It’s often inconceivable what people say to someone who is trying to conceive. The most caring friends and family can come up with the most insensitive of statements (and somehow their foot-in-the-mouth disease always seems to coincide with your most hormonal state-of-mind).
Now, I know they don’t mean to offend. Truth is, while you are going after your dream, they are grasping at straws to come up with the right thing to say. And often, their words are going to, well… suck. So here is a guide for your girlfriends who want the best for you but say awful things (an awful lot). It’s also a reference for the side of your family who always comes up fertile but short on sensitivity.
#1 DON’T say: “Why don’t you try IVF?”
This one always makes me chuckle. It’s like the person who says it has thought of something you haven’t. Really? IVF?? Never heard of it. Tell me more!
When in reality, you have probably already gone through one, or two or a few rounds of it. Or, even worse, IVF is a procedure you can’t afford, and now you find yourself not only explaining your infertility, but feeling obligated to offer insight into your economic situation.
#1 DO say: “What have you tried so far?”
This opens up the conversation to let your fertility-challenged friend offer her own explanation. All you need to do is listen. And pay attention. The world of fertility is actually a fascinating topic. The science is always evolving and everyone’s story is unique. Your friend is going to experience many chapters. Let her share them with you, and as they unfold, let her know you are praying for a happy ending.
#2 DON’T say: “You want kids? You can have mine!”
Yes! That is the answer. No one will notice. And when Child & Protective Services shows up at our doors, we’ll just say we were ‘kidding’ around. Now, we know the friend who says this kind of statement isn’t serious—in fact, they are just trying to add a little levity to your situation. But no other statement says, “I have something you want and can’t have” more than this one.
#2 DO say: “Does being around my kids make this more difficult for you?”
Truth be told, when you are struggling to conceive, holding your best friends newborn can make your womb ache. Seeing a toddler throw their arms around their mother can make you feel like you want to throw up. And although not everyone feels these sensations, be mindful that your friend could have an aching heart. Maybe you meet her ‘kid-free’ for coffee (or better yet, happy hour). I’m sure she will appreciate it (and you just came up with a totally legit reason to have your partner babysit).
#3 DON’T say: “Why don’t you just adopt?”
That’s right! Adoption is so easy. In fact, I have a trip planned to China next week. Or better yet, we put our name in for a private adoption, and our attorney says there is a long list of newborns available right now. Say what?? Yes. Adoption is an option. But it’s seldom an easy one. Attorneys cost money. Biological mothers can change their minds. Foreign adoptions take you into very unfamiliar territory and adopting kids with special needs takes a very special commitment.
#3 DO say: “Have you looked into other options?”
This is another wonderful open-ended question. It’s simply asking your friend if she’s ready, willing and/or able to explore other ways to create a family. She may answer quickly saying that now is not the time to give up on her dream of having a biological offspring. In that case, enough said. Next question.
#4 DON’T say: “Why did you wait so long to start trying?”
Oh, I don’t know. I thought it would be a good idea to put off childbirth until I was in my late 30’s / early 40’s. I enjoy a good challenge and I don’t mind spending thousands of dollars on fertility procedures. Come on people! No one plans on infertility. We all go through life, trying our hardest to meet the right people, make the best decisions, and live our life to the fullest. You may have taken an easier path, but please don’t judge me by my detours.
#4 DO say: “So, what’s your plan?”
Every woman I know who finds themselves ‘fertility-challenged’ has a plan. And it’s an ever evolving one. Chances are you are dealing with a ‘career girl’ who is used to getting what she wants. (In fact, her plan more than likely comes with a PowerPoint presentation). So don’t ask your friend to go back and analyze what went wrong. She’s been there. Done that. Instead, let’s focus on her strategy for success.
#5 DON’T say: “You just need to relax and stopping stressing out”
Yes, that’s the answer. I will just quit obsessing about it. Please tell me the story again of your 40-something friend who tried for years to get pregnant, gave up, and now WHAM! she’s pregnant with twins. Does that story give me hope? A little. Does it piss me off? Yes. A lot. Here’s why: telling someone not to stress about something that means the world to them, only makes them stress about it more. Add the ticking of the biological clock… and you’ve got yourself an explosive situation.
#5 DO say: “Is there anything I can to help you with along this journey?
Chances are—by saying that simple phrase—you probably helped your friend more than you know. You are listening. You just showed you care. Now, she may ask you to meet her for a drink or take a yoga class. Simple stuff, which you probably enjoy doing with her anyway. Know that a good friendship with a great girl has a wonderful calming influence. Combine that with a glass of wine… and your work here, my friend, is done.