Helpful Statements That Are Gut Punches

I had a great lady lunch with some friends yesterday that had one bump in the road. It occurred when I talked about starting our final IVF while also seeing an adoption process on the horizon. My dear friend, in trying to show she cared used one of “those phrases” that seem harmless but are in fact, full of harm:

“You know that once you adopt you’ll get pregnant.”

Because she’s my close friend I didn’t feel the need to mask anything and just said, “well actually all this testing is showing us why we’re likely not getting pregnant and it’s because I have a number of things that can affect implantation so as awesome as it would be to just get pregnant, it just doesn’t look like that would happen.” We talked it out and it’s fine, but it definitely showed me that when the time comes that we “go public” I can likely expect more of these statements.


I did a quick google search of the phrase “what not to say to an infertile couple” and I got some juicy ones. Here are thoughts on just a few.

“It could be worse, it could be (insert awful disease here)”

Um, thanks? Why don’t we make a Pie chart of other things that could be worse: pooping my pants on an airplane, having 14 mosquito bites for a year in places I can’t itch, falling into a cactus while my naked lady bits are exposed…. This is a fun game!

“just relax and you’ll get pregnant”

I laugh alot, professionally and personally. I also knit, which is my own form of meditation. I like to cook and chop and stir, all very zen activities. Re. Laxed. And hey look, not pregnant.

“at least you’re having fun trying”

Am I? Infertility makes “trying” into math: when to try, when to abstain, when to try alot. Pee on this stick or take your temperature every day to check for ovulation. Plus, you’re tired! Tired for normal life reasons AND there’s something you really want that you’re not getting and that makes you more tired. So no, we’re not rampantly running amok “having fun trying” on top of all the tables and chairs and in closets morning noon and night. (Not that we were before….who do you think I am?)

There so many more ridiculous things that get said by the way – Google them and have a giggle (or a cry). Don’t get me started on the ones that involve God/supreme beings/what the universe wants.

Honestly, we dodged a big bullet by getting married in our 40s – I can count on one hand two fingers the folks who’ve blatantly asked “so, when are we gonna see some kids?” Apparently, getting married late = implied automatic shut down of parental endeavors?

I’ve been at wedding receptions and seen people walk up to the bride and ask “when are you having kids.” I wanted to throat punch on their behalf. (for the record: I didn’t). Btw, it’s usually a craggy old aunt who does the asking. Don’t be the craggy old aunt.

This is second friend who used the “once you adopt you’ll get pregnant” on me. My friends absolutely wanted to help, wanted to show that they cared (alot!), wanted to show that they were hopeful for my success….but just didn’t think about the fact they were saying these phrases to someone who’s been trying too long.

The sad thing is….before I was in this muck, I likely used these phrases, or at the least wouldn’t have thought about the full impact.

So, before you go throwing what you think is a helpful phrase around, consider:

Do you know if they’ve been trying? Do you how long? Do you know them well enough to deal w/the potential anger/sadness you might trigger w/your pretty friggin personal question?

No one MEANS to be insensitive, but man we all step in it sometimes without thinking.

Maybe just have the balls to say, “I’m really sorry. It must be hard to face all this. I don’t really know what to say.”

It’s likely gonna make you an even better friend.

But if I see you at a wedding and you walk up to the bride or groom and ask them….I will find you.

14 thoughts on “Helpful Statements That Are Gut Punches

  1. My sister in law is always bringing up her friend who adopted 2 kids and then got pregnant. My mom says it all the time too. I refrain from punching them in the face lol. Great post!

  2. The best thing a friend ever said to me, is “I can’t pretend to understand, but I’m here to listen if you feel like talking about it.” Her statement still sticks in my head.. I do think if you decide to go public, you will have to deal with all of these comments, but your right- before I went through any of this.. I, too would be one of those people. 😦

    • I figure the pros outweigh the cons in going public – I likely know people who are going though this/will go through this that could use someone “who’s been there” to talk to. But I’m gonna have to put my Patient Pants on.

  3. Oh yes. I dealt with pretty much every comment in the 4 and a half years we tried. I always told ppl who asked, that we were having trouble getting pregnant. Of course that brings on all the “it will happen at just the right time”, “relax. Go on vacation and u will come back pregnant”, “just adopt” comments. I had too many times where their comments made me want to cry. I couldn’t even mask my anger anymore. Just like ppl now still saying that since ivf finally worked “i bet you’ll have kids coming out your ears now naturally!!” Ummm…. NO! I’m an infertile. My husband is an infertile.

  4. Why is this such a universal problem?!! SO MANY people have told me “you can always adopt”, “just relax and it’ll happen”, “my sister’s, friend’s, aunty’s neighbour had IVF 27 times, then got pregnant the month she gave up!” REALLY?! How come so many people know a story like that? I have never met anyone like that. Maybe they all know the same one super lucky person.

    Don’t get me started on the, “so when are you having kids? Don’t you want them? It’s the best thing I’ve ever done! Children made my life complete. You’ll understand once you have children!” brigade. No. No. No. No. No. We’ve been together 12 years and married for 8… What do you think is the answer to that question?!!

    Sometimes I know the comments are well meaning and said out of (misguided) kindness, but a lot of the time I’m pretty sure they just want to satisfy their own curiosity about the exact reason for my childlessness!!

    • Yes to all this. It’s amazing just how much of everyone else’s business folks want to involve themselves in. People just don’t seem to think before they speak…or they’re just idiots (but I’m trying to give most of them the benefit of the doubt).

  5. I told a friend of mine on Saturday that my husband and I are going on an overseas trip because he lost his job. She was excited for me and said that, now that you can relax, maybe make a baby. So because I am her friend, I quickly pointed it out to her that, “You know that’s like one of the worst things someone can say to a person who struggles to get pregnant”. She said, “Oh really?” I said, yup. So don’t say it again to another person anymore. No, being relaxed is not going to help me get pregnant. Another friend of mine, upon learning about our loss, said that her friend who failed at conceiving through IVF a few times actually got pregnant on her own with twins and then another one. I was thinking… what does that have to do with me? But I refrained from saying something. I just feel that at times, I don’t want to point it out to people.

    • Ugh – I’m so sorry you had to deal with both of those situations. I guess it’s all about picking battles….but why does it have to be such a battle? Doesn’t it just seem like an ounce of common sense would make the difference?!

  6. As a woman with secondary infertility, one of my all-time favourites is when someone says ‘Time for another one?’ Ummmm… Sure… If you can figure out a way to cure my diminished ovarian reserve, my autoimmune issues, and boost my husbands sperm count and motility, I’ll get right on that. I still can’t figure out how to respond to that- part of me wants to educate, but after all these years, I’m just sick of dealing with it. Ugh. All this to say that I can totally relate.

    And lol on the ‘having fun trying.’ I can’t even remember the last time that trying was fun!

    • Do people think there’s everything can be “cured” or something? That IVF/IUI/Whatever are total fixers? Ugh. It’s just so dumb. It’s very American actually – like there should just be a pill for everything.

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