Stuff You Should Never Say To An Infertile Person: Sensitivity Training: Entry Level

Here’s one you can pass on to those helpy-helpertons who say things to you to comfort you, but that during the infertility journey can sound like an insult, or cause pain like you were just stabbed through the chest with white hot poker.

There appears to be no Ann Landers manners book regarding the social graces when you encounter a couple going through infertility.  I can only speak from our experiences, and from feedback I got at support groups we moderated for Resolve in Tucson.

The truth is, we walked on emotional eggshells every day, and at different points in the process, during a cycle, while you’re waiting to see if there are enough eggs to trigger the ovulation with the Hcg shot, or hoping the beta test will come back positive, praying the spotting is not the beginning of a miscarriage, or coping with the news that the beta levels are a big fat negative (BFN), there are some things that are sure set off even the most composed couple going through infertility.

Here are some things, you should never, ever say:

If you just relax, it will happen.

Lisa and I flew across country, to New Jersey, two months after 9/11 after failing a fresh IVF cycle that maxed out most of our financial resources and thawed out our final two embryos for what was going to be our last shot at biological parenthood.  There was a snow storm while we were there, we trudged through the snow to see the non-relaxing debut of Black Hawk Down, and drove into the city, battling New York City traffic to see Lion King.  That was the frozen embryo transfer that resulted in our daughter being born a year later.

That environment was hardly relaxing, and debunks a common myth among the fertile population–that “just relaxing” will make the baby happen.

If you just go on vacation and take the focus off it, it will just happen.

Pretty much as pointless as the one above.  Infertility is a medical diagnosis–going on a vacation might provide distractions from that medical fact, but at the end of the day, the reproductive machinery is not going to just magically get fixed because the tropical island has aqua blue water, and the wind blowing through your hair is taking away your preoccupation with infertility.   And until we started going to “kid free” hotels, we found that we were always booked next to the loudest, most obnoxious family who seemed to be on the border of beating their kids every 10 minutes when we’d pass them in the hallway.

Maybe you should just adopt.

It is the “just” before you adopt that is most irritating about this one.

There is NOTHING simple about adoption.

A couple has to be able to mourn the loss of biological parenthood if they truly want to be ready to adopt.

The process on the surface seems so simple: you put your name on a list, wait for the call, and then pay the fee to complete the adoption.

However, it is SOOOO much more involved.

You complete a home study and prepare a marketing package (this is our Catholic Social Services experience BTW).

Then you decide on the level of openness you want with the biological child (contact with just the biological mother–or her extended family, how much and for how long).

The home study determines if you are ready to put on the list.

Then you wait and wonder: is our marketing package good enough? Do we have the right dog that will make the biological mother want to pick us? Evidently Cocker Spaniels and Golden Retrievers are the most popular.  This caused us a great deal of angst considering we had a yappy little Pomeranian that thought HE was our child.

What will Lisa’s Grandpa think if there are 3 other sets of great grandparents at the child’s birthday party because we chose a level of openness extending to the biological mother’s extended family.

How would Lisa handle it if the kid ever said “You’re not my real mother anyway”.

This should eliminate the most common “helpful but pain producing” comments from the social framework of inter relations with infertile couples.

These are the “entry level” insensitive comments most commonly heard during our experience.

As time and cycles go one, the scenarios and ‘stuff you shouldn’t say’ get a lot more complex.

I’ll cover those in Infertility Sensitivity Training Level I.



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