I was at a friends child’s party, sitting in the corner holding my belly, out of breath, watching my children destroy things and pretending they weren’t mine when a lady came and sat next to me. “Wow you must not have long to go! How has it been?” And I complained to this woman for about 30 minutes, about heartburn and backpain and being out of breath and feeling like a turtle-whale hybrid, and she listened to me smiling and laughing and then at the end I said, but you know, I didn’t plan it but I’m happy.
I then asked her if she had kids and if they were at the party. She smiled and said “no, I have had trouble conceiving unfortunately, been trying for years and now trying IVF so fingers crossed!”
My heart sunk, I just spent ages complaining and bragging about how I just get knocked up to this beautiful woman who gave me all her attention and laughed and smiled at my ungrateful words, when I bet she would have killed to be where I was. I looked at her like I’d be slapped with a fish and mumbled “Oh I’m so sorry”… and I became awkward and wanted to run away because I was embarrassed at my ignorance. She went quiet too and we both sat there for about 5 minutes quietly. But something came over me.. and I turned to her and said “sorry, that was a crap reply to you. I would love to know how you’re feeling, I always say the wrong things, what is the right thing to say?”
She said “no that response was perfect. I am actually cool with it now so I don’t mind telling people. I’m lucky in that way. You said the right thing, but there are many things you could say that are wrong things.”
She told me one by one the things that were hurtful to say to people who are struggling with infertility.
Never tell a woman who is struggling with fertility to “just relax” or that when she stops stressing it’ll happen. It’s like telling someone to calm down when they’re mad… a little redundant. Instead, try, “wanna go out for coffee?” “A walk?” “Gym?” “A movie?”
Don’t talk about their diet, exercise habits or tell them to try some cleansing juice or essential oil. Don’t start a sentence with “have you tried.” Instead try, “what will be the next step for you?”
No, she doesn’t want one of your children. She wants her own. Yes adoption and surrogate is an answer but she wants her own baby that grows inside her. Don’t minimize it by telling her she’s lucky being child free either.
Don’t say “but you’re young” … every year it’s her birthday and giving her a timeline makes it more stressful.
Let them know you care, tell them you’re sorry, it’s okay. Let them talk to you about their frustrations, let them know they can count on you. Don’t judge them for their decision to start treatments or to not start treatments or to do whatever works for them. It’s okay if you don’t understand what it feels like for them, that is why listening to them is important.
We had a good laugh and I told her I’d share all the things she told me and she told me that would be one of the nicest things I could do for her and just like that, awkwardness gone and a connection, understanding and friendship made.
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