Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What not to say

[Warning: This post was written for the purposes of venting. Rainbows and unicorns are off on a professional development day and weren't able to participate in the writing of this post.]

I've been thinking of my top 10 list of things not to say to an infertile, but I never make it past 3. So I thought I would post what I've got, and you could maybe add yours in the comments.

There are a great many horrible things I've heard being said to others, but there are only 3 very awful things that have been said to me. Here they are:

1) "Well, maybe I'll be infertile too, you know" from a friend who was not yet ready to have children. I recognize that this was said out of compassion and I truly love the friend who said this to me. She meant so well by it. She didn't want me to feel alone in my sorrow, so she opened the possibility that she too could have problems conceiving. Unfortunately, thinking about her not being able to conceive makes me so sad, I almost start to cry. She is a wonderful woman and deserves to have the children she wants to have. So, unfortunately, not a helpful comment, especially not when it was one of the first thing that she said after finding out about our infertility.

2)"Well, at least you won't have to suffer through all the discomforts of pregnancy" This one is wrong on so many levels, I don't even know where to start. Perhaps the thing most wrong with it is that my Family Doctor said this to me. Yes, I was in her office in July and she asked how the fertility treatments were going. I was feeling particularly down on that day, so I started crying. She was of course trying to provide comfort, and missed the bulls eye oh, by about the width of 3 Canadian provinces.

3) "oh Augusta, you always do things in such an unorthodox way. I guess you'll also just do this (have a baby) in an unorthodox way" That was said to me by a friend who came to dinner on the same day I visited my family doctor (see 2). Part of why I was having such a tough day before I went to my GP was that I knew this friend was coming and she had said in her email she had a "surprise" for me. Last time I saw this friend, she failed to order her reliable glass of red wine at the French restaurant, which, of course, roused my suspicions. She waited until dinner to tell us about her pregnancy, although at 5 months, it was quite visible. She went on and on about the pregnancy (full disclosure here: when I feel too vulnerable, I start asking people a LOT of questions and make them talk about themselves. So I had my part to play in that). This friend knew about our infertility, although had not been updated recently. Then when she asked about when we would start a family (another gem), I told her about the failed fertility treatments (egg donation was still very tenuous at that point). I didn't feel like raining on this woman's parade and was hoping we could change the topic, but she was steadfast. And then the comment about my unorthodoxy. I actually was so dumbfounded that I had to ask her what she meant by it, which did not clarify much since she was making desperate and not very coherent attempts to back paddle on her comment, seeing it had upset me. Sheesh! That one was obviously uncomfortable for both of us!

So let's review what we've learned here. First, as a woman in childbearing years, never tell an infertile that you also may be infertile unless you know you are. This is never comforting. Second, if you are a family doctor, find a way to talk to infertiles that will be empathetic and won't involve your foot going into your mouth. Third, never, ever be the one highlighting an upside to infertility if your are not the one who is infertile. Very. Bad. Form.

Ok, what comments have people made about your situation that have stung you?


  1. "Well at least your miscarriage was early."

    "Well, a least you guys get to go out and do fun things since you don't have kids."

    "You can take one of my kids since you want one so bad."

    "You're still young, why are you so upset, you have plenty of time."

    "well at least you know you can get pregnant."

    Just a sampling

  2. - My best friend told me she was infertile WHEN she was pregnant because she was too scared to tell me the truth!

    -"Enjoy the quiet"

    - "You don't know what its like to have someone taking away your choices" (this said by another close friend after an ectopic while trying for number 3)

  3. Oooo, venting! Those are some pretty darn hurtful things to say! Stupid people! My best friend also said the "maybe I'll be infertile too" thing when I told her about my situation, and the stupid cow was pregnant a month later. For me the "whatever will be will be" comment is my least favorite. It's just such a useless tautology, and totally devoid of comfort. I am also sick to death of hearing about other people's success stories. Anyway, sorry about these slaps in the face. It just ain't right.

  4. said about my ectopic by a very close friend.."Well it wasn't really a baby that you lost".....well what the f was it then was my reply. Like I said a very good friend who I'm sure will never say anything like that again to me or anyone :)

    My sister always turns the conversation around to how hard it is to raise her two beautiful girls...I know it's hard but what I wouldn't give to do it.

  5. How about the "Why don't you adopt? Then you'll get pregnant for sure!" I love that one.

    But seriously, I can't believe your doctor said that to you. So wrong on so many levels. Ugh.

  6. Wow! These are brutal. I think the comments I've received are rather mild compared to what I am reading here in your comments.

    Here's an idea: How about we set up an webinar for the whole world to educate them on IF etiquette. Free of charge, distributed to inboxes everywhere.

  7. Someone told us we were so lucky we didn't have kids! She had two and one was a newborn.

    You should become a foster parent.

    You just need to relax.


  8. It sucks when people say hurtful things. I have a hard time with the irony that they are most often saying it with the best intentions. I've never heard of anyone intentionally saying something awful, you know? None-the-less, there are so many comments that sting.

    For a while, I had a really hard time when anyone around me offered faith or hope that 'they just knew that we were meant to be parents and that everything would turn out well in the end." They were trying to be supportive, and I played along and said thanks, but it hurt so much to hear them say things that they knew nothing about.

    I still have a hard time when people ask a lot of questions that I feel like I have to answer. Its not that I don't want to talk about it, or want them to know, its just that I want it to be on my terms, but I am not very skillful in offering details in ways that protect our privacy while give them the details that they are looking for.

    My MIL says that she just knows that God has a baby in mind for us, and that she is praying for us. Again, it is said with the best intentions, and I know that this is painful for her too, so I just say thanks, but I hate it, and I know it just eats at ML too.

    Sometime it seems like it would be easier if people simply had mean intentions, and we could just have mean intention back at them!

  9. Blech.

    "You wouldn't have wanted a child with someone wrong with it, anyway"

    "Your miscarriages were so early. They weren't babies yet, anyway"

    "Maybe this is God's way of saying you weren't meant to have children"

  10. Good post. And yet more proof of how much stupidity there is in the world:)

    A few of my favorites:

    "At least you know you can get pregnant"

    "Yadda yadda God's will yadda yadda."

    "Are you sure you should be getting a dog? Shouldn't you concentrate on starting a family?" (Said by someone who didn't know our situation).

  11. I am glad the rainbows and unicorns are out of the office today. :)

    Well, I think the funniest and most off the wall, stupid comment given to me by an fertile was, "buy a 2 seater car"

    I wish I had asked the guy if this was why he now had a 2 seater car. and why did he ask when we were going to have kids if when my husband told him we were infertile he would choose to respond in this way.

    i will say, i do notice a lot of 2 seater cars on the road these days, and it always makes me smile when i do. i realize there are a lot of other infertile people out there trying to bring kids into the world as well.

  12. "We weren't planning on this one so, hey if you want it?" Yes...what a very funny joke. Too bad it makes me want to slice a person open and take it right now.

    Wooo...that came out much more evil than I intended.

    Also the "if you adopt, you are sure to get pregnant" one I find horrible for me and kids up for adoption. I mean, how would they feel if they knew they were only adopted because someone was trying to get pregnant.

  13. I just thought of another favorite. "You can come and babysit my kids anytime you want."

  14. Oh Augusta, I know how much teese comments sting ... all too well.

    some of my favourites:

    -at least you know you can get pregnant

    -are you sure you want kids? take mine for the day, that'll change your mind.

    -if its meant to be, it'll be.

    thats just a few... i could go on forever. hopefully your friends (and GP!!) grow some sensitivity soon!

    thinking of you :)

  15. I'm late to comment, but I just discovered your blog through One Egg Please.

    One of my friends said something similar to your #3 to me. "Well, S, you know the 'simple' things in life have never come easy for you." Yeah, true, but not what I wanted to hear.

    A few more:

    "I wish I could give you some of my fertility. My husband just has to look at me. . . " (Yeah, I wish you could give me some of your fertility, too!)

    "God has a plan for you." (Really?! How do you know? Maybe his plan includes my being childless.)

    "You're lucky you don't have kids. They are not as great as you think." (Wow, what a loving thing to say about your own kids.)

    "Stick with dogs. They're easier." (Um, yes, probably, but totally beside the point.)

    "You should adopt. So many kids need homes." (We aren't running an abandoned child rescue home; we just want to be parents.)

    "Well, what do you expect at your age?" (This one was from my own mother, said to me when I was 38.)

    "Maybe this [referring to my volunteer work with abused/neglected children in foster care] is what you were meant to do instead of having a child of your own." (Again from my mother.)

    I also heard the "At least you know you can get pregnant" several times when I had a chemical pregnancy last summer.

  16. You shoudld find a new GP right away. That is the most hurtful thing I've ever ever heard.

    Luckily, I only have one "are you shitting me" moment to recall when a friend of mine - knowing I'd had 3 miscarriages and a mere month following my 3rd one - announced her pregnancy to me at a restaurant with another acquaintance who was also at dinner with us (who and doesn't know about my miscarriages). More appalling - she is a clinical psychologist and her sister suffered infertility for years, then a still-born, then an adoption that fell through. How oblivious can one be?

  17. Oh - I forgot to mention that the acquaintance ALSO announced that she was 20 weeks at that same dinner. Double whammy. I immediately reached into my purse for a Clonopin.