Catching Our Rainbow

Hoping for a rainbow after the storm…

What NOT to Say

on August 15, 2012

It seems like every blog I read that deals with infertility/loss has at least one post on things that you should not say to a woman who is struggling with becoming pregnant or a loss. I wanted to share some things people have said that made me want to punch them in the face were unintentionally hurtful.

  • If it’s meant to be, it will happen:I’m fairly certain this is just something people say when they have no idea what to say. I think people believe this phrase makes them sound wise and empathetic, but I personally think it makes them sound insensitive and a bit moronic. I work in emergency services so I hear lots of horrible stories from our paramedics: babies that die from drug withdrawal because their mothers are addicts, toddlers who are covered in deep burns from their abusive parents, etc. Apparently, it was meant to be for these parents. If I don’t have kids, it’s because I just wasn’t meant to be a parent–obviously, I would be a huge failure at it.
  • All in God’s timing: Similar to the above phrase, this seems to be a phrase that people say when they have no idea what to say because they seem to think it makes them sound not only wise and empathetic, but also deeply spiritual. This is probably the phrase that I resent the most because it suggests I don’t have enough faith to trust in God’s timing and need to be reminded of it. Growing up, I never wanted kids. I thought the girls whose life goals were to grow up and be mothers needed their heads examined. Then something changed. Something I can’t quite put my finger on. I believe it was God working in my heart and calling me to be a mother, and I have a hard time believing that the God I love would call me to something yet keep me from doing it. In fact, I completely reject that suggestion.
  • Just relax–it will happen as soon as you stop trying: It seems like everyone I talk to knows someone who quit TTC and got pregnant. If my progesterone is low, not thinking about it will not magically bring it back up and cause me to get pregnant. Also, how are you supposed to make a big life decision, like having a baby, then not think about it? “Oh yes, I want a baby, but I’m going to pretend like I don’t so that it will actually happen.” You’re right, that makes perfect sense.
  • Just enjoy having sex with your husband: I find this highly offensive because it suggests that the fact that I’m upset about having trouble getting and staying pregnant means that I am not enjoying having sex with my husband. If good sex equaled babies, a lot of people with children would be childless and visa versa.
  • You are so young, you have plenty of time to have kids: I’m not entirely sure why everyone seems to think that 24 is too young to worry about fertility issues. Biologically, I should be at the peak of my fertility–nothing but downhill from here. Yet, despite a year of trying, we still don’t have a baby. Why do people insist that this isn’t cause for concern?
  • (Regarding my miscarriage) You didn’t have a miscarriage, you just had a late period: In the minds of a lot of people, a chemical pregnancy is not considered a miscarriage–it is a late period. According to this train of thought, if I hadn’t taken that pregnancy test, I wouldn’t even know that I was pregnant and therefore, that pregnancy didn’t count. When you spend nine months fruitlessly trying to get pregnant (like my choice of words there?), that second line is a huge cause for excitement and celebration. And no matter how far along you are, losing that piece of hope is devastating. To quote Dr. Seuss, “A person is a person, no matter how small.”

What should you say to someone struggling with fertility issues/loss?

How about, “I can’t possibly understand what you are going through right now, but I am truly sorry you are having to go through this.” That sounds good. Don’t try to relate to people that you can’t relate to–just because your sister’s best friend’s uncle’s first wife had a miscarriage does not mean you understand what I am going through, so stop trying to pretend like you do. You know what I have found the most comforting? A big hug (at an appropriate time, of course–don’t make me cry in the grocery store). You don’t have to say a word, just show me that you care, and you are there for me.

What sayings have you gotten that thoroughly tick you off? Has anyone said/done anything that genuinely comforted and encouraged you?

-Danielle

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6 responses to “What NOT to Say

  1. storkchaser says:

    I, too, have blogged about this a time or two. The BEST thing someone not going through IF said to me was: “This sucks.” Because it really does and sometimes that’s all you can say.

    The worst was a friend who said, “listen to some Barry White and just have PASSIONATE sex.” I’m sure I don’t have to explain why this was infuriating on so many levels. ;)

    ps- I was diagnosed with Endometriosis at 22 so I stopped “being super careful” and still never wound up pregnant until this June. That was 9 years ago…

    • I would have to agree: “That sucks” is definitely an honest and acceptable thing to say.

      Apparently, you were having 9 years worth of passionless, bad sex, and that’s why you didn’t get pregnant. I’m sure it had nothing to do with your body or biology or anything like that–it would just be silly to consider those things.

      I stopped taking BC in May of last year, and we started actively trying in August. I wish I would have known how hard it would be when I used to worry about getting pregnant–it would have saved me a lot of stress!

  2. Yet another thing on which all infertiles may commiserate. That is so sad. My own post, “Say Wha?,” covers a lot of the same things; however, I’ve never been told to just enjoy the sex. That is equally insulting to the man and woman. Now when I catch myself about to say one of the go-to phrases mentioned above about a situation I cannot possibly understand, I boil it down to the bottomline. “It sucks.” As Storkchaser mentions, it has been the most comforting to hear. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yep, it’s something we must all deal with: ignorance. At least we can commiserate.

      Your post on the conversation with your coworker blew my mind. Seriously. My jaw hit the floor. At least the people I’m addressing in this post or you were addressing in your “Say Wha?” post have good intentions. That was just hateful. People like that should be punched in the face and sterilized so they can understand how it feels. (Hmmm, that came across a little more bitter than I was intending, but I’ll leave it there because it’s true)

  3. THANK YOU for this post! OH and I have just been through our first cycle of fertility treatment which resulted in a chemical pregnancy / very early miscarriage. I know people in my life are trying to be helpful, but they don’t always understand why it’s a loss (though some have been brilliant).

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