I recently came across a powerful list of Things to Stop Doing If You Want to Support Someone with Infertility. *I love it*. I couldn’t not share! (What’s that rule about double negatives? I don’t think I’m following it.) You can click here to read the whole article in full, but below are the 10 things that the article listed with my own personal commentary. My goal in sharing these are to help educate those who support someone going through infertility. Now as you embark on reading this, please keep in mind that this post isn’t meant to make you feel bad for anything you have done or said in the past. I don’t hang on to those things, especially if it’s from someone that I know genuinely cares about us. Same goes for in the future – if I know your care is sincere, it is a lot easier to dismiss things that may typically hurt me. I am sharing this so that you can simply educate yourself and perhaps prevent hurting someone with infertility in the future. With that, I bring you 10 things to stop doing if you want to support someone with infertility!
1. Stop Thinking You Can’t Be Supportive Because You’ve Never Struggled with Infertility.
One thing I have learned throughout this journey is that you don’t have to have walked my walk in order to be empathetic and caring about our struggles. You may never have had your grandmother pass away, yet you can still have compassion when someone loses theirs. The same goes for infertility. You may never have had a miscarriage, but that shouldn’t stop you from caring and saying “I don’t know what to say, but simply know I am so sorry for your loss.”
Just say something. Do something. You can never go wrong with a card, flowers, or food. And try to remember that we (infertiles collectively speaking) don’t just feel pain after a failed cycle or a miscarriage, we carry it every day, it doesn’t go away. Please don’t ignore it. (There will be a whole other post on this topic another day!)
2. Stop Assuming We Don’t Want to Hear Anything About Your New Pregnancy or Your Kids
Please don’t be awkward and NOT talk about what’s going on in your life! It’s uncomfortable when you start a story about “your ki….” and then quickly end it to avoid saying the word “kids”. I won’t combust, I promise. Just be respectful and don’t choose me as your audience to complain endlessly to. Typically though, I enjoy hearing stories about your family and pregnancy in moderation.
I am frequently asked the best way to “break the news” that someone is pregnant. Honestly, I truly prefer being told in an email or via text. I know that seems so impersonal, but it gives me the ability to process without having you stare at me for a reaction. Also, if you chose to do it in person, please don’t make it the entire conversation about it. I dread when someone calls me up and invites me to coffee to “tell me something”. I know walking into the coffee shop that the next hour will be spent listening to pregnancy talk. *Ouch*
Oh, and please don’t apologize for being pregnant. I don’t want you to be infertile. I also don’t want to spend 10 minutes comforting you about feeling bad for me. You are pregnant, own it. Don’t say you are sorry. (And if it was a mistake, wasn’t planned, isn’t the gender you were hoping for, it’s safe to say you can omit that from our conversation.)
I appreciate a heads up if you are going to share it to a group of people with me there. If we are really close, I also appreciate knowing that you are trying so I am not caught off guard when the announcement comes. (Obviously this is my ideal world.) Again, these are just my preferences, but one I know some other gals share as well.
3. Stop Endlessly Talking About Your Pregnancy
The article says this well: “Too much pregnancy talk just reminds us how much we’re missing.” Just know your audience when you are going to gush for an hour about how wonderful (or awful) it is. This includes former “Tying to Conceive” (TTC) girls too. Please remember to be sensitive to the fact that we are still on this journey. We will celebrate with you and genuinely care about your 9-month journey and after, but be respectful as to not rub our face in it.
4. Stop Asking If We’re Pregnant Yet
I know you want to know. And I know that you want it just as bad for us as we do! But whenever I am asked that, I have to say “no” out loud, again and watch your face pity me. It’s really hard! And when the time comes, it will take all the fun out being able to share. A simple “how’s life?” will suffice.
5. Stop Telling Us We Can “Always Adopt”
Adoption is not a “fall back” plan. It is something that comes with its own calling. And if it’s ever something we choose, know that adoption will not simply take away all of the pain and struggles that comes with our own infertility story.
6. Stop Giving Unrequested Advice
Please. I know your intentions are SO good. But as the article says, it can often times feel condescending. I promise you, I am researching all sorts of things. Your suggestions sometimes can imply that we are causing it ourselves or that we aren’t bright enough to figure out something. (Ohhhh, so you are supposed to just relax! Take a vacation! Eat a pineapple. Put my legs in the air? Well, gosh, we have been doing this all wrong!)
We will ask you for your thoughts, opinions and advice if and when we want it. In the meantime, know that we are reading as many books as possible, looking into everything we can to understand our cards better and humbly ask that you don’t share every story you read on infertility with us. I realize this may sound incredible ungrateful for your caring heart, and there may be certain exceptions, but in general, less is more.
7. Stop Speaking on the Universe’s Behalf
The words “if it’s meant to be, it will happen,” make me sigh such a gigantic sigh that I think my lungs might burst. I KNOW THIS. I know and trust that God is in control. Please don’t keep reminding me that it’s completely out of our hands. I am very well aware.
8. Stop Accusing Us of Not Appreciating the Good in Our Lives
This is a tender one for me. I understand that I am so blessed to be where I am in life. I know that being a stay-at-home wife is wonderful. I know that we are blessed to be able to vacation and go out to a movie on a whim. I am thankful that I can sit in front of the TV and watch an hour of Parenthood uninterrupted.
Anyways, what I am saying is that it is possible for me to value the blessings I have and still feel sad. I am extremely aware of how richly blessed we are. Please don’t constantly tell me that. It feels like you are diminishing my sadness.
9. Stop Telling Us How “Lucky” We Are to Not Have Children
I can’t say it better than the article so here is what it said: “Yes, we know, kids are loud and don’t allow you a moment to yourself, kids never let you sleep, kids get in the way of sex, kids are a hassle. And we still want them. We are not lucky to not have kids; our lives are not easier for the lack of them. In fact, infertility also takes away the quiet inner moments, infertility keeps us up at night, infertility destroys our sex lives, and infertility is a hassle. Instead, admit that you wouldn’t give up your kids even if it meant you’d have more sleep and less stress. If you would rather trade in your kids for peace and quiet, then please keep those thoughts to yourself, as they’re not very flattering…”
10. Stop Invalidating Our Feelings and Reactions to Infertility
“It could be worse.” and “At least it’s not …” … all of these comments simply feel like you are invalidating how I am feeling. There isn’t a right or wrong way to respond to something that hurts. We are doing everything we can to trust God and stay afloat in this. If you don’t know what to say, simply ask “How are you?” or if you can’t be genuine with that question and empathetic with our answer, then I ask that you simply say nothing.