Infertility: What NOT to Say and How to Handle Situations with Friends Who Struggle With Infertility
“Do you have kids?” seems to be a simple and innocent question, right? Your intentions may be pure, but to someone struggling with infertility, this is one of the most brutal questions they face on a regular basis.
You will typically get a short, simple “No.” as the person is pleading desperately inside that you don’t follow that with “Well why not?” You see, when you ask those three simple words, their hearts desperately want to yell out all that they are going through, but they try to show a little grace or tact and say something like “we’re waiting on God’s timing” or “when the right time comes”.
Here are a few things things couples struggling with infertility often get told or unsolicited advice they often received. These are real comments, most of which I’ve personally received when I’ve told someone we don’t have kids. You will also see some of the thoughts that couples struggling with infertility often want to reply with, but we try to be graceful and not say what is really on our minds.
- Do you hate kids?” This question typically lights a fire within, or at least it does for me. I want to call the person a meanie and stomp off, but I try to show a little maturity and so the reply usually sounds something like “No, in fact, I love kids very much” and either change the subject or excuse myself.
- “Just relax” Really? Thats all it takes? Have you ever had a big test or something that you’ve tried to accomplish before? Have you ever been anxious about it? If someone told you to “just relax”, didn’t that make you a little frustrated, or the more you tried to relax, the harder it was to actually relax!
- “It will happen when you stop trying” – Been there, done that, got a t-shirt, didn’t work.
- “You’re next”- Well if we were really next, we would have beat the other 56 people I know that are pregnant or just had a kid.
- “You should just start the adoption process” or “So and so started the adoption process and then got pregnant” – This is just coincidental. Most of the time this really doesn’t happen.
- “You’ve got plenty of time” – Really? Last time we looked the aging process was not going in reverse
- “Want to take (one of) my kids?” - It is a very insensitive thing to say to someone. You genuinely sound ungrateful for your kids when you make a comment like this.
- “Try standing on your head after sex”- Look, lets be honest. I’m not a gymnast, and I genuinely prefer to focus my time and energy on trying to have a baby, not on learning to walk after breaking all the bones in my body.
- “I tricked my body by taking birth control for a few days” – Find me a doctor that won’t lecture you for taking birth control when you’ve tried to get it out of your body already.
- “Pray about it” – Believe me, we’re in constant prayer over this. Its not something we take lightly.
- “At least you know you can get pregnant” (to someone who has dealt with a miscarriage)- This is probably the absolute worst thing you can say to someone who has lost a child…other than “well he/she wasn’t really a child”
- “lots of fun trying” – Years of trying to make a baby. How much fun can one take?
- “God will provide” or “I know God will give you a child” -really? God told you so? By chance did He tell you when?
- ”Unresolved sin in your life” – Can you point me in the direction of where in the Bible God purposefully holds our past sins (which we’ve probably asked for forgiveness for) over our heads?
- ”Get a pet, its like a baby” – Well, a pet isn’t always the answer. Especially if someone is allergic to animals
- “Get drunk and have wild, crazy sex”- Yes, if getting drunk was a real solution, I think there would be far fewer people struggling with infertility
- “Take a vacation” – How many vacations can a couple really afford? I’m sure we’d all like to take permanent vacations, but unfortunately life doesn’t give us the option to take that much time off.
- “If its meant to be it will happen” – Really?
- “There are worse things that can happen” – Again, REALLY? This IS our worst
- “I had this dream that you had a baby”- Please keep your baby dreams to yourself. If I had a child for every person thats had a dream of me having one, I’d have more kids than the Octo-Mom or the Duggars
- “My husband/wife and I didn’t expect to to get pregnant so easily”- Goody gum-drops for you! Good to know that all it takes is for you and your spouse to look at each other in order to get pregnant
- “I know how you feel” – Unless you’ve truly battled infertility, please don’t make this comment
- ”You need to trust God”- Do you think we don’t trust God? God is THE ROCK in which we are leaning on.
- “I know infertility can be tough. It took us four months to get pregnant.” – REALLY? Wow, those few months must have been very tough. Try spending YEARS trying to get pregnant.
- “You’ll be a great mom/dad.” – Thank for you thinking so, but telling me so only makes my heart hurt more and the longing intensify.
Other advice for those who have never battled infertility…
- Do not excessively complain about your pregnancy or your kids. Both are tough, but imagine not having them to complain about. How sad would you be?
- Do not treat a miscarriage as if it weren’t a child. It was, and the parents are grieving the loss of their baby. They need the support and prayers.
- If you know someone who is struggling with infertility, do not bring it up in mixed company. Almost every person I’ve met battles this privately to some degree. They will share what they want, when they want, and with whom they want.
- Never criticize someone for their choice of fertility treatments. If someone chooses to pursue something that you are completely against, keep that to yourself. More than likely a couple has had to endure great pains to get where they’re at. They’ve spent countless time, energy, money, etc trying to have a baby on their own. They’ve more than likely spent a great deal of time in prayer over the issue and had to decide where the lines were to be drawn, ethically speaking.
- How to ruin a friendship: If a friend struggling with infertility has opened their heart up to you and shared their struggles, and you happen to get pregnant, take the time to tell that person before announcing it publicly (like on Facebook).
- Church can be one of the hardest places to be. Mothers and Fathers day can be brutal. Baby dedications, children’s performances are pretty tough too. Keep this in mind. Most couples struggling with infertility avoid church on these days if given the opportunity
- Baby showers are extremely painful to people facing infertility. Don’t be upset if your friend does not come to your shower or even bows out ten minutes in for “somthing thats come up”. It is your day, and she is having a tough time keeping composure. She more than likely means well and doesn’t want her pain to interrupt your happiness.
- Be understanding if people who do not have kids do not want to watch your kids, want to work in the church nursery, etc. Its a tough place!
- Infertility is a female and male issue. It is also a medical problem. There are many medical possibilities that can cause infertility. There is also unexplained infertility.
- Couples facing this can pour thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars into having a child and never have one. Adoptions are not 100% promised either. Many couples pour their money, time, and hearts into the process for things to crumble at the last moment.
Good advice on how to handle friends who struggle with infertility:
- It really stinks having to battle infertility. Let people you know with infertility that you feel it stinks too!
- Its is perfectly ok to admit that you don’t understand what we’re going through!
- Sometimes we need a hug and just for you to tell us you will listen if we need to talk. We are not looking for you to provide a solution. Just an ear, and maybe for you to sit and pray with us.
- If you get pregnant and your friend has confided in you, take the time, privately (email is great) to tell her. It allows her to handle the news on her own and she will congratulate you after she has absorbed the news. Sometimes we need to process privately. When people struggling with infertility find the news out publicly, we feel as though our friendship has held little value to you. We feel as though we’re as insignificant as the “friend” you had in elementary school that you’ve not “talked” with since then.
- Don’t say any of the crazy things listed above
- Understand that we have good days/moments and bad
- Understand that we try to be incredibly gracious when people “ just don’t get it”, but sometimes we aren’t as gracious as we should be
- The most important thing you can do is to pray for those struggling with infertility!