I recently read an interesting book called The Conception Chronicles, penned by three best friends who had all gone through varying degrees of fertility and infertility drama. The book was humorous, and enjoyable, but also full of deeply honest, thoughtful, and useful information. I bring it up, because of slightly embarrassing incident which happened this evening, during an otherwise normal conversation with my husband...
The Setting: our apartment's uncomfortably small galley kitchen
The Hour: just before dinner
Enter Dear Husband (DH), home from a tiring day at school and a visit with the student health office. Finally, after much coercion, I had convinced DH to see the doctor for a much overdue physical exam. I asked him to discuss my fertility concerns with the doctor, and what would be covered by our lousy student health insurance plan. There was good news, his blood pressure - perfect, tests - covered, joyous news indeed. This however, was when the trouble started.
With a cheerful grin, DH announced to me that the doctor had informed him not to be overly worried about our poor luck so far in reproducing, and that we should "just have patience, and it will happen." This may seem to the outsider as a perfectly normal, possibly responsible remark on the doctor's part, but to me, this was the end of my pleasant mood, and an invitation for a tongue lashing, and possibly tears. Recognizing the ridiculousness of my sudden rise in temper, and not feeling much like picking a fight with unsuspecting DH, I kept as quiet as possible, and let the horrible feelings subside - though I may have quickly spit out some quick remark about the doctor knowing nothing of my medical history, and maybe keeping those opinions to herself...
When I read about this kind of over-reaction in The Conception Chronicles, I may have laughed at it, agreed to some of the sentiment (as I am regularly told this very thing by my loved ones who are just trying to help), but overall I don't think I took the issue too much to heart. Now, after many more months of trying to conceive, and of navigating the emotional ups and downs of each new cycle, and the pain of feeling like a failure in what should be the most natural thing in the world for any "normal" woman, etc., I understand the truth of what those women were saying.
For a woman trying to get pregnant, especially for one considered "subfertile," comments such as, "just be patient, it will happen," should never be uttered. Such a statement feels less like a mild platitude, and more like an actual slap in the face; adding guilt to an already troubled mind, and further fueling her feelings of inadequacy as a woman, a wife, etc.
I realize it can seem difficult to know the right thing to say in such a situation, so I've decided to put together a little list of other comments which you should avoid uttering to friends and family alike, if you know or suspect that they are worried about their chances of conceiving.
1) Just have lots of sex/get drunk and have lots of sex
2) It will happen when you least expect it
3) It will happen when it is meant to happen
4) Just stop worrying/stressing so much, and it will happen in no time
5) Why do you bother with all those ovulation tests and stuff, just let it happen and it will
6) I wish I had that problem, my husband just looks at me and I get pregnant
7) I just went off the pill, and the next month I was pregnant
8) Just relax
If you are thinking, okay, great, so what do I say then...well here goes. Why not try keeping it simple and just being honest?
1) I'm here for you/I'm here with you
2) It will happen, and if for some reason it doesn't, we will make it through this, and we will figure it out
3) I love you
4) You aren't doing anything wrong, this isn't your fault
Trust me when I say that the woman in question is most likely feeling guilty, broken, sad, drained, discouraged, frustrated, scared, and alone, and that these are feelings you should be trying to address rather than making blanket statements about the power of positive thinking. Comments, like, "Don't worry, once you stop stressing it will happen in no time," will most likely just make things worse.