Although I now have FIVE children (since this post was originally written) and can thankfully put most of my infertility struggles behind me, there are some things I want you to know about infertility. Things I want to encourage you to just never, ever say to someone who is struggling with any form of infertility.
Never ask, “Is it you or your husband?”
First of all, its none of your business. Secondly, as a couple we are already struggling with “whose fault it is” and that carries a tremendous amount of guilt and strain on our marriage as it is without you adding to it. And is it ever really anyone’s “fault” if they cannot control it?
Never say, “Wow, I just look at my husband and get pregnant.”
I mean honestly, did you think that was going to make me feel better? And come on, we both know you did a little more than look at him so your statement isn’t even accurate. Lastly, what are you trying to say or suggest with that statement? That I should just start looking at your husband?
Never point out all the many ways that I am lucky that I don’t have children while you complain about the many things you can no longer do (sleep in late, have a clean house, read a book) because you have children. It makes you sound ungrateful and shallow. Would you really trade your blessings forever to get to sleep in late?
Unless you think I am capable of the most heinous forms of child abuse NEVER say, “Maybe you just aren’t meant to have children.” That is hurtful when I can turn on the TV and hear about children being murdered, placed in trash cans or born to crack addicts or teenagers in the bathroom during a prom (where they are left in the toilet or trash afterward). According to your theory those women were MEANT to have children. Those women were more deserving than me. Because they could pregnant without a second thought they are somehow more deserving and better than I who is struggling. And yes, someone did say that to me and it still hurts 6 years and four children later.
Never say, “Why don’t you just adopt?” if you are not yourself an adoptive parent. Adoption is a wonderful option and blessing. But there is a process that must bring you there. There is a mourning that must be gone through before one can move on to be able to accept adoption as the wonderful blessing and GIFT that it is, instead of seeing it as a consolation prize, which it never should be. Every couple that is struggling with infertility has thought about adoption and is aware that it exists. For some couples, for various reasons it is not an option for them and then they must accept childlessness. Yes, you can still have a wonderful life without being a parent, but at the time that you want to be a parent, it doesn’t feel like it. Show some compassion to a couple that is trying to find the path they are meant to follow. If and when they are ready to face adoption (that has its own struggles with waiting not to mention expense) they will be proud to talk to you about it. They will have embraced it and they will celebrate the child they are able to parent. But right now, they have to mourn.
Never say, “Just don’t think about it and it will happen.” It is a nice sentiment, but frankly its impossible. If the person you are speaking to is undergoing treatment they cannot not think about it. There are blood tests to be taken on certain days, injections or pills to be taken at precise times, ultrasounds that are timed and results that are anxiously waited for each step of the way. There are temperatures that are being taken and romantic interludes that are being forced onto a time table. There are tears. There are desires. There is fear.
Never say, “Well at least you have one child. You should just be happy with what you have.” If you lost a limb I would not say, “Well, at least you have another limb. Be glad for that.” Obviously having a child is a blessing. But a couple’s desire to have another child is not because the first child is less than or not good enough. It’s because they want another child. They have a desire to add another person to their family. And, maybe they want that first child to have a sibling.
What should you say or do when someone is struggling with infertility?
It’s okay to say, “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.”
Sometimes, even those who have gone through it don’t know what to say. Or perhaps they realize there sometimes isn’t anything to say.
It’s okay to say, “I will pray for you. I hope you are blessed with a child soon.”
This is kinder than lecturing them about the fact that God is in charge and they shouldn’t worry over things they have no control over etc. Yes, God is in charge. Yes, he has a plan for our lives. Yes, through him all things are possible. But you can say that in a kinder way by saying you will pray to the One who is in charge that the desires of their heart will be met. It is called compassion. Our Lord was compassionate. Don’t use Christianity to beat someone down. It is intended to lift us up.
It’s okay to ask, “What can I do to help you right now?”
Everyone is different. Some want to talk about it, others want a distraction and some prefer to not talk about it with others. Find out what your friend needs from you.
It’s okay to just pray for that couple and not even tell them about it. Some people need to talk about it and others need to keep it inside. But you, you can pray. Pray for the right words to say and for God’s plan to ultimately be revealed to that family. Respect whatever decision they choose, it’s their choice, even if it isn’t one you yourself would choose. You actually never know what you would do in the same situation, until you are in that situation.
This post came out today because I have several friends struggling right now and I can still relate. Even 6 years, 1 miscarriage and 4 kids later. It doesn’t matter to me if they have no children or 5 children. I understand the desire to have a child and I understand how hard it is to wait.
They know who they are and I hope they know I am praying for them.