Author’s note: The following is blatantly rejigged without the permission or knowledge of The Monty Python Flying Circus
Nooobody expects to have fertility issues! And here’s one thing you should never say to a woman trying to conceive: “Relax and it will all just happen naturally” ... and “But you’re still trying, aren’t you?”
Two! Two things you should never say to a woman trying to conceive: “But you’re still trying” and “Relax”... and “There’s always next time”.
THREE! Three things: “Always next time”, “Still trying” and “Relax”… and “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”.
LET ME START AGAIN!
I have a whole new respect for witches. Magic is hard to ‘make happen’ and despite all the science in the world, it still requires that little spark of magic to make a baby come to life. As we’ve discovered over the past four years, magic can be very elusive and certainly out of our control. But here’s the thing I find the most difficult about the whole process: other people’s comments. Which is why I tend not to say anything or if I do, brush it off with humour.
Once upon a time, I was probably guilty of saying any one of the following four quotes. After all, I already have three completely gorgeous, grown-up children. I’ve done this before. So why THE FUCK* can’t I do it now?? (Because I’m 45, that’s why. But hey, nobody said logic and babies in the same sentence without laughing, right? Just so we’re clear, my husband’s jiz is positively jumping out of the jar, it’s so fertile. And he’s got the lab report to prove it.)
So here’s my Top Four sayings that I would advise you to avoid if you’re trying to be supportive of someone struggling to have a baby:
1. RELAX AND IT WILL ALL JUST HAPPEN NATURALLY
Well, shit. Why didn’t I think of that? Seems so simple when you put it that way. But here’s the thing: this is a situation you have no control over. No control = stress (look it up. Scientific fact.) Stress = I can meditate all the fuck* I want and nothing is going to take away the anxiety of counting the days to get the timing right (and hey, here’s a tip for those currently trying – saying “Honey, I’m ovulating. Let’s do it. Now.” is not considered ‘sexy talk’ and usually has the opposite effect), then waiting for two weeks to see if anything happened.
Then there’s the fun-filled IVF road of jabbing yourself with needles every day for 10 days then going under a general anesthetic to be ‘harvested’ THEN hoping for a further five days that the little blighters fertilise/don’t start dying off/make it to transfer THEN waiting two weeks to see if anything happened.
You try relaxing under that kind of pressure.
2. BUT YOU’RE STILL TRYING, AREN’T YOU?
Ugh. Stab me in the heart, why don’t you? What are you ACTUALLY trying to say? Are we still having sex? “No, no, I thought since we can’t get pregnant, I’d go on the pill and take precautions. Or just say no to bedroom funtimes.” Stupid, stupid question.
Or in the case of failed IVF, do you mean will we immediately spend another $5000 and a full month on heartache, needle jabbing, hoping and praying? “Sure, sign me up for that shit again. I mean, I don’t think I suffered enough last time, you know?”
I understand you’re trying to be positive but the implication we take away from that question is that we HAVEN’T been trying. And here’s an insider secret for you: even when we say we’re ‘not trying’ anymore … we still are. Until we get a baby, we’ll always be trying.
3. THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT TIME
Seriously? We’ve just been through hell and it’s not somewhere we’re keen to revisit … even though we will. Read previous response.
4. IF IT’S MEANT TO BE, IT’S MEANT TO BE
That kind of zen philosophy is not helpful at all. It’s kinda related to the ‘Relax’ response. Stress comes from having no control over a situation that directly affects you. If you and your partner decided you wanted a baby together but it’s not happening, even though you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on natural remedies, given up coffee and wine, exercised to get fit then finally turned to science and forked out thousands for a helping hand, being told that maybe it’s just ‘not meant to be’ personally makes me want to punch you. Hard. In the face. Don’t EVER say it.
Here’s the thing …
There is nothing you can say that will make it better. You are blissfully unaware (as my younger self was) of the struggles and heartache and despair these people go through EVERY SINGLE DAY.
So, my advice? Don’t even try. Don’t give them too much sympathy – they’re struggling to hold it together and you feeling sorry for them just makes it harder not to blubber like a … well, a baby.
Don’t talk about it – unless they bring it up first. Then possibly just listen and nod occasionally and say innocuous things like “I see” and “Really?”
Instead, give them coffee.
It will be gratefully accepted and much appreciated.
*Sorry about the swear words, Ma