I am having laproscopic surgery tomorrow (Wed) at 1pm to check for endometriosis and other infertility related problems. So, I could use your prayers. My doctor assures me that she has never had a patient even have complications from the procedure and she has done over 1,000 of them, but she still had to give me the "you could die from general anesthesia" spiel...so prayers couldn't hurt! Since I am being forthcoming about my surgery, I thought I might share some other thoughts on infertility...specifically things you shouldn't say to someone struggling in that area.
Because of our ages and our desire to have children, my husband and I started trying to conceive right after we got married. After about 7 months, we started tests to see if something was wrong. Nothing showed up, but still no baby. So, at a year of trying, we began fertility treatments. What all is involved in those treatments is long and arduous to explain, but sufficed to say, the longer the infertility goes on, the more intensive the treatments become.
As people have learned about my desire, and struggle, to have a baby, they have offered friendly advice. Most if it is harmless, though the emotional roller-coaster of infertility makes the most benign comment a potential landmine. So, for all 5 people who regularly read my blog, I want to pass on some helpful suggestions of things NOT to say to people struggling with infertility.
Top Three Things to NOT say to those struggling with infertility:
1) Just relax and it will happen (variations on this include: "When it's supposed to happen, it will" or "I have a friend who went on vacation, and she got pregnant; you just need a good vacation").
Reasons why this is troublesome to me:
My doctor assures me that there are medical reasons for why infertility happens, whether we know the cause or not (my age is not helping anything either). The "relax" comments are like saying to a diabetic, "Just get rid of the stress and your body will start making insulin correctly".
Women get pregnant in the middle of wars, economic hardship, while in mourning, sometimes even from rape. I just don't buy the stress argument. And who isn't stressed? I don't feel any more stressed than most people who somehow find themselves pregnant.
This comment makes me feel like I am doing something wrong, like I am at fault, and simply need to incorporate more yoga and deep breathing and then things will work out ok.
2) Don't discuss how easy it was for you (or your wife) to get pregnant with someone struggling with infertility.
This should seem pretty obvious, but I cannot count the number of conversations I have had with friends who have children where this has happened. I will be with a group of girlfriends. They will ask how things are going on the baby front. I will tell them how the latest fertility treatment didn't work. They will say something about how sad that is, and then, moments later, turn to another woman and say, "I didn't really have any trouble getting pregnant, did you?". They proceed to have a five minute conversation about how fertile they were. Not kidding! This has happened multiple times.
I think people do not know what to say, especially when they haven't struggled in this area. But let me give you a clue: discussing the ease of your fertility with an infertile person is NOT a helpful thing to say. I liken this to telling someone that you miss your father who passed away and how sad you are to not have him in your life anymore...then your friend says, "That is sad. I'm so glad my father is still alive". People just don't think, sometimes!
3) Have you thought about adoption?
This bothers me on multiple levels. I want to say, "Do you know that I think about babies for several hours a day and yes, surprisingly, the idea of adoption has actually crossed my mind?". I guarantee you that any person struggling with infertility has thought of adoption. Everyone. I promise. You do NOT need to say it. If they want to pursue that option, they will. If you want to suggest an adoption agency, wait until they ask.
Adoption is expensive and time-consuming. Fertility treatments are covered by my insurance at 90 percent, adoption is not. Right now, it is more financially viable to try this route. Besides that, I would really like to give birth to a child that is genetically connected to me and to my husband and to our families--just like most people do every day, all around the world. I think that is a normal, human desire--and I think it is a God-given desire. It may not happen for me. I may not be able to naturally have a child of my own--and I will deeply mourn the loss of that dream. Until that happens though, my husband and I need to let things run their course as far as we think it needs to go.
Two months into starting fertility treatments, I had people talking to me about adoption. At least let me have a little hope that I can have a child of my own...it is the desire of my heart. When people suggest adoption, it feels like they are saying, "It's not going to work. Give up now." And when you are undergoing infertility treatments, you are desperate for hope, desperately searching for some sign or signal each month that it might have "worked" this time, and continually devastated by the loss when it doesn't happen--both wife and husband mourn deeply, in their own ways, month after month, as infertility goes on.
I am not opposed to adoption and would like to adopt even if we are able to have our own child. But I want to do it because the time is right and God is calling us to that--not because we want a baby at any cost. The are reasons people seek adoption and I think that each couple will know if and when that is the right choice for them. When dealing with infertility issues, just steer clear of the word "adoption" unless they bring it up to you.
What do you say to someone?
Just listen, let them know you care, don't offer easy answers, and pray for them. That's it. Simple. Easy. For those of you who are pastors, you can send me $5 for this handy pastoral advice!!!!