When life is unfair, we seek comfort from the people who matter most in our lives. Having a strong support system is great, but sometimes the people we love most say stupid things that makes us want to punch them in the face.
When I was struggling to get pregnant, I was lucky to be surrounded by people who offered their support and encouragement, but I had my share of ouch-moments when hearing words like “maybe your IVF cycle didn’t work because you were too stressed.” Unfortunately, hurtful comments are more common than you’d think.
I decided to conduct my own research online by asking women struggling to conceive the question, “What are the most annoying comments you have ever received?” I was wowed when I received over 100 responses from women complaining about comments they hear on a daily basis that drive them crazy. Insensitive words came from their doctors, colleagues, friends, family, their own partners and even from other women in similar situations.
It’s not like people are intentionally trying to be offensive. The truth is, no matter who you are, chances are you have both received and spoken hurtful words to someone – whether you are aware of it or not. When someone we love is going through a tough time, sometimes we really don’t know what to say. In an attempt to make them feel better, we may say something that we think is helpful, or we may attempt to lighten up the situation by trying to make them laugh. Despite our best intentions, occasionally our words can be more hurtful than helpful.
I thought it would be helpful to a put together a list because…
IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS HAVING A DIFFICULT TIME TRYING TO CONCEIVE, this list may make you more conscious of the words you choose.
AND IF YOU ARE TRYING TO CONCEIVE, then this list may make you take comments like these more lightly by realizing that sometimes people mean well, but are just clueless! It doesn’t mean the people in your life are not supportive…. it just means you should send them a link to this post 😛
Based on the most common responses, here is a list of…
10 Things NOT to Say to Someone Who is Struggling to Conceive… and What to Say Instead
1. JUST RELAX AND STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.
“Great idea, let me just turn off my brain… you’re right, I feel so much better now!”
In a perfect world, the advice to let go and relax until you get what you want is helpful… but it’s not that simple. Struggling to have a baby month after month, year after year, can be an incredibly stressful and isolating ride. Between kids running around, pregnancy announcements and constant pressure from the world, there are always reminders that what you want most is just not happening. It isn’t something that can be switched off or forgotten. Not to mention that when you tell someone to relax, you are ultimately implying that their delay in pregnancy is their own fault.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: I can’t imagine how stressful this process is for you. I’m treating you to a day at the spa for some well deserved relaxation.
2. ARE YOU PREGNANT YET?
“No… still not pregnant, but thanks for asking. Now I feel so much better.”
Women who are having a difficult time conceiving already put enough pressure on themselves. They don’t need the added pressure from people constantly asking them if they have succeeded yet. Not to mention that when they are pregnant, they have the right to announce it whenever they choose. Until then…it’s none of your business!
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: I am right beside you, sending you good vibes everyday.
3. THERE IS ALWAYS ADOPTION IF IT DOESN’T WORK OUT.
“True, because unlike infertility, adoption is known to be a fast and easy procedure.”
Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it’s not for everyone. The process is very complex, difficult and requires a lot of time, energy and commitment. Women who are trying to conceive want a baby yesterday. When you tell them that adoption is always an option, you are tapping into their fears that they may never get pregnant.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: I admire your strength and however it happens, I know you will be an amazing mom.
4. HAVE YOU TRIED THIS SEX POSITION…?
“Wait… do you mean to tell me that this whole time I have been doing it all wrong… no wonder I’m still not pregnant!”
When someone is failing to get pregnant, some people love to give advice on when, where and how to do the deed. Trust that they know what they are doing. Enough said.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: I know someone who got pregnant after struggling with years of infertility, I could put you in contact with them if you are interested in speaking to someone who may be able to relate to what you are going through.
5. MY HUSBAND JUST LOOKS AT ME AND I GET PREGNANT!
“Well isn’t that fabulous for you. On your way home, be sure to tell a homeless guy that you have two houses.”
For some reason, it seems to be common practice for some people to brag about how fertile they are to people who are struggling to get pregnant. This is in no way helpful for obvious reasons. There is nothing wrong with announcing a pregnancy… in fact holding back on the news because you feel bad for sharing is even worse… but there’s no need to put emphasis on how you scheduled in “get pregnant” in your calendar.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: I am so sorry that you are going through a difficult time. I am here for you if you need anything.
6. WHY DID YOU WAIT SO LONG TO START TRYING?
“I just thought it would be fun to tackle a challenge.”
Reminding a woman that her biological clock is ticking is never a good idea… especially when they are trying to get pregnant. Times have changed and many women are waiting longer to have children. Most people don’t expect to have difficulties when it comes to baby making, but every now and then life throws you a curve-ball. Since time machines haven’t been invented yet, there’s no point in commenting that things may have been easier had they started trying earlier.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: It takes courage to go for what you want despite all the challenges you are facing. I hope you get the baby you deserve.
7. YOU’RE STILL YOUNG, JUST ENJOY LIFE, YOU HAVE PLENTY OF TIME.
“You’re right… why am I chasing my dreams when I should be hitting the clubs?”
Women get bashed for waiting too long to have children, but when someone is in a healthy, mature relationship and ready enough to tackle motherhood in their 20’s, they get told to enjoy their youth instead. Everyone has the right to follow their own path and age doesn’t make it emotionally easier when struggling with fertility issues. If someone’s biggest desire is to have children now, telling them to enjoy life instead is contradictory.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: You will be such an awesome mom because you are young and full of energy.
8. YOU ALREADY HAVE A KID, JUST BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE.
“Right, because my desire to give my child a sibling is so selfish of me.”
Secondary infertility is still infertility. Whether someone is struggling to conceive their first, second or third, the process can be just as difficult. Wanting a bigger family doesn’t mean they aren’t thankful for the children they already have. Everyone deserves to go for what they want, regardless of what they have already achieved.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: You are already such an amazing mother and your future children will be just as lucky to have you.
9. I’LL LET YOU BORROW MY KIDS, IT WILL COMPLETELY CHANGE YOUR MIND!
“Oh how hilarious! I am literally rolling on the floor laughing.”
Laughter is a great tool to make someone feel better, but joking to someone who really wants children that their lives are better off without them, isn’t in the least bit funny! There is nothing supportive about downplaying someone’s struggles and there are plenty of better ways to make someone laugh.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: I’m always here for you if you need to talk, but if you want to take a break, let’s go watch this movie that I heard is hilarious.
10. I CAN BE YOUR SURROGATE.
“That’s really sweet, but I think I’ll continue tackling this one on my own for now.”
Telling someone that you would be there surrogate is incredibly thoughtful, but for some, it is just too much. Surrogacy is a huge decision, but it is often a last resort. By offering to carry their child for them, you are shining a light on their fears that they may never experience their desire to carry a baby themselves. When it comes to surrogacy, if someone didn’t bring it up, it’s probably best not to mention it.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: I love you and I would do anything to help you get through this.
Along with this list, there were many equally annoying comments that drive women who are trying to conceive crazy like, “maybe you should lose weight” and “maybe it’s just not meant to be.” The point here is that words matter and what you say can be helpful or hurtful, so choose your words carefully. Be supportive, be compassionate and be kind.
Peace. Love. And baby dust.