In a previous post, we discussed how to approach friends and family members with fertility issues. Finding the right words is never an easy task, and what to say differs with each individual. However, it is relatively easy to define what you should never say. Some things are going to be hurtful in the vast majority of circumstance and, unfortunately, they tend to be just what will pop into your head when you are lost for words. Here are some of the major pitfalls to avoid.
8 things not to say
- Maybe you can adopt? Sometimes adoption or fostering is the right decision for a couple who can’t have a baby. However, it’s a decision that has to be taken after serious thought and working through issues, often in therapy. By suggesting the adoption route, you’re not telling them anything they don’t know, but you are probably are putting pressure on them to make a decision they are not ready for and may not be right for them
- You’re still young. Women under 35 are advised to seek medical help if they have been unable to conceive for a year. By telling your friend to ‘give it time’, you are giving bad advice. Even worse, you are probably increasing her anxiety. She knows she is young, but she won’t be forever.
- It’s not the end of the world. If you haven’t been through it yourself, it’s hard to appreciate how deep the pain of infertility can be. You wouldn’t tell someone who had just experienced a tragedy that it’s not so bad really; don’t do it here either.
- In a way, you’re lucky. The grass is always greener on the other side and when you’re surrounded by diapers and dirty clothes it’s easy to tell a childless person they have the better deal. Don’t. Your friend knows that having a child is a lot of work and she wants it anyway, your words aren’t going to make her want it any less
- So which one of you has the problem? If a couple has told you they are struggling to have a baby, that is not an invitation for you to pry into private matters. If they wanted to tell you, they would have. In a third of cases, they won’t even know.
- Maybe you’re just not meant to have a child. Infertility is a medical condition. Imagine telling someone with cancer, ‘maybe you weren’t meant to live that long’. This is possibly the most hurtful thing you can say.
- Just try to relax. Telling someone to relax is almost a surefire recipe for increasing stress. Don’t confuse being their friend with being their therapist.
- How about IVF? You weren’t the first one to think of this. IVF is extremely expensive and not covered by most insurance plans. Unless you’re offering to pay, don’t bring it up.
A good rule of thumb is, ‘when in doubt, don’t bring it up’. Remember, you don’t have to say anything, just listening and letting them know you are there to talk when they want is enough. Not knowing what to say can make you feel awkward, but this is one of those occasions when it’s not about you.
If you are struggling with infidelity, consider therapy to help you escape feelings of depression and anxiety and help you make the right decisions for you. Pamela Kelberg provides counseling for infertility in Bala Cynwyd and Philadelphia, PA.