Infertility. What not to say.

So here’s the thing. I often say silly stuff that I wish I hadn’t said. Not because I’m insensitive and thoughtless but because I don’t know what else to say and so I end up saying something profoundly stupid. There’s a certain irony in me writing a piece on “what not to say.”  This is not one of those advice type posts because I don’t even take my own advice so it hardly seems appropriate to dish it out to others. But the thing is, a little while ago someone told me about something that they were told by someone else (are you still with me?) and it kind of sort of bothered her and so I contemplated this for a bit and then decided to write about it.

Sometimes people don’t say the right thing and you know, that’s okay. Mostly I think we just try and we might get it right and say something helpful. Intelligent even.  Sage advice. We think we are awesome because we are the giver of great advice. Then the next time we say crap that is entirely unhelpful and possibly even offensive.

I’ve done that.

We’ve all probably done that.

don't tell me to just relaxWhen I was undergoing IVF I was confronted by all kinds of expert advice. Everyone has an opinion about getting pregnant. Advice was often like oxygen to me, I inhaled it and I was desperate for it. Other advice was the kind that made me nod, smile and think “are you bat shit crazy?” Lucky these were inside thoughts. So I decided to write the kind of things I heard when I was injecting myself daily with crazy lady hormones all in the hope of falling pregnant.  These are things I now know I wouldn’t say to a friend, colleague, family member, stranger who I knew were “trying to conceive“.

  • “Just relax.” For the love of God, please don’t tell them/me to just relax. Don’t suggest a holiday. We are undertaking fertility treatment so for starters we can’t afford a holiday.
  • “Really? I just need to look at my husband and I fall pregnant” (insert giggly laugh)
  • “Maybe it’s just not to be.” Maybe that’s true but that’s not helpful to hear this. When I was going through IVF I wanted a baby more than I wanted to breathe.  For it to be suggested to me that maybe not being a mother could be my fate, it was a physical pain that threatened to bury me. Deep down this was my fear, I could not manage someone else speaking my fear out loud.
  • “You should be happy with what you’ve got.”  This ridiculous nonsense is apparently the kind of thing someone tends to say when the person trying to have a baby might already have one. Maybe they got lucky with IVF the first time so they are going back again, maybe it’s a case of secondary infertility. No matter.  Just because you have a child/perfect husband/career/holiday house doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to have something else as well.  I wrote about this once before here Wanting good things to happen to good people.
  • “My friend’s cousin’s sister took royal jelly, ate pineapple before sex, went on a cruise, adopted a baby oh and then she fell pregnant naturally.” Good for her. I am not her. I had no space in my head for this type of information. Besides, thanks to google I probably already tried the pineapple thing.
  • “Stick your legs up in the air after sex.”  Thanks for this worthless, inane bit of information, I will mention it to my Fertility Specialist who even though he has inserted a 5 day embryo INTO MY WOMB and I STILL CAN’T GET PREGNANT and see if he thinks it will help.  It won’t.
  • “Have you thought about adoption?”  There are so many things I want to say about this topic but I simply choose not to go there.  It’s one of those comments that simply can’t warrant a response. Meanwhile, did you even know that you can’t even be on ANY adoption list if you are undergoing IVF. I usually start with that fun fact.
  • “Well it’s not like you have cancer.”  No it isn’t.  Thank God that is true. Nobody would prefer to have cancer so please don’t suggest this to be the case.  We also know that there are worse things in the world and infertility isn’t a death sentence and thank God that’s also true.  But here’s the thing, the prospect of not having a baby when all you can think about is having a baby, is a prospect that is crushing.

I swear all of the above have been said. I am not making this shit up.

When bad stuff happens, most of the time it’s hard to know what to say.  The best thing someone said to me once (after yet another failed IVF cycle) was “Shit that sucks, I’m sorry, it’s not fair, do you want a cup of tea?”


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