According to Resolve, the National Infertility Assn., one in eight U.S. couples of child-bearing age is diagnosed with infertility. Two long years ago, my husband and I unfortunately found ourselves in this category. It’s been a heartbreaking journey ever since.
We still don’t have any children to show for our efforts, but we remain hopeful that we’ll eventually have the family we’ve always wanted. I don’t talk about it much, because to retell it is to relive it, and this is hard enough to go through once. Also, over the years, I’ve heard my share of well-meaning but cringe-worthy statements that just made me feel worse.
I feel for my friends and family, because they have the best of intentions and want to say something comforting and helpful. But there’s almost nothing they can say.
Most people probably know at least one couple enduring infertility. If those couples are anything like me, here are five things they don’t want to hear:
• Unless you are a board certified fertility doctor, please refrain from diagnoses. Anyone going through this has gotten second, third and fourth opinions: we don’t need any more.
• Please don’t tell us to “just” do anything. Examples: “I don’t understand why you don’t just get a surrogate” or “You should just adopt!” Often these are said with the nonchalance of suggesting we order a pizza. Both paths are unbelievably complicated and expensive (in every sense of the word), and we’ve probably already considered or are still considering them.
• Please don’t tell us to relax or stop trying or “go on vacation and just have sex — surely it’ll happen then.” This dawned on us. It didn’t work. And yet we still try every month, hoping for one of these incredibly wonderful (but unlikely) miracles that people love to mention.
• Don’t tell us about your friends for whom it all worked out. We realize you’re just trying to give us hope, and that’s very nice of you, but unfortunately, it reinforces the feeling that it’s happening for everyone but us.
• And finally, while we sincerely appreciate your interest and concern, please don’t ask us if we’re pregnant. As someone who’s had miscarriages during the precarious first trimester, I’m very superstitious. You’ll know when we’re ready to share.
So, what can you say or do?
First, listen. Or, if you know it will make you uncomfortable to hear about it, let us know that. We’ll be A-OK talking about something — anything — else.
Second, say you’re sorry for our struggle. Several months ago, a friend of mine wrote me the loveliest, simplest paragraph I didn’t even know I so badly needed to hear:
“I am so very sorry. I’m most sorry that there’s nothing I can say that will make this better for you. But please know you’re in my thoughts and prayers and I am wishing you peace and good news. I’m always here to talk if you want to.”
Friedman, who lives in Los Angeles, is the author of the book “Pregnant Pause: My Journey Through Obnoxious Questions, Baby Lust, Meddling Relatives, and Pre-Partum Depression.” She has been published in several anthologies and publications, including Newsweek and the Sun. Her website is https://www.carriefriedmania.com.
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