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6 Things Not to Say to a Woman Battling Infertility

Posted May 8, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five
This post originally appeared on Career Girl Network in May 2012. In honor of Mother’s Day and its popularity last year, we’re bringing it back for a second run.

Unexpected result

Just before Mother’s Day in 2010, along with many women around the world, I read a heartbreaking article in the New York Times by writer Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos. The article, titled “Mother’s Day: A Cultural Crucible” dove deep into the feelings a woman battling infertility might feel surrounding the Mother’s Day holiday ever year. Pamela recounts the parishes around the country that, this Sunday, will ask all of the mothers in the room to stand and be recognized and says,

“This year when the fill-in-the-blank (pastor, priest, minister, rabbi, etc.) asks all women in the congregation who are mothers to stand to be recognized, you might take a closer look at the women who remain seated. There are many among them grateful that only a few hours remain to be endured in the annual Mother’s Day season.”

For those of us who have not battled infertility, or been close to someone who has, it may be difficult to understand the hardship and heartache that accompanies it. So in honor of Mother’s Day week, and in the hope that all women battling infertility will find peace and achieve their dreams of a family, I’ve compiled from around the internet (thank you to all of the sites I raided for this information), a list of the 10 things you should not say to a woman battling infertility. Hopefully during this Mother’s Day week, we can all be more sensitive to these women and their journey.

  1. Have you tried…? Whenever someone hears about infertility, they’re full of ideas. They talk about acupuncture and vitamins and adoption. Just stop. Trust that a woman battling infertility has tried, or explored, her options. You don’t need to help.
  2. Anything at all about “God’s plan.” Whether religious or not, has this platitude every helped anyone? Ever? With anything? Nope.
  3. Just adopt! I can comment on this one, as an adoptee myself. The idea of “just” adopting is an asinine one. No one “just” adopts. Adoption is a calling for couples who find themselves truly ready to pursue this option, not some “backup plan.”
  4. If you’d just relax, it’d happen. Sure it will. That’s like standing behind someone about to jump out a plane and saying, “Relax. No biggie.” Infertility consumes the minds of many women. Telling them not to think about it is the most unrealistic suggestion on Earth.
  5. I know a couple who…. This isn’t helpful, either. Some example of Mr. and Mrs. Just Had a Baby and their story of infertility does nothing except remind someone they’re not Mr. and Mrs. Just Had a Baby.
  6. You’re still so young! Just because a woman isn’t pushing 50 doesn’t mean she doesn’t want a child just as badly as any other woman. Age aside, desire for a family is valid at any age.

So what can you say? I hope it’s exactly what I’m about to. To all women battling infertility, I’m sorry, I honor you, and I send you my love and care on this Mother’s Day.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."