From my life experience, I learned that words (whether meaning to, or not) can definitely impact the way a person feels about his or her own situation. I think we tend to feel the need to “say something” when faced with the sadness of another one’s life.
From the very moment I had my hysterectomy so young, I caught on quickly that a gentle acknowledgement of the loss was often replaced by words of so-called wisdom from others. Because of this, I have come up with a list of things NOT to say to someone who is experiencing infertility and barrenness. Some of these have been spoken to me time and time again, while others are ones that I have heard said to other people.
- “You can always adopt.” Yes, there is an element of truth in this, but please consider the fact that the person is still caught up in the midst of wondering why he or she cannot have biological children. It is time that we separate infertility from adoption. They are two completely different experiences.
- “If it is God’s will, then it will happen.” Again, um…yes. As a Christian, I believe in the will of God, but please don’t say this to people going through infertility. Some of the most faithful, devout people I have encountered are barren. Their very essence is screaming out to the Lord for an answer to what is going on, so please refrain from using this blanket statement. Infertility is more complex than that. And, for those of us who have adopted, we are fully aware of the incredible, God-driven gift our children are to us.
- “At least you don’t have to endure labor.” Oh, really. I mean, really?!?! I would probably trade a leg for being able to birth my children. Seriously. I am not joking. The physical pain experienced pales in comparison to the emotional pain experienced by infertility and barrenness.
- “I would love to skip the pregnancy, and just have an instant baby!” Okay, fine. I cannot imagine growing another human being in my body, and I am sure that it is really awkward and all, but think about what you are saying. Those of us who have adopted may be dealing with the choices others made during their pregnancies of our children. We think about what we would have done during our pregnancies. We consider what choices might have been made by the birth mothers of our children, and our hearts break because of it. Also, confession time: I used to stick a ball under my shirt and look at myself in the mirror. I hoped to catch a glimpse of what my “pregnant belly” would look like; kinda like when a little girl does this. However, I was in my upper twenties-early thirties. And, there is nothing “instant” about adoption. Plus, see number three.
- “There are so many children who need families, and you can be that family.” As an advocate for adoption, I completely agree with this. This world has left far too many children without the presence and safety of parents. However, when one is going through the ups and downs of infertility, they are still seeking answers to their situation. In many respects, they are not at a place to consider bringing in a child. An adopted child is NOT a substitute for not being able to have birth children. The children in need of adoption are unique, precious, and far more deserving of being considered a replacement.
- “Just try harder. Just relax.” I don’t even know what to say to this, except I can tell you that people who are experiencing infertility and undergoing treatment put their lives on hold in order to have a successful pregnancy. They put forth a tremendous amount of effort and money for this to happen. It is not a matter of trying hard enough. Oh, and in way, it is kinda none of your business about how hard “they are trying,”
While there are other comments I have endured listening to, these tend to pop out in my mind. I truly hope this list doesn’t offend you. If you have said this to someone going through infertility, don’t beat yourself up over it. It seems that most people I know who are going through it have developed a thick shell.
I do ask that instead of saying any of these things, perhaps you would consider saying, “I don’t understand what this is like, but know that I am here for you, I am praying for you, and I will support you.” These words tend to resonate loudly in the hearts and minds of others.
Words are an interesting thing. We are taught as children that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I don’t believe that. I think that words can be very hurtful. I also believe that words can be empowering, insightful, and comforting.
If you are someone experiencing infertility, let me just say this: Your journey is your own. It is not for others to dictate. Do what you believe is best for your life, and situation. Know that there are so many others out there in this big world who are sharing in your struggle. Find them. Connect with them. And, don’t give up.