My company planned a big ole celebration for our 20th anniversary across our offices scattered hither and yon. Tents, champagne, shrimp, you know, the usual (sarcasm font). Our CEO chose to attend our party and as we rode the escalator down to the tents on the lawn, he began asking me about our latest infertility update.
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 as they witnessed us go through an IUI, a canceled IVF cycle, and a failed IVF cycle. It had been a downright horrible year and in that moment, we were days away from starting another (our final) IVF cycle. I was scared but hopeful.
There we were. CEO, co-founder of a Fortune Top 100 company, and me, an ordinary infertile girl with a bloated steroid-induced belly trying to focus on the fantastic party and not on being infertile when he says…
“You know, you should just adopt. Then you’ll get pregnant!”
When my boss, a man who had so graciously and unnecessarily chosen to stand witness to my infertility journey, rattles off an incredibly insensitive cliche and statistically inaccurate infertility quip, I did the only thing I could do.
Laughed with him.
And gave him grace.
Infertiles hear all kinds of wonderful, well-meaning, awkward cliches.
“Just relax! It’ll happen when you’re not trying!”
“Once you have one, you’ll have more 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 just to be clear, adoption is not…NOT…the cure to infertility.)
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 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 to these well-meaning but hurtful statements so you stand there together in awkward silence.
Unfortunately, we can’t always stop our mouths from saying regrettable things before our brain has time to process it. These moments are our awkward but well-meaning attempts to let someone facing the hard and unsettling in life know, you are seen because we are choosing to stand witness to your struggle.
So my precious infertile sisters, in those moments when you are facing someone’s misplaced blunder as they try to reassure you, here’s how we can respond…
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 hit with advice and cliches and misplaced scripture, when we realize the person standing before us knows they have said the wrong thing in trying to care for you and remind you they see you and your struggle, we cover them with grace.
First, Smile…Maybe lay a hand on their shoulder, give them a hug, squeeze their hand. Genuinely, honorably 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 their words with as much dignity as possible.
Ask Them About Themselves…Don’t just change the subject to any old topic. And hard NO to the weather. Honor them. Ask them how they are doing. Talking about yourself is comfortable for most so cover them with grace and ask about their life.
Bless Them…Encourage them with your words, your prayers, your actions. Do not allow an awkward moment to take root in your heart, grow and 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 was none. Cover them with grace.
Nothing about infertility is easy-breezy or obviously simple and we are rarely surrounded by women who have walked the path before us.
One in eight couples struggle with infertility and that leaves seven of those couples enjoying success with some Marvin Gaye and candlelight. And for that, for so few women who have been through what you are experiencing, I am incredibly grateful.
Honor those seven couples who can never understand what you are walking through. They see you, they want to help, but even well-meaning can become hurtful instead of helpful. Honor them, and their hearts seeking to bear witness, above yourself.
And cover them with 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.