Six Things Not to say to Someone Living With Infertility

It is our belief that very few people are outwardly mean or seeking to offend or hurt those around them. Even so, and especially in situations that are difficult emotionally, people will often make comments from a place of ignorance and with the best of intentions that wind up being unintentionally hurtful. With that in mind, here’s a brief list of a few things you may want to avoid saying to someone living with infertility, or who needs the help of a surrogate for other reasons, in order to make their family dreams a reality.

 

  1. Stop trying so hard.

This phrase is often the little brother of, “Just relax, let it happen naturally,” and can be quite infuriating to those struggling with infertility. Understand that, while incredibly common, infertility can feel deeply personal and challenging to a woman’s self-worth. Many women living with infertility feel inadequate. Her choice to share her struggle with you puts her in an immediate position of vulnerability. You can trust that she didn’t start her infertility journey counting days till ovulation or eating fertility friendly foods, she started out relaxed. Also, understand that most infertility issues are physical in nature, and “just relaxing” wouldn’t solve them, either.

  1. It was so easy for me!

“Well, isn’t that just great for you?” That’s exactly what your friend will be thinking if you say this. While this might be your first thought, try considering how this response will be received by your friend. To her, it may feel exactly like you’re shoving your success, and by contrast what she considers to be her failures, right in her face.

  1. Is the problem him or you?

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Even if the infertility stems from the male in the relationship, it doesn’t change the fact that pregnancy isn’t happening and that your friend is hurting. Instead, try asking about the condition. Ask if they’ve targeted the problem, and what they can do to try and work around it.

  1. It could be worse. You could have a sick child.

A woman dealing with infertility may not agree with your statement. To her, any child would be loved, welcomed, and cherished regardless of any potential illnesses. It can also be assumed by your comment that you’re assuming infertility is automatically linked to children born with illnesses or birth defects; this is not true. By saying this, you’re also saying that if a pregnancy does go on to occur, the child is doomed to be born ill or with other maladies.

  1. Why don’t you just adopt?

There are many solutions to infertility. IVF pregnancies, surrogacy, and adoption are among them. To pigeonhole someone into just one option feels limiting and superior on your behalf. Families of choice can be built in a million different ways, so, before offering one option as better than the other, consider what you’re really saying. To a woman living with infertility, you’ve just called all of her efforts useless, and suggested she just give up.

  1. Not everyone is meant to be a parent.

At Growing Generations, we believe some of the best parents out there are those who fight for their children long before they’re ever conceived. The desire to become a parent trumps the biological ease of attaining pregnancy. Infertility is a medical condition; not a punishment from Mother Nature. Just because a woman is living with infertility, it does not mean she isn’t meant to be a parent. It just means her journey will be a little bit different from the standard.

This list may leave you saying, “What’s left to say?” in these situations. In truth, perhaps the best thing you can say to a woman living with infertility is, “I’m sorry. That must be really hard. How can I help?” and then just listen to her. You’ve just been entrusted with a very personal piece of her life, and chances are, she just needs a good friend to listen.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.