Not So Helpful: Things you shouldn’t say to those struggling with infertility

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of a girl holding her sweater over her month on Things You Shouldn't Say to thos Struggling with Infertility Blog on Not So Mommy...

As my husband and I struggled through infertility, so many friends and family tried to be there for us, to offer comfort.  They hated to see us hurting and wanted so desperately to help.  Unfortunately, many remarks made in an effort to alleviate pain for infertile couples are actually some of the cruelest words and cause undue heartache to those already in agony.  And even more unfortunate, our well-meaning friends and family said some of these not so helpful things you shouldn’t say.

Things You Shouldn’t Say:  Just Adopt

On more than one occasion, a kind hearted person would offer, “Why don’t you just adopt?”  For them, the solution to infertility was as simple as that.  Furthermore, they often thought that if we started the adoption process, we would get our minds off becoming pregnant.  That way, we would relax enough so that we could get pregnant.

There are so many things wrong with this that it is hard to know where to begin….

Problem 1:  It’s not that simple to “just adopt.”

First, I wonder if the person making this statement has ever looked in to the process to “just adopt.”  My husband and I did.  We researched all types of adoption—domestic, international, through child services, and even embryo adoption.

Domestic and international adoption are both cost-prohibitive.  If we couldn’t afford IVF, how could we possibly afford the often 30–50 thousand dollars to adopt?

When we started considering embryo adoption, we had serious discussions about whether to tell our future child that he or she was not our biological child.  How would we explain that even though she grew in Mommy’s tummy, she wasn’t our biological kid?  And at what age should we explain this?  It was simply too much for us to wrap our brains around.

Because of this, we started seriously considering adopting through child services.  We even went to a couple of meetings to learn more.  Plus, we completed the pages and pages of paperwork which asked if we would consider a child with every type of disability known to man—physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It was so difficult to decide if we thought we could handle the responsibility of a child with a severe disability.  But we discussed it and marked our choices on the papers.

While we were researching adoption, my husband talked to numerous couples who had tried to adopt and heard many sad stories about failed ones.  He didn’t tell me until many years later that he had done this.  He worried that if we tried to adopt and it failed, I would be broken.  He knew that he would be, and he just wasn’t sure he could put himself and me back together again.  He worried that a failed adoption would ruin us….

Problem 2:  You are blaming the infertile for not being able to get pregnant.

Although I know people meant well when they said adopting would help us relax and get pregnant, it really is a cruel thing to say.  In essence, those making this statement blamed me for not being able to get pregnant.  They were denying science and telling me that I was doing something to cause me to not be able to conceive.  (For some reason, endometriosis didn’t seem to be reason enough.)  While I’m certain it is not what they meant, it is what they were saying.  And it hurt.

I already blamed myself.  I was already worried that I worried too much, which caused me to worry even more….  I certainly didn’t need anyone else telling me that I should get my mind off getting pregnant.  And how could I even do that when I had to monitor every single detail of my cycle to try and give us the best chance to become pregnant?!  It simply was not helpful to tell me that adoption would solve our infertility issues.

Problem 3:  You are trying to come up with a solution when all you really need to do is listen.

Because discussing infertility makes some people uncomfortable and because loved ones don’t want to see you in pain, people try to solve the “problem.”  Honestly, what I wanted (and needed) as someone struggling through infertility was for someone to listen.  I needed to be able to talk and cry and vent and yell and have all my crazy emotions without fear of judgement.  And I just needed whoever was listening to tell me that she was sorry and that infertility sucks and it isn’t fair and to give me a hug.

My Advice:  Don’t give advice.

So, my advice is don’t give advice to an infertile couple.  Heck, I went through infertility and there are still times when I don’t know what to say to those who are struggling.  So, I just tell them that I am so sorry that they are having to deal with this.  If that doesn’t seem like enough, I tell them I’ll pray that they find peace and I give them my love.

And I promise that they’ve already considered adoption.  They’ve already looked at every possible way they could have a baby.  They are worried and stressed and emotionally drained.  They go through highs and lows every month and are struggling to keep it all together.  They do not feel like anyone understands what they are going through.  They feel completely alone and there are many times that they can’t even seem to help each other….

Just listen when they are venting.  They don’t expect you to solve their problem.  They just want to be able to talk about it.  Because although infertility is not life-threatening, it does threaten the life you had dreamed of…

Click here to read more about our Infertility Journey…

World Childless Week – Sept 11-17, 2017

Recently, an announcement for World Childless Week came across my newsfeed.  Being an infertile woman, I want to connect with other people who understand what it feels like to be childless.  Because WCW’s goal is to increase awareness and understanding about childless not by choice, I liked their page in order to become a part of the WCW community.  When Stephanie Phillips, the woman who started the WCW movement, asked me to write a guest blog for World Childless Week, I eagerly accepted.  My hope with Not So Mommy…™ is to inspire others to be their authentic selves by telling my infertility story.  WCW has a similar goal and I am so excited to be a part of this group!  Please, check out their Facebook page at World Childless Week and join the childless not by choice conversation!

Photo Credit: Remy_Loz on



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1 comment

Sherry Stout September 14, 2017 - 4:33 pm

Wise words from one who’s been there. When in doubt don’t speak. Just listen and embrace. Your heart will be felt.


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