Lucky Things Wellbeing: What not to say to someone who’s going through IVF…

Hello there. If you’ve had a mooch around Lucky Things blog, you’ll know that we went through IVF to get Big Munch and Baby Munch. As a kid I really didn’t enjoy science that much but little did I know it would help our dream to come true one day. It was funny as it was one of my close school mates Mummy HK (who’s also a space scientist) who told me “It will be ok, it’s physics, because of your operation things just need some help to get to the right places and you can get that help”. In one sentence she changed my view of IVF. It wasn’t something you did to confirm you couldn’t have children. IVF was about giving it a go with the hope that it could actually work despite the odds. So my friend said the right thing at the right time and in the right way. I was lucky to have some very very supportive friends who joined us on my first secret IVF journey.

Whilst being interviewed for The Early Hour recently, one of questions Annie Ridout asked me reminded me about how some people weren’t really sure what to say or do when we told them we couldn’t have babies the ‘normal’ way.

People can feel very unsure of how to respond or react to your situation. It may not be their fault and maybe they feel it’s better to say something than nothing. Some also may feel that their opinions or words will suddenly make you feel better. It’s hard as they will never know what you’re really feeling and going through as everyone’s situation is different. I hope this post is helpful for anyone who may have a close one, colleague or acquaintance who finding out more about their fertility or infertility, is going through IVF or who may be thinking about starting the process themselves.

So, here are some thoughts on WHAT NOT TO SAY to someone who is going through IVF or dealing with the unknowns of infertility.

  1. “Kids are over-rated, it’s not all that great having kids”. When you’ve always imagined yourself as a mummy or daddy, it’s also because you want to enjoy life with little ones. Nothing can be over-rated or under-rated when it’s your dream.
  2. “Having kids changes your life. You don’t get any sleep, you don’t have time for each other. If you guys don’t end up having kids think of all the sleep you’ll get!” Talking about any tougher times with kids doesn’t make someone stop wanting them or feel better about not having them. Parenting is all about getting through the ups and downs. It’s part of the deal. As my mum says “you never stop worrying about your kids”. Me and Mr H have been realistic that things aren’t going to be perfect just because you’re a parent.
  3. “Don’t worry, be positive. Maybe one day it will just happen without the IVF!” Sure there are wonderful stories of couples who are just about to embark on the IVF journey and then they end up falling pregnant naturally. The funny thing is that you may not know about someone’s biological set up (!) so unless they have the right treatment it may never happen. For me, IVF had to happen for me to get pregnant.
  4. “Hey look on the bright side, if you don’t have kids you can go on lots of exciting holidays and you can travel the world”. When something like fertility has been taken away from you it’s a kind of loss. You may not feel like looking at the bright side. You have to get on with your life and yes holiday do help to give you rest. When you always expected to be a mummy or daddy one day you always imagine a life with little ones around. Me and Mr H had thought about moving abroad or spending at least a few months in Berlin if it was unlikely we could have kids. We had no idea what the tests would tell us. We needed a plan B to distract us from the infertility heartache. But you can never really escape the desire to be a parent. Whoever you are and wherever you are in the world you would constantly be reminded of others enjoying the simple things in family life. Also, just because you have kids doesn’t always stop you from travelling and exploring new places. Taking our littles ones to Asia and Melbourne last Christmas to see family will be one of the best things we will ever do. It depends who you are as a grown-up but you can also enjoy new things and new places together as a little family.
  5. “So why exactly can’t you have kids again? Why do you have to do fertility tests? What causes infertility?” People will be curious for all kinds of reasons. You never know, maybe they’ve struggled themselves to have children. If you don’t already know the reason why someone can’t get pregnant easily (if there’s such a thing!), then think twice about asking for the details and asking too many questions. This is not the time to be a detective. People will tell you about the ins and outs of what’s going on if they really want to. Remember some people may not have any answers for their infertility which can be equally as painful. I remember someone asking me about why exactly why I needed to have an operation and exactly what caused this problem. It felt very isolating at the time and made me feel very self-conscious. It wasn’t the caring approach I’d expected from someone who loved being a mum. But to be honest people may not always be aware of how they’re coming across or know how to ask questions in a more sensitive way. I felt that she just wanted to know the facts or information. If you know someone really well you will obviously know how to ask questions in the right way.
  6. “Maybe this just wasn’t meant to be or whatever will be will be.” Crikey, this could imply someone isn’t entitled to be a parent or it’s something to do with fate. When you’re dealing with rocky fertility journeys you still want something although it might be hard to achieve or you need to ‘take a different mode of transport’ to get there.
  7. “But you have so much going for you and you have each other”. Yes it’s important to be grateful for all of the wonderful things we have in life, especially when you have a great partner. But other things like status, material things and material success can mean nothing when you realise you might not be able to enjoy or experience life as a mummy or a daddy. Also when you’re desperate to become a parent, it’s hard to stop wanting that one thing. After all, being a parent is such a common role for many so why not want the same thing others have?

Thanks for taking a look at this post. As time goes on, I’ll be writing a bit more about IVF and our journey. I guess in the hope that it might help someone else’s journey or others who want to support someone who is going through it. Or maybe it will just give others a different perspective on the whole IVF thing. Do leave a little comment if you would like to share any thoughts. I’d really love to know what you think.

If you’d like learn more about our story, take a look at the IVF: A Woman’s Journey from Infertile to Mother article when you get a chance.

Catch up again soon LT crew, Sunita x

(Pic on this post is one of my street art photographs from Shoreditch, October 2015. Mr H knew that spotting street art was one of my little artistic sanctuaries during our 5 year infertility-IVF journey.)

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6 thoughts on “Lucky Things Wellbeing: What not to say to someone who’s going through IVF…

    • Sunita says:

      Thanks Vicki. I know! Some people don’t realise how much their words can affect how people feel. I guess when people are curious they don’t always put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Just on my way home from #BML16 Friday Fringe drinks. What a lovely night. See you tomorrow! Xx

  1. Manni says:

    Thanks for the heads up as I currently have another friend struggling with fertility and it’s always difficult knowing what or what not to say.

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