Infertility can be quite a tricky subject, I know that all to well. And I’d bet good money that many of you reading this do, too. If the statistics are true, that 1 in every 8 couples struggle to get pregnant, that means we all will come into friendship with (if we aren’t already) or are one of those couples.
Infertility is one of those subjects that when you find yourself talking about it with someone who is struggling, listening is always better than giving your opinions, unless of course you have also experienced it yourself. Really, that’s just a good overall rule for pretty much any painful life experience. But it’s hard, isn’t it? We want to say something. We desire for our words to bring comfort in a time of pain for our loved one. And we really do mean well with our words.
I have been married 9 years, and my husband and I have gone through 3 separate infertility journeys. Because of that, I want to give examples of things that have been said to myself and friends of mine during our journeys that we wholeheartedly know came from good places, and options to say instead.
“I bet you’ll get pregnant as soon as you stop trying.”
Now, while that might very well be the story for some, it’s not the norm. A majority of us have years of “not trying” under our belt with no baby to show for it. For whatever reason, this statement leaves us feeling like you must think our fertility efforts are a waste of time. So, those of us who have put in years of time and money feel like you must think it useless. Instead: ask questions about possible medically diagnosed reasons for needing treatments. You may learn that they truly would not get pregnant “as soon as they stopped trying”.
“Just enjoy the one(s) you have.”
I’ll always remember the first time this was said to me. What I heard was “you must not be enjoying the child you already have since you’re going thru the struggles of treatments to have another.” I know without a shadow of a doubt that that is not what this person meant. But nonetheless, it is what I heard. Think about it this way, we would never look at a pregnant woman who already has a child(ren) and say to her, “Oh, were you not enjoying the ones you already had?” Instead: if the desire is to encourage the mom to reminisce on her gift of her children, talk to her about the things you love about her children. Make her smile. Don’t make her feel guilty for wanting more.
“Must be nice to not have to worry about birth control.”
Oh, if only birth control was the only thing we had to “worry” about. Instead: just don’t talk about birth control.
“Oh wow, we have the complete opposite problem.”
Many people, upon hearing about a couple being in treatments, begin talking about how easy it has been for them to get pregnant. For some reason, perhaps nerves or feeling uncomfortable with the topic (which is very understandable – it can be awkward), but this is a pretty common thing. Instead: this is the perfect time to say that you can’t imagine what it must feel like because it has not been your story, but that you are so sorry and want to know how you can be supportive. Just be honest. It will be much appreciated.
“I’ll be praying for you.”
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing to say. But, in this day and age, that phrase gets thrown out there so often, that it sadly doesn’t feel very genuine. Instead: ask HOW can you be praying. Not only does this show that you truly do plan to pray because you’re asking for specifics, but it also creates a safe space. Maybe your friend really needed a space to just share her heart and her pain, but didn’t want to unload on you, unless you gave her the open door. I’ll always remember the first time a friend asked how she could pray. The timing was perfect. I had been having a hard few days but knew it wasn’t really something to just start talking about. Her initiative in asking how she could pray, allowed me to pour my heart out a bit. She and I shared a very genuine space together that left me feeling extremely supported.
Be honest. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Tell them you are sorry. Tell them you love them. Hurt with them. And rejoice with them. And when there are no words, give a hug!