Friday, September 13, 2013

Things a (Fertile) Woman Should Never Say

Pretty sure this topic has been covered by, oh, a few hundred infertility blogs before.

But never by me :)

Now, this is different than what other infertility blogs and articles have done in the past.  I am taking the position of "These are some things that many (fertile) women say, and here's why they shouldn't say them, in general" - bearing in mind, of course, that a large percentage of our population does suffer from infertility and these comments can cut those women like a knife when they hear them.  However, this is not just a "What Not to Say to An Infertile" blog post.  (But for a little comic relief, check out this funny infertility analogy I posted years ago.)  Instead, this post is just a good, common sense "What Not to Say to Anybody" post.  Methinks, anyway.

So, here goes:

1)  Every time my husband looks at me sideways, I get pregnant.

a)  What does that even mean?  Do sperm fly out of his eyeballs directly into your lady business when the angle of his neck is a perfect 90degrees??  Really.  What the heck.

b)  Yes, I get what you are implying here, but I'm pretty sure this hyperbolic cliche isn't doing it for anyone- including your husband.  He may not look at you sideways for a week, now.

2)  I am just Super-Fertile.

a)  No.  You're not.  Guess what?  Millions of people get pregnant when they're having sex. Shocker!! You're not as special as you think you are.
b)  Trust me, the stroking of your own ego while oh-so-sexy, is truly not necessary.  There is fertile and there is infertile/subfertile.  Barring the fact that there is no such thing as "Super Fertile," the only thing this statement does is further alienate you from women who suffer immensely with infertility.  It does not boost you to a platform above all women everywhere, because the moment you utter it, (as you're well aware), other ordinary, typical fertile women will jump right on that platform with you with examples of their own fertile superpowers.

Usually these comments are said in the very context of a conversation about fertility, and generally speaking, involve someone (either present or not) who is known to have fertility problems.  And so I ask - WHY in the world would you find it appropriate to make these statements other than to elevate yourself far above the person known to be struggling?  Is that compassion?  I believe it's the opposite.

3)  You should be grateful for what you have.

a) This one's a classic, meant to remind us all to be thankful and remember our blessings, daily.  That, in and of itself, is praiseworthy, and in general, a helpful reminder.  But the words here, and the tone in which they are often said, are not loving.  I *should* be grateful??  Right away, it implies that I'm not grateful - congratulations, I'm already on the defensive.  Not only do you imply I'm ungrateful, but by the mere fact that you are the wise one uttering this reminder to your ungrateful friend, it's an assumption that you, on the other hand, know what gratitude is all about.  You may as well say, "Wow, you are so incredibly selfish and ungrateful, while I live in a state of constant gratitude."  Or here's one even easier:
"I am holier than thou."
b)  You've also just added an incredible sense of guilt into the mind and heart of the person you're talking to.  Part of the human struggle is commiseration.  It's natural to seek out solace in a friend; not to wallow in self-pity, of course, but to help each other carry the cross.  I imagine it would be quite a different story if Simon of Cyrene had said to Jesus, "You should be grateful you can still walk!" instead of stepping up to carry the cross with him.

4)  I hate being pregnant.

a)  This may very well be true.  No doubt it is, if you're saying it - why else would you say it?  (Note rhetoric.)  But keep in mind that your audience may not be as like-minded as you'd like to believe.  Even if you're sitting amongst other pregnant women, you don't know their stories, what lead to their pregnancy, how high-risk their pregnancy may be, etc.   Additionally, you don't know what lies ahead of you in your own life.  This is a very difficult comment to "take back" if something terrible should happen.
b)  What is "being pregnant," anyway?  It's a human being, alive inside of you.  So really think about that.  Would you say, "I hate nurturing my child as she grows," or "I hate being a mother?"  (If you would, I'm not touching those, suffice to say, I don't think this blog post will help you.)  The discomforts associated with pregnancy are real, and I do not mean to take away your need to commiserate.  But I caution you to choose your words wisely.  Perhaps, "I hate this round ligament pain!" or "Ugh, I am so uncomfortable right now!" would be nicer for all involved, including your children.

5)  Just wait until you have kids!!

a) For what, exactly?  So I can be as knowledgeable, all-powerful, selfless, sanctified, scrupulous, principled, and just on the whole awesome as you are?  Or so that I won't want them anymore?  Or so that I will suddenly be included in the only group (parents) that holds the monopoly on being busy, worrying for loved ones, having financial struggles, losing sleep, stressing out, and being stretched thin?
b)  Um.  Some people are already waiting.  And they may wait a lifetime. They don't need your reminder.

While you may be trying to evoke this image:

I guarantee, some of us are seeing, and yearning for, this image:

6)  You can't even imagine... (fill in the blank, anything about your fertility or your children)

a)  Another cliche.  We all say it.  But we shouldn't.  And here's why:  Sometimes, it's true.  And sometimes, that truth stings the soul.  The person you're telling that they cannot even imagine how hard it is to not be able to breastfeed, or to be separated from their child for 12 hrs in the hospital for testing, or to have cycles return 3 months post-partum, or to have a child struggling in school... yeah, they may not be able to imagine it.  But the irony is, they wish they could.  It's hurtful to those who have not experienced what you have, but it's also condescending.  While they cannot know the exact scenario you're describing to them, everybody knows pain.  Everybody.  And while no two crosses are alike, carrying our crosses we have in common.  Pointing out that someone cannot empathize with you does not help them to sympathize with you, and we should all be working on the latter.

b)  There is no need to say those words, to anybody, ever.  People will know when they cannot imagine your predicament without your needing to tell them.  I think at the base, this is yet another example of our pride in wanting others to know just how badly we suffer, how our hurts are worse than someone else's, etc. in an effort to seek consolation.  O Master, grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console.

The examples above are not restricted to fertile women, hence the parenthetical "fertile."  But since they were a little more specific to that category, I do feel the need to give a disclaimer that the explanations given for each example can be universal.  To help make that a little more clear, I will follow this post with a post of Things a(n) (Infertile) Woman Should Never Say.  Stay tuned...


Endless Strength said...

yeah, as I grew into the adult I am now, I learned that honestly...most of us should just keep our mouth shut most of the time. :) Or in the very least...try it out in our heads before saying aloud.

Good post and looking forward to the follow up

Kat said...

I am looking forward to the follow-up post! I agree some of the whys are universal to us all putting aside our "fertility."

Nicole C said...

And a good follow up to the follow up could be "Things to never say to a woman who has had a miscarriage". I have lots of fodder.

Nicole C said...

And a good follow up to the follow up could be "Things to never say to a woman who has had a miscarriage". I have lots of fodder.

Mary Beth said...

This is great! Thanks for putting it together!

Beth said...


[email protected] said...


Isaiah 55:8-9 said...

Great post!!!

prayerfuljourney said...

Well said!

Betty said...

I hope your bitter cakes taste yummy.

Some of us just ARE ├╝ber fertile.
My hubby had to have a vasectomy because we could not stop getting pregnant. And yes, we used every kind of BC available. Not that it is any of your business
Am I not supposed to talk about that?
Because I might hurt your fee fees?
iMO the road goes both ways as far as respect.
so you can bore everyone to tears with your tales of infertility but we so called fertiles need to put on our handmaiden gear and STFU.
How very unchristian of you.

Amy @ This Cross I Embrace said...

Stay tuned, Betty, I do think you'll be interested in the next post.
I'm sorry that you are hurting.

alison said...

Fee fees! Hehees!

SisterInChrist said...

happy you are blogging again, I keep you in my prayers all the time :-)
To be honest I would like to disagree a bit with your post – I agree there are many words you should not say to anyone in any kind of condition and infertile women are not at all special compared to any other women. We need to be respectful and think about other’s feelings whomever it may be. Every person has his/her own cross he/she needs to carry and that’s why we need to be careful with our words. But the other thing I believe is that I should always try to change myself and not anyone else because in fact I can change (with God’s help) only myself. My proposal would be that instead of trying to change fertile women to be more sensitive to infertile, I believe it would be good to change the approach of infertile to fertile women. It would be good for you to know and believe ( I think you know it but do not fully believe it) that Jesus loves you even if someone else is not sensitive to you, if someone does not care about you etc. So what the heck? Why should you bother if someone is careless to you? You have Everything in Jesus Christ and no one can take it from you. Why should we care what others tell us or are saying about us? Those fertile women have their own crosses they have to “embrace” and those might be much heavier than the cross of infertility – this is something that you and I may not know but Jesus knows for sure. Praying for those fertile women so they would really get how happy they are (or can be) and to bring them closer to God and only this will change their hearts and words. But thanks to God we have a good indicator of how close to God we are - if any of the words said by anyone else have hurt us, we have to realise that we are still quite full of ourselves and not full of Jesus - if Jesus was our Everything none of those words could really hurt us - they could hurt us only to the point that we realise how far from God the people who can say such words are and we long for being united with them in Jesus Christ, nothing else...all other negative feelings we have are just pride and selfishness

SisterInChrist said...

Thank you for your second post - I just read it and I can see that with the first post you were only half way through:-)

Just Trish said...

I know this is an old post but thank you for your gracious response on this topic.