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.”
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:
- The Fertiles – “I am sorry to hear you are going through that. It must be difficult.”
- 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.”