Rebekah Rosler

The 5 things to never say to anyone with infertility

Photo by  Kristina Flour  on  Unsplash

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!

Redefining the Conversation about Infertility

Fertility Warriors from L to R:    Andrea Syrtash, Anthea King–Pascual, Jane Jolis, Nathalie Carpenter, Jennie Monness, Rebekah Rosler, Stephanie Rapp. Photo credit: Alexis Mera.

Fertility Warriors from L to R: Andrea Syrtash, Anthea King–Pascual, Jane Jolis, Nathalie Carpenter, Jennie Monness, Rebekah Rosler, Stephanie Rapp. Photo credit: Alexis Mera.

I have thought a lot about the word infertility. It sounds like such an ugly word because there is so much judgement (including self) and lack of awareness around the subject. Even for those embarking on the “journey” there is so much that is unknown. Although the science around it has come a long way, there is still not a guarantee that it will find the underlying cause, let alone solve it to produce a child. 

The word infertile goes against our very basic function as humans to reproduce. And if we can’t do that, we may admonish ourselves for not being “normal” or having tried hard enough, or perhaps not trying the right way (whatever that means). There may be shame, embarrassment, guilt, fear, frustration, jealousy, and, and, and… Societally, we have been taught that all of these emotions are bad/negative and since there is no pride in them, we naturally try to hide them, making the depths of despair associated with (in)fertility even greater. 

I am speaking about all of the above from experience because I have lived it. Do you know how liberating it is to share that publicly? The first time I announced my experience through this blog, I held my breath when I hit publish. I didn’t know what the reaction would be and whether it would be met with public disparagement or disgust, or whether I might even be let go at my corporate job for airing my so-called dirty laundry so publicly. Instead, I was met with responses from people that I knew and didn’t know; that they, their sister, cousin, friend, or colleague was going through it, and would I talk to them about it. In those moments, I understood that I was so far from being alone. I realized that I had been shouldering a greater burden than I had to; and had created more stress for myself by not talking about my (in)fertility story. I will purposely refer to (in)fertility like so moving forward because infertility and fertility are often interchangeable, however I believe that being in the community of fertility is powerful.

By being vulnerable by sharing my own story, I have come to learn that that there are other women who have been voicing their experience and encouraging others to do the same. These fertility warriors are trailblazers, and I recently had the honor and privilege of being in the same room with six incredible women who also see the possibility of change. Alexis Mera was there to capture it all on camera.

To say that it was magical being in the room with these other women is an understatement. We all “knew” each other without actually ever meeting, because although the journey was different for all of us, the end goal of becoming a mother was the same.  Our common bond was cemented in the interest of redefining the conversation around (in)fertility by breaking the silence to get it started.

The silence for all of us at one point or another was deafening. At times the path had been hell both mentally and/or physically, but I believe that we all realized that we could use our strength to give voices and faces to (in)fertility. When. the seven of us met, it was clear that we had found community through authenticity, transparency and vulnerability by sharingand as a result, the ability to pay it forward by supporting others going through the fire.

This is just the start, by creating community, we discover resources, are empowered by options, and elevate the conversation for support publicly and in the workplace. We have the power to make infertility a safe discussion and promoting its importance for financial support consideration and workplace benefits for both women and men.

Be a trailblazer. Over the course of this week during National Infertility Awareness Week, six fertility warriors will be featured on Fertilust. Each will share their story and their reflections on their experience. Some of the themes expressed by our trailblazers included empowerment, community, perseverance, resilience, options, strength, and advocacy.

We welcome you to join the conversation by sharing your constructive voice in the comments, and/or by reaching out to find out how to tap into the community. 

In collaboration with Alexis Mera who photographed each fertility warrior and provided graphic tees from her collections, you can get a sneak peek into each woman’s story here as shared on Alexis’ blog. Please also be sure to check back each day this week as we highlight each fertility warrior in detail here on Fertilust.

Together we can take the conversation about (in)fertility out of the shadows to normalize it. We can make it inclusive by building awareness and community. By giving it so many voices, we can drown out the judgement, misconceptions and silence around the topic.

Rather than focus on the negative aspects of (in)fertility, we have the opportunity to get IN to the community of FERTILITY. Please join us.