Unbearable: What To Say To The Infertile

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My first tip might be to refrain from calling anyone infertile, unless you’re a doctor and the word is absolutely necessary. Technically, infertility means anyone who has been trying to conceive for a year or more. It’s still not really an endearing term. So last week, we talked about what not to say to those trying to conceive. I probably should have included the ‘infertile’ label. This week, here’s some more positive advice. If you’re not telling them to relax or stop trying or trust in God’s plan, (because you’re not, we covered this) what should you say to someone trying to get pregnant?

  • Nothing. I know, that doesn’t seem productive. But difficulty conceiving is an emotional process. Once you get into fertility treatments, a woman’s hormone levels can be off-the-charts and unpredictable. So a simple question could send them into a traumatic crying fit in the middle of lunch. No one wants to be the crazy lady crying in the restaurant. So try to let your friend or family member bring the subject up first, or wait to ask until you’re in a private place.
  • I’m sorry it’s been so difficult. This acknowledges the woman’s hard time and offers condolences. I know it’s pretty basic, but sometimes that’s the best thing. Just letting her know that you care is helpful and comforting. This communicates that message perfectly.
  • Anything non-baby. This morning I talked to a woman who had a hard time conceiving her first child. That was almost 40 years ago and she’s now a proud mother and grandmother. She said that she could still remember how all-consuming infertility was. It was the only thing she thought about for almost two years. It can literally take over your life. So any interaction that doesn’t focus on babies and children and pregnancy can be a welcome relief to a woman going through these troubles. Share every amusing anecdote you have, as long as there are no babies.
  • Everything baby. Yes, women trying to conceive think about children all day long. But they often feel too emotional or insecure to share all those difficult thoughts. Even when trying-mothers are hopeful, they get nervous talking about their future children. Maybe they’re afraid of jinxing it. But giving women who are consumed with pregnancy a chance to talk about names and nurseries might help them think about life after all this anxiety and stress. Ya know, when their infants become toddlers and all that stress will wash away, right? Ok, there will still be stress. But it might be cathartic to talk about all the plans they’ve been building in their head.

I realize that these four approaches are all very different. I can’t promise which one will work, or that any of them will. You’ll have to listen to your friend and try to provide what she needs at that moment. More than anything, understanding that she’s going through an extremely difficult process will be enough. Just listening to her talk will be more helpful than you can imagine. Even if she doesn’t remember to say it, she appreciates your support during such a hard process.

(Photo: Thinkstock)