I know, “infertiles” isn’t a sensitive term. You’re right and you can definitely NOT refer to me as such. But I can use the term on myself. Now that we have that out of the way….
I’ve never been pregnant. The lines on the stick have never intersected with each other. For 7 years, we had hope that perhaps a miracle would occur and we’d see that sweet little plus friend, but those stupid sticks ended up being bathroom bullies. Made me cry on the porcelain throne more times than I can count. Removing my uterus and ovaries 3 years ago took away the possibility of being bullied anymore, which helps a bit. And also adds layers of grief that feels more final and concrete. No longer are we “struggling with infertility.” We’re infertile now. I needed to remove the underlying question marks and move on. And so we did. For more reasons than that of course, but it was definitely one.
When you’re infertile, raising humans from other mothers, life is intrinsically different from 99% of the people you interact with on a day to day basis. It’s different because when you’re not raising kids from your own womb, you don’t have birth stories to share. Your kids, as often as people tell you they do, don’t have your nose or stature. Your family heritage is complicated at best. Your kids’ health histories are more blank than you’d like them to be. Your stretch marks have nothing to do with pregnancy. And your growing hips aren’t a result of child bearing. They’re just growing.
Like so many situations we all deal with, if you haven’t lived it, you haven’t lived it. And if you haven’t lived it, you don’t understand what comes with the experience. That’s okay friends. It really is. But as an “infertile,” I’d like to offer suggestions on how to approach us with perhaps more intentionality when it comes to our existence. Not because you’re doing it wrong, but because we all deserve to be understood for our own places in the world. This just happens to be one of mine.
To simplify my rant, I’d like to offer a list of 5 phrases to avoid when chatting with “infertiles.”
- Oh girl, you’re not missing out on a thing. Pregnancy is the worst. Well intentioned, but not giving birth or raising a child that was created between my husband and myself? We’re missing out on more than I can wrap my mind around. Pregnancy might feel like the worst, but NO pregnancies is worser. It’s a word.
- I know your kids are adopted, but they look SO much like you! Again, I know your heart is pure with this one. Just please stop saying it. The uncomfortable head nod and grimace I offer is not my favorite.
- Did you guys TRY to get pregnant? None. Of. Your. Business.
- My sister’s cousin’s hair dresser thought she was infertile and as soon as they started the adoption process, BOOM pregnant! This one friends? It’s a “I want to punch you in your well meaning face” comment. Good for your sister’s cousin’s hair dresser, but she’s not me and I don’t care about her surprisingly fertile womb. Cut it out.
- God just clearly wanted you to adopt and if you got pregnant, you wouldn’t have these amazing kids. God’s plan for our family is far too personal for anyone to make a claim over. He DID want us to raise our kids and that’s very appropriate to say. But please don’t talk to me about God’s plan for my body because that’s between God and me. High horse dismounted.
How about 5 things you CAN say? I’d hate to leave you in the face of a high horse after all.
- Infertility must be really hard to navigate. Yes maam. Yes it is and thank you for recognizing that and seeing me.
- You have such a beautiful family. Thank you.
- I would love to hear more about journey some time. I’m sure you have a lot of wisdom and hurt you can share. I sure do. I appreciate you acknowledging that. I would love to hear more about YOUR journey as well.
- If I’m in your circle of conversation, maybe avoid your birth story or pregnancy related details. It’s a common occurrence, but after 17 years, it still causes me to look down and close my eyes. Every. Single. Time.
- You’re invited to the baby shower, but please know that we understand if it’s not a place you’re comfortable being a part of. Man would those words have been a gift or the 358 baby showers I’ve attended. I wouldn’t have gone to any of them if they were. I have my own ways of celebrating pregnancies for the people I love. Showers are not one.
That’s what I have for you today. Thanks for your ear.