The Top Ten Things NOT to Say

February 26th, 2009
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Pencil and Post It Anyone who has struggled with infertility has inevitably been given “advice” or opinions completely unsolicited and often shockingly rude. As my husband and I discussed some of the inappropriate comments we heard when we began to tell people that we were having trouble conceiving (something we started talking about in response to the unending questions about when we were going to have children), a top ten list, of sorts, emerged. Here are the top ten things NOT to say to someone enduring infertility – just the opinion of one (admittedly often cranky) woman!

1) Just relax, or just stop trying so hard and it will happen.

Believe me, I heard this one enough times to “try” it a time or two. It doesn’t work. Infertility is a medical issue not mental, and it is the kind of comment that ultimately leads to a story about John and Sue who tried for years, decided to adopt and suddenly got pregnant. While I am happy for the lucky couple (if they even really exist), I doubt that they had the same exact issues as me and I’d rather take the advice of my doctor who knows that relaxing is not the cure-all.

2) Go on vacation or a cruise.

Along the same lines as number one; I have dreamed about that idyllic little scenario of going on a beach vacation, spending quality time with hubby, and a month or so later presenting him with a cute little card announcing the expanding family. Despite what an easy “fix” that would be, I really don’t think there is bad infertility juju in my bedroom keeping me from conceiving.

3) You are still young, you have plenty of time.

The decision to have a child is seldom one that is made spur of the moment in a committed, adult relationship. Often, the hopeful mother-to-be has long envisioned the type of parent she will be and usually that motherhood picture includes a snapshot of the age she wants to be when the child is born. I married relatively young and intended to have children a couple of years after getting married since I had always wanted to be a “young” mom. This comment was particularly infuriating to me because it made me feel like my years of struggle and heartache were being minimized.

4) Just enjoy this time to travel/sleep late/have hobbies

This one is really almost too absurd to even warrant comment. People who long for a family would never trade any amount of travel, sleep or time on the golf course for children, and to suggest it is even a substitute in any fashion is ludicrous.

5) You can have mine, believe me you don’t want kids.

We know you love your children, despite those days when they are driving you crazy, making you sleep deprived and worrying you silly. We want one of those days more than anything and we can hear it in your voice that you wouldn’t trade it for the world.

6) If it is meant to be it will be.

This is one of the hardest comments to hear. Many people enter into the world of fertility treatments with questions and concerns about ethics and religion and morality that they must come to peace with. Muddying the waters with a statement like this that alludes to “God’s will” and suitability for motherhood, is downright cruel.

7) There are worse things that can happen.

We are grateful for many things in our lives and understand that most people have much for which to be thankful. That doesn’t mean that suffering infertility isn’t bad, that we are not devastated, or that it isn’t really, really hard.

8) Are you going to have six babies? Make sure they use your husband’s sperm. Other similarly crude comments or questions.

My husband actually told me I should include this comment. This one, to me, isn’t too offensive. Maybe because I see it as a good opportunity to educate people about the success rates of different methods, the details of the treatment options and to make some light-hearted jokes in a time when those are often hard to come by. That being said, it is prudent to remember that everyone’s situation is unique and if the person struggling with infertility is scared that they may face a selective reduction decision or is using donor sperm, or any other similar scenario, these comments can strike a nerve and be very intrusive and difficult to handle.

9) I know how you feel.

Unless you have been there, done that you don’t know how I feel. It is a nice platitude and usually an attempt to be sincere and supportive, but if it isn’t or can’t be true that you really know how I feel this is one that it is probably best left unsaid.

10) Why don’t you “just” adopt.

The decision to turn to fertility treatments is different for everyone. Some people really want to have a biological child, some women ache for the pregnancy experience, others are not comfortable with the adoption option to build their family and still others may not be “qualified” to adopt for a myriad of reasons. This statement is simplistic and naive and just should not be said.

Wow, I sure am long-winded today – I guess I have a lot to say on this subject! There are so many things NOT to say that a list of just 10 was difficult. What would you add to this list? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear more!

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3 Responses to “The Top Ten Things NOT to Say”

  1. Grace1985 Says:

    Here’s one …. ‘If you’re not pregnant yet you’re obviously not getting enough practice’. At which point I would love to produce my little charting book which tells them exactly when I have had sex recently, which incidentally was optimally timed with ovulation, usually in the missionary position, and followed by me lying on my back with my hips on a pillow for 30 minutes. How’s THAT for practice, moron!

    Or the phrase “He only had to look at me and I got pregnant / we weren’t even trying / we got pregnant the first month”, followed by a sympathetic look which translates as “I wonder what’s wrong with you, you poor dear.”


  2. Sheila F Says:

    Oh believe me, that “well, we weren’t even trying” comment can make my blood boil! I once was even asked if I was sure that I was “doing it” right?!?

  3. Grace1985 Says:

    Well I do know a funny story about that actually…my best friend is a nurse and there was a couple who weren’t ‘doing it right’ which was discovered when they went to see the doctor after months of trying … they were couple of a different culture who hadn’t been taught what they were supposed to do as it is a bit of a no-no to even discuss sex or anything personal in their culture. Suffice to say, the wrong entrance was being used!!!!!! :-) Bless them, I do hope they have since succeeded in their efforts!

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