This week is infertility awareness week, and so I’m dedicating my blog to infertility today in honor of my wonderful, brave clients who have gone through the roller coaster of infertility. Sometimes it can be so hard to figure out why you are struggling with infertility when it appears everyone around you is pregnant or has a baby. It’s particularly difficult when one or both partners are infertile because society’s never been given a script on appropriate things to say. Questions or comments that are seemingly innocent can spark a flood of anger or tears without warning. I thought it might be helpful today to provide some alternative responses for some of the most common comments/situations people encounter from others.
1) “When are you and your husband going to have a baby?”
This question is particularly difficult when posed by a co-worker or a potential friend you are just meeting. Sometimes it’s helpful to provide a general response like, “Our lives are pretty full right now, but we sure do love our dogs, cats, pets, or nieces/nephews.” Another helpful response is to re-direct the question and say something like, “We are taking things one day at at time. Do you have children?”
2) “I’m having a baby shower, and you’re invited.”
Whether it’s a close friend or not so close friend, it’s a good idea to thank them for the invitation. If it feels too painful to go to the shower, and the friend is someone you are close to, inform her that you are happy for her and wish her all the best but it’s a difficult time for you. It may be helpful to send her a gift certificate with your warmest wishes. For colleagues and less close friends, you might express congratulations and just inform them that you will not be able to make the shower with a nice card or small gift that’s less baby oriented (i.e., a gift certificate to a meal preparation store, etc.). Friends who have not faced infertility may not know how to support you. They may find it helpful if you can tell them what you would consider to be supportive. For example, would you like them to call you after an IVF treatment to ask how it went or is it better if you go out for ice cream and talk about other things?
3) “If you can’t have a baby, you can always just adopt.”
This comment is one that people generally say in an effort to cover up discomfort at not knowing what to say. When you hear someone make this statement, it can be really tempting to say any number of sarcastic remarks. If it’s a person who is able to take feedback and is close to you, you might say something along the lines of, “I know that you probably don’t know what to say to support me right now. Although your comment is well intentioned, it would be most helpful to me if I could just share my sadness with you. You don’t have to find a solution. All I need is for you to listen.”
I hope you find those comments to be helpful! As frustrating as it can be to hear them, most people can be ignorant of how difficult it can be to cope with infertility. By educating them, you can empower yourself through setting boundaries with others.