Infertility for Friends and Family: What not to say or do

I’ve had this little series in my mind for months now and the plan is to make this into a little ebook or brochure that people can use to let other people know about their infertility, share as much information as they choose, and pass onto their loved ones. This first one is what not to do or say to someone with infertility.

Infertility is hard. It can be a really tough and dark place for those who are going through it. As friends and family, we always know that your comments and questions come from a place of love, but (especially since half the time we’re dosed up on superhuman levels of hormones), sometimes they make us feel worse than we already do.

There might be some questions below which people don’t mind, and others that crush them. Every soul is different, but here is a guide, starting with what not to do or say, as I thought this would be the most important!

I’m hoping that in writing these posts, I can be the person on the inside for friends and family who have a loved one with infertility. I can be the person you can ask those awkward questions to. I can be the person who can explain things, so that they don’t have to, so if you have any questions, then make sure you comment below or message me.

Coming up in the next posts I’ll share:

  • What TO say (because after reading this you might think bloody hell, well what can I say then! Totally understandable)
  • What you can buy as gifts
  • A super rundown of infertility, so you’re a total pro and don’t need to ask

So here goes:

What not to do or say to someone with infertility…

Don’t ambush them in public with your pregnancy news

When you have infertility, somehow it feels like everyone around you is falling pregnant, and you can’t. You’re always happy for your friends. I know that I always had the opinion that if everyone waited for me to fall pregnant (which they would never do anyway!) then they could be waiting forever, but that didn’t stop me from having a little pity party every time I found out yet another person was pregnant and I wasn’t. I’ve heard many stories of people going out to big dinners and being told someone there is pregnant in a big public announcement at the table. In that moment, I can imagine their world closes in, it gets hard to breathe, and they just want to run to the toilet and cry. They just can’t help it.

My suggestion is that if you fall pregnant, give them a phone call or an SMS first to give them the heads up. This gives them the time to process the information, so that when they see you in public, they can be happy for you, like they should. After all, your news is fabulous news!


Don’t tell them they should take a break from trying

I always found this one confusing, because while I could take a break from treatment, I felt that taking a break from trying was impossible.

You see, I was a professional at knowing exactly where my cycle was at by this stage. Even if I took a break from fertility treatments, I still wanted, more than anything in the world, to fall pregnant, so you bet your bottom dollar, that when I was ovulating, I’d still want to be doing my darndest to fall pregnant naturally, and because I was so acutely aware, it wouldn’t have taken my mind off it. Taking a break would mean actively trying not to fall pregnant… which let’s be honest… my biological clock was ticking so I was never going to do that.


Why don’t you adopt

Errrmageerrddd… adoption in Australia! I honestly think I nearly broke the internet googling adoption when we were in the throes of fertility treatments. Adopting a child is really intense and not very easy. Things may have changed since then, but the impression I always got was that there actually aren’t many children in Australia available for adoption. Rather, the Government prefers to put them in foster care (and sometimes called long-term foster care… which never appealed to me – I wanted to be someone’s mumma, not someone’s carer!)

Adopting from overseas is just as challenging. You might think that there are all these children from war torn and third world countries, but Australia only allows adoption from countries that have signed the Hague convention… which is about seven countries… total. To adopt from overseas costs about $15,000, and you often have to have ceased fertility treatments, and wait between 4 – 7 years to be placed with a child. Many countries also prefer, understandably, to allow children to be adopted by people within their country, so children available for adoption are few and far between.

Not to mention that many of the children have special health and emotional needs, there are age limits on when you can adopt (usually 45 – 50 years old) and they’re not your own flesh and blood. So adoption is a bit of a can of worms. An option for some… when they’ve given up treatment completely… but too hard basket for many.


Say you should get a surrogate

Surrogacy is kind of like adoption…. Not as easy as it seems. I once had someone hint to me that they’d be my surrogate and inside, it didn’t sit well with me. You see, my problem wasn’t that I couldn’t carry a child (as far as I knew… I hadn’t really got that far yet!), it was that I couldn’t fall pregnant, so I didn’t really need a surrogate.

For many people out there, they want to experience pregnancy, and they want to try all avenues first. So, when it comes to surrogacy, you need to be really sure of their treatment and options (and pretty much be willing to be their surrogate, because anonymous surrogates pretty much don’t exist in Australia), before suggesting it.


Say have you tried this?

You name it, I’ve tried it. Every position. Every herb. Every natural treatment. All the kooky old wives tales and natural fertility methods out there. Been there, done that. We so appreciate that you are trying to help, but I would honestly say I was an expert in falling pregnant these days… even though naturally I can’t.


Tell me your best friend’s cousin stopped trying/adopted/ went on a holiday etc and then fell pregnant naturally.

Sooo…. Are you saying I should adopt a child with the secret hope that then I’ll fall pregnant? Did you know that the statistics show that the number of people who adopted a child and then fell pregnant, are the same as the number of people who’d have fallen pregnant anyway?

Everyone seems to know someone who fell pregnant naturally after doing something, and although you say that with love and hope in mind, it’s kind of in the same category of winning lotto. No guarantees, a little pie in the sky.


Tell me to stop stressing.

I’ve actually written a blog post on this. Telling me to stop stressing is a sure fire way to make me more stressed! Although stress doesn’t help fertility, the problem with this is that often people weren’t stressed when they started trying for a baby. The stress was caused later by infertility. The stress was a result of infertility, rather than a cause, and 80% of infertility cases have a proven medical cause.

Also, nobody wants to be stressed, but it is unavoidable in this situation.


Don’t make me feel left out.

It seems 100% logical that because of the pain being around pregnant people can cause, to think that I wouldn’t want to attend your baby shower or your child’s first birthday. Maybe this is so, and maybe attending would be too difficult for me, but most of the time, I’m so happy for you, and if there are no surprises, I want to be around you to share your joy, and can put my feelings aside. Please don’t assume that I won’t want to be part of your life, because I do, and I don’t want to be made to feel like the lonely freak in the corner who is sitting at home with her needles and sharps container. I want to feel normal, like everyone else.


Don’t tell anyone else my news

My news is my news. Good or bad. Please don’t ever share the details with anyone else because you don’t know what has been shared with you in confidence, or if there are people I don’t want to know things for certain reasons. I remember when I had my miscarriage. For someone who is usually an open book, this one event threw me for six and I didn’t want to tell anyone. I didn’t want anyone to compare their situation to mine because I know many women have miscarriages, but I felt that not as many had miscarriages after trying for years to fall pregnant, and even less people had a medical miscarriage (i.e. I didn’t miscarry spontaneously. The pregnancy was unviable and I wouldn’t have miscarried naturally for at least a month because my progesterone levels were so high, so I took medications – the same ones they use for an abortion – to bring forward the miscarriage. It was devastating).

I told a small handful of people, and I later found out that some of them had told other friends, and at that time I just wasn’t ready to share so it really upset me. People who I had no idea knew about my miscarriage started asking me questions about it and I was left feeling out of control…. and sad.


Say you can have my children or complain about how hard motherhood is

It’s a joke. You’re trying to lighten the mood. But, we know you really wouldn’t give me your children for the moon and we know that despite how hard motherhood is, you don’t regret it for a second. The message you’re sending me, is that motherhood is worth it. And we know, and right now, it’s the one thing on Earth we’d give anything for.


Don’t ask me how it is going

For me, this is the toughest question to answer, and this is the one I get asked the most. Please feel free to ask me how I’m going, but don’t ask me how treatment is going. Why? Because I’ll answer ‘it’s going fine,’ but you’ll want to know more. Y’all always want to know more. When my next test is. When my retrieval is. When my transfer is. When I’ll find out. Then, inevitably, on the day of my result, I get a tonne of SMS’s asking me how it went…. Or when I next see you, you’ll say ‘how did it go?’

The problem with this is there are only two options:

1.       I’m not pregnant and it sucks… and now I have to repeatedly tell everyone who asks about my failure

2.       I’m pregnant but I don’t want you to know because I haven’t reached the magical 12 week mark, and I’m dead anxious about things going pear-shaped (the curse of a woman with infertility), and I kind of want to be able to keep my little secret just like everyone else gets to

So you see, I don’t really want you to enquire too much about the details of my treatment, because then you’ll put me in a really awkward position. To this day, I still don’t’ know how to answer that one without lying, so please don’t ask.


So those are my list of what NOT to do. Have I missed anything? Comment below and let me know.


If in this series, you’re a friend or family member, or someone going through infertility and you have any other tips, advice or questions, please also comment below and I can add it to the super awesome eBook coming at the end and update this post!