Not So Helpful Advice: Don’t give up.

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of a woman holding a sweater over her mouth on Not So Helpful Advice: Don't give up on Not So Mommy..., a childless blog

Recently a Not So Mommy… community member made an astute observation.  She said, “The fact is people don’t know what to say when someone tells them that they’re infertile.”  Personally, I believe this is absolutely true and would go one step further, saying that people don’t know how to respond when you tell them that you are childless not by choice, through infertility or other circumstances.  Yet, even though they don’t know what they should say, people want to be helpful, but unfortunately often end up giving advice that is not so helpful.  We’ve already discussed two such pieces of advice—just adopt and just relax.  This week, we’re going to talk about another not so helpful suggestion that much of the CNBC community finds quite infuriating, “Don’t give up.”

To those outside the childless not by choice tribe, it may sound odd that offering hope is actually quite cruel.  Smiling and cheerfully telling someone, “Never say never!”  “I just know you will get pregnant!”  “You’d be a great mom!”  “Don’t give up hope!”  How could these sentiments be a bad thing?  Well, as one Not So Mommy… community member commented, “For many people reaching the stage of no longer trying to conceive, hope becomes one of the most painful things to experience.”

Why is hope painful?

Why is hope painful?  Why is your “have you tried…” or “have you thought of…” suggestion met with resistance?  Because we’ve been hopeful.  For months and months and months.  For years even.  We’ve tried monitoring ovulation with expensive predictor kits.  We’ve made love with our hips hoisted on pillows and then remained in bed with our feet in the air for at least 15 minutes afterwards.  We’ve taken the vitamins, done yoga, researched acupuncture, read the book that said we should do a full body cleanse and go on a juice diet for two weeks…

And I’m not talking hypothetically here, either.  Making love can turn into a chore when you are trying to conceive.  I bought a special yoga video specifically designed to increase fertility and did that yoga faithfully every day for weeks.  As far as the book’s recommendation…  I decided that doing a full body cleanse with enemas and an extremely restricted diet was just too much.

Have you thought of…?

So, even if we haven’t tried it, we’ve definitely thought of it.  You don’t need to ask if we’ve considered adoption or IVF or even worse, tell us that we should pray more.  I sat on the bathroom floor more times than I’d like to admit, tears streaming down my face, begging God to give us a child.  I prayed and prayed and prayed some more.  And I doubted my faith.  I questioned if I believed in Him enough.

Don’t give up, you tell me.  Well, I didn’t…

But just because I decided to accept my childless life does not mean I don’t have enough faith.  It doesn’t mean that I gave up…  No, giving up and letting go are two very different things.  (To find out more about my perspective on this, read “To the Childless, Why did you give up?”)  In order to let go, however, I did have to stop hoping for a miracle pregnancy, I did have to quit searching for some way…

It takes a lot of effort to move forward and find peace in a different existence than you planned…  It takes effort to create new dreams, to embrace the what is, to find joy in the unexpected…  It takes effort to not look back and wonder if you did everything you possibly could have…  I mean, should I have tried the cleanse?

So, truly, we do not need you to tell us, “Don’t give up.”  It hurts that you think we so easily dismissed our dreams, so easily forgot about the littles we wanted…  The littles we still love and yet never got to meet.  When you say, “Don’t give up,” it makes us stumble and falter as we try to get our footing on our new path.  And this new path is difficult enough to navigate without the not so helpful advice…

Respect the difficult decision we made…

A Not So Mommy… community member put it perfectly, “I feel like people don’t respect our decision to stop trying…”  And that is what hurts most of all—the dismissal of the extreme amount of financial, physical, spiritual, and emotional energy that we put into this journey that ultimately came to a dead-end.  The belief that we could have done something more, that we did not exhaust all our options, that we could have thought of something else…

My husband and I tried to have a child for ten years.  That’s 120 months, 120 tries, 120 disappointments.

How long would you try?

For those outside our tribe, I’ll leave you with one last thought…  How long would you spend tens of thousands of dollars, pump yourself full of hormone drugs, and go through the stages of grief every month when treatment failed before you would say, “No more?”  How many times would you try to adopt only to have the birth mom change her mind?  How many months would you spend hoping and praying for a miracle only to have your dreams crushed by the arrival of your cycle?  How long would you try before you “gave up…”  Before you were physically and emotionally drained…


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Part 1, Blog 4 of the “Not So Helpful” Series will be published next Wed, 22 Aug.


Featured Photo:  Remy_Loz on

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Joanna August 18, 2018 - 10:03 am

Thank you for this. This is everything I have felt and experienced over the last 4 years. My husband and I were lucky in a way, my body gave up for us (at 42 I’m almost in full menopause) but when I think of doing what we did for another 6 years my soul screams. I can’t imagine putting my body, my heart or my husband’s heart through another second of IVF.

Wat I think people don’t understand is that letting go of hope for a child for someone like me (and you, and so many other beautiful and wonderful women) is really the moment we pick up a new hope for a life beyond pain and heartbreak. It’s the moment we realize our lives are worth more than the 21/28 day roller coaster of emotions. It’s picking up hope for a future that we may not have chosen but that we believe can be good, maybe even great.

My hope is someday people get this and learn to encourage us when we decide to pick up this new hope.

Thanks again, this was a beautiful, healing post. ?

Brandi Lytle August 18, 2018 - 12:31 pm

So eloquently stated, Joanna. Thank you for sharing your heart and for being so brave as to “pick up this new hope.”


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