Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What NOT to Say to an Infertile Friend

Y'all, I proudly claim to be an "infertile".  It's just a diagnosis to me, like a diabetic would say, "I'm a diabetic".  It does not define me, it does not define my situation, it just puts a diagnosis to my issue.  It really doesn't bother me and I travel this journey openly to hopefully make other people feel like they're not alone and to bring awareness to those who have NO IDEA what we are up against as an "infertile".

Since I'm a seasoned veteran, I thought I would share some of those things with you as well as how I've learned to respond to them.  I'm going to be honest, some of these responses could be construed as sarcastic and might actually ice the conversation.  These people, as callous and ignorant as they may be, they are really trying to "help" and your response to their help could make or break the conversation.  People who are met with an uncomfortable topic can find themselves trying to compare or offer advice in an effort to relate to your situation.  Remember that they really aren't cruel, they are just ignorant to your journey and often unaware of what to say.

So let's hit on a few of the things I've heard over the years as well as what I say when I hear them.

1) "Why would you want kids, just take mine for a few hours and you'll change your mind."  

This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  How can someone be so callous to imply that a person shouldn't want children, especially when you already have one or more?  What is so wrong with your children that having them for an afternoon would make me change my mind?  Are you parenting so poorly that your kids would actually scare someone out of having children?  I get this a lot, especially when I'm in the presence of a child who is misbehaving.  They act out, the parent looks at me and says, "Are you sure you want kids?"  Is life with children so awful that a single moment of conflict would drive someone to give up?  What a quitter!

My Response: I'd LOVE to spend time with your kids, let's go to the zoo.  Oh it's so wonderful to have someone willing to share their kids when we've been struggling so long to have them.  This usually makes them feel pretty small and also gives me a chance to go to the zoo.  WIN-WIN!    

2) "Take a vacation and you'll get pregnant," followed by "that's what happened to Jimmy's cousin's Susie last fall".  

Ahhh, yes a vacation?  Yes that will surely work!  After all nothing says pregnancy is easy like remembering Jimmy's cousin Susie who got pregnant on vacation.  Infertility issues like low sperm count, endometriosis, PCOS and blocked fallopian tubes can't be "fixed" with vacation and while I'm thrilled to bits about Jimmy's cousin Susie, I guarantee she didn't have issues with sperm count and motility!

My Response: Sure, we'd love to go, where are you taking us and I assume you'll be paying?  Guess what didn't help me get pregnant...the two vacations a year I've taken for the past eight years, HA!  This usually leaves them speechless and wondering if I was serious about them paying...and I was.  

3) "Why don't you just adopt?"   

"Just" adopt...the sentence itself implies that adoption is an easy process.  Just run out to Adoption Center in town and pick one out, like a puppy?  Sorry y'all it's just not that easy!   It is a grueling process.  I don't think the President is interrogated more than a couple trying to adopt.  And first you have to get on the list...once you're approved, you still have to wait for a baby.  In addition, you run into issues like pregnant women who change their mind and you "lose" the baby you never had.  Gut punch.  Did you know adoption can take YEARS before you bring a child home?  And you think I should "just adopt".

My Response: Adoption is a long and difficult process leaving some people waiting years to be met with a match.  Also, I already share two kids with biological parents, I'd like to try being the biological parent now.

4) "Just be glad you get to sleep late (or be glad you don't have to do X, Y, or Z.)" 

Please don't minimize my desire to have a child because you can't sleep late...or you have to do X, Y, or Z with your child.  Would you give up your child if you could have sleeping late or if you didn't have to do X, Y, or Z?  Nahhh, I didn't think so, so why would use try to make me feel better with that?

My Response: I can't wait to not sleep, deal with dirty diapers, soothe a crying baby, watch amazing first's like smiling, crawling, walking, first words, first day of school, so many wonderful parts of being a mom, a little lost sleep or X, Y, Z just such a small part of the amazing journey that is being a parent.
5) "Maybe it's just not meant to be."

This is a real kick in the teeth. Is that why people get cancer?  Lose a loved one?  Would you say that to someone who just lost their parent or their child...maybe they weren't meant to live.  Sounds pretty callous right?

My Response: Well THAT hurt!  Ouch!  Jeez, kick a girl while she's down why don't ya?  (I figure if they're gonna have the chutzpah to say that they better be ready to deal with a forward answer that puts them in the hot seat!)    

6) "Just relax and it will happen." Or "Just stop trying and you'll get pregnant"

Can you point me to the medical journal that says relaxing will help my husband's sperm issues?  Anyone?  Do you realize there are MEDICAL reasons we are not getting pregnant?  Stop trying...that's a good one, over the course of nine years, I've spent a few not trying and guess what, I'm still not pregnant.  Evidently "not trying" is not working for us.

My Response: I've relaxed and not tried and ended up not pregnant.  So we are going with a medically sound way of getting pregnant this time, using science.  Sure it's more expensive than relaxing but it has a higher success rate to go with it.

So what they heck should they say?  That's a great question!  I have some ideas and I think they would really be helpful to someone who's left not knowing what to say at a time like THIS!

What I recommend to these people is this: acknowledge you care about them.  Do a little research on infertility.  Nothing says "I care" more than taking five minutes to check out what they might be dealing with.   Tell them while you've never been through the situation, you know how it feels to wait for something you want.  Tell them you're there to listen.  Ask them how treatments are going.  

After all, one in eight women suffer from infertility so the odds are there is a friend in your circle on a silent journey, feeling alone and vulnerable, wishing there was someone they could confide in.  And that someone could be YOU!

Do you have some bad advice you've received?  How about some AMAZING advice or comments from a friend while you were on this journey?  Let me know in the comments below!


  1. The things people say...and I'm sure they don't say it to be rude, but it still hurts us, nonetheless. We ALWAYS get the "why don't you just adopt?" and the "everything happens for a reason..." Really, please tell me the reason for my miscarriage? I just want a biological baby...I don't care if I don't get any sleep, I just want to be called mom. I know this is going to sound terrible, I can't believe I'm even saying this...but I'm tired of waiting, I have prayed so much and I'm tired of seeing teenagers get pregnant. I haven't felt like this in a long time...I was doing good, but today it just hit me, "what if I never get the privilege of being a mom?" Oh girl, so sorry to unload on your blog like this...

    1. People have told me that there are children in the world who need a mom and dad and I'm SELFISH for not adopting...that is just SO RUDE! How dare they assume what I need or should be doing.

      Sometimes you need to just VENT those feelings and that is what it important to me, that you are able to say what you're feeling even if it's harsh so you don't have to apologize for that EVER! I try to stay positive, I try to visualize life as a mother, visualize the nursery, visualize a baby. But I still cry when I'm alone thinking I might never be one. I have never miscarried but I cannot imagine the pain you felt when you had to go through that.

  2. ugh. People really, really, really have no idea. There is so much grace to give in these situation. It's so hard that (most) people mean well, yet their comments are so hard to hear.

    1. They really don't understand, and I always try to remember that they really don't mean to be hurtful, they are really just trying to help. I hope that bringing more awareness to the subject will give people the opportunity to be more open about the struggle and in turn, be able to talk more openly about it.

  3. It's crazy...I've actually never had many people give me "advice" like this....although, my husband was the one who suggested we "just" adopt prior to starting IVF. I gave him a quick timeline about all that and it was the last I heard of it! :)

    1. Even the hubs didn't realize the length of time adoption really takes!

  4. Just found you on Instagram!! People can be so cruel and thoughtless. We are in the middle of IVF #3. We have twins from IVF #1 and my favorite with them was, "oh are they natural?" OMG. People are freakin clueless, "no they are made from plastic!" They have no idea how much we went through to have kids... Surgeries, shots, test after test, heartbreak, etc. it's shocking! Great post! I pray you get your miracles! And btw, I'm bad girl gone good and Saved by His grace too❤️πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™ŒπŸ»

    1. ARE THEY NATURAL!!! Oh my goodness, what kind of question is that!!?!?! So glad we found each other!

  5. I found your blog while researching for my current book I'm writing. My heroine is infertile and like you, Carissa, she hasn't had a miscarriage, pregnancy just hasn't happened for them yet. Reading about this real struggle has been an eye opener for me. I do have two children, yet find myself crying as I read about your, and so many others, pain. My mother once recommended drinking raspberry tea to a friend who couldn't conceive. This friend did have a son and she credits her ability to have a baby to the tea. I pray it will work for those of you who read this.