Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What You Should and Should NOT Say...

So in the years that Jonathan and I have walked this road of infertility and loss, I can't tell you the number of times I've been left somewhat agape at the kinds of things people ask and say in regards to pregnancy and "trying".  I've wanted to write this post for a long time, so here it finally is.  Don't be offended or embarrassed if you've asked me any of these yourself.  I've grown a thick skin about it all! :) At this point most of them kind of make me laugh on the inside.  Just take this as a little tidbit of "education" on the matter.  Whether you *know* a woman is pregnant, trying to conceive, or not...it doesn't matter.  Be wise in what you ask and how you ask it!

6+ Things to Never Say to Any Woman...Infertile or Not:

1) How long have you two been married? ______ <---insert your answer here.  Wow!  When are you guys gonna start a family?

Lord in Heaven.  Frankly, this question just sucks.  Because if you aren't wanting children, there's no good response.  If you're trying at the moment (no matter how long you've been trying for) the answer is awkward.  "Well as a matter of fact the hubs and I got weird on the couch this morning because we're currently trying...".  If you're in the early stages of a pregnancy but aren't wanting to reveal it yet, what the heck could you say?? If you've been dealing with infertility, the question makes you want to cry.  Either cry or be SUPER cynical.  Cynical is the route I always go in my head when this question is asked.  For instance, "Actually we hate children", or "We already are a family actually."  But what comes out of my mouth is "Whenever God decides to let it happen!".  Bottom line, just don't ask the question.  

2)  Are you guys trying??

This is a piggy back on question #1.  If you stop and think about it, that question is asking WAY more than you should be privy to in someone's relationship.  Essentially what you're asking is if the couple is having sex on a regular basis without protection.  If you reword the EXACT SAME QUESTION you are saying "Hey you two, how often are you having sex and are you wearing a condom?"  Surely you wouldn't be bold enough as to ask that question of someone.  I have to slap myself on the wrist for this one (and maybe all of these), because I've asked it before...  For shame, Rach, for shame...

3)  My friend's cousin's boss had a miscarriage.  I know what you're going through.

Welp...you don't really.  This isn't meant to be inflammatory in any way.  Neither is it meant to keep you from expressing sympathy or empathy to women who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy.  What I'm saying is that for those of us who *have* experienced loss, we know there is a large part of it that is unexplainable.  It can't be empathized with unless you've experienced it first hand.  The better response if you have never personally experienced the loss of a pregnancy?  Something along the lines of "I know I can't come close to understanding what you're going through, but I'm willing to listen if you need an ear", or "You've been on my mind and heart lately".   A sweet friend at church said the latter to me one Sunday morning *months* after our loss and she probably never knew how much that meant to me.  She said so much without saying much at all...

4)  Just relax and stop trying so hard and I bet it will happen for you guys.

No no no and again I say NO!  Ok, so maybe this little anecdote has worked on *some*.  But let me tell you, after 5 years of infertility struggles, when I hear this statement all I hear is "You probably aren't having good enough sex."  I already think it's probably something *I'm* doing to hinder this from happening.  I definitely don't need help in that department!  But the "lack of relaxation" factor kind of went out the window about 40 months ago.  Clearly it is something more than just stressed out eggs or sperm with performance anxiety.  Even if this tactic seemingly worked for you and your pregnancy, you probably *still* shouldn't say it to a woman who is distressed about her lack of success thus far...

5) You can babysit anytime you want!  *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*

This does NOT help.  Ever.  Reworded in the mind of a woman who desperately wants children but is unable to have them is this: "I have kids already and you don't.  Come borrow mine.  It will make you feel better.  My kids are awesome."  While the thought is nice, it does not help.  That's not to say that I don't love your children and wouldn't enjoy spending time with them.  But it's not a replacement for my own children.  Nor is it funny as a "tongue in cheek" type deal...

5B) Are you *sure* you want one of these?  Kids aren't all they're cracked up to be...

I know this is cynical and that you don't really mean it.  But it sucks.  It's weird.  I've told people in response to this statement "Well I would have 8 if I could have 1."  And that is the God's honest truth. I'd take a million dirty diapers and temper tantrums and crayoned walls and snotty noses over NO BABY AT ALL.  So yes, actually.  I am sure that I'm sure that I'm sure that I "want one of those".  And no I do not want to "take yours off your hands".  

6) "THE ULTIMATE NO NO!"  What if you're just not meant to have kids?

Is this supposed to be some sort of "harsh reality" type tactic to yank my head out of the clouds?  Whether you know it or not, or whether I'm willing to admit it or not, those thoughts cross my mind frequently.  And you just vocalized my worst nightmare.  What if all this pain and suffering and longing is just a farce and this is something not meant to be mine anyway?  Oh no no no no no.  This is no.  Might I arrive at this conclusion eventually?  Maybe.  Let's hope not.  Either way will it be you who helps me arrive at said conclusion?  Most definitely not... 

5 Things That You Could Say Instead

1) I was/am so sorry to hear about your loss.

It's so nice to hear someone acknowledge the loss of your child in miscarriage.  Because it really is a loss of a child.  No I never gave birth to him or held him, but he is beyond a shadow of a doubt a "real baby".  And the loss of our child was devastating.  Thank you you for recognizing the life of my baby.  For a minute I felt like a mommy...

2) *I* went through/am going through exactly what you're going through.  We had a miscarriage/ectopic pregnancy/still born/chemical pregnancy/blighted ovum/infertility/etc. too.

LADIES!!  If you encounter someone who has experienced loss similar to yours SPEAK UP!!  Infertility and pregnancy loss is such a silent struggle and it shouldn't be.  Be bold in sharing your story but be even bolder about sharing your story with those that need the solidarity the most!  It's a crappy club to be in, but it's even crappier when you feel like you're the only one in it.  Band together and hold each other up.  It was the women who came out of the woodwork to empathize with me in regards to their losses that helped me learn to deal with the hand I'd been dealt...

3) You guys are going to have some beautiful babies one day.

Thanks!  Man I LOVE this statement!  It doesn't speak to the hopelessness that many women in this boat feel.  It DOES, however, speak to the hope that one day those "beautiful babies" will be a reality!  And I LOVE speculating with people about what my babies will look like.  Will they be dark headed or bald or have that amazing Womack red hair?  Will they have blue eyes or brown eyes?  Will they be super smart or super athletic or both??  For a minute you took me out of hopelessness and brought me into hopefulness...

4)  This *is* going to happen for you guys!

Yes!  I really needed you to say that.  A brief moment happened there where I forgot my fears about losing another child.  I forgot my pain in losing the one(s) I've lost.  And I smiled on the inside because I really needed your vote of confidence.  Because most days I can't muster it for myself...

5)  You are in my thoughts and on my heart.

You could pair this with a "Please let me know if you need anything" if you're feeling inclined to deliver on that request.  But the first sentence is more than enough.  You don't even have to expand on it.  You don't have to say the word miscarriage, or loss, or baby, or infertility, or anything.  Because I know what you're referring to.  And I know you aren't trying to pry.  This statement means so very much to women going through this.  Just the reminder that someone knows you're in pain or you're struggling is soothing...

Again, I hope this doesn't upset you.  It's not meant that way.  I've been on both sides of this fence.  I've been on the "My friend lost her baby and I have no idea what to say" side, and I've been on the "I've been through this and I know what you're going through" side.  I hope this helps you to *not* avoid women you know are struggling with loss or infertility because you don't know what to say.  I hope it also helps you avoid saying the things that you shouldn't.  To any woman.  But to lighten the mood a little, I thought I would share a little story about my dad and how he learned never to ask "the wrong questions":

Daddy (at a garage sale trying to strike up a conversation with the woman who owns the home): Hi!  How are you this beautiful Saturday?
Homeowner:  Doing well!  How bout yourself?
Daddy:  Doing fine.  You guys have quite a bit you're getting rid of.  Are you moving?
Homeowner:  No.  Just trying to get rid of some stuff!
Daddy:  You must have a ton of baby stuff in the house then.  I can't believe you're getting rid of so much baby clothing when you've got one on the way!
Homeowner: *blink...blink, blink*  Sir I'm not pregnant.
Daddy (awkwardly trying to extract his foot from his mouth):  Oh, well then I'm sure your baby is beautiful!
Homeowner:  My children are 18 and 22 sir.
Daddy: *blink...blink, blink*  Ok well you have a good day then. <---power walks to car

Oh Daddy...


  1. Completely hit the nail on the head! :)

    1. Thanks Ashlie! That post has been on my mind for a really long time. Feels good to get it out there... :)