How Not to Alienate your Infertile Friends (at the terrible Steak restaurant)
Imagine that you and a good friend have decided to go out to dinner together. You both order a steak dinner, complete with a side of mashed potatoes, (or any other delicious meal you can imagine). As you are waiting for your food to arrive, you both talk excitedly about how good this dinner will be. After about ten minutes, your food comes… but your friend’s meal doesn’t. As you start to eat (because you have no manners in this story), your friend still waits, now watching you eat your meal. After you have finished your meal, your friend still doesn’t have any food, and, in fact, is told by the restaurant to come back tomorrow, maybe they will get their meal then.
That would be very frustrating for your friend, would it not? To imagine having to watch someone else eating the exact meal that you wanted, while not getting it, is difficult for any person to endure.
But people struggling with infertility have to do this ALL the time. Every time someone around them gets pregnant, someone who is still waiting their turn has to endure seeing someone else get something that they desperately wanted… and just having to wait and watch.
If you can really soak in this analogy, all conversations with people who you know are infertile will go better for you (and for them).
My number one frustration during the four years that my husband and I struggled to build our family was people who were pregnant or who had kids who complained to me about all the problems they had because of the kids. Seriously?
It’s one thing if you don’t know someone is trying to get pregnant, but if you know, why would you think that we are a great audience to hear how miserable your heartburn, your morning sickness, or your swollen ankles are? No. Not us. Pick someone else to complain about how this amazing blessing of childbearing is difficult while we wish that we could do something, anything, to have your “miseries.”
Let’s revisit the steak dinner again, to see how insane comparable conversations are, with the infertile being the hungry restaurant customer, and the pregnant/person with children playing the part of the person with the steak dinner.
How well would these statements go over? “Oh, this steak really could have used more salt!” “I ordered medium rare, they brought me medium, this is so hard to eat.” Or while walking out, you, the well eaten friend, says, “It’s okay you didn’t get your steak, it really wasn’t as good as it looked.” Or, “I actually kind of miss the feeling I had before I ate, I am so full now, you are so lucky you didn’t have to eat tonight.”
Do you see?
Complaining about your kids or pregnancy doesn’t feel the same to people who want that experience, but have never had it.
Telling someone who is struggling to get pregnant that their life is better without kids… is just… rude. It is so easy to say these things from the other side, when you are a parent, but before you get there, they don’t feel great.
(Also, most well meaning advice about relaxing, getting things checked, essential oils, exercising, your new yoga class, etc. are not appreciated either — unless we ask, then by all means, give us something we might not have thought of).
So, you might be asking, what the heck can you say? It’s simple.
Just be there with us. Keep us company. Talk about anything not baby related. Anything you would do or say to the person who didn’t have your steak dinner.
And for the record we are happy you got your food. We didn’t want us both to sit there hungry, we wanted to eat together. Just, with us, struggling to be happy while also jealous of you, strive for a humble thankfulness for your gift.
“My steak is good. Did you see last week’s episode of ‘The Good Place’? I love that show!” ← This, in a nutshell, is how to handle your pregnancy (or kids) with people who you know are trying to get pregnant. You can say how things are going, keep it brief, mostly positive, and then relate to us as friends. Sympathize with us, as best you can, if we bring it up. Otherwise, I personally found that the best thing people could do for me during those years was to help me focus on the good that I could enjoy.
Remember, your friendship started before any kids entered the picture, and if you want it to continue after, you would be wise to remember that you are eating steak. And they get air.