What Not to Say to Someone Struggling with Infertility (and What to Say Instead)

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“What medications are you on?” The medical assistant asked as I sat on the table at the doctors office for a routine visit.

“Prenatals, coq10, and Clomid,” I replied.

“Clomid?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Oh, so you’re infertile,” she stated.

Wait. What?

I asked a group of women struggling with infertility what word came to mind when they thought of infertility. This word cloud is what they collectively came up with.

In•fer•tile – adjective (of a person, animal, or plant) unable to reproduce (according to Oxford Language).

Similar words: sterile, barren, CHILDLESS.

Yes, I struggled with getting pregnant. But I didn’t consider myself infertile. In fact our reporoductive endocrinologist (aka fertility doctor) suspected our case to be male factor. The Clomid was just something they wanted to try for a couple of months. I felt the need to explain this to the medical assistant, but she was out the door before I could “defend” myself.

How dare she call me infertile? How dare she make me feel like I wasn’t able to do something that my body was born to do? What a crappy word. We had been trying just over a year and although I had accepted that we were struggling with infertility, being called infertile so matter-of-factly for the first time hurt.

This was just the first of many things I heard from strangers, friends, and family over the next couple of years on our journey to becoming pregnant.

Listed below are some things I heard often from people when talking about our struggle with infertility and what I had wished they said instead.

Have you considered adoption?

Yes, believe me. I looked into all paths to parenthood. But adoption is VERY expensive and the waitlists to adopt a child can be long.

What I wanted them to say instead: “I am here for you.”

Why don’t you just try IVF or other fertility treatments?

IVF costs an upwards of tens of thousands of dollars and isn’t something all couples can finance or afford. Other treatments like IUI’s are more affordable, but didn’t work for us. Most insurances don’t cover IVF procedures, IUI’s, or the thousands of dollars in medications needed for successful cycles.

What I wanted them to say instead: “I am here for you.”

Everything happens for a reason.

Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Even if that is the case, it is definitely something that someone who wants to have a baby but can’t get pregnant doesn’t want to hear.

Just don’t.

What I wanted them to say instead: “I am here for you.”

And my favorite…

Just relax and it’ll happen.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. There are so many different things that cause infertility and although sometimes people who “stop trying” end up pregnant, it is not the case for the majority. Plus, when a baby is all you are thinking about, all you long for, it is very hard to “stop trying.”

What I wanted them to say instead: “I am here for you.”

A card and flowers my close friend brought me the night before our egg retrieval when we were finally able to do IVF. Inside the card she wished us luck and let us know she was there for us.

My husband and I, luckily, have been able to close the infertility chapter of our lives (although it is something that will always be a part of me), but I know many others who haven’t had the chance to become parents yet, or who deal with secondary infertility and haven’t been able to add to their family the way they had hoped to. I am pretty sure I know how they are feeling since I’ve been there, but instead of offering any unsolicited advice, I offer my ear to listen, and let them know that I am here for them whenever they may need me.

Are you or someone you know part of the 1 in 8 couples who struggle with infertility? If so, Detroit Mom has an amazing Infertility & Loss Support Group. Check out more resources on Detroit Mom, or our Facebook page for more info.

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