Think before you speak. How can you best support someone you love who is struggling with infertility? What can you say, and how can you say it? This is a sensitive subject that needs to be handled with grace and love. The list below is things you should NOT say to someone who is struggling:
- “Just relax!” This phrase is the most common. Please don’t ever say this to someone who is trying to get pregnant. I know I have been guilty of this crime, and when I couldn’t get pregnant, it was the last words I ever wanted to hear. “If you just relax, you will get pregnant.” No! that is not true. Don’t sit on a throne of lies! We could be told to relax so getting pregnant doesn’t become an obsession, but tell that to someone who can’t get pregnant.
- “Don’t give up! It will happen.” This may be true, but sometimes it just won’t happen, you have to accept that, and be supportive. Infertility is diagnosed after 12 months of trying to have a baby without contraceptives. Please don’t tell me it will happen after 5 years of trying. Say what it really is: I am infertile, and I won’t be getting pregnant. For all of those brave women who are still trying, and not giving up hope, I pray you have success.
- “You can have my kids!” This one isn’t funny or a joke. I don’t want your kids, I want my own kids. Be happy and feel blessed that you were lucky enough to have your own kids. I do believe that being a parent is a very difficult job. I am sure you need a break, but don’t complain about your miracle. If you really want to give me your kids, I will gladly take them, but I am sure you wouldn’t be able to live one single day without them.
- “You could always adopt.” This phrase was the most overused phrased used when I knew my body couldn’t have a baby. Sure! you’re right! I could adopt! I don’t want to adopt. I want my own biological children. There are many children who do need good homes, and I love and appreciate all those couples who adopt. You are amazing people. We thought long and hard about adoption, I never felt compelled to even consider it. Some couples may not be in the frame of mind to even consider this, please be sensitive to offering this option. Adoption isn’t easy, it’s not like going to the store and buying a gallon of milk. Adoption takes time, patience and money! I personally know couples who have been successful with adoption, they have beautiful families, and I praise them for it. It was never an option for us.
- “It could be worse. You could have cancer.” Infertility is considered a disease. Cancer is terrible. They are both terrible diseases. I don’t wish either one on anybody. The fertility medication I was on is actually used in breast cancer patients to suppress estrogen. You can compare phrases: “It could be worse, your cancer diagnosis isn’t as bad as other types of cancer.” You would never tell somebody that. I would never sit down while someone is having chemo and say that to them. Act in that same manner with couples who are infertile. Women who go through the process of fertility treatments can get very sick. Hormones changes, vomiting, headaches, mood swings, fatigue, bloating. You are trying to find success around the disease. You don’t lose your hair, but you will want to pull it out in frustration. (I am in no way stating infertility is worse than cancer.)
- “Do nothing.” Ignoring someone who is suffering from infertility, loss of a child, or miscarriage is not the road to travel. Don’t ignore it; support and love them. You may not have the right words, but hug them, encourage them, hold them, and let them know that you care. Sometimes just listening can be the best therapy. If they are not ready to talk about it, just leave them a note that you are there for them. Don’t shove it all under the rug and pretend it’s not happening. You may not understand what they are going through, but you can be there to support.
Recognize that every couple may be going through something different. Assume nothing. Ask questions and listen. Cry with them, laugh with them, and be there for them. Infertility is more common than you think.