AUTHOR: Carolyn Savage | POSTED: 04/23/13 9:09 PM
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Blog, Compassion, Infertility, IVF, What NOT to Say
Now if you’ll pardon me while I climb up here and get my balance…
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.
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!