There are plenty of blog posts about infertility and “what not to say to those going through infertility” ad nauseam. Yes, they are insightful and helpful but only if people without infertility are reading them. Are they? Or are the majority of the readers people like me? A fellow infertile friend shaking their head in agreement with empathy of the worst things that have been asked and said to people with infertility. Just google “what not to say to those dealing with infertility” and I’m sure you will have your pick of articles and blog posts to choose from. This post is not going to focus on the “what not to say” but rather the one question, which in my most recent experience, has been the most healing, encouraging and loving.
But first, I want to share with you some of the questions I have been asked over the years on our own infertility journey. Here are just some of them with my (inside response) and my “spoken responses”.
“How are you?” (Basically all the emojis.) “I’m good.”
“How are things going?” (Still barren.) “Things are going.”
“Have you tried just relaxing and just have fun?” (Really? We’ve been trying for 5 years by ourselves, how long should we “just have fun” before taking the next step?) “Yes we have.”
“What’s new?” (More treatments and disappointing news.) “Not much, you?”
“What is that?” (Google it.) “Well….”
“How long are you going to try for?” (Does it matter?) “As long as God continues to open doors.”
“Have you ever thought about adoption?” (Nope. Never. What’s that?) “Of course, but now is not the time.”
“Are you sure you even want kids?” (Now that you mention it, probably not.) “yep! It’s why I am willing to put my body through so much even before they are conceived.”
I understand that all of these questions are innocent and not meant to hurt me on purpose. But these questions in varying degrees have been more hurtful than helpful. However, there has been one question that I have been asked twice by two separate people that has encouraged me, filled me with hope, and reassured me. It’s the one question I think I will ever need in any situation. So what’s this amazing question you ask? Well here it is.
“How can I support you during this time?”
This may seem silly, but I’ve never heard someone ask this before and honestly I have never thought to ask such a beautiful question. The first time I was asked this question I was befuddled. Expecting the usual questions and ready to give my usual responses, I was unprepared to give an answer. I stumbled around my thoughts for a few seconds before reaching an honest answer to give, “Prayers. Would you please pray for my husband and I. That we experience God in all of this.” This was all I could come up with after trying to figure out the question.
This question did a few things. First, it allowed the person to ask a question without coming across insensitive and judgmental and instead show compassion. Second, it allowed me, the person going through infertility, to take a step back and evaluate my own needs and wants and how I might express them. Third, it gave me permission to be as honest and open as I felt comfortable in doing so, even if the answer was simply “prayers”. I didn’t walk away from the conversation feeling shamed, belittled, or judged. Instead I was filled with joy and peace around talking about my situation with them and I felt supported and lifted up.
In any situation where I am uncomfortable or don’t understand, I might feel the natural instinct to ask personal questions while unconsciously interjecting my judgments. However, I want to step back and ask myself if the question I’m about to ask will be good for the other person. Will it encourage? Will it be loving? Will they feel lifted up? What if I just asked this simple question no matter what the situation was; i.e. a loss, stress at work, friends and loved ones battling infertility, or any day to day conflicts that arise? I believe it’s possible that this question might just do what I really intend, encourage and build the other person up. I want them to know that I support them, and that I will support them however they need support. I don’t want to judge them or their decision because I cannot judge. I don’t know everything, only God does. I invite you to join me in asking this question next time you are faced with someone going through their own version of “hard”. Let’s be loving, encouraging one another and build each other up!