If you are struggling with infertility, you might feel like someone posted a big sign on your door granting permission for the spewing of all manner of stupid things people say to the infertile.

To be fair, sometimes those stupid things are borne of the best of intentions but lack any real knowledge of the disease of infertility. Sometimes the ridiculous things you hear are platitudes and old wives’ tales gone wrong. But let’s be honest, sometimes the things said to you are just plain hurtful and invasive.

What Stupid Things Do People Say to the Infertile?

We asked our community of infertility warriors what they’ve heard in their journey to build a family. Fair warning, you should go ahead and start shaking your head now. At least you can burn extra calories while your brain fries at the audacity of some of these comments.

  • “Just relax, you are probably trying too hard” or some variation on that theme.
  • “As soon as you adopt you will get pregnant”
  • “At least you were able to get pregnant, right?” (said to a woman who had just miscarried)
  • “At least you have one sweet little boy.” (said to a woman who shared that she was struggling with secondary infertility)
  • “Why can’t you just be grateful for what you have?”
  • “You are so young, and you have plenty of time!” (said to a woman who had shared that she had primary ovarian insufficiency)
  • “You’re getting up there, and time is ticking away!” (as if you didn’t hear the sound of the clock every single day!)
  • “You should try this {supplement, essential oil, diet, hanging upside-down after relations, etc.} because it worked for my aunt’s niece’s step-sister’s boss.”
  • “Maybe you don’t need your own right now because you have hundreds of kids to take care of!” (for the teachers, therapist, childcare workers etc. )
  • “I’m so glad that at least you have your fur-babies.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason,” or “It was meant to be,” or “It must be God’s plan.”
  • “You just need to pray more/meditate more/have more faith.”
  • “Maybe God/the universe is trying to teach/tell you something through this?”

Is your blood boiling yet? Are you reading this list in its black-and-white starkness and seeing the hurt that women with infertility get dumped on them with each of these thoughtless words?

How to deal with comments regarding your infertility
One of the first things that our community will tell you is that these platitudes trivialize the pain of infertility.

What is Exactly Wrong with These Stupid Comments?

The Pain of Infertility is Trivialized

One of the first things that our community will tell you is that these platitudes trivialize the pain of infertility. When her pain is minimized or dismissed, the infertile woman does not feel safe to confide further the struggle she is facing. She (and her partner often as well) struggle in silence. So the stigma and shame of infertility are perpetuated.

Ignorance on Display

Another problem with these stupid responses is the level of ignorance that they carry. We aren’t speaking of willful ignorance, though that indeed happens and is inexcusable. Instead, we are talking about the lack of knowledge about the disease of infertility and its many presentations. Conceiving a child is miraculous any time it happens, but for some of us, it’s even more miraculous because of this disease.

Minimizing the Other Options for Building a Family

One or two members pointed out that the “why don’t you just adopt” type of comments felt minimizing – specifically related to how they later went on to build their family. The importance of the process of adoption and that adopted child’s story deserves its own place, not to be a “just” – as if it was a Plan B or a back-up.

No One Wins When Comparing Pain

Can we also pause to acknowledge that any comments that start with the words, “At least you…” are all-too-often the opening games to the Pain Olympics? The problem with competing in those games is that NO ONE WINS. Both contestants typically walk away feeling either entirely beat down and marginalized or self-righteous and falsely victorious.

Infertility pain is not something to e compared
At least you…” are all-too-often the opening games to the Pain Olympics? The problem with competing in those games is that NO ONE WINS.

Secondary Infertility Gets Hit Too

As you can see from the list of horrible comments, the stupid things people say to the infertile are not solely reserved for those who have been childless for years. Those who struggle with secondary infertility hear variations of those hurtful, ignorant comments and judgment as well. For that matter, these stupid statements hurt those who are step-parenting but longing for a baby in their current marriage. Those who pursue adoption after infertility also can feel lingering hurt.

SO? What CAN You Say to Someone Who Is Struggling with Infertility?

We get it. Reading that list might make you wonder, “well then, what CAN I say?” Being face-to-face with another person’s pain is really hard. It might bring out all of your social awkwardness. But if you are friends with a person struggling through infertility, you can still try.

Most often, the safest and kindest thing you can say when you find out someone is struggling with infertility is simple: “I’m so sorry. That sounds very painful. I’ll be thinking of you.” It’s not easy to stop there but a tender offer to sit with someone’s discomfort and empathize with their pain is often more healing than you can imagine, especially if they have been feeling beat up by the thoughtless words of others.

You can also offer them the resource of our outstanding Creating a Family community. In that group, they will quickly find out that they are not alone. That their pain matters. Feeling isolated and lonely is a dangerous spiral, and if she is not feeling safe to share in her circles, she will love hopping online to connect with someone who has “been there done that.”

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Image Credit: Duke.Box; Chris Witte