Failure to conceive is difficult enough to come to terms with and is made even more uncomfortable, when you are constantly being asked, told or questioned WHY!?
I am sure we have all been in the position where we just wanted to reply … “Why don’t you just …” to what can be incessant, frustrating, annoying or inane interjections however well intended. Most of these insensitive comments aren’t meant to be hurtful.
They might be made out of ignorance or out of a strong desire to say something that will defuse a tense moment. Friends and family might want to solve our ‘problem’; heal our ‘pain’ or lighten our ‘sadness’ with humour – unfortunately these attempts to make us feel better can often have the opposite effect.
We have discussed this scenario with many people trying to conceive and have come up with a number of the most often used conversation stoppers which can infuriate and frustrate in equal measure.
Please, please, if you find yourself in the situation where a friend or loved one confides in you that they are trying to conceive, think, think and think again before you speak!
We have also provided some reasons why such conversation stoppers aren’t always appropriate
“You Can Always Do IVF”
IVF is often seen as a cure-all for all cases of infertility but in reality it is never that simple. First of all if fertility treatment can’t be funded there is the cost to consider; many patients require multiple cycles; may require the assistance of a donor or even a surrogate.
Keep in mind IVF does not always work – for women under 35, success rates may be as low as 39.6% per cycle; for women in their early forties this rate might be as low as 11.5% per cycle. Finally, not everyone wants to go through the IVF treatment process. It’s an invasive and emotionally intense treatment.
IVF is clearly not for everyone.
Adoption can be a wonderful option for some couples, but it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. Suggesting adoption in a flippant way ignores the financial and emotional costs of adoption. Also, adoption is not always possible. There is an application and approval process to adopt a child. Not everyone who wants to adopt will pass the screening process which, quite rightly, is comprehensive and designed to ensure the safety, security and future of the child.
Adoption doesn’t take away the pain of being unable to have a biological child. It is an alternative family option for those who can’t have their biological child but there are many emotional and practical implications to consider.
“Trust Me, You’re Lucky You Don’t Have Kids”
Don’t view childless couples as clueless when it comes to the logistics of having to care for a baby. We all know babies cry and puke; we know that they can scream, and scream; we know that our lives would be significantly different if we had the responsibility of a parent. Our decision to try for a baby is however a choice, and a choice which is made with all those responsibilities in mind – don’t downplay a couple’s situation by making your blessing sound more like a curse.
“You Need to Relax. All That Stressing Is Causing Your Infertility”
A commonly held myth and one that has been shared by more than the odd (ill informed) professional. However, please understand – everyday stress does not cause infertility. Academic studies have gone further to even suggest very high levels of emotional stress just prior to an IVF treatment cycle does not adversely affect the outcome. Put simply, feeling stressed out doesn’t prevent your infertile friend from getting pregnant. Also, try to remember the chicken an egg scenario – any perceived stress displayed by someone trying to conceive may be a result of not being able to conceive rather than vice versa!
“Maybe You’re Not Meant to Be Parents”
This is one of the most distressing comments you could probably make to anyone trying to conceive. If this were true, how can anyone explain why truly bad and even abusive parents manage to have children? There is no qualification available for parenting.
“You Have Plenty of Time to Get Pregnant”
Not quite accurate. Youth is no friend to infertility and your biological clock can tick very loudly, very quickly. A woman’s ability to produce sufficient numbers of good quality eggs diminishes quickly after her teenage years; some experience premature ovarian failure and conditions like endometriosis worsen over time. Whilst younger women generally have better fertility health and have an increased chance of getting pregnant through treatment it is not always a given.
Did you Put Career before Family?
Never assume that someone has reached a certain age without a child because they have done so purposefully because of a career related reason. Yes, some may have but a lot of people haven’t. Numerous surveys have concluded that the numbers of women who mention career goals as an important part of their family planning is relatively low (as low as 30% in some cases). By far the most important factors which consistently appear as being more important include being in a secure relationship; feeling financial and psychologically stable and ready to take on the responsibility of being a parent.
“What’s the Big Deal? You Already Have a Child”
Secondary infertility—infertility that comes after you’ve already had a child—is a big deal to those that experience it. Having a child or children doesn’t take away the pain of being unable to have more, especially if you’ve always imagined your future family being bigger. Before you tell someone to “be grateful” for what they have, don’t assume they’re not. Couples with secondary infertility already know what a blessing it is to have a child but that doesn’t detract from the desire to have another one. It is possible to feel grateful for what you have and sad over what you don’t at the same time.
“So, Whose Fault Is It? Yours or His?”
If, and it is a big if, someone has chosen to confide in you, don’t assume they are going to share everything. Infertility needs to be spoken about more but ultimately, its personal, and no one should ever be made to feel they have to justify anything.
“If You Really Wanted a Baby, You Would Have Had One”
Hearing someone tell you that you are not psychologically, emotionally or practically prepared for a baby is a gut wrencher. There would be no need for birth control or fertility treatments if we could control our fertility by some unconscious power which had its basis in us ‘not really wanting’ children.
“It Could Be Worse. You Could Be Dying”
This is about as comforting as telling a friend who has just lost their father, “Well, it could be worse. Your mother and your father could have died.” Please do not become judge and juror in deciding who deserves compassion and who doesn’t. Research concludes almost unanimously that the high levels of emotional stress experienced by women struggling to conceive is similar to that experienced by those living with cancer, HIV and AIDS, and other chronic pain conditions.
“Don’t Give Up. It Will Happen Eventually!”
You may be thinking that the optimistic tone of this remark makes up for any insensitivity. It doesn’t; it is patronising by subtly laying ‘blame’ whilst saying ‘you still have a chance’. Sometimes you just want to stop, take a step back and evaluate all your options. Telling someone not to give up is as condescending as it gets.
These were just a few of the conversation stoppers which our readers have highlighted. For those at the receiving end of these horrors please understand that most are said in the heat of the moment; often misjudged and more often than not just said without thought or malice.
For those responsible for such remarks and observations please take a step back; sometimes it is better to do more listening than talking. Appreciate and accept that you will not always know the complete reasoning behind a friend or family’s inability to conceive and allow them time and space to talk, when they feel it is appropriate.