Despite the advancements in medicine and understanding, infertility is still a taboo discussion. It causes many marriages to fall apart and creates a sense of isolation and loss of self-worth. Treatments often consume your life and your bank account. Days revolve around testing, withholding sex, timing sex, and discussing your sex life in detail with your doctor.
Despite this incredibly personal and overwhelming challenge that 1 in 8 couples face, we have not changed our rhetoric. We often treat couples experiencing fertility challenges as if they’ve done something wrong and we reinforce the idea that their infertility defines them. I actually received a letter from an “Infertility Treatment Center” that started, “Dear Infertility Patient.” Can we stop defining people by this? Please?
So please, for my sake, for everyone’s sake, let’s reevaluate the way we talk to couples trying to conceive. Here are some things that people absolutely need to stop saying to couples struggling with fertility.
1) “Maybe you should just relax.”
Oh, gee. Maybe relaxation is all this incredibly stressful situation is missing. I’m trying desperately for something that you (typically) already have. I don’t want to hear that my shortcoming is somehow contributing to a medical problem that is out of my control.
2) “I’m sure it will happen soon.”
Really? Do you have some sort of special knowledge of providence you’ve been holding back? No? Then shut up, please. You don’t know it will happen soon. My heart is breaking every month wanting it to happen soon. So unless God speaks to you directly and tells you I’m about to conceive, please, don’t tell me it’s going to happen soon.
3) “Are you sure? My niece/someone I read about in an article/third cousin’s friend’s nephew was told that then bam, they had twins.”
This one also applies to giving advice to people struggling with infertility. Congratulations to that couple! Babies are a joyous miracle. However, the only thing we can do is trust and follow the plans that doctors have laid out for us and, right now, we’re having some issues. I know you’re trying to give me hope, but causing me to doubt the doctors who are helping me, really isn’t helping.
4) “Don’t worry. You’ll have a baby and it will be fine.”
This has been the most heartbreaking thing people have said to me. It cut deeply because it came from those closest to me: well-meaning family and close friends. I kept it in for awhile because I knew they were trying to encourage me, but all I heard was that it wouldn’t be fine until I have a baby. Deep down, I know that might never happen. I needed those near me to remind me that, even if a baby never came, it would be fine. Many days, I felt deeply broken and I needed to know that I was enough.
Here’s what someone going through infertility needs to hear:
“You are enough.”
Infertility takes away your ability to bring forth life. This is a very basic instinct that most of us take for granted. Having my fertility stripped from me left me feeling like a lesser-woman. But my womanhood is not on hold. I am enough with or without bringing life from my womb. The people who reminded me of my value, gave me hope and courage to continue pressing through treatments and doctors’ appointments and life.
I have always been careful, but now I watch, with greater attention, every word going past my lips. Words have cut me deeply but words have also restored me. I hope that I can be the one to reach out to someone suffering silently though month after month of heartbreaking treatments and remind them that, even if a baby never comes, they are truly enough.