So, I had my first encounter with someone being super insensitive about the trying to have kids issue. No, insensitive isn’t even really the right word. They were just so oblivious to the idea that what they said might be upsetting. Thankfully in my case I was able to brush it off, but if what was said was more applicable, or I was in a different, less hopeful place, it could have been very upsetting. So here’s a little breakdown of what NOT to say, based on my experience.
I was talking to a new coworker, and I mentioned that we were trying to have kids. Apparently I sounded a bit less than thrilled (understandable, IF you know my situation), and he laughed and made some comment about how this was the fun part, and I should sound happier. That was strike one. If you’re discussing trying to have kids and someone seems like it’s a sensitive topic or they’re not cheerful about it, that should be your first clue that you’re dealing with someone who is struggling with infertility or losses. I just forced a laugh and changed the subject.
When the topic came up again (in a different context), and he again made some comment to the effect that this is a fun thing, I opened up a bit further and said that we were having issues. I did not specify that we had had losses, so he assumed I meant that we were having trouble getting pregnant. And, somewhat not surprisingly, after the first comment, he went off down the “you just need to stop trying” road. This is why I say it might have been more hurtful if it were more applicable. I have no issues getting pregnant (knock on wood), and “trying too hard” isn’t likely to be related to miscarriages, so this didn’t bother me personally. However, I have a close relative/friend who IS struggling with infertility, and I know how upsetting hearing this kind of absolute bullshit upsets her. So it did sort of make me mad on behalf of any people he may have said this to that were in her position.
In his defense, he said his sister was one of those fairly rare individuals who did magically manage to get pregnant after they’d finally given up. But those people are the success stories, the good news, so they’re the ones you’re going to hear about! For every couple who turned to adoption only to finally get that little plus sign they’d been waiting for, there are uncounted others who did not. It’s just that infertility is unbelievably painful, so most people aren’t going to be parading around, excitedly announcing that they gave up on getting pregnant, and, guess what, they still aren’t pregnant, yay! Trust me when I say that EVERY couple struggling to have kids is doing everything they can to not let stressing about it lower their chances. They’ve probably all taken breaks from actively trying, hoping that will be the magic solution to their problems. The last thing they need is an unsympathetic, “just stop trying so hard,” from someone who has no concept of what they’re going through.
In fact, the last thing they need is advice from you, period. They’ve done their research, talked to their doctors, talked to other couples in the same boat. They’ve probably tried every old wives’ tale in the book. If someone in your life chooses to open up to you about their struggle with infertility or losses, unless they come to you specifically asking for advice, the best thing you can do is just offer your support. Be there when they need someone to rant to or a shoulder to cry on, especially when they’re having to watch people around them get pregnant with their second or third (or more) child with no issues, and they still haven’t successfully had their first. Don’t add to their pain with thoughtless comments.
Like I said, I wasn’t upset by all of this. He’s a nice guy, older, has no kids, and genuinely didn’t mean anything by it. And I got lucky, he didn’t say anything that was directly hurtful in my situation. I’ll still be actively avoiding the subject with him in the future, but that’s all. But take this opportunity to learn from his mistakes, and seriously THINK before you speak. You don’t know who might be like me, and have had losses I don’t tell most people about, or my cousin who has struggled for years with infertility, and I really don’t think that anyone wants to further hurt people who are already in such a painful situation.