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How to Navigate a Supportive Conversation with Your Loved One Regarding Infertility


Few things are more irritating than the incessant badgering from well-meaning friends and family members who may or may not be aware of your fertility struggles. Even strangers seem to find ways to invade your personal life with prodding questions regarding your parental status. They’re quick with the anecdotes of how wonderful and rewarding motherhood is. It seems that the longer you are married the more cavalier people become with their inquiries into your situation. Here is an extensive, but by no means complete, list of the many inappropriate and hurtful comments that were made to me at some point during our struggle.

“You should just have a few glasses of wine and relax. That’s what I did, and then I got pregnant.”

This gem was shared by an acquaintance of a friend. I had only met this woman that night, but she decided to insert herself and her wisdom into a quiet conversation between my friend and I regarding how everything was going with my infertility.

“Maybe God has a different plan for you.”

This thoughtful pearl of wisdom was actually said to my face by a friend of mine. I promptly kicked her insensitive ass to the curb. Religion and spirituality provide guidance and solace to billions worldwide, but that relationship is very personal for many and should be left as such, particularly during painful episodes in their lives.

“Weren’t you guys planning on having kids right after you got married? Well, you still have plenty of time. You aren’t even 30 yet.”

When you have been struggling for years to get pregnant despite seeking a doctor’s intervention this comment does not provide any comfort. As with many of the comments, this surely comes from a place of love. Unfortunately, to those struggling with infertility, it appears dismissive of the very real pain they are processing.

“I knew someone who was just like you, but then she got pregnant when they stopped focusing on trying.”

No two infertility struggles are the same. Some women may struggle with cycle issues that can be corrected with hormones or may even be a symptom of another illness that can resolve itself overtime. Others have poor egg quality, or insufficient lining, or damaged fallopian tubes. There are women who have undergone cancer treatment, have had their ovaries removed, and a host of other issues. For many suffering from infertility, a reason is never provided and the struggle remains unexplained. 

“You’re lucky you aren’t pregnant. I’m so uncomfortable.”

Few things are more upsetting during a struggle with infertility than being around women who are pregnant. This is particularly upsetting if it is a friend or family member. I abstained from attending several baby showers of even some very close friends because it was simply too painful. None more painful than my own sister’s, whose pregnancy was unplanned. I mustered all of my strength and the love I have for her to host a baby shower. I really poured my heart into it. I was truly happy for her, but at the same time I hated her. I hated what she was given. She was well into her pregnancy by the time I learned of her condition. She and my mother had been keeping it from me. They worried about my already fragile state. They were right. I was devastated when I found out.

“You can always just try IVF.”

Many people are unaware of the astronomical costs that are involved with IVF and other fertility treatments. Very few states have mandates that require insurance companies to cover these options, and there are many exclusions, leaving a staggering number of couples without the financial resources to move forward.

Indeed, the list of intrusive questions and comments from well-intentioned friends, family and virtual strangers is exhaustive.

“You can always adopt.”

“Is it you or your husband?”

“I’ve heard stories about doctors using the wrong sperm for IVF.”

“Just take a vacation, and it will happen.”

“What will you do if the fertility treatments fail?”

“Do your medications make you crazy?”

“Do you guys fight more because of the medications?”

“How much money do you have to spend on these treatments?”

Before you throw in the towel, deciding that it is simply too dangerous or insensitive to engage your loved one in a meaningful conversation about their struggle, here is some food for thought.

Consider the appropriateness of your questions and comments, particularly in the context of how you think they may be received by your loved one.  Even then, ask yourself, “Is my voice a helpful and necessary addition here? In our fervent need to provide a solution and eliminate the struggle and pain of our loved one, we often overlook the most useful assistance we are capable of offering; an open and empathetic heart and mind, a safe space to grieve, and an ear to listen.

Wishing you all PEACE, LOVE, & BABY DUST.

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Published inThe Winding Path of Persistence

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