Thursday, July 2, 2009

infertility comments 101 (things you shouldn’t say, or even think)

Warning: this is not well thought out or well written, it just is.

For several months, I’ve thought about posting the things people say to infertile couples, the insensitive, hurtful things. Having recently been “hit” again, I mentioned posting on the blog to another infertile friend who told me to do it. That same week a fertile friend (who has never made any of these comments) asked me if I would post some helpful hints/ things you shouldn’t say on the blog.

So here you go, a list of the comments we’ve received. These are the comments that cause all infertile women to roll their eyes, then jump on their message boards to rant to their infertile friends, who’ve all been there, heard that, many, many times.

As soon as we told friends and family that we were having a problem starting our family, the comments began. Fortunately I’ve only received a handful of ignorant comments. I attribute this to both trying to educate people, and avoiding certain people and events. I choose to believe the comments were made out of ignorance, not because anyone was trying to hurt me.

“Just relax”

This is by far the most common comment we’ve received. Would you tell a cancer patient to “just relax”? What about a diabetic? Infertility is disease, just like cancer, just like diabetes. No amount of relaxing will cure it. Stress doesn’t cause infertility. Infertility causes stress.

“Just go on vacation”

Ah yes, another favorite, right up there with “just relax” on the level of obnoxiousness. All I need is a week under the sun? Huh, and to think that I've wasted so much of our “vacation” money on doctors’ appointments, tests, medications, and IVF.

“Just adopt, then you will get pregnant”

First of all, there is no such thing as “just” adopting. It is a complicated, expensive process, more so if you are a U.S. citizen living overseas. Second, the reason you hear this phrase thrown around so often is because it rarely happens and people like to talk about uncommon events. It’s very unusual for a couple to adopt, then suddenly find themselves pregnant, typically having been through years of infertility treatment. The other thing that really bothers me about this statement is that it implies that adopted children are somehow second best, that the goal is a biological child. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“I know exactly how you feel. I had to take Clomid for six months to get pregnant”.

Having never been on Clomid I don’t know how the side effects compare to those of the medications used for IVF, but comparing a pill to daily injections, blood draws, ultrasounds, surgery, and worrying about embryos growing in a lab? Really? And we won’t even go down the road of the difference in price.

“Just don’t think about it, then you will get pregnant”

Considering that we’ve been on a forced break from doing another IVF for over a year, I’ve definitely not been “thinking” about it. SURPRISE! Still not pregnant.

“When you get your life right with God, it will happen”

Do drug dealers and women who abuse their children have their lives “right with God”? If not, then how dare you accuse me of being “out of synch” with God? Besides, atheists, Buddhists, and many other women who don’t even believe in God get pregnant very easily.

“You are young, you can have as many children as you want”

Mid 30s is young?? I can have as many children as I want? I never gave much thought as to how many children I wanted, but considering the difficulty and expense with just trying for one, no, I can’t have as many as I want.

Thank you for your support, please think before you speak, and overall, if you’re not sure what to say, “I’m here for you. I’m willing to listen” works every time. Offers of distracting your infertile friend with shopping, girls day to the spa, and a visit to the local wine bar are also appreciated :)

Whether you have friends going through infertility or you are personally dealing with it, I hope you found this helpful.


  1. amen!
    I'm hoping this one works for you!

  2. Ugh. People just don't think, do they? Why is it that when it comes to women's reproductive choices/struggles, everyone feels that they need to weigh in and that they are entitled to an opinion?

  3. I'm sorry you are having this struggle. I know you are mad as hell at the unfairness of life. I get that and I don't blame you. When that which we want most in life, seems out of reach, it makes us rage at the angels but you need to be a little more forgiving where other peoples well meaning albeit socially clumsy attempts at comfort and reassurance are concerned. WE don't all say the right thing even when we mean only the best.

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    I completely agree with you that the comments are generally well intentioned, I really do. I don’t for a second believe that friends and family members say these things to be hurtful or unkind. However, I’m on the infertility message boards, and day after day see women posting the latest insensitive comment they’ve received. The comments generally consist of the same five or so. I thought I would do this “Infertility 101” post, both to educate people on things not to say, and so that other infertile women know that while they are going through what is often the most difficult phase of their lives, they are not alone, other people hear it, too.

    Thank you for leaving a comment.

  5. Nice Blog. Keep posting more