The Proper Care and Feeding of Infertiles
First off, thank you. So much kindness and love were poured out on us yesterday. You have no idea how it warms our hearts to see perfect “strangers” willing to pray for our family.
Today, I want to clear up some misconceptions, do a little educating, and hopefully prevent someone from unintentionally making some else feel bad in the future. I think there is a stigma around infertility, similar to mental health issues because others can’t see what is wrong. There are often no physical signs. I’m going to use some silly medical metaphors today, and yeah it may seem like I’m reaching, but I want to help you connect the dots.
I totally get it. Someone says something sad, and you say something intended to make them feel better, and it totally backfires.
I get it.
Because I do it daily.
I have actually said about 85% of the things below to someone at some point. In no way is this post intended to make anyone feel bad, because like I said, I have also said these things! I don’t report to know all the pitfalls, but these are some of the top ones in my opinion.
The Infertility Hit list. Thou Shall Not Say These Things
1) Relax/stop trying/chill out
No. Just no.
This one is first because it’s most commonly given “advice” and it is also the most painful. For people struggling with fertility issues, “just” relaxing would be easier than taking your temperature daily, having a tube shoved in to your cervix, and another myriad of expensive tests.
Don’t you think relaxing would be the easiest most preferable option for people if it actually worked?
Another aspect to consider is, by telling someone to just relax and it will happen, you are placing them blame on the for a medical issue they cannot control. Would you tell a blind person that they could learn to see if only they would just relax? I am guessing no. And yet, it is perfectly acceptable to tell someone who medically is having a hard time getting pregnant that this is the solution they need. The solution they never once in a thousand years would have considered. “Oh, I should have just relaxed? Why didn’t anyone ever tell me…”
For many people with fertility issues, relaxing has nothing to do with it because their anatomy is rebelling (like my issue), or there is an issue with their partner, or possibly 549 things you probably have never considered. No amount of relaxing will remove the blockage in my cervix m’kay. I ovulate like a champ. I have a bunch of eggs, but those pathetic little bastards can’t move anywhere. The only relaxation that helps me is when I take a deep breath while I pay someone a huge amount of money to try to shove a balloon in my cervix to expand it.
2) Have you tried “x”?
Yes I have, thank you. OF COURSE I HAVE!
And I am still not pregnant, so not, it didn’t work for me.
3) You’re lucky you already have a child/one should be enough for you.
Yes I am. In fact, before you pointed that out, I only had thought of that on my own about 9 million times. By you making me aware of it, the count is now up to 9,000,001.
We don’t know it my issues were there when we tried for Jack (6 cycles), and just got incredibly lucky, or if having giving birth to him caused the issues.
The fact of the matter is, whatever you think I should be feeling, my heart does not feel complete right now. You may feel content with your situation, but please do not assume others feel the same. Would you tell someone with only one leg that they are lucky to have that, because others don’t have any? If so, I’ll put you in touch with my 6 ft 8 father, and you can see how he reacts.
Which leads me to…
4) Please don’t project your assumptions/expectations on to others
Someone with three kids who wants more is still entitled to feel pain over a miscarriage or fertility issues. It may be different than what you think they should feel, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to feel their pain. You don’t define others hurt or emptiness. There is not a special meter to measure another individual’s pain.
5) Secondary infertility is an actual thing.
Infertility doesn’t mean you absolutely can’t have a kid. It means for whatever reason, that couple can’t conceive without medical intervention or something big. It isn’t always as simple as penis meets vagina, and bam, baby.
A “normal” couple has a 20% chance each cycle to conceive “normally”. One of the medical options potentially available to Troy and me would give us an 8-10% chance. So, by paying a ton of money, we’re given HALF of the chance of someone else who just has a normal old roll in the hay. We’re already behind the eight ball on this one. It is a thing.
Already having a child does not mean your body can’t rebel later, and cause a shit ton of trouble for you.
6) When are you going to have another?
None of your damn business. Bottom line.
Especially if you are asking the parent of an older child, chances are:
- they only want one
- they haven’t had success and that question is like a stake to the heart
7) Blaming any issue the other kid has on being an “only child”
Never tell a parent “your child is acting like that because they don’t have a sibling at home”. Well, do you have a sibling? Yes? Amazing that you are still that fucking insensitive then.
So…what can/should you say?
My friend Elaina has defined friendship as “someone you are willing to get stabby for”.
So if a true (stab-worthy) friend tells you they are struggling, pick any of the following:
- Shit motherfuck. (This is much better when said in a very heavy Russian accent. Please believe me. I’ll wait. Try it out. Amazing, right? So satisfying.) I am so sorry. FUCK! This is unfair.
- Say nothing, wrap that person in your arms, cry with them, and magically produce a heavily caloric form of chocolate.
- “I know I can’t make this ok for, but I am here for you, and am with you every step of the way.”
An acquaintance, or blogger you don’t know personally in real life:
- Shit motherfuck. Again said in heavy Russian accent. Really, this reaction is appropriate in so many situations.
- “I am very sorry you are experiencing this”. If the person is religious, let them know you are praying for them. Not religious? Tell them they are in your thoughts.
- If you have experienced fertility issues in the past, feel free to share your experience. This can be a very lonely process for many.
So there you have it. You’re all now ready for the care and feeding of infertiles. Congrats graduates. Oh, and if you feel like you’re about to saying something stupid, just relax. Relaxing is the answer to everything!
Now go forth and be compassionate!