By Zahie El Kouri
Chapter 3: Empathize with Your Infertile Loved One’s Sense of Urgency
While many women won’t want to discuss their infertility, some will eventually confide in close friends or relatives, and others will be open about their difficulties with getting pregnant from the first sign of trouble.
If you know your ILO is having trouble getting pregnant, whether she has told you or you just suspect, it may be very tempting to tell her to relax. You are not alone. As a society we seem to have decided that, “Just relax and you’ll get pregnant,” should be the automatic response to a confession of infertility.
Variations on the theme include, “If you go on a vacation, I just know you will get pregnant.”
Or, “If you start the adoption process, you will get pregnant.”
Or, “The minute you stop trying to get pregnant, you will get pregnant for sure.” All of these statements sound fine in the abstract.
It’s true that many women get pregnant while waiting to be placed with a child through adoption. It’s true that relaxation is key to good health, and good health is important for the reproductive system. It’s true that vacations are generally excellent, and your ILO probably deserves one.
But the reality is that true infertility is a medical condition, and relaxation will not cure any of the underlying physiological problems that cause it. Adoption is a long process, and some women will get pregnant while waiting to be placed with a child just because of how long it takes. But if your ILO has primary ovarian insufficiency (formerly known as premature ovarian failure), no amount of relaxation or adoption paperwork will help her conceive a child.
Even if your ILO knows you mean well, try to hold off from offering this kind of advice. It can sound flippant and smug, even if you don’t mean it that way. And even if relaxation would help, your directive will not help your ILO relax at all, and will probably make her feel as though you don’t understand her sense of urgency and panic about having a child, in turn making her feel less supported rather than more supported in her situation.
Takeaway Tip: Never say, “Just relax, and you’ll get pregnant.” Concentrate on other aspects of your relationship, or gently ask, “Do you want to talk about your fertility treatments?” You can always remind your ILO of the following: “I want you to know that I am not bringing up babies because I don’t want to be nosy, but if you ever want to talk about them, I’m here for you.”
Read our Q&A with the author.