Despite their best intentions, people often don’t know quite what to say to a friend who’s TTC. They’re curious, but don’t want to be invasive. They want to offer support, but not come across as glib. It’s a sensitive subject, and one that’s potentially filled with conversational landmines. It doesn’t have to be, though. Cary L. Dicken, MD of Sher Fertility Institute New York in New York, New York has provided a list of helpful tips on what to say, and not say, to someone who’s TTC.
Don’t Say: Just Relax, It’ll Happen
That’s like saying, “Just Relax, It’ll Turn Up” to a panicked groom who just lost his wedding ring. It’s not helpful. It often creates more stress and makes the person feel as though infertility is their fault. They were probably relaxed when they started their quest to have a baby, but it didn’t work out as planned and now they’re dealing with injections, timed intercourse, and prayers to the fertility gods every time they pee on a stick. There’s nothing relaxing about infertility.
Do Say: That Must Be Stressful, What Can I Do to Help?
If you haven’t experienced infertility yourself, it’s almost impossible to offer truly helpful advice. A simple acknowledgement of the difficulty of what they’re going through and a sincere offer to help can go a long way.
Don’t Say: Why’d You Wait So Long?
If you do, be prepared to hear, “It’s none of your damn business.” Every woman in her 30s and 40s who’s trying to have a baby is well aware that they’re of “advanced maternal age.” It doesn’t really matter how they got there. It could be that there was a medical issue. Or that they were focused on school and a career. Or that they didn’t want to settle for any old baby daddy. They’re going through something incredibly difficult and could use some empathy, not a reminder that they’re not a spring chicken anymore.
Do Say: I Know a 43-Year-Old Woman Who…
Success stories are fantastic. The story of your brother-in-law’s boss’s 40-something sister who just had a bouncing baby boy after years and years of trying provides a sense of hope to someone in a similar situation. If it happened for her it can happen for anyone.
Don’t Say: Maybe It’s Just Not Meant to Be
No matter how well-meaning the intent, suggesting that someone who desperately wants to be a parent just isn’t meant to be one is particularly insensitive. Infertility is a medical condition, it’s not a spiritual punishment. A person doesn’t deserve, or not deserve, to be a parent.
Do Say: I Believe It’ll Happen for You
People with infertility disease deal with lots of ups and downs. Be an up for them. Letting them know you believe they’ll achieve their dream of parenthood could give them just the boost they need on a tough day. Getting a vote of confidence never hurt anyone.
Don’t Say: Stop Trying So Hard
Really? Would you tell a high school senior gunning for valedictorian to ease up on the studying? Couples struggling with infertility have probably never wanted anything as much as they long to have a baby. When you want something, you try as hard as you can to get it. And, the fact of the matter is, even couples with peak fertility only have a 20% chance of conceiving each month. So getting pregnant really isn’t as easy as we feared it was back in our hormone-fueled teen make out sessions days.
Do Say: You’re Doing Everything You Can
The infertility journey is full of questions and self-doubt. IUI or IVF? Did I do that injection correctly? Was that one too many cups of coffee? It’s an emotional roller coaster and despite the fact that infertility is a disease, people have a difficult time not questioning if something they did caused them to be in the position they’re in. Hearing a gentle reassurance can provide immeasurable comfort.
There’s no need to avoid your TTC cousin or tiptoe around your co-worker who’s having a tough time. A little sensitivity will show you #HAVEAHEART. Cary L. Dicken, MD of Sher Fertility Institute New York for more insightful Infertility Awareness information.
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