological child.

 

3.) Why don’t you do IVF? Are you going to quit before you have tried everything?

IVF runs around $10K. My insurance covers none of it. It’s not that we’re quitting before IVF. We would prefer to throw our $10K at something besides the wind. Unfortunately my latest doctor has given me very little chance of success with IVF. As a family, it was decided that this was too much of a process (emotionally, physically, financially) to risk it. This was also decided about a year into treatments. We were both tired. It was time to hang it up for us. To me, that wasn’t quitting. It was recognizing that a chapter was closing, at least for now.

 

4.) I don’t think fertility treatments are right. Maybe God’s trying to tell you something since they’re not working.

First: Rude. Second: cool trick to get chosen to speak for the Most High

IVF and any other fertility treatment is a very personal decision. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Each family has to make this very personal decision on its own. As a bystander, it’s unfair to insert the “what you would do” or to throw God’s Will around willy-nilly. While “If you would quit trying, you would get pregnant” advice makes me the most angry, this comment makes me the most sad. It’s damaging and just plain dreadful.

 

5.) You should just be thankful that you at least have one kid.

Every single time someone says this to me, I’m shocked. Of course we’re thankful for our sweet little boy! Of course we praise God every day that I was able to carry this miracle, this medical mystery, to term and deliver a beautiful, sensitive, curious, witty joyful spirit of a child! Thankful isn’t the issue. Our family isn’t complete. The end. That’s it. One of the reasons we are so adamant to expand our family is because our 4 year-old wants a sibling very, very much.

4 year old pics

the miracle that is our son

 

The bottom line is: I nearly expect these kinds of comments. I put myself out there. It is no secret that my ovaries are janky, my uterus is weak, and that we have spent the majority of our marriage trying to conceive. But when someone comes to you and personally pours out her heart, treat her gently. When she shares her deepest hurt, her greatest fear, her biggest wish, there is only one appropriate response: I am so sorry.

Infertility hurts. It hurts physically and emotionally. It puts a strain on the very soul of a person and on a couple. Be aware of that hurt. When you’re not sure what to say, it’s perfectly okay to say nothing. It is absolutely acceptable to just hold the person and cry with him/her. A prayer and/or a well-wish is always welcome.

It has nothing to do with being politically correct and everything to do with exhorting a person who is in desperate need of some encouragement.

Use the power of your words to lift up a couple who needs it today.

DSC_0760 1

 

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33 thoughts on “5 Things NOT to Say to an Infertile Couple

  1. I love this post….. Now if only the fertiles would read it

  2. Becky says:

    I am not infertile but read this article. I have to say that I stopped reading after you compared adoption to a consolation prize. As an adopted child I guess I never thought that I was a consolation prize. Thanks for throwing that out there as something hurtful to others.

  3. Shannon says:

    Great post!! LOVE IT! It is all so very true.. xox

  4. I think I have said a few of these things, so please forgive me if I hurt you. I think the thing to keep in mind when a pain is so raw and deep and personal is it’s raw and deep and personal. People really do not know and I think the intention behind the words is what to look for. They are at a loss but they want your hurt to ease or go away and some of those suggestions might be valid for some suffering Secondary Infertility.
    The only comparison I have is when I lost my brother and people say the worst things but you know, I understood in the depths of pain they just didn’t know having never, thankfully, suffered a sudden loss of a young person. I also knew I was glad they were talking to me as many didn’t.
    So let me say, I am so sorry and leave it at that. x

  5. Valerie says:

    Having been on both sides (conceiving very easily with our first several pregnancies and then having multiple miscarriages, and now having trouble even conceiving!) I totally hear ya but I also get how others might make these comments. I agree with starryslippers’ comment about looking at the intention of the person saying it. 🙂
    I’ve had many people ask if our third child was a surprise (said with raised eyebrows and/or winks) because he was born when our first two children were 11 and 7 years old; no, he wasn’t a surprise – we waited a LOOOOONG time for him and went through lots of loss beforehand…but when someone asks this, I just smile and tell them that no, we have had multiple miscarriages between our kids so that’s why the big age difference. And you know what, there is a total change in their expression! They show compassion and care. They apologize for our losses and offer warm smiles. People, I’ve found, don’t usually know what they’re saying and are quick to remedy any misunderstanding. 😉

    • mamacravings says:

      I completely agree. I tend to be very open with people about why we don’t have another one and try to respond to comments (even hurtful ones) with gentleness. Anyone who has ever said any of these comments have done so in an effort to make me feel better. The intent is there. One of the reasons I chose to publish this post (It sat in my drafts for a couple of months.) is because I wanted to reach more people than who I just have face-to-face with. By that I mean, I want to help educate…that sounds so formal and uppity….ummmm. perhaps “help become aware” is a better term… for those people who have infertile couples in their lives.

      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your heart. ❤

  6. Chelly says:

    I think a lot of responses stem from people not being able to identify or understand the complexitieis of infertility. My husband and I had trouble, but we literally stop caring and trying, started working out and making ourselves healthier, cut out bad habits and poof it happened and at a time when we NEVER thought it would. I was no where close to thinking I would be pregnant when I was. People, have said things. I prefer someone asking questions simply because they don’t know as opposed to someone making horrible comments, which happened to me after I lost my first 2 boys. Comments like: “I hope this one makes it” when I got pregnant with my now 1 year old son or “Dang, you lost another one” after my 2nd son passed. Just know that there are some people out there that can be just plain CRAZY and Evil, but then there are people that are just inquisitive and apologetic after they hear your side. The person that said those things and more to me, NEVER apologized. NEVER! She tries to speak to me now and I usually give her a mean blank stare! Anyways, I pray that your dreams come true and that you are Blessed with another beautiful blessing!

    • mamacravings says:

      Ugh! What a sad experience! I’m so sorry you had to deal with a meanie 😦

      I’m so glad that you said what you want is for people to ask questions! I have had so many people ask me on fb what the “right” responses would be. Questions and concern is EXACTLY it!

      Thank you so much for reading and for your comment. I appreciate it!

  7. Good to hear it from your perspective. I have several friends in your situation. One recently got pregnant finally. I heard someone say something about diet and vitamins helping. You’ve probably already looked into all of that, but just in case. My heart goes out to you!

  8. Mary says:

    I loved your post! It’s so real and so true. My husband and I have been trying for a number of years to get pregnant (+5) and it hasn’t happened. It’s so frustrating when people offer their “advice” and it just makes me feel so alone. I get it, it’s hard for people to relate to something they aren’t experiencing. But usually all I’m looking for is just some compassion, not necessarily advice. For the first time in 5 years I had a conversation with someone a few weeks ago and her response was the best…she said, “this really sucks for you, and I’m so sorry you have to go through this”. It was the first time in 5 years, someone gave me a real response, and I loved it. It brought tears to my eyes, because I thought: finally, someone gets it and respects me enough as a person not to offer silly advice. I get it, it’s hard, sometimes people don’t know what to say, but I almost prefer that they say exactly that.

    Also here are some of my favourite lines when you tell your friends you are having fertility issues:

    1- At least you are having fun trying. False- I can tell you that when you’re trying to get pregnant for a long period of time it’s not always fun. Sometimes, it feels like work.
    2- You mention the length of time you’ve been trying and your friends respond with: I know what you mean, it took us 6 months to get pregnant. Not that I want to take away from that…but I think if you’ve tried for less than a year it doesn’t count as having fertility issues. Even fertility clinics say not to bother seeing them if you haven’t been trying for at least a year.
    3- Sex positions…have you tried having sex in this position, this is how I got pregnant…sigh, Let me tell you, I’ve tried every position you can think of, but thank you for giving me some insight in your bedroom activities…
    4- Finally, don’t think about it…this one is my favourite. How am I supposed to stop thinking about the thing we want most in life? Is there a switch I’m supposed to turn off? If there is, someone let me know where it’s located.

    • mamacravings says:

      yep. yep. yep. yep! I’ve heard every one of those too. I completely understand what you mean about those types of comments isolating you. It feels like no one could understand what you’re going through.

      I’m so sorry for your struggles. </3

      Thank you so much for sharing what others have said too!

  9. samn10 says:

    Tact, the world is missing a big piece of it.

    Thinking of you, and wishing you and yours the best. Always.

  10. Sanibel says:

    Ah thank you for writing this. Every bit of this is true. It is a hard road to travel and can be made much harder by those lacking with words.

  11. It is amazing how you have compared and beautifully jotted this post. Kudos!

  12. missdanob says:

    I love this post. Number 1 especially. I’ve heard this nonstop for a while now. It’s frustrating in our case because we’ve had about 2 years of not concentrated trying. I feel like yelling from the roof tops WE’VE DONE THAT! I know that the intentions are good but it’s heartbreaking. Because then I have to explain that it’s not from a lack of tryin or not-really-trying but because my body is not producing the one thing I need to get pregnant and even with treatment there is no guarantee.

  13. My family was created through adoption and I understand the upsetting comments. I also have experienced that the ones who love us most, hurt us most

    • mamacravings says:

      I’m sorry you had to go through those hurtful comments. It’s dreadfully unfair. It hurts most from those we love, I have found.

      What is it about pregnancy, adoption and/or infertility that makes people think that the family is fair game for unwanted advice? 😦

  14. angelafish1989 says:

    This was a beautiful post. I really enjoy your blog and the thoughtfulness that you put into your words. It helps me look forward to marriage and worry less about whether I’ll be able to have kids in the future and be comfortable with it. God bless 🙂

    • mamacravings says:

      Thank you so much! I really appreciate your kind words. This entire journey has helped me to worry less too, as strange as that may sound. lol But it has given me the freedom in knowing that I can’t control this, so I don’t have to worry about it. Thank you again! God bless you!

  15. kerbey says:

    I agree with your list. Having one child and then trying for NINE years of miscarriages, IUI, surgeries, etc, it’s hard not to ask YOURSELF that last one. Maybe I should just be happy with the one; one is more than some ever have. If God wanted us to have more than one, we would. End of story. So you set aside the longing and pretend it doesn’t matter. But it does. It eats away at you. It’s like you said; your family doesn’t feel complete. Wanting a 3 yr old to have a sibling is much different than wanting your nearly teenager to have a sibling. But it’s still a feeling of being incomplete and wondering if you’ll feel that way forever.

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