Stupid Things people say to the infertile or about adoption

I’ve blogged a lot about the stupid and/or rude things people say to those suffering from infertility or those who have adopted. We’ve all heard them:

  • Relax, you’re trying to hard. Take a vacation and you’re sure to get pregnant.
  • How much did he cost?
  • Just adopt. My cousin’s best friend’s sister adopted and “boom” she was pregnant in a month.
  • I wouldn’t adopt, if I were you. I’ve heard that all adopted kids are major messed up when they get older.

Comments like these bring out the worst in most of us, including me. On a good day we might sigh inwardly and say something to educate our clueless “friend”. On a bad day— all bets are off. If they are lucky, we issue a biting response intended to put them in their place and shut them up. If they aren’t so lucky, we might just tell them exactly what we think of them and write them out of our life.

Many friendships have been lost over comments such as these.

Our responses are understandable. We are in pain or we are feeling protective of our beautiful child. I get it. But before we get our knickers too tightly in a knot, I think we should do a little navel-gazing. Might we also be guilty of ignorance and stupid comments in other areas of our lives? Are we being just the tiniest bit hypocritical when we get so upset when people say stupid hurtful things to us?

Midget vs. Dwarf vs. Little Person

A new mom joined my preschool playgroup. Her son had skeletal dysplasia (dwarfism). No one mentioned anything until another mom in the group asked a question about his condition and used the word “midget”. The mom of the son went ballistic. She gave a caustic response that questioned the intelligence of the questioner and told her the correct term was “little person”.

Now, I have to admit that I cringed a little when I heard the word “midget”, but the truth was that I didn’t really know the correct term to use either. I wasn’t sure if “dwarf” was also offensive and “little person” seemed too cutesy and artificial to my ignorant ear. The new mom left the group that day and never returned.

One of  My Open Mouth, Insert Foot Moments

I too have been guilty of talking without knowing. A friend of mine has a 14-year-old son with Tourette syndrome. His symptoms including involuntary facial tics, shrugging, grunting, and occasionally barking. They are significantly worse when he is nervous. When he tried out for the school play, the drama teacher suggested that it might be better if he worked behind the scenes. My friend was incensed and immediately scheduled a meeting with the teacher, the principal, and the school counselor!

The truth was that I had thought the same thing. When my friend exploded about the teacher, I wondered out loud if maybe it would be embarrassing for her son if his symptoms appeared during the play. She was furious at my ignorance and at me. And she was right. I was ignorant.

After listening to my friend talk about not wanting her precious son’s life to be defined by his illness, I understood where she was coming from. I was also in awe of his bravery. I hadn’t walked in her shoes so didn’t really understand until she explained.

The key here is that I was ignorant, not intentionally mean. I am fortunate that she was willing to explain and not drop our friendship because of my ignorance.

Maybe, just maybe, we should extend this grace to those in our lives who say ignorant things about our infertility or adoption that hurt us. One of our community said it so well:

I have to wonder sometimes if I hadn’t gone through such heartache and longing for a child would I be guilty of some of the same terminology as those who don’t get it? Would I say stupid things out of curiosity? I very well might.

I think it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt, and use situations like this to educate or enlighten. I wouldn’t toss a friend away because she made a dumb comment because if I did, I would have barely a friend left who hadn’t adopted or suffered through infertility! I try to give people a lot of grace and practice a lot of forgiving.

Time to fess up–when have you been guilty of saying a hurtful thing out of ignorance?

You might enjoy a few of these blogs:

12 Stupid People Actually Say to the Infertile 
10 Stupid Things People Actually Say About Adoption
Please Keep Your God Out of My Infertility
Snarky Answers to “When Are you Going to Have Kids?”
Ten ‘Real’ Answers to “When are you Going to Have Kids”
10 Stupid Things You Should Never Say to a Parent Though IVF

Image credit: Amarand Agasi