Living in a culture where families are placed at high importance can make life very overwhelming for a woman who cannot have a child to feel accepted. Parenthood is a lifelong dream that is crushed when a women realizes she suffers with infertility.
I spoke with women who are infertile and asked them if they would be comfortable sharing their experiences with me.
The amount of strength that they now have because of this trial is unbelievable.
When asked the question, "What did you like and dislike people saying to you when they learned you were infertile?" some of their answers were shocking. They truly shed some light on what it feels like to be told certain things from those they loved and admired.
Here are the things they said:
What did you not like people saying to you?
1. "I did not like when people insinuated that I didn't want children."
Even if you do not say the words, "why don't you want children?" assuming that because a married couple has not had children yet they probably do not want them is not the kind of reaction that a woman trying her best to reproduce needs to hear.
2. "When they would tell me my husband would be a great father."
Saying "would be" makes it seem like you think because she isn't having children, she is depriving her husband from being a father. Yes, he will be a great father when that day comes, and she wants that more than anything. It hurts her that she cannot give him the opportunity to be a great dad; don't remind her.
3. "If you really wanted children you could have adopted."
It's not that they didn't think about adoption, that is just not the answer for everyone. With the wonderful new solutions that have been created, there are many possible ways to have children.
4. "It's a trial you were chosen to go through."
No one enjoys being told that they were chosen to suffer. Telling someone that they were chosen to not have kids and to work through it is not comforting. Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God.
5."Why don't you just...?"
Unless you were summoned for help or advice, don't give it. Especially when the news is pretty fresh in their minds, they would probably just like a friend to listen to rather than advise on how to "fix" them.
6. "It was worse when they didn't say anything."
When the room goes quiet after sharing the hardship that is infertility, saying nothing is often one of the last things they want. Especially when someone is pregnant, don't be afraid to share that news. They want to be happy for you and celebrate the news with you and your friends. Not telling them makes them feel worse.
7. Their silent reactions
The reaction on many individuals' faces can often say a lot more than the words that come out of their mouths. One women who I spoke with got married much later in life and when she realized it would be extremely difficult and costly to try and have children of her own, she decided to be a really good auntie instead. Although her husband and she made this decision together, the support from her family and friends was not easy to get.
Another woman shared with me how she felt betrayed from her family and like her presence and role in the family was not worthwhile until she was a mother.
What did you like people saying to you?
Despite the list of negative things women facing infertility do not want to hear, there are many good things you can say to help them through this difficult time.
8. "I appreciated when people said that they were so excited for me to be a mom."
The people who are anxious for a woman who is infertile to have a child and understands how much she wants to be a mother can make the process not seem so difficult.
9. "Saying that we are in their prayers."
There is not much that people can do to help couples going through this, but saying that you are praying for them is a small gesture to show that you are there and doing all you can.
10. "Even asking what they can do for us and what we needed helped a lot."
There really isn't much that others can do but show love and choose to treat them in a way that doesn't make them feel like they are a charity case or that helping them is this month's service project.
11. "Reminding me of the role model I am to all of those around me."
Not being able to have a child to teach, love and watch grow-up is very hard. But one of the hardest things about it is feeling like you're not fulfilling your calling in life the way that you thought you would; by being a mother. Having someone say that you are still teaching others around you through your great example can help fill that emptiness in your heart with something good.
12. "Thank you."
One of the women I spoke with shared how she offered to take her nieces and nephews on vacation with them. Her brothers and sisters were always so grateful whenever they made this gesture. Serving others is also one way that she could cope with not having children of her own.
13. "I like when people would include me in their big news even though they knew deep down it was hard for me."
Hearing that your sister is having her third child when you can't even have one is not easy. But being included in the excitement can make even those who have not had the opportunity to bear children of their own feel included.
14. "I am sorry for you, that really sucks."
Not all people will appreciate the honesty of this comment, but it can be good to hear. If you haven't gone through the struggles of getting pregnant, than you don't know what it is like and all you know how to do is tell them that you have sympathy for them.
15. "Just say you love me."
Knowing that someone is there and loves them unconditionally could make all the difference in the world.