Avoid foot-in-mouth syndrome with our handy helper on how to support your friend who’s finally (!) with child after going through infertility.
In the age of political correctness, it feels like someone is always telling us what we can or can’t say (and that may be a good thing in the case of Donald Trump)—but there are some instances where it’s about way more than just politeness.
Enter the woman who’s finally gotten pregnant after a harrowing bout with infertility, who’s already feeling sensitive, nervous, and on the edge about giving birth successfully after all she’s been through. I know that woman, because I am that woman. After two IUIs and three IVF cycles, I’m finally pregnant and hoping to go the distance. Currently, I’m 23 weeks pregnant with twins and couldn’t be more thrilled or hopeful! But it’s also a tender—and sometimes scary—place to be.
One thing I’ve learned is that getting pregnant can often elicit a colorful array of responses—not only from family and friends, but also from strangers. Saying the right thing can make a big difference in supporting a pregnant woman you care about, so here’s a handy guide on phrases to avoid:
“Now you’ll be able to get pregnant naturally since your body will just know what to do!” This one’s a biggie, and pretty much anyone who’s gotten pregnant after infertility has heard it. But here’s the thing: many infertile couples can’t conceive—ever—without the help of assisted reproductive technology, due to issues ranging from diminished ovarian reserve to severe male factor infertility. (The list goes on.) So, while it’s nice to dream about building a family the old-fashioned way, especially after spending so much money and effort on fertility treatments, it’s not realistic for a lot of us.
And since we’re on the topic, the use of the word “naturally” is a trigger for many infertile women who become pregnant. It implies that somehow our babies are artificial or somehow inferior to babies conceived spontaneously (yes, that is the PC way to say it).
“What are you going to do with the leftovers?” After going through the IVF process, some couples are lucky enough to be able to freeze extra embryos for future use. Many use them to continue building their family, although it’s estimated that as many as 72 percent of couples are currently undecided as to the fate of their “snowbabies.” Many factors play into that decision—timing, cost, whether to donate the embryos instead—but it’s certainly not a decision taken lightly. Casually referring to the embryos as “leftovers” may make your friend feel anxious, especially when she’s trying to focus on the successful birth of this baby.
“So, now you’re done [having kids].” As a mother-to-be of twins, I hear this one a lot, especially since I’m carrying a boy and a girl. And the well-meaning people who say it aren’t necessarily wrong—I very well may be done, and I don’t plan on doing any more fertility treatments (though I would love to explore adoption down the line). In theory, my family is complete…for now. But I’d love to see what nature and fate bring my way!
This faux pas is somewhat understandable; after all, if you’re close friends with the person who’s pregnant, you’ve probably seen her through endless crying spells and stress-busting sessions while she was trying to conceive and wouldn’t wish that for her again. However, making blanket statements and assuming that you know someone’s plans for building her family is pretty much a no-no.
(If carrying multiples): “Do twins/triplets/quads run in your family?” In many cases, this very well may be an innocent question asked out of curiosity, but to the recipient, it often feels like a subtle way of asking whether you did fertility treatments. Also, when the person replies that no, they do not run in the family, she often faces an awkward silence afterward or feeling like she needs to go ahead and share the fact that they’ve used ART to get pregnant—and you don’t want to put anyone in that position.
“Is IVF like getting to design your own baby?” On a trip to Ojai a few weeks back, the hotel clerk asked me whether twins ran in my family (see above!), and when I answered that I did IVF, he got wide-eyed and asked me if I specially selected to have twins. Here’s the thing: I’ve always been fascinated with twins, and since the day I started fertility treatments, I prayed for twins in hopes of creating an insta-family due to my limited chances of conceiving—but by absolutely no means could I have controlled this outcome. With the exception of a select few who can afford it (I’m talking to you,Joe Francis and Abbey Wilson), very few couples do fertility treatments solely for the purpose of having a “designer” baby…or babies!
“I would never do IVF—it’s like playing God.” Along the same lines, some people feel the need to pass judgment on women who’ve done IVF, even when it’s helped them reach their dream of becoming pregnant and starting a family. Rest assured that if religion was a factor for the person in question, she probably struggled very deeply with the decision to move forward with IVF and felt there was no other option. One of the women in an online support group for pregnancy after infertility had the perfect response for this: “I always say, ‘God gave us the gift of science and talented [doctors], and I’m so thankful for my little one.”
Oh, and one other thing: never, ever use the phrase “test tube baby.” That about covers it.
What would you add to the list?