I’m sure you don’t mean it that way

I probably mentioned this a few posts back, when I wrote about dealing with other people’s reaction to your pregnancy without them knowing the details of your infertility.  I am very gratefully cruising along at week 24 now and thinking about what I would say to other women with infertility to comfort them.  In my thoughts about this one phrase kept coming back to me – not one that I would ever say, but one that I’ve heard from other infertile women is one of the most said, most well-meaning, but most hurtful things you could ever hear, especially from another woman, about how to get pregnant.

“It happens when you stop thinking about it.”

No, no it doesn’t.  Because when you’re infertile, you’re always thinking about it.  And before you knew you were infertile, you were always thinking about it because you might have been using contraception to make sure it didn’t happen.  And for the months, maybe years, of trying, you were always thinking about it, even when you vowed not to think about it.  And if you’re still trying, someone telling you, “Relax and stop thinking about it,” is also a terrible, worthless piece of advice – because if only it were that simple, you think, we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.

The phrase usually pops up in the thread of conversation that starts “Was it planned?”  That’s another stupid question that deserves its own post, and I can say that it’s stupid because I’ve actually used that question in the last week and felt utterly stupid for it, and stupid for lacking any better conversational tool to converse with a new first-time expectant father.  The “planning” question I’m not really sure how to answer, because the answer in my heart is no.  No, I had just given up, as a matter of fact, isn’t what people want to hear though it’s the truth.  No, it’s against all odds that it even happened and here’s why, is just as awkward.  Yes, but it was still a surprise, is confusing and hard to explain.  But the people asking if it was planned are actually looking to see how prepared you are / were (though I’m sure some of them are gossipers genuinely curious about your family planning status).  Sure, I’m prepared for this – as prepared as you could ever be, mentally, emotionally, financially.  But that’s not how the question is asked, and that’s how the question is answered.  It’s answered with, “Kinda.  We tried for a long time and had just given up.”

Then comes the sage nod.  “Mmm-hmm.  It happens when you stop thinking about it.”

In my case, yes, there is a grain of truth to that.  But it wasn’t because I wasn’t thinking about it.  I was thinking that whole time, “It’s never going to happen.  I might as well begin finding other ways to focus my energy.”  You tell me, ladies, is that the same as putting it out of your mind?  No, it’s not.  It was the abandonment of hopes, wishes, and prayers.  It was a dark place no one talks about and even harder, sometimes shameful, to work through.  And someone who says quite innocently, “It happens when you’re not thinking about it,” has never been to that place and probably has no idea that you were ever there.

So if it’s said to you, infertilites, understand there is ignorance in this world about infertility.  Brush it off, because it wasn’t meant to hurt you.  And never, ever wish that dark place on anyone else.

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3 thoughts on “I’m sure you don’t mean it that way

  1. Thank you. I hate that phrase with all my being. I’m new here, and i’m hoping to share my experiences with people too and your blog has reminded me of all the things you shouldnt say to a woman TTC. So thank you 🙂

  2. I’m an IF who has been struggling with inconsiderate things said to me by family members the most recent being my little sister a few days before she had her second child she sent a text message saying “I pray the Lord takes away your desire and want for a child” then my family uses her pregnancy as a reason for her comment. I think in general fertiles shouldn’t give advice to infertiles they can’t begin to understand the journey we have been on.

  3. Here are a couple of comments my wife has received:
    — “Why don’t you just adopt, being pregnant is awful.”
    — “If you really want kids, you can take ours for the weekend. haha”

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