This post is one of many that you will find throughout the week on No Ordinary Homestead about infertility, because this blog has been dedicated to National Infertility Awareness Week (April 24-30). This is being done to raise awareness on behalf of the millions of people, male and female, who have ever been infertile or are considered infertile today. If you or someone you know is dealing with fertility problems, you might enjoy Navigating the Land of IF — you can win a copy here this week.
When you find out that someone you know is having trouble conceiving a child, there are things you say, and things you say but shouldn’t. As someone who hasn’t personally journeyed onto the island of IF, the last thing I want to do is say something stupid if one of my friends or family members comes to me with news like that. My whole reason for participating in NIAW is to not only raise awareness for those who are seeking answers about their own fertility, but also for those who are on the other side of the window looking in.
- “Well, it could be worse.”
- “Enjoy life without kids while you still can.”
- Don’t pretend you have all the answers.
- “As soon as you stop trying, it’s going to happen.”
- Don’t yammer away about your friend to everyone you know.
- “Maybe this is just God’s way of telling you that you’re not supposed to be parents.”
- “Be glad you’re not pregnant – this kid in my belly is killing me!”
- “You can’t conceive on your own? Well then just adopt.”
- “Well, if you need a sperm donor, I’ve got some healthy swimmers.”
- Remember her on Mother’s Day and him on Father’s Day.
Telling some who is infertile that they could be dead or missing limbs or going through a divorce or otherwise worse off is in no way helpful or supportive. Your friend wants nothing more than to become a parent, and is willing to go to extreme lengths to make that happen. There is nothing worse to him or her than knowing that they may never be able to conceive a child.
Making light of the situation and just shrugging off the issue is not showing any form of support. They don’t want your “silver lining” response, but more likely just a friend to be there through the ups and downs.
Your friend isn’t coming to you for medical advice (unless you happen to be a fertility expert.) So don’t go on about what worked for so-and-so or try to solve the problem. Listen, be a strong shoulder to cry on if needed and just let them know they are not going through this alone. Whatever choices they decide to take in their journey, be supportive. And don’t feel that you can just disappear if they should conceive, decide to adopt or choose to live childless. Your support is still just as helpful and necessary as it ever was before.
I’m pretty sure I’ve thought this to myself before, but it seems that when the stress is gone from trying to hard to have children, it just happens. But in the case of someone diagnosed with fertility problems, it’s just not the case. Without help from doctors and pharmaceutical companies, your friend may conceive. Or they may not. But the window of it just coming naturally has likely already closed.
This person has confided in you and if she wanted the world to know and talk behind her back, she would have written an article for the local paper or rented a billboard. By the same token, don’t pry and try to get information out of your friend either. Just be supportive and let him or her share what they want share.
I won’t even go into detail why this is something you shouldn’t say — because it is just one of the most insensitive and hurtful things that you could ever utter.
If you are pregnant and you know someone who is having fertility problems, the last thing they want to hear about is how terrible your pregnancy is. Seeing you pregnant is already torturing them. And they would change places with you in a heartbeat, no matter how bad you consider your pregnancy to be.
Adoption is not the simple answer for someone who wants nothing more than to hold a child who is their own flesh and blood. Adoption and donor insemination are extremely complicated, expensive and everyone must decide on their own if this is a path they are willing to take once all other options have been explored. It’s not the easy way out by any means, especially since most domestic adoptions are now open and donor siblings are all registered.
Granted, a woman is probably not going to say this — but you might volunteer to stud out your boyfriend or husband jokingly which you mean as a joke. But your friend is likely to only see it as crude and irritating.
These days of celebration are highly commercialized and it can be difficult to escape all the ads and reminders that he or she has not yet been able to conceive. Just because someone is not yet a parent, it does not mean that they won’t appreciate a card to let them know that you are thinking of them during this difficult time.