Infertility and 5 More Things We Don’t Want to Hear

Over the last few months one of the most popular blogs I’ve written is the one about the insensitive things said to infertile people.  The images that I created have been liked and shared and liked some more.  In-depth discussions have taken place in public on my Facebook time-line and behind “closed doors”.  In the world of infertility, it’s a recurring theme: people open their mouths and speak before they have engaged their brains.  Well at least I hope that’s what happens because if some of these comments were made after careful consideration then there are a lot of cruel people out there.  What also because apparent was although people loved my list of 5 there were important ones that I’d missed out.  So here are some more of the comments to avoid when speaking to someone who can’t have children: unless you WANT to be thumped that is!

My friend struggled for years and now she’s got two sets of twins

InfertilityMiracle baby stories are the LAST thing I want to hear.  I don’t want to know about some stranger who conceived against all the odds because I HAVEN’T conceived against the odds.  I know you’re telling me because you believe that the story is inspiring and should fill me with hope.  After all she was is the same situation and she’s now got children: what happened to her can happen to me.  Well yes it could: however, let’s be sensible and realistic about this.  She and I are two different people.  We’ve got different medical histories and different underlying causes for our infertility.  Unless you know the very intimate details medical conditions and have the medical knowledge to compare our situations then you should not be assuming simply because she was one of the “lucky ones” that I will be too.

At least you won’t have to struggle to find a baby-sitter on a Saturday night

I’m speechless!  Well actually I’m not: I’m blimming FUMING!  Any moment now and I’m going to turn into a fire-breathing dragon and consume in you flames.  In what world do you think that the ability to go out on a Saturday night without the need for someone to look after the kids could ever make up for the heart-ache that we feel.  We have spent years looking at our friends who’ve been blessed with children and thought “why not us?”  We have never thought “oh well it’s not all doom and gloom: let’s go out for a night on the tiles to celebrate our childfree status!”

It’s such a shame because I think you’d be a great mum/dad/parents

Ouch that one hurts and I mean REALLY HURTS.  This one hurts so much that I’m crying as I type this because it’s been said to me so many times and each time it was said I ended up in tears.  It hurts because I feel it too.  Andrew and I both have a such a great way with children.  They really connect with us and we’ve had so much love to give to a child and it’s a relationship that we’ve been denied.  I thought I was doing really well in my acceptance and it has really shocked me that I have tears streaming down my face that just won’t stop.  I know that you are only saying this because you believe it to be true.  You think it is a compliment: however, please NEVER SAY THIS even when you mean it kindly.  I feel as if I’ve just been stabbed in the heart and knowing that you didn’t mean to hurt me doesn’t make that pain go away.

You’d better hurry up and have them before it’s too late

infertilityDo you seriously think we’ve not thought about that before now?  We’re childless not brainless!  We probably know more about the impact of age on fertility than you will ever know.  We know how many eggs a woman is born with.  We know the rate that the eggs deteriorate.  We know the different percentage success rates for IVF in the different age ranges.  We have spent time educating ourselves, now that we know about our infertility, because were weren’t taught it at school.  Sex education is ALL about the mechanics of the act and how to prevent pregnancy.  However, that is only half the story.  Sex education also needs to be about teaching young men and women how to PROTECT their fertility and what can cause problems for the future.  Recent studies have shown an appalling lack of knowledge about fertility/infertility in the young adults. You can read an article by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists here. 

You probably haven’t found the right person yet

HOW DARE YOU!  What gives you the right to cast aspersions on the nature of our relationship.  You have no idea about what our relationship is like because you are not part of it.  The only people who know EXACTLY what a relationship is like are the two people involved in it.  Everyone else sees the VERSION of the relationship that is being projected for them to see.  Besides which your comment suggests that children are only ever born to couples who have a very strong and stable relationship that will weather all the storms ahead and we ALL KNOW that is simply not true.  There are girls who get pregnant at the age of 15.  There are babies conceived during a one-night stand.  Marriages on the rocks often last longer than they should have because the couple thought having a baby/another baby would help “stick” the marriage back together again.  As for rape victims who end up pregnant I won’t even attempt to reconcile your comment with their terrible situation.


So there you have it another five crass, insensitive or rude comments that we often have to deal with when our infertility is mentioned. It makes me feel sad because I’ve already written about five others in “Infertility and 5 things we DON’T want to hear”.  What makes me even sadder is that I’ve got 10 more comments to write about over the coming month.  No wonder we feel isolated.  No wonder we feel that our situation is not understood by people who’ve had children.  I’m not suggesting that we hear ALL of these comments EVERY day: however, hearing just one of them every few days (or even weeks) can make the world seem a hostile place.  You see when you are in the middle of grieving for the children you will never have it doesn’t take a couple of minutes to recover from such a comments.

At its worst I would crawl into a “safe” place at the back of my mind.  Somewhere far enough away from the harsh realities of the world where I could lick my wounds in peace.  I would remain for a few hours or a few days: however, long it took to regain the strength to interact with the world.  That length of time would depend on my general state of “being” when the comment was made and the “severity” of conversation.  My body would be present but my soul had run for cover.  If that happens a couple of times a month there are very few days when the rest of the world feels like a place we can “visit” in safety.



Raising awareness about infertility

6 Responses

  1. Jacqui Malpass

    Ah people and their comments. I had something similar about marriage when I was a very long standing partner. Constantly being asked when would we marry. One day I flipped and told them to eff off, stop asking, because ‘he’ did not want to marry a divorced woman. That shut them up. They were only one and it got to me.

    In terms of children I didn’t want children and in fact I think I was probably infertile. Equally, stupid comments were made, however, I was able to say it was a choice.

    You are right what has any of this to do with anyone else?

    Hugs from a doggy mum of 3.

    • Andrew Fletcher

      Thanks for commenting Jacqui. When are you going to find a boy/girlfriend a settle down? When are you going to get married? When are you going to buy a house? When are you going to start a family? When are you going to get a better job?

      You want an honest answer? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO MIND YOUR OWN DARN BUSINESS?

      At least you could say it was a choice: however, I expect you got loads of add-on responses to that about not having met the right man yet, ticking clocks, you’ll love them when you have then right down to the lowest of the low guilt trip comment that is “that’s very selfish of you”.

      Thanks for the hugs: have to be careful enjoying them because our 2 dogs can get very jealous even of virtual hugs!

  2. Sam Pilling

    Great article Nicci and, I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of the first comment. I thought it helped (stick on in there, there is hope) but I can see now I was wrong. Definitely not going to say that again! Is there anything we can say, or should we just keep shtum?

    • Nicci

      Hi Sam thanks for the comment and for holding your hand up to the fact that you’ve said one of the 5. In fact most people have at one time or another: however, would just shrug their shoulders and not think it important. In terms of what you should be saying/doing to be supportive, to be honest, it depends on the person/couple and where they are in the journey. My blog is for people who have reached the end of the journey or, at least, are very close to saying “enough is enough”. Talking about “not giving up and there always being help” when someone is making the tough decision to stop trying to conceive makes that decision even harder. If, however, they are at the beginning of their infertility journey then such comments MAY help. I’ll explain the MAY in a moment.

      In terms of what to say instead. Well it depends on the situation again. If you’ve only just met the person and in response to your general “do you have children?” small talk the response is “No we can’t HAVE them” then a simple “I’m sorry to hear that” perhaps followed by “That must be very difficult for you” will usually be sufficient. The “HAVE” is often an indicator that they wanted them but it’s not happened. People who don’t want children will often simply say “No”. If you get that response then I would change the subject because it’s the probing for “why” that frequently causes upset or offence.

      Now back to the “MAY” I used earlier. Everybody is different. The reasons for their infertility is different and what they can/are willing to do in order to have biological children is also different. If you know the person/couple well the best thing to do is say something like “What you are going through must be so difficult. I’d like to support you: however, I’m not sure how. Please tell me what you need from me so I can give you the support that YOU actually want/need.” This comment alone will make them feel supported because it happens so infrequently. Word of warning though: it might cause tears because we don’t often get asked.

      Sorry for the long reply: however, having been asked such an important question I wanted to give a reasonably full answer. This is just an overview though and I will be writing a blog with more detail later. In the meantime I hope this has helped, and thank you for caring enough to ask 🙂

  3. Vicky Ireland

    Excellent and thought provoking article. From one who became pregnant almost with a look I cannot imagine the pain it must cause to be infertile and be the recipient of hurtful comments. Guess I have probably used one of these over the years. God bless your future

    • Nicci

      Thank you Vicky for taking the time to comment. I think it is very difficult for someone who has children to understand because it’s like asking someone to “unlearn” experiences etc. I imagine most people will have used some of the comments and not realised their potential to hurt. I say potential because not everyone will get upset and it often depends on what is happening at the time. Say a comment one month and it would be water off a duck’s back whilst a month later it could be devastating because another cycle of IVF has just failed. Thank you for your good wishes for our future: we wish you the same.