The past few months have been a wild ride full uncertainty. Before I had to deal with infertility, I never really gave much thought on "infertility etiquette." Even the most innocent question like asking someone if they have children can spring up sad emotions for someone having difficulty conceiving. Most people mean well, but really should think twice before speaking. I don't need advice...I need understanding and support. I am aware that this is awkward...that sometimes people don't know what to say. I am not asking for perfection....just some compassion when it comes to choosing what is said.
1) What you say: "Relax. You seem stressed out. Stress can cause trouble conceiving. Maybe you should take a vacation."
What I'm thinking: "Do your research (I don't rely on internet research but real solid journal articles written by medical professionals). In all actuality, infertility causes stress, not the other way around." Don't tell me to relax. EVER. Walk a mile in my shoes and see if you feel like relaxing. This is by far the BIGGEST and most hurtful comment a person can make...and one that is said the most. It trivializes the situation and is just a way to make yourself feel better or to blow off talking about it with me because it's uncomfortable for you. This is a MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS, a disease, like an other disease or illness. If you were diagnosed with a life changing disease like multiple sclerosis, would you want to hear advice that consists of people telling you to relax? I'm sure if your doctor gave you that advice rather than a medical intervention, you wouldn't want to stick around. Imagine someone telling you to relax after you just got done telling them you have a horrible, life changing disease? It's NOT comforting and I can't stress enough how it trivializes how we feel.
2) What you say: "It'll happen when you least expect it." or "Stop thinking about it so much...it'll happen when it happens."
What I'm thinking: "Really!!???!?! So will getting hit by a mack truck. Unless you are God, you can't tell me that it ever even WILL happen. The reality is that us having a child may never happen and the uncertainty and waiting is painful. There are no guarantees in life. Waiting around for something that may never happen is hard...especially when it's all you want." Even if this is true...it doesn't make waiting any less painful.
3) What you say: "Maybe it's God's plan."
What I'm thinking: "When did you meet God? When did he tell you this because he didn't tell me? Besides, what possible reason could God have for not giving me children? And even if it is his grand plan, it doesn't make the pain go away."
4) What you say: "My cousin had a similar problem and you should see them now. They have 3 children!"
What I'm thinking? "Well good for them, but I still have NONE in case you haven't noticed. Just because they overcame infertility, doesn't mean we will. It doesn't happen for everyone. Even if it does happen for us, it doesn't make the pain of waiting any easier."
5) What you say: "Parenting is hard. Enjoy life without kids while you can because your freedom will all end."
What I'm thinking: "You are right....I'm sure parenting is hard but I would trade places in a heartbeat. I'm putting my body and mind through hell and back so I've given thought to what I signed up for. I didn't just wake up one day and say 'I wanna have kids.' I've given it thought. A LOT of thought. Your worst day as a parent could be the best day of my life because then I would have a chance to be one. It's also hard to enjoy life when you are a prisoner to your emotions, medical treatment and your money is all gone just for the chance of what you got for FREE. Because I'm spending all my time and money on expensive treatments, I don't have time to travel...etc."
6) What you say: "I'll give you my kids...you can have them."
What I'm thinking: "^&^&^% you. What an insensitive comment. I'd kill to trade places with you even if your kids are the devil's offspring. I know parenting is hard but children are a gift and you should be grateful you were blessed with them. Wake up and start enjoying the good about them because some people can't enjoy them at all."
7) What you say: "I've heard stories about when people adopt, they get pregnant."
What I'm thinking. "Well have you heard any great stories lately about the couple that adopts and still doesn't get pregnant? I'm sure there are just as many but you don't hear them because it makes for a sad story. And where is the science in that? So I should go out and get a kid just for the small chance I'll have my own. I'd pity the child I adopted if that's the only reason I adopted them."
8) What you say? "Have you considered adoption or IVF?"
What I'm thinking: "Duh. I can't believe I've never thought of that!!! I'm so glad you mentioned it. We live through this hell everyday, of course we've considered all options. And while adoption may give us a baby, it'll never take the pain away from not being able to have our OWN child."
9) What you say: "Money isn't an object when it comes to a family."
What I'm thinking: "Really, since you really feel that way, make your check payable to me. I don't have 20 grand lying around.... you don't think that me working three jobs is just for a hobby?"
10) What you say: "Have you tried....(fill in the blank) -ie standing on your head after sex."
What I'm thinking: "For every one thing you can think of we tried 15 other things."
11) What you say: "But practicing making a baby is the fun part."
What I'm thinking. "Yeah maybe for the first few months, but after the 21st month sex becomes all about baby making, not fun. Since when is it fun to have the doctor dictate your sex life by telling you when to do it? Scheduling it in your date book isn't exactly romantic and can also be alot of pressure since so much is riding on it. Besides, when doctors are poking at your private parts with all sorts of weird crap you lose that romantic feeling pretty quick."
12) What you say: "All it takes is one (sperm)."
What I'm thinking: "Have you even taken a statistics class before? Think about how many millions of lottery tickets are sold....but only ONE is a winner. When you have only a few good sperm out of millions of dysfunctional ones, it's like playing the lottery....the odds suck."
13) What some guys have said to Chris: "I'll knock your wife up."
What I'm thinking: !)*&^%$%^$#@. What else can I say. Some guys are born without basic manners or a backbone for that matter.
14) What you say: nothing...
What I'm thinking: Maybe you don't care. Even if you say all the wrong things, it's better than not acknowledging my pain at all.
Other things never to say to an infertile couple.
1) Don't complain about your pregnancy....at least not to the infertile couple. Remember while you have every right to complain because I'm sure it's uncomfortable, don't do it to your infertile friends. It's downright insensitive. Remember we'd give our right arm, and right leg, and a few other body parts to be in your shoes.
2) When in a group full of people, be mindful that others that don't have children may have other reasons besides not wanting any....as in they can't! When you exchange stories of parenting or cute things your child did, that is like turning a knife in our back. In all honesty, this is why I avoid going places with many of my friends who have children. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of a conversation about breast feeding when you have NO input because you've never had the chance. I feel invisible during these conversations. I wouldn't rave about my new job around someone that just lost theirs or talk about how great my relationship is around someone who's spouse just passed. Sometimes people just don't think. Remember we are bombarded with daily reminders like birth announcements, pregnancy announcements, birthdays, christenings. Hearing these things is simply downright painful - even if they are happy for you. We aren't trying to steal your thunder or happiness...just trying to preserve ours.
3) Unless the person has opened up freely about their specific treatments and test results, it is never appropriate to ask personal questions. It's not nice to ask who's fault it is because pointing fingers is never nice.
What I need: Someone to listen to me. A shoulder to cry on. Someone to understand. Someone who tries to place themselves in my shoes. Sometimes just saying "I'm sorry" is enough and all you need to hear. We aren't asking you to fix the problem....but to help us get through it.