You may not have April 20-26 marked on your calendar as National Infertility Awareness Week, but 1 in 6 couples check their calendar frequently to see if they’re pregnant or how long it’s been since they filed adoption papers or when will the infertility tests be back . . .
An Ignored Group
With millions of couples experiencing infertility, a large percentage of the population feel shunned. Yet, you probably know someone dealing with infertility in your neighborhood, your church, your family, your friends, your co-workers . . .Maybe it’s you struggling to become a mommy or experiencing secondary infertility and know what it’s like to feel invisible in a group.
Many of the “mommies-in-waiting” sharing their stories in my book, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey expressed the sorrowful complaint that they felt ignored by friends and family, even in the church–especially in the church.
Often we ignore the infertile couple because we don’t know what to say to them. Or the infertile couple doesn’t talk about their painful situation because people say hurtful things.
People Say The Darnedest Things!
Your loved ones will say all the wrong things. All of us who have gone through infertility agree on this point.—Laurie, A Mommy-in-Waiting
People keep asking when we’re going to start having children, as if I’m making a conscious decision not to! I try shrugging it off with an answer that we probably will “someday.” Inside, I’m dying. Why are people so insensitive and why do they feel it’s ok to ask something so personal? Everyone seems to think they’re a doctor and they know the answer to my infertility. Then the advice . . . the number one thing everyone seems to say is, “Oh, you just need to relax.” Or “You’re young; you’ve got plenty of time.” UGH!!! Help, God, they’re killing me!
Wounded by Words, Kim
Kim is my precious daughter whose struggle with the heartache of infertility was often intensified by well-meaning—yet wounding—words. Many infertile couples’ stories mention how thoughtless and hurtful people’s comments and advice can be. Debbie wrote, “I’ve experienced people in the church say some of the worst things ever to me with every good intention. Probably one of the most insensitive and painful is, ‘Maybe God never meant for you to have children.’”
You can be sure thoughtless, hurtful comments aren’t from God, who instructs: “Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim” (Proverbs 15:4 MSG).
10 Things Not To Say or Do To Someone Experiencing Infertility
I believe in the front of every church directory there should be a list of things that you shouldn’t say to people during times of grief, just like emergency preparedness in the front of the phone book.—Debbie, A Mommy-in-Waiting
Most people don’t mean to be hurtful: they innately want to say and do the right thing. They offer a cliché or something that minimizes your situation or feels patronizing because they’re uncomfortable being around someone suffering. Here are ten helpful tips from Mommies-In-Waiting:
1. Talk about people you know with infertility. 1. Let me talk about mine and listen
2. Tell me God is in control, or has a plan. 2. Show me God’s love.
3. Tell me to pray harder. 3. Pray for and with me.
4. Pity or patronize me. 4. Show compassion.
5. Avoid me. It makes me feel rejected, different. 5. Keep normal contact with me.
6. Tell others, unless you have asked permission. 6. Honor my privacy.
7. Offer unsolicited advice or suggestions. 7. Support my choices.
8. Resent how my infertility affects you. 8. Remember, this is about me.
9. Ask personal questions or give advice. 9. Curtail curiosity.
10. Assume it’s a “female” problem. 10. Respect it’s personal.
Suggested Responses for the Infertile Couple
We will speak the truth in love.—Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)
Following are frequent unwelcome comments and suggested responses. Non-satirical humor often defrays uncomfortable situations. Your goal isn’t to offend or embarrass the person. The responses shouldn’t be said sarcastically, defensively, or angrily. Use this as an opportunity to be a good witness:
1. “When are you two going to start a family?”
Response: What makes you think we’re not trying?
2. “You just need to relax, take it easy, rest more, or take a vacation.”
Response: Then I might have two problems—no baby and no job!
3. “You aren’t getting any younger!”
Response: Are you fishing for an invitation to my next birthday party?
4. “You’re young, you have plenty of time.”
Response: Time is the one thing we have too much of now.
5. “You should take________”—they name some food, herb, or drug.
Response: I’ll check with my doctor about that.
6. “You should try_______”—they suggest some sexual position.
Response: You mean we’re supposed to have sex?
7. “We need grandchildren.”
Response: We need to be parents first.
8. “There must be some hidden sin in your life.”
Response: Jesus forgave my sins when I became a Christian.
9. “You aren’t praying hard enough.”
Response: Are you offering to pray for us?
10. “If God wanted you to have children, you would.”
Response: Ouch! That hurts.
Remember: Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose (Proverbs 18:21 MSG).
*Some excerpts from Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey