What comes to mind when it’s mentioned? Do you know someone who’s going through it? Have you experienced it yourself? Do you think it’s something other people have, but not you? Is it taboo to talk about? Uncomfortable?
See, I find the best remedy for being uncomfortable is getting educated about what exactly is causing the discomfort. If you had went our for dinner and found yourself exploding from all bodily openings, would you not begin searching for answers as to WHY you are experiencing this? More than likely you would get on the Internet and Google your symptoms, leading you to conclude you had food poisoning. More knowledge = More comfort mentally, not necessarily physically. Kapiche?
At this point, I take it you don’t know much about infertility or you want to share your wealth of knowledge with people who aren’t educated yet. So I’ll help you out with that.
Couples under age 35, who have been trying to conceive for a year with no viable pregnancy are encouraged to seek infertility testing and treatment. Couples over 35 are encouraged to seek help after 6 months of trying with no luck. 1 in 8 couples in the United States are going through infertility challenges. 1 in 6 couples in Canada, and 1 in 4 couples throughout the world face this struggle at some point.
Now let’s jump to how the heck this can apply to your own life. I mean, maybe you aren’t even going through this. Hell, you may not even care about babies right now…but I bet you know someone who does.
In the (likely) chance you know someone who is battling infertility, you should know a common list of “don’t” and “instead of” things to say to show your support. Here it goes:
1. DON’T SAY:
“Just relax, it will happen.” This phrase is one that every couple struggling has heard before and nonetheless gets old. Stress alone has not been proven to have a significant effect on infertility. While stressing less would be nice, your infertile friend is hearing you say, “you’re too uptight and need to calm the heck down.” See how that doesn’t sound so supportive?
INSTEAD say something like, “I’m sorry. Would you like to get a pedicure or go to a ball game sometime?”
2. DON’T SAY:
“Ha! You can come take my kids! I miss sleeping in, doing whatever I want whenever I want to and generally my ‘me time’.” Any variation of a statement similar to this is like a gut punch to your friend. While we understand that not every moment of parenthood may be a dream, it is OUR dream and we can’t achieve it right now. Couples struggling to conceive would give anything to have those early mornings and pull-your-hair-out potty training moments. It’s something we truly want to experience even though we acknowledge that it is and will be overwhelming at times.
INSTEAD say “I wish you could be able to go through parenthood right now. It has it’s ups and downs but you will be a great parent when your time comes!”
3. DON’T SAY:
Sit silent after learning about your friend’s challenges in the procreation department. Seriously, as awkward as you may feel I can guarantee your friend is feeling the most vulnerable of their life. Telling someone you are struggling to get knocked up is one of the most difficult things ever. The childless friend is already feeling a gamet of emotions wider than the Milky Way. They need your support, listening ear, shoulder to cry on and general pillar of strength in their life.
INSTEAD say “Oh my gosh, I am sorry you have been struggling alone. I am here to talk if you want. I would love to know more about what you have been going through and what you want to do next.”
4. DON’T SAY:
“It will happen, in God’s time.” While you, and maybe even your friend, are Christian, your friend may be struggling in their relationship with God. Your friend may not even believe in God and be offended at this very comment. As a Christian who has walked this long road, I can say that this specific comment was hard to swallow. It makes a person feel as though they have committed some sin so great that they are not worthy of a child. It makes someone struggling with infertility question them self to the core. In your well-meaning attempt to bring peace you have really destroyed their confidence in themselves as a decent human being. Congratulations!
INSTEAD if your friend is Christian say, “I will be praying for you!” You could even find uplifting and hopeful scripture to help them. One resource that has been particularly helpful for me is a book called Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake. It has great resources for the person going through infertility as well as their supportive friends and family.
If your friend is not Christian say, “Waiting must be so hard. I can’t imagine what that feels like.”
5. DON’T SAY:
“You can just adopt!” Adoption is a rough road. It is not only costly, but means that both partners come to terms with being unable to biologically have a child of their own. That realization is difficult. It won’t come overnight, over the course of a week, month or year. This decision is not one that is taken lightly by someone working to grow their family. Throwing adoption out there willy nilly will only encourage your friend to shut down talking to you about their struggle.
INSTEAD say “I will support you in however far you decide to go with treatment! That includes if you get to a point where you are ready to press pause and explore other options.”
6. DON’T SAY:
“Have you tried XYZ?” Warning: After receiving advice on getting pregnant, your friend may or may not experience rapidly rising blood pressure accompanied by increased heart rate, red face, and possible emotional outbursts. Any couple who has been trying for a good chunk of time has done some research on what to try. Trust me, they have. They don’t need you suggesting more crap that they have already considered, tried, or failed at. Just don’t.
INSTEAD say, “I’m sure you have tried all sorts of different things. Tell me about what all you’ve done. Are you going to try anything new?”
7. DON’T SAY:
If your friend has experienced a miscarriage, PLEASE do not say, “At least you know you can get pregnant.” Your friend already knows they were able to get pregnant. They probably still have the pee stick to show you they were, at one time, pregnant. They don’t need you to rub that in their face. Their issue is STAYING pregnant, which is way more complicated than you probably know. Miscarriage cuts to the soul and challenges even the strongest of people to question every move they ever made while pregnant.
INSTEAD say, “I am so sorry for your loss. Your baby was as real as any of my own children and I can’t even imagine the grief you are feeling. I am here for you.”
8. DON’T SAY:
“Trying is the best part! You get to have all the sex! *fist bump*” Having sex frequently may be fun to start out with, but when you’ve had sex 142 times in the last 365 days you may have a very different perspective! Many people don’t even realize that medically, having sex more often than every other day can be detrimental to couples who are trying to make babies. Swimmers need time to mature and swim! Using them up before they are ready will only exasperate the problem.
INSTEAD say, “I hope you are still able to have a good physical, emotional and spiritual (only if your friend is, in fact, spiritual) relationship with your spouse right now.”
9. DON’T SAY:
“Maybe you should get a second opinion.” Anyone struggling to come to grips with their infertility has had a hard enough time accepting their diagnosis. Placing even more lack of faith in the doctors is only going to cause further doubt and turmoil. Additionally, the testing required to diagnosis infertility is not only costly but sometimes painful and generally uncomfortable. Here is an overview of the testing process. Redoing all of that testing would cause a burden on all aspects of their life only to receive news they already have.
INSTEAD say, “How is your doctor? Do you feel comfortable with them? Are your questions being answered and opinions being taken into consideration? If not, maybe you should find another doctor who you feel more comfortable with.”
Sometimes our good intentioned words come out completely offensive to someone seeing them through different spectacles. Your friend needs your support now more than ever. Continue seeking out information about infertility so you are knowledgeable when talking to your friend. Show them you care by remembering when their appointments and special dates are. Check in on them but allow them to take on the lead role in the conversation. Understand that there will be days where your friend may not be strong enough emotionally to do things they once used to. Going to the park, a swimming pool, a mutual friend’s baby shower or even seeing your kids may be triggers of emotional turmoil on the hard days. This doesn’t mean your friendship has to end, it just means your friend needs a little slack and reassurance that it’s okay to take that slack right now. Whatever you do though, don’t quit reaching out to them. This is their time of need.
Don’t you feel more knowledgeable now? Has your comfort level gone up? Above all, remember why you love and cherish your friend. I promise, they are still in there! Even if they do seem like they have left Earth and checked in to some other planet right now.
Here are a few good images I’ve found to sum up infertility as well as bring awareness to others, feel free to share them if you would like!