Infertility is a sensitive topic, y’all. Most of us who’ve battled it, do it quietly and privately, hiding our constant pain behind the thinnest veil of fake happiness.
So if someone has actually confided in you with their infertility struggle, don’t screw it up. Or you might get punched.
Women fighting infertility are warriors. And they’re warriors who are also juiced up on hormones and pent-up emotion, so the last thing you want to do is piss one of them off unwittingly.
Here are a few things to avoid saying, and some alternative suggestions that may save you a beat-down:
- “It’ll happen when it’s supposed to.”
This is number 1 on the list for a reason: it’s everyone’s first instinct to say, because to you—a fertile Mertile who probably sneezed and got pregnant—that sounds comforting. “All in God’s time,” “just trust your journey,” and “when it’s meant to be” are all equally upsetting variations of this. While you hear reassurance, all we hear is “it’s obviously not supposed to happen.” A lot of times, a cycle goes perfectly right, but it doesn’t work, and we see that dumb negative pee stick, and there’s no good reason for it. And we think, maybe the real reason is that we’re just not meant to be parents, and maybe we never, ever will be. And that makes us cry. And you don’t want to make us cry, because we’re filled to the brim with hormones and we can’t stop the crying once it starts.
Instead try: “You WILL get a baby, some way, some how.” Because that is the truth. It may not be how or when she envisioned it happening, but it will happen. Whether it be natural, or IVF, or adoption, or surrogacy, or any of the million other ways you can become a parent, she will get there.
- “Just have faith.”
This is kind of an extension of number 1, but it deserves its own section. See, when you’re going through infertility, you’re constantly reminded that you have NO control. You can control your treatments and how aggressively you go after it, but all the money, needles, and doctors in the world still can’t guarantee that it’ll work. And that’s maddening. So the last thing she wants to hear after 15 consecutive negative cycles is to “just have faith” that this one will work.
Instead try: “I’m praying for you.” Nothing was more comforting to me than hearing that someone was praying for me. The key to this is to then actually pray for her, of course. By the time we were doing IVF, quite a few people knew about it, and many of them had sent prayers our way. And I’ll tell you firsthand, I felt them, and they meant the world to me.
- “Be glad you don’t have to deal with [insert complaint about your kids here].”
If you complain about your kid/pregnancy to her or imply that she’s lucky to be infertile, she is well within her rights to punch you right in the throat. While wearing rings. Find someone else to vent to and leave her alone. Or better yet, use her as a healthy dose of perspective and remind yourself that she’d trade places with you in a heartbeat.
Instead try: calling someone else. If you really can’t resist rubbing your motherhood in her face, though, you can try phrasing it more like, “I can’t wait for you to experience this frustration with me.” But I can’t promise that’ll save your throat from getting a hole punched through it.
- “It will happen as soon as you stop trying.”
No, it won’t. Sometimes, yes, this happens. But the reason you hear stories of “miracle” babies, conceived naturally after years of infertility treatments is because they are miracles. It never happens in real life. And since the world has put that thought in her head, she’ll never actually stop trying. She’ll always be wondering if this is the month that it’ll “just happen.”
Instead try: helping her destress. Stress does have a real effect on our fertility, and infertility causes stress, so it’s a vicious cycle. So instead of telling her it’ll just happen when she stops stressing about it, offer ways to help her destress. Take a yoga class with her, or gift her a sweet bath bomb and a bottle wine… whatever floats her boat. Just don’t tell her it’s going to get her pregnant.
- “I’m pregnant.”
OK, this one’s tricky. She’s going to be really happy for you that you’re pregnant. Really, truly, she will be. But the ugly truth is, it’s also going to remind her that she’s not. And she’s going to be really, really sad about that. And sadness tends to land on top in the wave of emotions that’s going to crash over her in that moment. So she’ll probably cry. And then she’ll hate herself for it. And feel guilty. And probably overcompensate. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, so please don’t make her go through them all right in front of you.
Instead try: telling her your news via text message, as unnatural as that might sound to you. Tell her you know how hard it must be for her, and that you totally understand if she needs to take some time, and that you love her.
Infertility sucks, y’all. So let’s help it suck a little bit less by not accidentally making us infertiles miserable.
Infertility sisters: what’d I miss? What other mostly-innocent comments send you over the edge?