The Trio of What Not to Say

So, your friend/coworker/relative is trying to conceive and you’re mucking it up as her number one support system. It’s okay, it happens. What I want you to understand more than anything is that unless you’re a member of The Trio, we’re not looking for anything more than someone who will listen. We don’t expect you to fix our broken uteri, and we especially don’t want to hear your forced positivity because it sounds utterly ridiculous at the moment. I’ve experienced the entire trio of trying to conceive: the struggle, the loss, and, my newest addition, the infertility. Here’s the number one thing I hated hearing during each saga, and alternative (might I even say, BETTER) options that’ll prevent you from earning a face full of moscato.  

When someone is struggling  to conceive: “Just stop trying.” – Other versions of this least helpful form of ‘advice’ are: “Relax.” and “You know stress plays a role, right?” Just because it happened to you on your first try Cheryl, doesn’t mean that we’re all wizards in the realm of fertility. The words lose even more of their touch when they’re coming from my equally anxious but baby-blessed friends. Yes, because I’m sure these were the wise words that have been passed down from generation to generation. You’re struggling to conceive? Well dammit woman it’s because you’re doing too much! Stop trying immediately and everything will fall into place! Should we start an overhaul of all the fertility clinics where we replace them with spas and acupuncture studios? Ah, the removal of all science-based techniques for conceiving, just what the doctor ordered! Show me a woman who has ever relaxed after someone told her to, and I’ll turn around and show you a stressed out liar. If these words won’t make you feel better, SURPRISE! they won’t make your TTC bestie feel better either. Trying to keep up with the complaints by spitting out as many different versions of “chill the fuck out” as possible is an easy way to remove yourself as your friend’s go-to. If that’s your actual end goal, then great. Tell us to go relax, and we’ll go find someone who will offer the better alternative of: “That sucks. Can I come over with wine?” because all we’re looking for is someone to acknowledge that what we’re going through is just plain shitty. (Side note: if when you provide said wine you then state, “See, it’s good you’re not pregnant, because now we can drink together!” then you have learned nothing and are dead to me.)  

When someone experiences a pregnancy loss: “At least you know you can get pregnant.” – Chemical pregnancies, miscarriages, and (my favorite): ectopics, are all different forms of loss. Most of us know that, but considering this is a REAL THING that people ACTUALLY SAY to a woman who just lost her baby, I think it needs to be stated again. These must be the same people who walk up to mourners at a funeral and say, “At least you’re not dead!” Like holy schnikes, I think this is what parents were talking about when they said shut the hell up if you have nothing nice to say (or something along those lines). Sure guys, in my case I can get pregnant alright, but not in my uterus. I may not know much about pregnancy, but I do know that location matters. If someone is going through any form of pregnancy loss, they need your support, not attempted silver linings. An acceptable response: “I’m so sorry that this has happened to you.” See? Easy. Maybe throw in an I’m-here-for-you casserole and an it’ll-get-better bottle of wine, for good measure.  

When someone is diagnosed with infertility: “You could always adopt!” – Could you please use this sentence in a sentence? Why, yes I can! Example: Karen has three kids. In order to get pregnant each time, she counts twelve days, does the deed, and fertilizes and implants like a champ. When Karen’s infertile friend cries and says that she’ll never be a mom, Karen (mistaking herself as being helpful) exclaims, “Of course you will, you could always adopt!” Trust me when I say this: us infertiles know our options. We’ve heard about donors and surrogates and, yes, even adoption. I don’t try to pretend I understand what it takes to be a mother and give you parenting advice, so please lay off on the infertility advice. It especially loses its touch when you’re telling me to adopt while we’re staring at a black and white photo of your three biological first-try children over your mantle. An acceptable response: “I totally understand why it could feel that way, but what are your next options right now?” See how you’re asking instead of telling? And empathizing, instead of kind of being a bitch?  

Just know that in the end, there’s no right thing to say when someone’s struggling to conceive, but there are a hell of a lot of wrong things to say. Oh, what’s that? That seems a little unfair and confusing? Welcome to The Trio.  

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