What people struggling with fertility don’t want you to say and one thing we wish you would.

Being a supportive person isn’t always about trying to give someone an answer, you don’t always need to fix the situation someone else is going through, most of the time we just need you to lend and ear and listen if/when we want to talk about what we’re going through.
In sharing the awkward conversations I’ve had, or have had other people share with me, I hope to get people to understand what is or isn’t appropriate to say to their fertility challenged friends/family/coworkers/etc.
  1. Asking anyone when or if they want kids. Seriously how is this still a thing? I had a family member corner me after I got married earlier this year and ask me, it was such a bad experience and I wasn’t prepared to have to answer that, and so I froze up and walked away. Unless someone has told you their plans, you don’t know anyone’s stance on having a family, you also don’t know if that person has been trying and maybe can’t pregnant. This question can lead to a lot of anger, tears and resentment. It’s like asking someone how much they weigh when it’s none of your business. This is pretty self explanatory…if you’ve done this or do this out of curiosity, please stop!
  2. If you can help it, avoid telling people struggling to conceive that you’re pregnant in person. I also feel like this is just good to do in general, especially if you don’t know the situation of the person you plan on telling. Not everyone is open about their fertility journey. It’s really hard to be on the receiving end of these in person announcements and we need time to process our emotions before we respond and possibly hurt someone’s feelings because we’re hurt ourselves. Normally I’m all about face to face conversations, but this is such a sensitive topic for people who are dealing with fertility issues that it’s just better for both sides if you tell them over a text or email and give them time to take it in.
  3. People asking “what’s new or how’s it going” in a way that where you can tell they’re digging for information, as in an “are you pregnant yet?” kind of way. I am more than my fertility struggles, and I think about this enough on my own that I don’t want to constantly talk about it or maybe I just don’t want to share with you in that moment. If I ever get pregnant, I will share if and when I’m ready.
  4. Unsolicited medical advice or pregnancy advice such as: has your husband been tested, have you tried ovulation tests, temperature taking, seen a doctor, etc. Dudes, I’ve tried it all and am still trying it all. I’m the most aware person I know when it comes to trying to get pregnant. It’s also kind of insulting to have someone ask you if you’ve tried what most people in my position know to do to try and conceive. Basically if you’re not a doctor, or someone who has gone through what I’m going through, then I don’t want to hear your advice.
  5. When people tell you not to stress out/worry about it. I remember a few months ago when I was pretty stressed out in general and people would comment and say how stress is bad (thanks Captain Obvious) and that it can’t be good for getting pregnant. It’s easy enough for you to say to someone else. You’re not going through it, please realize that it’s nearly impossible not to be stressed out about it when it’s not happening for you, after months or even years of trying.
  6. In terms of previously having a miscarriage or chemical pregnancy, I’ve had people saying that at least I know I can get pregnant. This is not true, nobody really knows until fertility specialists can run tests. Some people will never be able to carry a baby to full term. My miscarriage was over 6 years ago and things change, bodies change and health can change drastically.
  7. Saying it’s going to happen when it happens, or that it’ll all fall into place eventually. I have friends who have said it to me and even my own doctor says this every time I see her. The reality is that I may never get pregnant naturally, and even with medical intervention the chances of actually being able to get pregnant can still be quite low. I am a pretty optimistic person, but false hope is not helpful.

I know people in general don’t mean any harm and think they’re helping, but you really have to be able to put yourself in our situation when you decide to talk to someone about their challenges. Trust me when I say that a lot of people would rather you say nothing if you don’t know what to say. Honestly, even saying that you don’t know what to say can be helpful. Say those words. Say that you don’t know what it’s like, say you can’t imagine.

Brené Brown says it best when she talks about empathy vs. sympathy. She says empathy rarely starts with the words, “At least…” and that oftentimes, the best response is, “I don’t know what to say, but I am really glad you told me.” There is a great short video where she explains the difference and it’s worth a look, it’s less than 3 minutes long. I’ve used this way of thinking and reacting so much since starting to read her books and use this as a tool when I’m having conversations with people who are going through a rough time.

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