For many, having a child seems simple—they follow their cycles, do the deed within the proper window of time and boom, they conceive. But for the one in every six women who struggles with fertility, this is not the case.
When you’re struggling to start a family, the world—jam-packed with baby bumps and family parking spots—seems designed to cruelly remind you that there is something missing from your life. Whether you’re having trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant, regular life can be a little alienating, and friends who already have children can feel like strangers. For those who know someone with pregnancy woes, it is very important to tread lightly when approached for a chat, because even a well-meaning friend can seem callous when offering up advice. Unfortunately, there is no right thing to say to someone who is having a hard time getting or staying pregnant—though listening is always welcome—but there are definitely a few things to avoid saying. Here are some examples.
We’ve all heard tell of that couple trying for years to get pregnant and finally giving up only to find out the month after they’ve called it quits they finally conceived. The message here is that taking some of the pressure off is the key to getting pregnant. But, handing your friend some eucalyptus essential oil and a couple of restoration yoga passes along with the sage advice above may seem like blame laying and is more likely going to infuriate her than help her get pregnant. The fact is, though stress can affect libido, ovulation and potentially sperm levels, telling someone to calm down rarely ever helps to relieve their stress.
Every woman is born with a finite number of eggs and the ability to fertilize them declines after age 35. It is true that a woman who is 28 has more time than a woman who is 34, but it is also true that after trying for a year without conception, both of these women receive the same diagnosis: infertile. No matter one’s age, when racing against the biological clock, time can seem like the last thing on one’s side. Even if pregnancy may happen eventually, when you’re uncertain that you’ll ever have a child, months can feel like years.
Though parents might miss the freedom they had before children, almost none of them would trade what has been gained in the exchange. There are fewer things more incensing than being told by someone who already has what you most desperately want that you don’t really want it. Couples with fertility issues have much more time to ponder what life would be like with children—the sleepless nights, the endless worry, the cabin fever—and they still want it all.
Although adoption is a wonderful option for many families and can provide a love-filled life to a child, not everyone is up for it. Suggesting this strategy as though it’s a simple solution to a simple problem is patronizing. And no one wants to feel judged for the path they take toward child rearing.
In a world full of three-row SUVs and fancy double strollers, there seems to be an unsaid pressure to multiply and to do so in short order. So, it is not uncommon for anyone a mom meets at the playground or café to ask when she’s planning for a second. Though this seems like an innocent query, the implication is that having “only the one” is not enough. To a woman who hasn’t had luck conceiving a second or who has tried again and lost, it is a stinging suggestion that she is somehow inadequate or her family is incomplete.