5 Things Not to Say to Someone Experiencing Infertility
Updated: Mar 2, 2021
The other day I referred to the IVF process as "all consuming." And this, I feel, is the perfect term to describe this process. Because we're dealing with science here, everything has to be done to an exact science. You've got to balance appointments and times for your injections. You have to make sure that you're able to balance it all around work, family, and other obligations. And if it's not your first rodeo, then you're thinking of what you may do differently this time around, from nutrition to supplements.
So when you hear others say things to you like "Try not to think about it," it's kind of hard when you're partially planning your life around it, and you may also be spending quite a lot of money. While, in theory, this does make a whole lot of sense -- and I, myself, have even worked on shifting my focus to other things and activities that I enjoy -- this is still something that makes me absolutely cringe every time I hear it.
I have to point out also that since I've been undergoing this process for over a year now and since I've become so open about it, I can see where friends and family members who did not start off saying the right things are definitely seeming to turn the corner when it comes to their level of understanding and support. However, this is something I've had on my mind for awhile, so it's about time I put it out there. It's also helpful for anyone who currently knows someone -- or who may know someone in the future -- experiencing infertility (whether or not IVF is part of the equation).
So, here are five things not to say to a person experiencing infertility.
1. "Don't think about it."
This one is eerily similar to that other thing I heard over and over during my dating years: "You'll find the right person when you're not looking." Whenever I hear this, after rolling my eyes, I always want to say "that's easier said than done." While I do agree that you certainly need to have other things to focus on in your life, it's just not the right thing to say.
I was once told to "not obsess over it so much and it'll happen." It's easy to say that when you're not in the same position. And how was I obsessing? By blogging about it? Last I heard, sharing what's on your mind is a healthy way to vent.
2. "Think positive."
I have really tried to be all about positivity -- probably sickeningly -- so when I'm having a moment when I'm not feeling positive and am letting my feelings out, I just want to be heard, not be told to think positively. While I am all about positivity, since thinking negatively only makes you feel worse and isn't good for anyone, it's also not normal to be positive all the time. It just isn't human. So when I'm having a moment like this, all I want to hear is "I'm here for you."
3. "It'll happen this time!"
This one -- like the others -- comes from a good place, I know, and comes from not really knowing what to say. So I get it. But this one really gets on my nerves because unless you're the Long Island Medium, you cannot predict the future. I know it's just a nice sentiment and being positive -- and more times than not, happy endings do occur -- however, it just becomes more and more annoying after you've had disappointment after disappointment.
4. "You can always adopt or get a surrogate."
This is a touchy one. Many women, myself included, have a personal goal of wanting to give birth and having at least one biological child. I know there are many options when it comes to having children and that there is no such thing as one path to parenthood. While I, personally, am open-minded, I'm shooting for the stars right now and only want to focus on the present. I know there are other options, but right now I have one specific goal, and I'm not selfish for wanting that, just as other women are not selfish for not wanting to have children at all. These are just very personal choices.
5. "Women are having babies these days into their 40s."
Yes, this is true, some women do. It's possible. So is getting struck by lightening or winning the lottery. Okay, maybe it happens a bit more often. Everyone is different, though, and it also depends on whether you have underlying issues. And many of these women are likely using assisted reproduction to make that dream happen. Just because you see pregnancy announcements on Facebook, it doesn't mean they all happened naturally. And once I started this journey, it's like everyone who experienced infertility came out of the woodwork, like after the #MeTooMovement. I live in a suburban neighborhood of single-family homes, where there are a lot of kids, and I can't tell you how many neighbors have opened up to me about their experiences. So many of these neighborhood kids were developed in a lab! It's just not something that anyone talks about in casual conversation.
And the other part about this is that while society has changed, women's bodies have not. So while it's more common for women today to marry in their 30s, the truth is that our egg quality decreases as we age. Not to be all doom and gloom here, but I'm just speaking from experience because I, too, used to believe and say these same types of things. I mean, the last thing on my mind while I was in my 20s was becoming a mom. I was still figuring everything out myself.
Now, the last thing I want is for you to think that you've got to walk on eggshells around someone experiencing infertility issues. I know how that can be, and I, personally, am not one who always knows the right thing to say myself. However, I have learned so much from being in this position, and the best thing to do is to lend an ear and be supportive. Don't judge, don't ask questions (apart from "how are you doing?" or "how are you feeling?"), don't give unwarranted advice -- because unless you have your medical credentials or have been in my shoes, it's just kind of insulting.
If your friend or family member experiencing infertility wants to share their experience, that's great, but don't pry. It's a super complex topic -- scientifically -- and also emotionally draining. And, to be honest, with how much time it takes up in our brains, the last thing we tend to want to do is talk about it and answer questions about it all day. You may think that because I'm being so open and blogging about my experience that that means that I'm happy to answer question after question -- but I'm sharing on my terms, what and when I want to. That's the difference.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash