Tips: What to say when you don’t know what to say…

So a new friend, unknown whether she has, is, or will struggle with fertility asked…what’s the right thing to say when you learn someone is struggling with infertility?

For myself, I rarely admit our struggles to those I don’t feel close to or feel some type of kinship with (strange…when you consider I share everything on my blog!). Sure, there are times when someone has casually asked “when are you having kids?” and I want to scream expletives…but the truth is I rather giggle or sigh and spout out some non-meaning response, “time will tell” and change subjects. Sometimes, if I am in the mood, my response is more honest…but still lacks teeth and is in the line of, “sometimes you don’t get to choose when that happens.”  KeepCalmCompassion

Sure, I could be blunt and share a harsher reality, but I also know my response is going to make them feel uncomfortable and then I am going to feel uncomfortable and sad…and quite honestly, most days…selfishly, I just don’t want to take myself there.

So what is the response that makes me feel best when I do open up and admit we are struggling with fertility. Well, the way I see it there are two right answers here in my world…and it depends on what camp you are in:

  1. The Fertiles – “I am sorry to hear you are going through that. It must be difficult.”
  2. The Infertiles – “Ah, I am sorry to hear that, I struggled too.”

If you are part of the fertiles camp…got pregnant immediately or in less than a year with no help from doctors…please, Please, PLEASE keep your response simple and share your empathy and compassion only. Then, stop there. My advice is to avoid that next tempting comment that fills the awkward silence with any stories or advice (i.e. “I know a girl who struggled, tried “this” and then got pregnant” or “try not to think about it” or the always infuriating “just relax”).

If you are part of the infertiles camp…you know who you are…I have to say there is nothing more supportive than hearing you are not alone in your struggle. I know it’s a private situation for some and its not like I am looking for the fine details of your experience (although I would love to hear it if you feel like sharing).  Hearing from a fellow infertile, whether your struggle was a year ago or twenty years ago, that it wasn’t easy for you too makes a world of difference and makes a lonely struggle a little less lonely.

Bottom line, my advice if ever in this situation where someone bares their secret is keep it simple…acknowledge the problem/challenge/disease…but don’t try to brush the struggle away with a joke about how lucky you are to not have kids, a story, or a comment like “just relax” or “stop worrying about it.”

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21 thoughts on “Tips: What to say when you don’t know what to say…

  1. The one that greatly bothers me is “you can have mine kids.” I got that when we were living through RPL and I get that response more now when I tell people we are adopting.
    I really do like your suggestion to just keep your response simple – empathy without suggestions or awkward jokes is best.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! So true. Drives me bonkers… I too have been on vacation and been to see a every miracle worker in the book…and geez I am still here waiting. Things don’t always work out so simply.

      Like

  2. Gosh. I’m so tired of hearing “just relax, it happens really often” and “it happened to X and now she has 7 kids”. You are spot on I think with the fertile people’s response. I think for me the main thing is not to solutionise and not to offer an experience that isn’t yours. As someone who’s had infertility problems for 15 years, I even get antsy when someone tells me they had problems for a year and now have a kid… I just think, that in no way compares to my experience. Please stop!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a beautiful piece. I haven’t come across anyone yet in my personal life, at least that I am really aware of that is struggling with infertility. I am sure though, unfortunately, like many others, in the future I am bound to. Your post has given me, and i’m sure a lot of other people an idea of what to, and not to say to our friends, family, collages, people we have just met, or anyone – thanks :). So, I wish you all the luck in the world, and i’m sorry you are going through this (I may have added a bit – but I think it still works).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are a few people who know what we are going through. The others who don’t wouldn’t ask a question such as “when are you having kids?” I leave that question up to nosy family members. To them I just smile politely, shrug, and say, who knows. I must have a terrifying look in my eye because no one has pressed for details.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You are correct that many of us don’t know what to say or say the wrong thing. I am a firm believer in the laws of attraction and manifestation. Believe it will happen and it will. Don’t allow any negativity to enter your belief. It’s not as easy as it sounds but once you truly believe in something there is scientific evidence that like attracts like and it WILL happen. I will be believing too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do you understand that basically you’re saying that infertiles have themselves to blame because if only they thought happier thoughts, they would have their happy ending?

      There is zero scientific evidence showing that people with real medical issues can magically cure themselves by wishful thinking.

      And really, most infertiles are experts on positive thinking and optimism. If they weren’t, they’d barely get out of bed in the morning for all they have to endure. You should be asking THEM for advice on positivity, not the other way around.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well.. There you go! I said the wrong thing. I certainly did not mean it’s anyone’s fault. I do, however HONESTLY believe in the laws of attraction. Please learn about them because it really is scientific. “Like” attracts “like” and if you really want something the universe will bring it. You really must believe it however and it takes some open mindedness and real commitment. I am not suggesting for one moment that you are not thinking positively. But really learning how the laws of attraction work will bring it to a whole other level. I did have a baby so you might think I’m very fortunate but I raised her for 29 years and she was killed in a car accident. I have managed to get out of bed every morning with a smile on my face. I know things are as they should be. Please read my blog. I’m sorry if you think I was being insensitive. I was really just trying to help.

        Liked by 1 person

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