This post is not meant to be hurtful in any way, but I feel it is so important to educate those who love their friends but don’t know what to say during their difficult times getting pregnant. My personal goal has always been to never become the bitter friend who doesn’t attend your baby shower or is unhappy when you announce your pregnancy, and in this aspect, it’s been a good run so far. In fact, I tend to go the other route where I get very excited and ask a ton of questions as if I were literally having the baby myself – pretty much doing the whole living vicariously through your friends thing. However, if you do happen to have a friend who feels this way, please be gentle with her and allow her to have her feels. Most likely, she has been given every piece of unsolicited advice under the sun from friends and family, and even a few strangers sprinkled in between, all who have good intentions but no clue how much some of those suggestions sting.
I can only speak for myself, and so I will share just how infertility has affected me. My usual method to attacking any obstacle in life is to research the hell out of it, make plans A – Z, and then execute them one by one. And believe me, we’ve done it all. And that is precisely where the struggle lies – that you feel helpless and unable to do anything to improve your outcome. As much as modern day medicine has made headway through the use of IVF, there are just as many matters that still remain murky and unexplained. Having spent the majority of my thirties trying to figure this out, has frustrated me beyond words. So I hang onto any little thing I can do, like trying to lose weight in between cycles and continuously researching for studies I can participate in to help further science. But do I handle not being able to affect anything very well? Not really, especially because in the past, I was more on the side of not doing something about an issue, out of pure hatred towards myself mixed with low self-esteem. It was only in my mid-twenties when I realized that I am capable to do most things through hard work and the grace of God, and my life turned around for the better in various ways. I attempted to try to do things that I was afraid to fail at, and I certainly did fail at some things, like becoming a therapist, which was a dream of mine – but I believe I still fulfill this desire in different informal ways to great satisfaction, so I don’t feel like I am missing out.
But I’m veering here, so back to fertility – it has been one of the most difficult things that I’ve gone through because no amount of blood, sweat, and tears made a difference. Not only that, I was constantly told by very well-meaning friends that my efforts to lose weight were in vain, that I just needed to go on a long vacation, that I should just relax and not think about it, because that’s when the magic happens. It would hurt me to hear these things, especially since I had repeatedly explained my situation of not ovulating like normal folks, and that simply relaxing wouldn’t make an ounce of difference – but it seemed to fall on deaf ears and we continued to have the same conversations. I understood that it worked for them, but it will not necessarily work for me. And although I adore my friends, I started to pull away and see less of them, simply to avoid these conversations that started to feel like motherly admonishment for not doing the pregnancy thing the right way. After around our third year of struggling, it was not uncommon for K to attend social events by himself because I had either just failed a cycle or miscarried, and didn’t have the energy to be my usual-go-lucky self, which I would then feel guilty about at times later, that I wasn’t being a solid friend despite my own troubles. In addition, I also have friends who are single and wanting children, and I felt it disrespectful to talk about this topic when they were hurting in their own way. I know that I have definitely been guilty of saying the wrong things to friends who were struggling with fertility in the past, simply because I had no idea of how it felt, so I am not on a soapbox here. In fact, I think about those times and wish I could take those things back and regret saying such things very much.
Again, I don’t have all the right things to say, but I do believe in my case, all I wanted was someone who would listen earnestly, give me a hug, and love me, instead of offering me their children, or telling me that maybe I was making an idol of having children. So, in order to help shed some light into the plight of the infertile, below are the top ten things to avoid saying to someone who is struggling with infertility – and if you have some of your own, feel free to add them in the comments.
Top Ten Things To Avoid Saying To Your Friends Struggling with Fertility
1. Just stop thinking about it. My neighbor/cousin/sister/etc tried for years, and when she finally gave up, she magically got pregnant. Stop stressing about it. Go on a long vacation. Did you know stress can affect your period? Just relax and don’t worry about a thing and it’ll happen when it’s “meant to happen”.
2. From friends who have too many kids/their kids stress them out – Are you sure you really want kids!? You can have some of mine! I wish I could still go out drinking and have a night out on the town. Or you could adopt. It only takes an indefinite amount of years and costs around 30 – 60k.
3. Have you tried acupuncture (which I have)? My neighbor/cousin/sister/etc got pregnant right after 3 sessions! Unfortunately, recent studies suggest that it doesn’t work for PCOS folks like myself, so that was a ton of money down the drain.
4. Just stop all of your fertility treatments – it’s not God’s/the universe’s way. All those drugs are unsafe and not proven to work. Enjoy your money and live a lavish life!
5. Or instead, try this concoction that has ground up deer antlers and dried bone marrow, that’ll spruce your ovaries right up.
6. Maybe it’s because you should lose 40lbs – the number one solution of Korean doctors. They don’t seem to understand that those 40lbs were gained through the fertility treatments.
7. Maybe this is God’s/the universe’s way of saying you wouldn’t be good parents/kids would be unhealthy. Would that be really what you want? Wouldn’t push this if I were you!
8. From friends who are single and getting older – at least you can try to have kids. I don’t even have a partner to procreate with, therefore, my problem trumps yours. Having a child is a privileged lifestyle choice.
9. With the world becoming what it is everyday, you’re probably sparing yourself some major grief by not having kids.
10. Have you tried having sex upside down/when the full moon is out/when your astrological sign bids you good fortune?
If you’re like me, you’re cringing when you go through the list, but each of these has happened to me numerous times, and I’m sure there are many other women who have endured much worse. I am thankful that I have a supportive family on both sides and that there never had been any pressure, but the shame that I place upon myself is a heavy enough yoke. So I hope that if you have a friend that is struggling right now, that you’ll give her a listening ear and love on her dearly.