So yesterday I was at an office and was making an appointment for a date 6 months from now. They asked me if one day was better than another etc. I stated the only thing that might change is we could have a baby anytime since we were adopting and just waiting to be picked by a birth mother. The person at the desk proceeded to delve into a series of questions concerning my fertility that were so personal that sometimes I wonder if people really think before they speak. Later, I emailed another friend who has infertility issues so we could laugh about it (better to laugh than cry) but also its nice to know someone else experiences and feels the same way about it.
Here are some quick guidelines for keeping your questions/feelings “bottled up” when talking to someone who is suffering from infertility or is adopting.
#1 In reference to infertility – Do not ask “Is the problem you or your husband?” – To me this is the equivalent of someone asking how your sex life is. You might think who would ask that. So many people do. I cannot count how many times I have answered it as kindly and evasively as possible. That question digs into me like nothing else.
#2 In reference to adoption – Do not ask “What’s wrong, you can’t have your own kids?” First of all there are plenty of people who adopt before they have biological children because they want to give a home to a child and not because of infertility. Also my adopted child will be “my own”. They might not physically come from me but they are already part of my heart.
#3 In reference to infertility – Do not offer advice on how to get pregnant. Seriously people! First , I do not want to know your bedroom tricks to get pregnant. Also someone who suffers with infertility has probably done more research on the subject than you could imagine. If you are truly trying to offer helpful advice, say something like “I heard of a new fertility treatment, would you like to hear about it?” This gives the person the opportunity to discuss their personal business with you should they want to.
#4 In reference to infertility/adoption – Do not be surprised when someone is not ready to talk about adoption while they are suffering with infertility. Also asking a question like “Why don’t you just adopt?” implies that they are stupid for not doing so. Also the phrase “just adopt” does not do justice to the adoption process. That’s like hearing someone has marital problems and saying “Why don’t you just get divorced?”. When I first found out about my infertility issues I didn’t want to talk to people about adoption. I wasn’t opposed to it but at the time I felt like it meant I was “giving up” having biological children. I now know it wasn’t giving up when I decided to adopt but I was upset and hurt that this was happening to us.
#5 In reference to infertility – Do not force a conversation about it. It literally took me years to start talking about infertility with anyone other than my mom, husband and a couple of other close friends. If you have kids, look at them, think about how much joy you have from them. Now think about how much pain you would feel if you were trying to have them and you couldn’t. How much you would want them and how people’s comments about your ability to do so would cut like a knife.
#6 In reference to infertility – Don’t tell them that it might not be God’s will for them to get pregnant or it will happen in God’s timing. Although these statements might be true they are not helpful. They hurt. Don’t you think they know this?
#7 In reference to infertility/adoption – Do not tell someone if you relax and don’t worry about it you will get pregnant or if you Adopt then you will get pregnant. Seriously that is not how it works. Plenty of people don’t get pregnant after they adopt and you have no idea what kind of infertility issues someone may have (and please don’t ask them).
Last I will just say that if you know someone dealing with infertility or suspect someone is then don’t talk about it unless they bring it up. The best thing you can do is be a caring friend and listen when you are called upon. Admit that you have no idea what they are feeling and that you can’t offer any advice but that you will be there for them no matter what. Infertility drove me into a deep depression. When I started infertility treatments it got even worse. What I needed then was support and friendship. Luckily I had those things in my husband and some close friends. It was a hard time in my life. Even though I feel at peace with our decision to adopt and I am looking forward to the arrival of our Little One in God’s time, the memories of the pain infertility caused are like a healing wound. It still hurts when I hear of other’s pain or when people say insensitive things.
So if you don’t know what to say or you think “it’s no big deal I will just ask them”, I am going to suggest you bottle that up. Because what is no big deal to you is a huge deal to a person suffering with infertility.