Recently at a big family gathering, I was catching up with a relative I had not had the opportunity to visit with in years.
“You must have grandchildren now!” I exclaimed excitedly.
Internally I struggled with how to fix what I had said. I couldn’t take back my ignorant statement. I searched for the right words to say to comfort her. I made it worse.
I said the most terrible thing I could have come up with.
“It will happen!”
Are you kidding me? Who the $&@# says that? What was I thinking? Me? A doula. I was suddenly the most insensitive, unthoughtful person I had ever met. I was appalled by my stupid mouth. I immediately saw the pain I had inflicted upon her flash across her face. I may as well have slapped her.
Every day since I have been haunted by the words that I spoke. While I cannot take it back, I hope that by sharing I can prevent someone else from inflicting that same pain on a person they care about.
Please. Do not assume anyone is pregnant, has children, or is a grandparent. Just don’t.
Do not brush off infertility with “It will happen!” or any other diminishing statement. Infertility can be a lonely experience. It is painful and heartbreaking. It tests one’s faith in themselves, in their body, in their belief system, in their marriage.
1 in 6 Canadian couples struggles with infertility. Often privately.
If someone trusts you with their infertility story, you do not need to say anything. You do not need to reassure them. You need to listen. You can be a shoulder to cry on. You can give them a hug. If you are religious, you can pray for them. You can be supportive of the treatments they choose or be supportive if they decide to stop treatments or explore adoption. Don’t brush off their pain.Don’t make jokes or make light of their grief.
Don’t be an asshole and alienate people experiencing infertility.