There are unspoken rules related to (in)fertility. And since you may not even know that someone is struggling, it’s best to avoid asking some of these all-too common phrases and questions which no matter how well intentioned will likely not be taken as such.
Rule 1: Never tell someone to “relax and it will happen”
I remember beings so stressed out about the needles, distracting myself with the stress of my job and then stressing about being stressed. It made it worse when people would tell me not to stress. It is basic science that if the body is hyper-stressed (and releasing high quantities of cortisol hormone), it can signal to the body that the focus is survival, and not on making a baby. How is that in and of itself not stressful?
And you or your sister, cousin, or friend Denise who got pregnant by taking a vacation likely did not have scar tissue obstruction, PCOS, endometriosis, an unexplained diagnosis or the myriad of fertility challenges that are still being discovered. You may have the best of intentions because you just don’t know what to say, but do not bring up those two words (don’t stress), no matter how well intentioned. Ever.
Rule 2: Do not say you “just know that it will happen”
The self-pressure is already so incredibly significant. Do not promise that you know a future which the person or couple, their doctor, and you do not in fact know.
Rule 3: Avoid any consolation with “why don’t you just adopt”
Adoption is a beautiful option. However, the mental process to get there requires that someone make peace with not fulfilling a potential dream of being pregnant. Your comment may be construed as asking someone to give up on their dream. There are also many other aspects emotionally, mentally and financially that the intended person or couple will have to think about and plan. So while absolutely incredible, if a person or a couple wants to expand their family with adoption, they will likely do so without your surface suggestion.
Rule 4: Do not ask “do you want to have kids”
How do you know someone hasn’t been painstakingly trying for months or even years? This question can be a dagger in the heart and is just plain nosy. This question is just as rude as asking someone how old they are. It’s personal and if someone wants to tell you whether or not they want, or are trying to have children, they will let you know.
Rule 5: Delete this phrase from your vocabulary: “You’ll understand one day when you’re a mom (or dad)”
This is so obviously insensitive to the person or couple who is/are trying their hardest to be a parent. And since most people don’t reveal their fertility journey, better to just strike this from your playbook all together.
Don’t know what to say?
Share that your friendship is important and you are always there to listen. Please don’t try to relate with your experiences if you have never been through infertility. And if you have, ask for permission first or wait to be asked before you share your journey.
Infertility affects one in eight couples in the US. Resolve, Pregnantish, Robyn, It’s Conceivable by Rebekah Rosler or even this blog to share as resources if and when someone is ready. From that point, sending positive good vibes and little thoughtful gestures are the best words to remind someone that you are there and thinking of them.
Any other unspoken rules that you want to share? Please feel free to leave them in the comments!