My company planned a big ole celebration for our 20th anniversary. Tents, champagne, shrimp. I spent weeks crafting emails with news and fun trivia about the world as it had been when our co-founders started the company. We even had a playlist of songs from those early days. None of those things, with the exception of the champagne, concerned our CEO. He was more of a swoop in, wow the crowd with his charm, and zoom back out quickly sort of a guy.
My first season with the company was spent in Oklahoma working in the executive office. Once Dr accepted a job in Texas, I was able to transfer to the main office here. And here, I got to work in a big, tall, fancy building like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl minus the whole lying to get the job part. When the CEO came into town, I got to be his assistant for the day. So that day, the day of the 20th-anniversary celebration, was no different.
As we rode down the escalator, he began asking me about our latest infertility treatments. Over the previous year, he and his wife had been following along with our journey, including asking us to keep them updated on treatments, costs, and progress. They had been incredibly gracious with every email and sweet note.
There we were. CEO, founder of the company, a company on the Fortune Top 100 list, employing close to 12,000 people nationwide, and me, an assistant just trying to keep up. And then he says…
“You know, you should just adopt. Then you’ll get pregnant!”
When my boss, our company co-found and CEO, the man fourth on my most respected list (behind my husband, my dad, and my brother) rattles off an incredibly insensitive cliche and statistically inaccurate infertility quip, I did the only thing I could do.
Laughed it off. And gave him grace.
(Just to be clear, adoption is not…NOT…the cure to infertility.)
Infertiles hear all kinds of wonderful, well-meaning, awkward cliches.
“Just relax! It’ll happen when you’re not trying!”
“Once you have one, the floodgates will open and you’ll have more kids easily!”
“God’s timing is best.”
“Just drink the water around here!”
“Oh, you are so lucky! I’ve been tired for five years straight!”
“Be glad you don’t have to deal with THIS.” (Points to whatever their kid is doing)
“Just get drunk and do it in the back of the car. Works for teenagers!”
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Really. Please don’t Jesus juke my ovaries. Thankyouverymuch.
And right about now, you are either feeling awful because you’ve said one of those things or you are giving me a virtual high-five because these things have been said to you.
To the first group, it’s okay! Really. We realize you don’t know what to say and so you say the first thing that comes to mind.
To the second group, it’s okay! Really. We know you don’t know how to respond and so you smile and nod and stand there in awkward silence.
And my precious infertile sisters, on those days when we get more advice than we can shake a stick at and you’re looking for something to help with that gigantic pool of awkward you find yourself standing in, here’s how we need to be in those moments…
Cover them with grace.
“Honor one another above yourselves.” ~Romans 12:10b
The Message says, “Practice playing second fiddle.” And that’s sweet music to my Southern heart.
When we are faced with advice and cliches and misplaced scripture, here’s what we need to do…
Maybe lay a hand on their shoulder. Smile, genuinely, honorably, and thank them for their concern. Cover them with grace.
Change the Subject…
They only said that cliche because they don’t know what else to say. Cover them with grace and allow them to back away from the cliche with as much dignity as possible.
Ask Them About Themselves…
Don’t just try to talk about the weather. Honor them. Ask them how they are doing. Talking about yourself is comfortable for most. Cover them with grace and ask about their life.
Encourage them with your words, your prayers, your actions. Do not allow an awkward moment to take root in your heart. It will grow there. Roots that might turn into bitterness or anger. Pray over that before it ever happens. Don’t assign that precious soul, the image bearer of God, malice where there is none. Honor them with prayers and words and actions covered, dripping, soaking in a sea of grace.
Nothing about infertility is easy-breezy or obviously simple and we are rarely surrounded by women who have walked the path before us. And for that, the last part there, so few women who have been through what you are experiencing, for that, I am so incredibly grateful. One in eight couples will struggle with infertility and that leaves seven of those couples enjoying success with some Marvin Gaye and candlelight. So very thankful for them.
Those seven couples can never understand what you are walking through. Somedays, you barely understand. Honor those couples above yourself. Outdo them in honor, play second fiddle, cover them with grace.
Sticky, authentic, relationship-healing grace.
October is all about infertility and emptiness here. This is the second in this month’s series on How to Be Infertile. Find the first, the Do’s and Don’t here. The first of the month we discussed our purpose in the midst of infertility and a lesson on moving from striving to rest and last week, my prayer for the emptiness here.