Unwanted Advice in Infertility

When you shared that you were undergoing IVF, have you ever heard some variation on, “No offense, but I just couldn’t do IVF (or donor egg, donor semen, donor embryos or surrogacy)” or “I don’t believe in IVF”? If not, you’re lucky because plenty of people in our community have heard just that. Honestly, some people need a frontal lobe filter. Just because you think it, does not mean you need to say it.

First, if someone says that they are doing X and you don’t believe in X or think you would personally never do X, why would you say it. What good can possibly come from sharing your personal beliefs on something you likely know very little about when someone is already committed to doing it? Just saying… .

Second, it’s mighty easy to say what you would and wouldn’t do when you’ve never had to consider even the remotest possibility of doing it. Before I really experienced life, my list of “I would never ___” was long. The more I live, the shorter my list becomes. Heck my list of “I would nevers” just in relation to parenting could fill a book. Here are just a few big ones that have bit the dust:

  • Use the TV as a babysitter. (I did not and do not believe watching TV is beneficial to kids. It rots their brains and shortens their attention span.)
  • Homeschool a child. (I believe in public education, and we must support public education if it’s going to be good for all kids.)
  • Pay for a fifth year of college. (By golly, college is expensive and they can jolly-well get through in 4 years, thank you very much.)
  • Curse in front of my children. (Somehow the “S” word sneaks out on occasion without me even being aware, but I definitely didn’t and don’t believe in using foul language in front of kids.)

Raising four children has humbled me. As the parent of teens and beyond, my list of “I would nevers” is pretty much down to zero right about now.

Third, few of us entered into the family building stage “believing in IVF”, meaning that few of us believe that we will ever be the one that has to resort to IVF, donor egg, donor semen, or surrogacy in order to become a parent. We grow into this acceptance by gathering information, consulting doctors, and lots and lots of prayer and discussion.

My Response

So, here’s my response to those who feel compelled to share what they don’t believe in or would never do if faced with infertility (IVF, donor sperm, donor egg, donor embryo, surrogacy, or adoption):

Well, thanks so much for sharing. It’s so thoughtful of you to share your well thought out and researched beliefs on such a personal topic. Truthfully, I don’t believe in infertility, but hey, no one asked me what I believed in before I was diagnosed with this awful disease.

I do hope you’re never in the position to struggle with infertility and have to make this decision, but maybe you should consider that if you ever had to make this decision, you might see things differently. I suspect that if you ever found yourself infertile, regardless what route you finally decide on, you would likely go through the same 13 steps that most of us do.

13 Steps to Making Peace with Our Infertility Decisions

1st: Go to more doctors than you can imagine and spend more money than you have to find out what is wrong and your options for treatment.

2nd: Grieve that an easy conception is not an option.

3rd: Cautiously get educated on the risks and benefits of all your treatment options and all your other options for becoming a parent.

4th: Spend time paralyzed by fear of the unknown, and cut your budget to the bone to save as much as possible so you can afford whatever path to parenthood is available.

5th: Start with the least invasive, least expensive, and least scary option.

6th: Grieve that it didn’t work.

7th: Register shock at how hard it is to adopt, and slowly come to the realization that there are no easy answers.

8th: Grieve that all your friends are now parents and you feel left behind.

9th: Research your options, including adoption, some more.

10th: Maybe take a detour to the land of fear and indecision.

11th: Pray.

12th: Decide after much thought, prayer, research, and consultation with many experts on the next step—maybe a step that before all this thought, prayer, research and consultation you never would have thought you could or would take.

13th: Shake your head in disbelief when a friend who has never had to face this decision, has never given it much thought, and know almost nothing about infertility or infertility treatment, shares her uneducated opinion about what she would do in the totally unlikely event that she will ever have to make that decision.

Would you add any additional steps or responses?


First published: Jan. 2015
Updated: July 2016
Image credit: Jack Pease (sunset)