Infertility is a crisis that affects over 2 million couples today. Infertile women (and men) are forced to ride an emotional roller coaster, full of ups and downs, twists and turns. It can greatly affect their relationships with family and friends, and have a negative impact on their lives in general. Supportive and encouraging friends can be difficult to find in the midst of infertility.
My husband and I were one of the estimated 1 in 6 couples that struggles with infertility in some way. Fortunately, our story has a very happy ending in that we went on to get pregnant naturally less than a year after a diagnosis. However, during that time I did connect with other woman in similar situations. I learned that comments from family and fertile myrtle friends can be very hurtful and disheartening.
I did receive a few of these comments, I just passed them on as ignorance, but they weren’t helpful at all. Personally, I chose to not let negative comments affect me. I learned early on to be very careful with whom I discussed my infertility with. Infertility can affect people in different ways, and inappropriate comments do not help at all.
If you are trying to be a good friend to someone with infertility, kudos to you! Your support and friendship can mean the world to them. Here are 15 things to never say to a friend (or coworker, family member, total stranger) that is facing infertility.
“Well, I have the opposite problem! My husband just walks in the room and I get pregnant.”
That’s great for you. However, this comment is just not a very uplifting thing to say to someone who can’t get pregnant. It turns the conversation on yourself, and won’t make matters any better. Please avoid comparing their infertility to your blessing of fertility.
“Just relax and then you’ll get pregnant.”
This is a very common tip that many infertile women receive. It’s inappropriate, because it’s simply not true. While stress and tension can affect fertility in some ways, just relaxing isn’t a cure for infertility. If that were true, the world would be a much more populous place! It’s like saying to someone facing cancer, “Just relax and then you’ll be healed.” Also, this comment assumes that they can’t relax, which is probably not true, and it’s not encouraging them to make such assumptions.
“Why don’t you adopt?”
I’ll admit that several years before I was even married, and knew that my husband and I would have infertility issues, I once found myself talking to someone who could not get pregnant. My first thought was “Have you considered adoption?” Little did I know how inappropriate that comment can be. (Fortunately, several years later i was able to apologize to her.) Adoption is a very loving choice, but it’s not possible for some couples. Some simply aren’t ready to give up the dream of having a biological child. Some couples may not qualify for adoption because of health issues, background, or simply cannot afford it. Also, chances are they have definitely already thought of adoption and they’ll let you know when they’re at that point.
“Just be patient, if it’s God’s will, He’ll bless you with a child.”
Some similar versions of this comment are “God will give you a child when you’re ready.” Or, “Maybe this is God’s way of saying you’re not meant to have kids.” These comments are perhaps the most hurtful and insensitive things you can say to an infertile women. The truth is, no one knows God’s will, and making statements like these are like putting words into God’s mouth. Sure, we can make some pretty good guesses about God’s will, but we don’t know. It’s like saying to a mother whose child is dying of cancer “Maybe this is God’s way of saying you’re not meant to be a mother anymore.” Or, to a parent who’s child has been kidnapped, “Just be patient, it it’s God’s will your child will be found.”
That being said, I do feel that facing trials such as infertility develops perseverance. I can look back at this time and see how God worked in my life. But, I do not believe that all tragedies are God’s will, and no one should ever assume that.
“Why don’t you just get a dog?”
No offense to dogs (I have one and she’s great) but a pet and a baby are not the same thing. That comment won’t help her at all, trust me on this one.
“Once you adopt I bet you’ll get pregnant.”
Although this does happen, statistically it is very, very rare. This statement also conveys (in a small way) that a biological child is better than an adopted child. Please avoid ever saying this to an infertile friend.
“Well so-and-so didn’t have any kids…”
I had a relative say this to me once. It’s just not very comforting. Not to beat a dead horse on comparing it to cancer, but it’s similar to saying someone who found out that have a terminal illness, “Well, Great Aunt Martha had cancer and she died.”
“Have you tried…..(insert advice here)?”
Trust me, they’ve probably tried it. More than likely the advice you have isn’t going to help them, so refrain from providing little tidbits of advice. Unless you have been in her shoes exactly, it is not your place to be playing nurse.
“You can have my kids, I don’t want them.”
Um, that one’s pretty self explanatory.
“Well, at least you…”
Any comment that starts with “at least” probably isn’t going to be very encouraging to someone facing infertility. She has, more than likely, realized how blessed she is to be married, have a good job, etc, and making comments like that only minimizes the problem. If you want to helpful, never make a statement like that.
“Why don’t you try In Vitro Fertilization?”
This comment sounds helpful, as you are suggesting treatment, but it’s nosy and not really something you should ask. Many couples (such as my husband and I) did not feel that in vitro was morally and ethically the right decision. Also, with each attempt costing about $12,000 (or more), some couples cannot afford this option.
“Enjoy your childless time that you have now.”
It’s common to want to point out that they can still travel, have time to themselves, get manicures, etc. But, truthfully, this isn’t the lifestyle that she wants and its hard to enjoy something you didn’t plan for. Also, more than likely all of their money is going towards medical bills, not extravagant vacations and such.
“I understand. It took us 5 months to get pregnant.”
Taking 5 months to conceive and being diagnosed with infertility are completely different situations. I know you may be trying to be helpful, but its best not to play the comparing game.
“Why don’t you just take a vacation or something, maybe that’ll help?”
That’s fine to suggest, if you want to pay for it. But, truthfully a vacation won’t fix a medical issue. Please do your best to avoid recommending that.
“Well, if I had known how difficult kids were, I wouldn’t have signed up!”
An acquaintance made this comment to me once. Truthfully it didn’t bother me. But it’s a very negative comment and won’t make someone feel better. It is turning the conversation on yourself and minimizing the problem. Your friend or acquaintance facing infertility may have more patience and mothering skills than you, and it’s wrong to assume that she’s like you.
In conclusion, please remember that infertility is a grieving process. They are grieving a shattering dream, something they’ve probably desired since they were a little girl. The best thing you can do is listen, pray for them, and support them through this time of trial.