Can Somebody Hand Me My Soapbox?

AUTHOR: | POSTED: April 23, 2013 | COMMENTS: 3 Comments
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Compassion, Infertility, IVF, What NOT to Say,

Carolyn Savage

Now if you’ll pardon me while I climb up here and get my balance…

Thank you.

I actually love being up being up here.  The view is a little better and I’m guessing you can’t see the bags under my eyes from the angle below.  Don’t worry.  I won’t be up here long. Just a minute or two while I share a little about something near and dear to my heart.


This week is National Infertility Awareness Week.  I know, I know.  You didn’t know they had a week dedicated to learning about fertility challenges.  I honestly had never heard of it either until a year or so ago. That being said I couldn’t be happier to write about a medical challenge that I struggled with for the  better part of my 20s, 30s, and yes…the beginning of my 40s.    Of course, I’m not a doctor so it’s not my place to share medical information about infertility.  There’ll be plenty of links below to sites that can provide those kind of resources.

Instead I’m writing this post for those of you who care about someone experiencing infertility.  There is a way you can help.  From experience I know loved ones often struggle to find supportive words for a man, woman or couple experiencing infertility.  Sometimes we think we are saying something helpful, when indeed we are not.  The fear of saying the wrong thing can often cripples us.  Below I’ve given some tips to  those of you wanting to offer support to a friend experiencing infertility.  My tips aren’t too specific regarding what to say.  They are very specific with regards to what not to say.

Please pay attention.  I promise you you’ll be more supportive if you heed my advice.

What Not To Say to Someone Experiencing Infertility

1.  “Why don’t you just adopt?”  

Adoption is a wonderful way to build a family.  I have many friends who are adoptive parents, and their families are beautiful.  That being said, adoption isn’t for everyone.  Rest assured, if a person is experiencing difficulties conceiving, they HAVE considered adoption.  Also, any adoptive parent or adoptee will tell you the words “just” and “adopt” should never be used in the same sentence.  There’s nothing “just” about adopting.

2.  “Just relax and it will happen.”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard this I’d be a rich woman with 120 kids.  I promise you if a person/couple is wrestling with infertility treatments relaxing isn’t going to fix it.  Infertility is a medical condition that affects one in eight people.  I’ve never heard a physician prescribe “relaxing” to treat any serious medical ailment.  Why?  Because that would be absurd.

3.  “Perhaps this [infertility] is part of God’s plan for you.”

If you’ve read Inconceivable you know I have serious issues with the “God’s plan” theology.  In a nutshell, I don’t believe God causes us to suffer.  I certainly don’t believe God decides that certain people shouldn’t be parents.  (Can I just say, there’s part of me that wishes God  would render some people infertile.  Then I wouldn’t have had to sit through the news story today about the sentencing of a man who murdered his newborn baby by placing the infant in the freezer.  If God was involved in people’s fertility I think that man wouldn’t have any swimmers.)

Insinuating that a painful medical challenge is something God wants in somebody’s  life is insensitive.

4.  “Try to be grateful for the children you already have.”

Secondary infertility (i.e. difficulty getting pregnant after one easily conceived pregnancy) accounts for 60% of all patients seeking fertility treatments.  Sean and I were a ‘secondary’ case and I can assure you that we were incredibly grateful for Drew and Ryan.  Our desire to have a third child had nothing to do with being ungrateful.  Hell, Drew and Ryan were so great they made us want more kids.  I understand the sentiment of the statement, but it’s insulting.  Please refrain.

So…What should you say?

I can’t give you a magic bullet, but I can tell you that sometimes kindness is the very best policy.  For me that might look like, “I don’t know what to say to help, but I want you to know that I’m here for you.  I’m willing to listen.  I’ll cry with you over the failures and when and if the time comes, I’ll celebrate your success.  Whatever you need…whenever you need it…just say the word.”  

Trust me when I say that no one needs their friends and family more than a person struggling with infertility.


Okay…stepping down now.



To learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week go here.

A website and forum that ultimately got me my miracle is IVF Connections.  Visit it here.

You can visit two of my favorite infertility bloggers here and here.

If I can help, email me at the “Contact Carolyn and Sean” button on the home page of this site.  I promise.  I’ll get back to you!

3 Comments on “ Can Somebody Hand Me My Soapbox? ”

  • Sara | April 24th, 2013 8:44 am

    Love it! Well done.

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  • Em | May 1st, 2013 5:53 pm

    I didn’t realize until I was about halfway through this post that it was the Inconceivable author who wrote it! (I should have known from the fact that the website is called inconceivable, but I guess I was a little slow.) When I first heard about your story, I googled like crazy to find out everything I possibly could about you. I watched video after video of you speaking so eloquently about the agonizing decision you had to make and the effect it has had on your life.

    As an IVF mama, I have tried to put myself in your shoes over and over. I really think that I would have done what you did…but I cannot imagine having to go through it. Thank you for using your infertility…for using your experience of this medical mistake…to raise awareness and to talk about your convictions.

    I feel really proud to be able to raise my blogging voice alongside women like you. I’m so glad to have found this sacred space on the web. Blessings on the next leg of your journey…whatever it may be.

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  • Angie | May 8th, 2013 10:06 am

    Just got my first dose of “you are so blessed to have 2 children already. Many women can’t even have one so count yourself very lucky.” Ouch. This really hurts my feelings, and I know it wasn’t intended to make me feel bad, but it does. I’d like another child. I’m 40. I DO realize that many women can’t have even one. I have been in infertility support groups for many years and I have several friends who have not been able to conceive at all. I didn’t get the two children I have easily, and I lost one to miscarriage. I have had so many people say this to me (“be grateful you have any children”) … and I AM grateful. But that doesn’t replace my desire for a bigger family, especially at a time in my life when I feel like my time is running out. Thank you for your post, it definitely spoke to me.

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