The Things People Say

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					The Things People Say
No matter where you are in your infertility journey, people probably have
said things to you that hurt or that make you want to scream at them for
their lack of compassion and understanding regarding your situation. I'm
sure you've heard one or more of the following:
You're just not having sex enough.
Start the adoption process and you'll get pregnant.
Just relax and you'll get pregnant.
Go on vacation; it works all the time.
Some comments are irritating, while others are intentionally hurtful. A
friend of mine relayed the following statement made to his wife, Cathy,
by his wife's mother: "Your marriage to Tim has been a waste since you
are not able to have a child with him." It's hard to believe that a
person would say something so incredibly mean and insensitive, but
unfortunately some couples experiencing infertility are faced with not
only a lack of support but outright cruelty about their situation. While
some people may realize they are being hurtful or may even intend to do
so, the majority of people probably do not realize how insensitive their
comments are.
Like Tim, I too had a family member make a comment to me that
inadvertently lacked compassion regarding my situation. One day my
mother-in-law and I were talking on the phone. Through no fault of hers,
the topic turned from her supporting me to me supporting her. She said
something like, "I was sitting here wondering if I'd ever become a
grandmother. Then I realized I'd welcome an adopted grandchild into my
life if it was the only means for me to become a grandma." As I listened
to her I realized two things: 1) our infertility didn't just impact me
and my husband, and 2) our families were thinking about how this affected
them, not us. As much as I realized this was a sad experience for her
too, I couldn't help feeling that my emotions, in her eyes, were
insignificant to her own. She had already had the gift of children.
While we are in the midst of infertility, we must recognize that
unwelcome and sometimes inappropriate comments will be made by friends,
family, and associates. We must also realize that people don't always
think first and speak second. I believe it is up to us to determine how
we manage these comments internally as well as directly with their maker.
Thinking ahead of time about how we will handle these comments when we
hear them helps us prepare ourselves to minimize the inevitable hurt or
irritation we feel and to maximize the opportunity for a constructive
dialogue with the person making the comment.
So, how do you handle these unwelcome comments? First, in order to
maintain your sanity, it is often helpful to let the maker by know that
their words upset you. This is easier said than done. Let's take Cathy's
mother for example. Cathy could have said, "It really makes me sad to
know you feel that way about our marriage. I love Tim very much and
regardless of whether or not we have a child we will be happy together,
isn't that what's important?" Second, educate and inform. Whether you
educate them about infertility in general or about your specific
challenges is up to you. The point here is to inform others about what
you are going though in order to give them an opportunity to be more
compassionate. Finally, if it feels appropriate to you, you can request
the maker to keep future potentially hurtful comments to themselves no
matter how "helpful" they think they are trying to be.
We may not be able to deflect all of the comments that come our way, but
we can work on our ability to handle those comments. Relationships can be
difficult to navigate during infertility, so it's important to
communicate openly and honestly with those you care about so that they
can help you, rather than hurt you, along your journey.
Kelly K. Damron is the author of Tiny Toes: A Couple's Journey Through
Infertility, Prematurity, and Depression. Damron is the mother of twin
girls conceived via IVF and born 10 weeks premature. She is an advocate
for the infertile and prematurity communities. To learn more about her
book and her blog visit:

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