Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Talking about Infertility: 7 Things NOT to Say

I wrote several months ago that I’m in a good place right now with our inability to conceive children. I’m perfectly happy and content as a wife and have no depression, anger, discouragement, or “why me?” syndrome going on. Seriously, should we ever be blessed with children, yay! I do pray for the grace of children; I would love to be a mother. But if not, then that’s totally okay, too.

Despite the fact I’m not angsty and upset about it anymore, I do continue to receive frequent advice, comments, and questions from well-meaning people who are more upset about my infertility than I am. They’re upset that I’m not upset, and by golly they want to fix me.

For the most part, I can brush off the barbs, but the awkwardness is harder to get around.

I do not share the following thoughts as a tirade against well-meaning busybodies. But I don’t think those without infertility issues are aware of the effects of their comments, and I don’t think most people know precisely what to say (or not to say) to a young bride who possibly can’t have children.

From my experiences over the last few years, here are the most hurtful and unhelpful things to say to a woman who is bearing the cross of infertility:

1. Advice of any kind
Giving unwarranted advice on any matter is not a good idea. Infertility is no different.

Did the woman ask you for advice?
I have never asked anyone other than my husband, doctors and Creighton practitioner for advice about infertility, and yet many people feel it necessary to contribute their two cents. This is the most intimate and personal of all subjects, please refrain from giving unrequested advice.

Do you regularly discuss a woman's ovaries, cycles, fertility signs, and methods of intercourse?
Do you have no shame? Even if I didn’t struggle with infertility, I would never wish to discuss these topics. Ever. Never. My inability to conceive shouldn’t make these topics fair game for coffee conversation. Please have a little modesty.

2. Advice Disguised in the form of the Question:
What you say: “Have you tried...?”
What I hear: "Run for the hills!! Awkward and possibly x-rated question about to ensue!"

Very closely related to the advice of any kind, but much more pernicious, is posing advice in the form of the question: "Have you tried...?"

Originally, for the purpose of sharing exactly how tactless, crass, and downright lewd people can be when speaking to women struggling with infertility, I intended to share a sampling of the “friendly advice” I’ve been given prefaced by “Have you tried?”

Upon second thought, however, it would be worthless to expose the comments except for their shock value. Truly, you would not believe some of it. Suffice it to say I’ve been asked, by very well-meaning but misguided people, if my husband and I have ever tried all sorts of various maneuvers I blush to think of.

Am I supposed to or even allowed to answer "yes"? Do you really want to know the answers? Am I supposed to answer at all? Can I just pretend you didn't ask me those questions?

3. "I just heard about.... (fill in the blank)... and immediately thought of you."

It's a nuanced hybrid of the "Have you tried?" and the unwanted advice with an additional humiliation.

"I just heard about this (doctor, method, theory, pill, shot, cream, herb, hormone, supplement, gel, suppository), and immediately thought of you."

Imagine yourself in this situation: someone comes up to you in a public place, rests a hand tenderly on your arm, looks deeply into your eyes, is positively bursting with excitement, and says with the most eager anticipation possible, "I just heard from one of my friends who read an article in a magazine about your condition. There's this gel cap suppository for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the second I heard about it, I thought right of you!"

Really? Does that instantly conjure up my image in your mind?

It's humiliating to know that there are a large number of people who, whenever they see a progesterone cream, instantly think of me. What's worse is that they tell me about it over the holy water font after Mass.

Please know that, as infertility effects me so personally and deeply, I have done exhaustive research on this subject. I know you just heard about this (fill in the blank), I'm grateful that you want to help, but I've eaten, slept and breathed this topic for years. If I haven't heard about it (which hasn't yet been the case), I trust my doctor has and I'll discuss it with him soon. But please... next time you see a daisy, think of me.

4. Religious Consolation
What you say: “It'll happen in God's time.”
What I hear: "You don't trust God." "You're not patient enough." "I have insider knowledge that He will eventually give you children."

This statement shouldn’t  be taken harshly, because the person who says it is almost always a well-meaning little old lady. But it can be very hard to hear, for while intended to be consoling, it’s actually quite loaded. It assumes:

- that you know what God will or will not do for me (He WILL grant you children, just not right now)
- that I'm not accepting His will for me right now
- that I'm not being patient because I dare to desire children now instead of waiting passively

We will die in God’s time. It will rain in God’s time. Everything happens in God’s time. You’re actually stating the obvious and it’s not really relevant to the conversation. It gives hope for something that may never happen, and berates the woman in the meantime. Far from being helpful and consoling, this statement used to rile my feathers more than most of the others. Now I just smile and nod.

5. Affirming the Gift of Life While Insinuating…?
What you say: "Being infertile must really make you understand that children are a gift, hm?"
What I hear: "Kids are a gift and you ain't got ‘em."

This is actually a new one, and yet I’ve heard it more than a few times in recent months. Well, yes, I am in a unique position to understand that reality more than most people. And… so… you've been given several gifts and I've got none... what's your point? How exactly would you like me to respond?

6. The Creighton Cure-All
What you say: “You should try NaPro Technology!”
What I hear: “You’ve been living under a rock for the last decade. Let me be the first to tell  you about this new wonder method that can fix absolutely anything and is 100% Church approved.”

Yes, there are probably some Catholics who have never heard of Dr. Hilgers, the Pope Paul VI Institute, the Creighton Model System, or NaPro Technology. These are the same Catholics who couldn’t tell you the name of the current pope, what time Mass is this Sunday, or who painted the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Of course I’ve heard of it, and not that it’s really any of your business, but yes of course I’m using it.

I truly have a great deal of respect for Dr. Hilgers, the Pope Paul VI Institute, and all of the work that they’re doing. Dr. Hilgers boasts a much greater-than-average success rate and has helped thousands of couples with a wide range of gynecological issues. NaPro Technology is not, however, a wonder cure or the panacea it is so often lauded to be.

I think too often people place far too much hope onto a method, a man, or a medicine. Success rates of 70% still mean 30% can’t be helped. And for those who fall in the 30% category, hearing people who have never had fertility issues (or even from those who have) lauding, hailing, praising and placing implicit faith in the system as “no, it will help you,” is a little hard to bear.

My Experience with the Not-So-Radically-Different Approach of NaPro Technology

I can also say that most people who promote NaPro Technology (especially for infertility) have NO idea what it actually entails.

My devout Catholic, Dr. Hilgers trained, certified Creighton NFP only NaPro technology doctor suggested, as a first round treatment, using birth control pills and fertility drugs. She also recommended my husband to undergo a male fertility test by morally illicit means. Uum… how is that any different from what my secular OB/GYN recommended? I left that appointment so confused, upset, and dismayed that I almost completely threw in the towel on Creighton.

Thankfully we found another Creighton doctor (a few hours away) who uses bioidentical hormone therapies that do not include birth control pills, but he (and Dr. Hilgers) still prescribes fertility drugs. Fertility drugs are not morally problematic at all, but they’re also not any different than what a non-Creighton doctor would do. So in my case of infertility (and there are many different causes of infertility, so this doesn't apply across the board) NaPro technology doesn’t have some hidden bag of tricks unavailable to other doctors, though it’s always publicized and hailed as being radically different. The main difference in my case, as far as I can see, is that Creighton doctors will never push or recommend IVF. And that really is a boon, to be sure.

NaPro Technology might also have a different bag of tricks for other gynecological problems, so I’m not trying to discount it wholesale! I just want to temper the rampant enthusiasm and undying faith that so many people place in this system.

7. Everyone’s Perfect Solution
What you say: “Why don’t you just adopt?”
What I hear: dagger plunge, twist, thrust, rip heart out, leave her there to bleed to death

“Why don’t you just adopt?” Oh, that the answer to all of life’s most crushing pains could be so easily answered by such a simple solution.

“It’s never going to happen for you. Why don’t you just give up all of this nonsense of conceiving a child in the life-giving love of your marriage, growing bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh within your womb for nine months, sacrificing your body while giving birth, nourishing your child with her mother’s milk, bearing a child with your husband’s radiant eyes and sheepish smile… you’ll still have a kid and will be helping someone else out, too!”

Adoption is a calling, it’s not a fallback plan when all other methods fail. You don’t tell a woman in her mid thirties who hasn’t found a spouse yet, “Why don’t you just become a nun? Clearly you’ll never find a man so why don’t you just give up, give of yourself and go don the veil?”

Of course it’s a worthy call! Of course it’s a good thing to do! But you can’t guilt a noble calling upon someone because the desire of her heart isn’t happening.

Adoption doesn’t cure infertility, it eliminates childlessness. Something very real… entirely integral to what it means to be a woman, the primary purpose of her marriage, the centrality of her very being, is lost by the inability to conceive and bear children, to procreate. You can’t just plop a baby on her lap and expect everything to be all better.

And you know what? Maybe we do want to adopt. Maybe it is our calling. But your question requires a response I may just not want to give you.

The question proposes a quick and easy solution for a process that is far from quick and easy. The question assumes we can handle wait lists (especially for infants) that could last several years. The question assumes we are prepared for an adoption that can fall through at the last second, causing unspeakable emotional agony. The question assumes we have a separate bedroom in our house and a stable enough income to pass the home study. The question assumes we have the $30,000+ required to adopt. Let me open my house, my bank statements, and my heart to you to answer your “simple solution” question.

Adoption isn’t as easy as going to the local group home, picking up a cheery cherub and taking her home. That’s what your question makes it sound like. Please, don’t think a) your simple solution hasn’t occurred to us, or b) your simple solution is, in fact, so simple.

So What DO You Say?

Must you say anything at all? Tragic as its malfunctioning is, I don’t really see how my reproductive system should ever be our topic of conversation. But I assure you, if I ever do need to talk about it, I’ll broach the subject with you, my dear friend… my sister… my mother… not you, a casual acquaintance in a chance meeting.

No, I feel the need to say something. Alright, if you must say something, then please let it be a simple but empathetic:

“I’m praying for you,”

especially if you actually are. I would never turn down a prayer! I truly appreciate them. I cherish them. I live on them.


Comments are open for now. If I start receiving advice, suggestions, corrections, or any other unwanted feedback, I’ll have to close them ;). Thanks!


Jennifer said...

I had no idea people were so insensitive! Of course I'll pray for you!!  I have been on your end also.  Keep the smile on your face and know that it is between you and your husband (and your doctor).  God Bless you!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thanks, Jennifer!! :)

Cheryle said...

Definitely praying for you!!!  And sending you some cyber hugs and warm thoughts.  

Amanda said...

I have so been there, but it was over a different issue. Try being a traditional Catholic single mother! :-). Also, try being that at the conservative Catholic school where we taught. Although most people were very well meaning, I did get asked a lot of very personal questions that I wouldn't have chosen to share with just everyone. Haha, and I did get offers to help me find a husband! :-). When my husband and I started dating I really felt like every move I made was being judged. I learned to just try to blow things off and realize that most of the questions were well meaning by people who just didn't know what to say. The ones who were just plain nosey I avoided! I can't imagine being asked or told some of the things people have said to you! God love you for enduring that! One good thing I found, though. Situations like that really show you the good people as well as the less than desirable. For every judgmental or nosey comment, I experienced way more charitable and loving people - more than I thought I would experience! I also saw the good character of people that I might not have otherwise realized had that outstanding character. :-). (There are a lot of good people at the school where we taught!). God bless you and your husband, and know that we will pray for you!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so much, Cheryle :).

Joy Beyond the Cross said...

Great post!  I don't think I have commented before, but I started reading your blog a a month or so ago and have enjoyed it.  As someone who struggled with 2 miscarriages and 2 years of subsequent infertility, followed this current pregnancy, I appreciate so much of this post.  It reminded me of a post I wrote a few months back about one of my least favorite responses that people say when talking of things like this (e.g., in the event you are sharing your heart about infertility, etc.)...."I know how you feel!", when in fact the person has most often NOT actually been in the same situation.  Oh my, that has irked me on and off through the years, because I feel like it shuts down the conversation as it negates what you are going through and yes, is often followed by "Have you tried X, Y, and Z?" - which you did mention.  So no, this comment is NOT saying "I know how you feel", I don't know....everyone has their own unique journey, but I will indeed pray for you.  If you are interested in reading that post, here is a link.

In Christ, 
Marie (JBTC)

Jenna St. Hilaire said...



Adoption is something I seriously consider, not something my husband and I have ruled out. But sometimes people--especially mothers--don't seem to understand why I'd want to go through the awkward, embarrassing, painful, uncomfortable and difficult process of carrying my own child. I don't dare tell them that I'm actually more envious of the pregnant moms than the ones chasing small fry. I'm more terrified of that process than anything I could do short of skydiving, but I feel like less of a woman for having never done it.

Also, I'm too squicked out to use some of those NFP words in front of my own husband. The thought of going to a fertility doctor, Catholic or otherwise, scares me half to death. :P

But those who say "I'm praying for you" have never failed to comfort me.

Tanya said...

My husband and I are in a similar situation. We are dealing with what they lovingly call 'undiagnosed Infertility'. I agree with everything you have said 100%. My husband and I fully believe in God's timing and we are completely content with the life we have been given. Praying for you!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Hi Marie!

I read your excellent post and definitely agree. Thank you so much for the prayers (and the kind comment)!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Oh goodness, yes, Jenna! I've definitely gotten the "why on earth would you want to be pregnant when you can just adopt?" This topic could fill a whole series.

Thank you so much for your prayers, and I'm praying for you too :).

priest's wife said...

It is so true- people are so OPEN about conversation...I could see where a real friend and in a private setting might ask some of these questions...but random people who don't know your middle name? Nope- it is personal!

Kristen Herrett said...

I have been there. I have heard them. I was blessed (especially since there is no Creighton doctor within 100 miles of me) to have a definite anatomical cause to my infertility (and chronic miscarriages when I was able to conceive) that could easily, surgically and ethically be corrected. But I endured so much of this well-meaning "advice" I came to despise certain people approaching me. 

The adoption thing really rankled me too not only because it's not as easy as we think but because (and this still bothers me about it) NO ONE ever says that to fertile couples. As if adoption is only a calling for those unable to conceive. 

I am praying for you. :) (the only honest and nice thing you can say)

Jennie C. said...

I'm blessed with several dear friends who have suffered either miscarriages or infertility, and they do occasional choose to talk about it, and they always do so tearfully.  It's a most painful thing for a woman to have to deal with.  I can't imagine ever, ever bringing it up FOR them, but when they do, I just offer a sympathetic ear and a hug, and always a prayer.  Which I offer for you now, too, Farmer's City Wife.

But Jennifer, you sure did make me laugh with that whole "I had no idea people were so insensitive!" bit.  :-)  I'm in the opposite position, having more children than is usual nowadays, and those same strangers want to talk about my sex life, too!  I think too many people are desensitized the very sensitive nature of our sexuality and they honestly have no idea what it is they're really asking.  Or maybe they spend too much time on FB and actually believe that everything that pops into their heads is really worth saying.  :-)

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so much for your kind words and your prayers, Tanya! :)

Farmer's City Wife said...

LOL! The middle name would be a good litmus test for whether or not I open up to them ;). Yes... many people, in an effort to offer friendly advice, simply have no shame.

Farmer's City Wife said...

Yes, I hear you on the assumption that adoption is only for infertile couples. I mean, it does seem like an obvious solution so I can't fault those who think it -- but not having experienced or seriously analyzed it, they don't quite understand the pain and frustration that particular comment can cause.

Thank you very much for your prayers, Kristen!

Emily B said...

I'm most definitely praying for you!  God bless you!

Farmer's City Wife said...

The cavalier attitude taken towards the most sacred and intimate subjects is really disturbing, but I'm afraid it's part of the culture and unless we can get a nation-wide study of Theology of the Body going, I suspect it's here to stay :-\.

Thank you so much for your prayers and kind words, Jennie!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so very much, Emily! :)

Farmer's City Wife said...

Gah! The cavalier manner in which people speak about the most sacred and intimate topics is so disturbing, but I'm afraid it's part of the culture. Unless we can get a nationwide study of Theology of the Body going, I suspect it's here to stay, too. Bleh!

Thanks so much for your kind words and your prayers, Jennie!

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

...and I'm glad you know you have my prayers even when I forget to say it. Truly, you do. :)

Moni said...

Thank you for your honesty and openness in talking about this topic, and also for bringing a new sight and clarity to the issue for me - I have been in the position of having someone's infertility brought up and had NO idea what to say (and hopefully enough tact not to say anything.)
Offering up a prayer for you and your husband! 

Farmer's City Wife said...

You're so welcome, Moni. Thank you for your kind comment and prayers; we really do appreciate them! :)

Pattie said...

I had never read your blog before a friend shared this on FB.  I don't think that people are being insensitive...they just don't know what to say.  Recently, a friend of mine lost a baby inutero and at first I was so scared that I would say the wrong thing.  Then I did exactly what my heart told me to do and that was to go to her and pray with her and her family.  Most of the advice being given, I believe, is a fear of not knowing what to say.  Hear what they are truly saying to you...I care about you, I want the best for you, I am praying for you, I desperately want you to be able to concieve.  Recieve them into your heart knowing what it is that they are truly saying.

Claire said...

When I was (unsuccessfully) trying to conceive, I hated it when people recommended Naprotechnology.  Anyone in Catholic infertility circles has already heard of it, and it wasn't an option for me because I don't live anywhere near a Napro practitioner, and my insurance wouldn't have covered traveling to see Dr. Hilgers.  I tend to doubt that it would have worked for me.  I don't discount that it works wonders for some people, by analyzing their cycles to identify the underlying causes.  But there are so many different causes of infertility that people need to understand that nothing is going to work for everyone all the time.

I have a 3.5 year old son who we adopted as a newborn.  I also used to hate it when people suggested adoption to us, as if this was a unique idea that we had never heard of or considered.  My son is not my consolation prize.  I actually have been drawn to adoption my entire adult life.  Would I have done it if I had been able to conceive (or carry to term on the rare occasion that I did conceive)?  Probably not, because of all the factors you mentioned (cost, risk of a heartwrenching adoption disruption, etc).   So in some ways, I do see my infertility and miscarriages as a gift, because without them I wouldn't have my son, who was worth every twinge of pain that I've ever suffered as a result of infertility.  I find adoption to be equally as miraculous as biological parenting.  I acknowledge that it doesn't take away the desire to experience pregnancy, breastfeeding (and yes, I know that it's possible to nurse and adoptive baby, another suggestion that I hate receiving!), etc.  However,  I couldn't possibly love my son more if he had come to me biologically.   In my case, it was my second choice, but definitely not the second best way to build our family.  However, that doesn't mean that it's for everyone.  Infertile couples shouldn't have to defend why they aren't pursuing adoption.

Leanna said...

I'm praying for you both.

Claire said...

Oh, and I also totally relate to your feelings about the "children are a gift" thing.  I know that children are a gift, but I still wince when people say this.  It does make it seem like maybe God loves people with large families more than he loves me, because he's chosen to give them this gift many times over, where I've only received it once (and I had to wrench it out of his hands...)

Katherine Stroud said...

I wanted to say that this is an awesome post. It really should be shared. I will say up front I have no experience with infertility but I have good friends who have and I know from them that it can be a very difficult situation as well as subject that should not be disregarded as though those who do suffer from it shouldn't but likewise should not be made a matter public discourse. Our diocese just in the last few years began a special ministry just for men and women struggling with infertility. 

From reading this post, and others like it, though, I do think fertility has become a matter of public discourse in general. I speak from the other end of the spectrum having had 4 children in 6 1/2 years of marriage and the comments about "being done" "what causes that" and the like. I think Infertility has become just as much a matter of public discourse as Fertility has. I have a whole theory about why ( but I think it all comes down to contraception. The easy availability of a contraceptive seen on daily commercials and the *choice* to have how many kids when you want, I think, has made fertility in general a very non-challant, "what kind of car do you drive?" type of subject. And even people who do not view children this way can easily fall into using the common language on the subject. (blushing, speaking from experience)

Ever since you said you were happy with where you are right now, I really hadn't thought about the subject in relation to you much at all, even to the point of thinking it was not a problem for me to speak freely about my kids or pregnancy. I know blogs that talk openly about their infertility or fertility and would assume on such blogs the subject is open (though some things still shouldn't be said) but likewise, as you don't really talk about it and said you were content in God's will for you now, I likewise hadn't even thought of the subject with regards to you. So this post caught me a bit by surprise. 

That said, I'll say a prayer for you and hope you don't mind if I share the post on Facebook (and Google + if I can figure out how. :) )

Kate said...

Our prayers for you continue daily!

I may be a little crazy, but growing up in a house with 5 sisters and no secrets, I'm completely comfortable talking about ovaries and hormones and cycles and fertility signs.  To me, there's no shame in what my body does naturally.  I eat, I sleep, I breathe, and I ovulate.  I can comfortably talk about it with my sisters, my husband, and close friends, and should we be blessed with daughters one day they will know that the door is open for any questions or concerns they may have.  But at the same time, I can recognize that not everyone feels the same way, and would never bring up such subjects with a stranger or casual acquaintance.  You never know when you might be ripping the scab off a wound that was just beginning to heal.

Carrie said...

Thanks for this.  I have some friends who bear this cross and I'm embarrassed to admit I've actually said (or maybe implied) a few things you recommend not to say. I'm the type of person who feels like I "have" to say something, that it's my "role" to console or "fix" the situation in any way I know how. I love to "help" people and I realize I may take that too far. You've really put everything into perspective for me, and for all those comments I may have made in the past (which were honestly well-meaning, although definitely misplaced) I do apologize. You have my gratitude and my prayers!

Lisa Gale said...

What is it with people openly delving into your relationship with your spouse immediately after you get married???  As a mom of 2 and pregnant with the 3rd, I get a lot of comments and questions into our private life.  I'm polite enough to smile and nod with strangers and then when I walk away, I do a double-take and wonder why I didn't just let them have it?!?!  (Like the woman after Church who admonished me never to turn into Octo-mom????)  I'm sorry you are experiencing such a slew of insensitivity.  I wish the subject were still a bashful one so strangers would keep the sex-talk to themselves...

And, I am definitely keeping you and your husband in my prayers :)

Erin Flannigan said...

I agree with your view of the Creighton model.  I have been using it for about a year and while my charting has not been horrible, it definitely hasn't been ideal. My NFP instructor has recommended taking progesterone and B6, but I always refused.  At the same time I have been following the Creighton model, I have been seeing a nutrition therapist/chiropractor/Chinese medicine lady (nothing New Agey, still in line with Catholic teaching).  I have been taking whole food supplements in pill form (no side effects, no synthetic isolated vitamins like the B6 recommended by Creighton) that are designed to balance hormones by helping the reproductive organs and endocrine system, etc. function better.  They offer the nutrition we should be getting from eating good food, but in a much more concentrated form.  Well, a few weeks ago I found out I conceived, even though my charting has gotten "worse" (as far as what Creighton wants to see for good fertility) in the last couple of months. It was very much a  (good) surprise to my husband and I.  I honestly put more trust in my nutrition therapist than I do in Creighton right now, especially when she has told me that she has helped women who were going to turn to IVF and I know someone personally that conceived within a month of seeing her that struggled with infertility for 5 years!!
I understand if my comment is too much to handle, but my only intention is to spread the truth about another option that women are not going to hear about from the medical world.  I am not hear to claim that this will work for every woman, but the Creighton model/Na Pro Technology doesn't either.  I think our society trusts the medical world too much today, even well intentioned Catholics following NFP.  I won't completely discredit it, because I have friends who have conceived using Na Pro Technology, but it isn't the only answer. 

I apologize if anything I said was insenstive or offensive, but I will pray for you and your husband.

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment, Claire. I'm so happy for you and your son! :) What a wonderful testament to love.

Farmer's City Wife said...

We really appreciate it. Thank you so much, Leanna :).

Farmer's City Wife said...

Mm hm!! A great consolation to me is that the Blessed Mother only had one, but He was a great one :-D.

Farmer's City Wife said...

I love hearing about pregnancy and children :)... you're right in thinking that I don't take umbrage, offense, or envy by the wonderful stories you share :).

What a blessing that your diocese ministers to infertile couples! :)

Thank you very much for your kind and thoughtful comment, Katherine. I'll work on getting a Google+ button on here today :-D.

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so much for the prayers, Kate!

I think the shame associated with a woman's reproductive system isn't that it's something to be ashamed of in an embarrassing sense, as much as that it's something sacredly beautiful and feminine that shouldn't be discussed willy nilly (which I think you agree with since you don't bring it up with strangers or casual acquaintances). Sleeping and breathing are common to all humanity, but ovulating is unique to women, and obviously intimately tied up with procreation, a sphere that is supernatural, sacred, co-creation with God -- hardly the same as digesting a hamburger.

It's a great gift to be able to speak openly about these topics with the people who deserve to be in on the conversation... one's husband, one's doctor, and as necessary with a wider sphere, but I think the reproductive system, because of its unique position in the sacred act of procreation, deserves the reverence of discretion :).

Just my 2 cents :-D.

Farmer's City Wife said...

What a kind, honest, and gracious comment, Carrie. Thank you very much for this, and especially for your prayers :).

Farmer's City Wife said...

A sadly desensitized culture, I'm afraid. :(

Thank you so much for the prayers, Lisa! We appreciate them so much.

Farmer's City Wife said...

No offense taken on any level, Erin... and much gratitude for the prayers :).


Oh, I agree with you on so many levels. I've been working towards the "real food" movement a la Nourishing Traditions for a little more than a year now. I strayed from it (as you'll see below) at my doctor's recommendation but in the last three months I've gotten back into it much more intensively and besides having lost 15 pounds... things are looking great in other areas as well.

My current diet is precisely the opposite of what my (good) Creighton doctor recommended. He wants me on very little meat and dairy, lots of whole grains, no fat... well, after feeling miserable on that diet for over a year I gave up on it and dove headlong into NT. The excitement over any new diet may just have a placebo effect, but in this case I really don't think so. The weight loss alone is a boon, but it makes more sense to me intellectually as well.

Here's hoping that eventually it will pay off :).

Kate said...

"The reverence of discretion."  I like that, it sums it up perfectly.

The Sojourner said...

I'm praying for you. :)

My baby sister was adopted from the foster care system. Free, almost. Simple, NO.  (There were some court fees for the adoption itself. By the way, it's very nearly impossible to actually make money doing foster care if
you're doing it right; growing kids need lots of food and then they need
lots of clothes, especially if they're doing crazy growth spurts because they'd never had decent nutrition before.)

I agree with above comments (and you) that adoption is a calling...not just something you do automatically because you're infertile. Fertile people do adopt sometimes. Infertile people don't always. (I, personally, want to adopt regardless. Not being married yet, I don't
know for sure whether I'm fertile or not.)

Also, every adoption form I've read (and I've read a lot, looking over my mother's shoulder) has a question to the effective of: "(If infertile:) How have you grieved for your infertility?" You have to do that grieving one way or the other before you can adopt. (Not saying that infertile people who adopt have to be Susy Sunshine about being infertile, but they have to come to terms with it.)

Short version of my comment: No, you can't ever "just" adopt.

Rebecca said...

I have infertility issues too and I know exactly what you mean! I go to a Napro doctor and your right..nothing to special, accept that he isnt going to give me non-Church approved things to do which is awesome. I also found he has a totally different method for how you take the fertility drugs..the doses an ddays are totally unique.

I think one of the hardest things is that people assume yo uare taking birth control and tryintg NOT to have a annoying...and how wrong!

elisabeth33ad said...

New to your blog.  I wish everyone could read about infertility etiquette:

I am a FCP and am appalled and saddened by your experience with your first "NaPro" doc.  I am a huge advocate of the "disease based approach" of NaPro.  That said, it is not the "end all" cure.  IF treatment is invasive and draining and and and...
and we ended up giving up on round two in favor of adoption. 

God bless you!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thanks so much for your prayers, and for sharing your story and ideas :).

Farmer's City Wife said...

Yes... I refrained from the "so when are you two going to start having kids??" question, which I get ALL the time, because the piece was about what not to say to an infertile woman, and I figured most people who ask me that just assume we're contracepting (grrrr).

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Rebecca!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Hi Elisabeth,

Thanks so much for your kind comment! :)

the Bear said...

Gaaaaah!  I think I said two of these very things in our last conversation about this!  I have to echo both Carrie and Pattie's comments.  As soon as the "all in God's time"/"it'll happen someday" came out of my mouth, I knew it was the wrong thing to say.  That's half of the suffering -- not knowing if it will ever happen.  If a person knew one way or the other that no, it will never happen, or yes, it will happen but not for x number of years, it would be a lot easier to deal with.  As it is, it's just an open wound. 

So please forgive me for saying the absolutely wrong thing.  It was only because I was hurting right along with you and wanting to say anything that would help.  I know this blogpost wasn't aimed at me but at the same time I do feel bad for inadvertently saying things that were hurtful and unhelpful.

Thank you for posting this!!  You ought to submit it for formal publication, even if under a pseudonym.  It is extremely well-written and very helpful to someone who hasn't experienced it and has close friends who have.  Especially regarding adoption, most of the things you pointed out had not occurred to me and probably never would have unless I would have suffered these things myself.

God bless you for patiently bearing all the horrid comments from family members, friends, mere acquaintences and complete strangers.

And OF COURSE I am praying for you! 

With love,

the Bear

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so much :). Will call you soon... :).

Molly said...

Very well done post.  I could probably write something similar about what not to say to a mother whose child has died.  I think I have come to terms with the fact that often people just don't know what to say, but they want to say *something* so at times what they do say just isn't what I'd like to hear.  (Believe me, people have said some really, really stupid things to me!)  But then, I've also appreciated the fact that people do try to say something rather than just ignore the topic all together.  (I realize I might not be making sense here.)  :)  I agree that "I'm praying for you" is the best thing to say in so many circumstances!  I am praying for you!  (And I'm not just saying that!)  :)

Maria said...

Oh my goodness, Jenna, please don't feel that way!  (less of a woman for not having kids)  I admire you tremendously and I think you're a great role model of authentic femininity.  That's one of the most striking aspects of your personality, I think -- you seem to glory in your feminine identity and all the beauty and goodness and particular genuis (as JP II called it) consequent upon it, with the clarity and quiet humility that is so lacking in modern feminism.

And I have been praying for you for a long time. <3

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so much for your prayers, Molly! I'm so sorry for your loss, and the added grief of insensitive comments. My husband and I are praying for you and your family, too!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thanks so much for your prayers and your respectful, thoughtful, informative, and well-written comment, Stephanie! :) I appreciate your input very much (and especially the non-threatening/non-hostile way in which you wrote it).

And yes... the mystery gifter was my little-old-lady next door neighbor (although the dye is still unsolved, though I have my benign suspicions). :)

Randi Hom said...

Thank you for being frank about this topic, you really gave me a sigh of relief of all the feelings that I have been feeling.  I too am in your shoes and I have heard every one of the things you mentioned, and I have seen over 6 doctors.  It pains me to know people are so insensitive.  I'm sure people at church are spreading rumors about me every Sunday...but at least I know I have a sister who is in the boat with me.  I was feeling so alone.  I am praying for you, and I mean it!

Molly said...

Stephanie, I think you just said what I was trying to say above, but you did it ever so eloquently while I just couldn't seem to put into words what was on my heart.  Sometimes, the silence is worse than the insensitive comments.  I realize we're talking about several types of crosses (each of them hand-picked by the Lord for us) but I think it can apply to many situations.  When people don't say anything, or they avoid the burdened friend altogether, it can hurt more than a ridiculous, but well-meaning comment.  Oddly enough, when I find myself encountering another grieving woman, I find that it is hard to know what to say even though I've walked a similar path.  Again, I'm thankful for the opportunity to say with sincerity, "I'm praying for you."   

Farmer's City Wife said...

Dear Randi, I'm praying for you, too!! (Gah, the parish rumor mills can be vicious, can't they?)

Elizabeth said...

Been there done that, although not completely in the infertility section. I had a hard time conceiving my first child, but my worst problems have to do with after childbirth. It's so disheartening to have to go out back at church to bottle feed my child and have people ask me have I tried this method or that or something else to be able to nurse him.  I've been in the depths of PPD and had someone tell me that I needed to be locked up in an institution until I was better. And of course, there are the Creighton people. I think Creighton can work wonders, but as I've been using a different charting method for the last 4 years and I was able to recognize my medical issues through those charts and my OB is comfortable with them, then why should I change? I've also seen Creighton fail to do it's "job" as well, so I'm hesitant to say it is the best thing for infertility. I agree with your final statement, that prayers are always appreciated. God Bless you!

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

I'm catching this a few days late, Maria, but thanks very much both for your prayers and encouragement. I do love being feminine, being a woman... which, I suppose, is part of why I so strongly feel the lack of the Motherhood badge of honor. (Which you can remind me of if I ever have a difficult pregnancy or bratty children.) But it also means that you could hardly have given me a sweeter compliment. :)

Farmer's City Wife said...

I'm so sorry people were so cruel to you, Elizabeth! I'll be praying for you. :)

Erika Higgins said...

insert foot in mouth...thank you so much for this humbling post. Infertility is a hard topic to discuss (for those suffering from it and for those watching others suffer from it). It's hard and awkward either way and I think those who say those (what not to say) things just want to be helpful or are at a loss for words. I always feel dumb after talking to someone about this issue because 1. I know they don't think I understand (since I have 3 children) and 2. I know they probably don't care what I think/say.
But what do you do when someone publicly shares their infertility and even publicly shares their plans to use IVF?

Farmer's City Wife said...

Oh goodness, that's rough!! I think the rules of engagement change when someone publicly shares their woes, although I still wouldn't say anything unless directly asked for either my opinion, advice, or consolation.
The public sharing of plans to use IVF is hard. Can you remain silent and give tacit assent to evil? I think, depending on how well I knew the person, I'd either have to ring in, gently, if they were a friend or even good acquaintance, or else give the "I'm praying for you" line to a casual acquaintance... and in that case pray that they were steered away from the evil of IVF instead... or give lots of literature to a mutual friend to give to her.
I hope someone wiser than I can weigh in on this. Thanks for your kind comment, Erika!

Ke4yyj E said...

Very moved by your blog, I was in your position years ago and have three healthy grown kids. I will pray for you and please let me recommend Venerable Solanus Casey as an intercessor.
Hope this posts OK Elaine Payne having trtrouble w keyboard

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comment, Elaine. Thank you for your prayers! And yes, Ven. Solanus Casey is a great intercessor :).

Rachel said...

Random (honest to God) question - because this wasn't included in the post:

Would it be rude to send a person with infertility a quote from a saint about God's love for persons struggling with infertility as encouragement? I imagine that it can be frustrating to think that people only think of you when they stumble across something that even remotely reminds them of infertility... it's like, 'Why don't you think of me when you read a good book (because you like good literature), or because of some awesome recipe you found that you just can't wait to share with you - etc. Surely, there's so much richness to your life beyond whether or not you are able to have children at this time... I'm just wondering if this falls into the category of annoying or unhelpful things people do regarding this issue.

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thanks for your honest question, Rachel. I can't really speak for the world of infertile people as a whole, just myself in particular, and I don't think I've ever had someone share a quote with me (though there have been plenty of medals, relics, and other spiritual gifts which I appreciate).

Rude? No, I don't think so. Would I personally appreciate it? No, probably not.

I rarely speak of this outside of the online sphere, and really prefer people never to mention this to me unless I bring it up... or (in your case) unless I'm very good friends with them and have the openness of communication to have this kind of conversation.

So, rule of thumb is: are you close intimate friends with the person? If so, it might be wonderful. If not, the reminder of infertility, regardless of the context, can add weight to the cross.

Airing The Chapel said...

Blown away!  I found your blog today through Joy Beyond the Cross.  I think you and I are the only infertile Catholics that are OK with childlessness.  Or the only ones with blogs.  I absolutely applaud your view on Creighton and understanding that it's not a panacea.  I've felt really hammered by the community that says NFP and Creighton will cure my infertility but I've known and not many Catholics are receptive to hearing about the couples Creighton cannot help.  Thank you for voicing the truth.  I went back to your post in 2010 about getting to a good place.  I've certainly felt my share of pain because of infertility and wrote about it but for the last several months, I made a conscious decision to stop being miserable and start being happy and grateful for what I have.    

Farmer's City Wife said...

I don't think the ache will ever go away but the misery sure has :).
Thanks so much for sharing, and leaving a kind comment... I really appreciate it!

Masha said...

I this post! You did an amazing job writing honestly, but also charitably toward the folks who almost always mean well, but really don't know how to say the right thing. My horror story from when we had a lot of trouble conceiving, was one woman who told me that "God just doesn't want some people [me] to have kids.  I do know she had at least semi-good intentions, but I've never really wanted to see her again!

Blessings on you and your's in the new year.

Farmer's City Wife said...

Oh my goodness, how hurtful that must have been!

Thanks so much for your kind comment :). God bless you, Masha!

Belle said...

I have heard many of the same comments directed at myself and I think, "How can such well meaning words hurt so much?"  I guess it is because I feel like some people see me as flawed and I do not know how to change their opinion of myself.  I know it shouldn't matter but  I want to fit in and be liked just like any other person and it hurts to be put in a box with a condition that I cannot correct myself!  This is not like a vice where you can change your behavior and become a better person.  This is not like housework that I can accomplish with much sweat and effort.  This is out of my control!  And yet as I come to peace with this around every corner is another person who wants to help or worse tries not to talk about anything child related as if because I can't have any of my own I hate all the rest.  How untrue!  The best advice I would give to someone who doesn't know what to say to a woman who can't have children is treat her like the friend she is.  You can acknowledge her hurt and pray for her, but also include her.  If she is a good friend she will want to be around you and know your kids and all of their trials and victories.  Of course the pain of infertility can be strong and last a long time, but healthy Christians will grow in Christ's love and peace while they carry this cross and will not be angry or bitter forever.  I was told once (by a well meaning friend) that a woman is only made complete in motherhood.  The truth is that any woman or any person for that matter is only made complete in Christ.  And this is the completeness that I strive for.

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so much, Belle. Your comment was so well-timed for something I was dealing with. Thank you :).

Sandi said...

Before you read the rest of my comment the first thing you need to know is that I have had 4 early stages miscarriages (usually found out I was pregnant and miscarried in the same sentence), the furthest I ever carried was 12 weeks - the most recent of which was a few months ago.  I am not Catholic but was raised in a religious home, am a practicing Christian who believes in God and have adopted 2 beautiful girls who were born to women who lived on the street, used drugs and were prostitutes.  You would never know my girls were adopted or were exposed to drugs and alcohol unless I told you.

I understood a lot of your comments and where they came from because I went through infertility, failed pregnancy, hope, depression, anger, jealousy and acceptance before we adopted.  You lost me on your adoption views though.  Adoption was not a calling, not a last ditch effort or settling for second best.  And it certainly did not make me any less of a woman, despite my obvious failing reproductive system.  In fact becoming a mother completed me.  It was a decision to love and cherish a child who needed it and allow them to fill an emptiness in our hearts and together create the family that we needed to be.  Our family motto is "It doesn't matter how you got here, it just matters that you did".  

As for why all these people feel inclined to give you advice that you have not asked for, I hate to tell you but you opened that door the moment you felt inclined to willingly post the most intimate parts of your marriage on the internet.  You cannot post those parts of your life and expect that people will not take it as an invitation into your personal life.  It doesn't make it right but it is the way it works.  You unfortunately attract all walks of life on these sites.

And finally, your invitation to post a comment and then add a caveat that you will only tolerate those comments that agree with your views is naive at best.  You are supposed to be a teacher and a philosopher but you do seem to be wearing rose colored glasses.

Before you delete this post I suggest you take a long hard look at why you posted your infertility issues in the first place.  I would think it is because you are looking for something, the question is - have you found it yet?

Good luck.

Anna said...

I am in the same situation. God is with us!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Amen :). Blessings to you, Anna!

Sarahlcc said...

 Thank you for this post. I would like to do one similar at some point on miscarriage, although I'm sure it has already been done, probably better, by someone else on the internet. We have two beautiful boys and we want to have more kids, but the that gift was given in a different form than we wanted to receive, so to speak, when our babies were born directly into heaven and not into our arms. It is very difficult to walk with that ache.

"Something very real… entirely integral to what it means to be a woman,
the primary purpose of her marriage, the centrality of her very being,
is lost by the inability to conceive and bear children, to procreate." So true.

I'm putting you in my prayer heart. That might sound a little weird, but I have a little red heart shaped box that is plastic, inside is an electronic candle that is always on, and right above the candle on top of the  heart is a relic of St. Philomena, whom I adore.

My heart bleeds when I find mothers who love children, who desire children, yet haven't had children.

It makes me want to storm heaven with prayer.

And so I will.

"I will not let You go until You bless them...!" "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?!"

Dear Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

At the same time, your gift of holy resignation fills me with awe, the lack of angst, etc.  Grace is so real, so amazing, no matter what He gives His grace will always be enough. Wow, just wow at the majesty of God, you know?! That we are His! That He truly is infusing that grace in us, changing us!

Okay, ecstasy of amazement over, for now. :-)

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thank you so much for your prayers and your beautiful comment, Sarah. I'm so sorry for your losses!

Farmgirl said...

Also, I want to add that I am appalled by the supposedly Catholic NaPro doctor's use of bc pills.  Everyone thinks that medical things are a cure-all for infertility - and they do help some, but not all.  This "medical knowledge" that every Joe Blow has (and is so ready to impart), combined w/ their lack of discretion and lack of modesty certainly adds to a pain that is already very deep.   I think, when I was going through IF, that this lack of discretion, this lack of modesty (and it is so much worse now w/ all the social media in which people just have no shame, and run off at the mouth) - anyhow, that is what hurt almost the most.

Also, I forgot to add - yes - there is a mourning of the lack of pregnancy - that it is pregnancy and breastfeeding, and genetics - and a child who LOOKS LIKE YOU - that is so tremendously, tremendously hard to deal with - and to even give up.

I think when we turned to adoption, it was when I decided that I (we) wanted a child more than we wanted a pregnancy.  Yes, pregnancy was nice, but if my ultimate goal was to have children, then it looked like God was nudging us toward adoption.  Having said, that, we always PRAY a special, on-going novena for "all our special couples who want to be blessed with a child" - that God will hear the yearnings of their hearts and answer their prayers in one form or another - whether this be conception or adoption.

BTW, can I add one more thing to your list?  "Are you pregnant?" or "Any luck?" or "Any success?".  That one can get old faster than an opened can of pumpkin!

Stephanie B said...

If it were possible, I'd give this post a standing ovation.  I was going through the same thing last year and I wish I'd been able to read it then.  I don't actually have problems with fertility, but due to a host of other complications I am apparently unable to carry to term.  We lost our first child at 13 weeks, and the second at 24 weeks.  We've decided our long-term plan is to adopt, but you are so right about it not being a cure-all, besides being complicated and expensive.  Finding women like you has been a huge help to me.  Feel free to read my posts if you think they could do the same for you.  God bless!

Belle said...

I often think I am at peace with being childless, but there is one thing
that still gets to me after all these years: other women's reactions. I have tried never to be mopey about childlessness around anyone
except occasionally my husband, and recently I have been pondering how a
friend texted me that she was pregnant. Although there was nothing
wrong with that method of communication, it was big news, and telling me
in person, over the phone or in an email might've been better that a
two-word message. I actually wondered if she was pregnant weeks ago
when I would see her talking and smiling with other friends. Everyone
would suddenly become silent, still smiling and looking at each other, when I came
around. So I have been pondering that sometimes it is other people's
fear of how you will react more than what would really happen that leads
them to unintentionally treat you like a second-class friend when you cannot have
children. We have barely spoken since her message. Maybe she thinks I
am hurting, which I am, but it is for a different reason than what she
might think. I guess I will give her some space. Space to be happy
about her baby without feeling sorry for me every time she see me. I
have met several women who, when they find out that I cannot have kids tell me it must be hard, pause, and then pull up a chair to
share some exciting news about their own children. I love that! After
double-digit years of waiting for a baby it is a relief to be around
women who can see beyond my inability to one. Thanks for listening :)

Farmer's City Wife said...

Oh, Belle, how I can relate! It hurts me pretty deeply when friends think I won't rejoice with them, when their news only ever makes my heart very happy. Thanks for your kind comment.

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Bonnie said...

I have 6 daughters and when I lived in a high Jewish population area, I would just walk into a store and debates would break out amongst many women over how I could have a son. The animated debates were actually hysterically funny but...what people didn't realize is that I had three sons that died before they were born. People mean well but I don't think they realize that when they scream, "Oh my gosh, no have no sons!" it can be hard on me. Difficult experience do help by making you sensitive to other people. When you have a baby that dies, everyone leaves you alone. I realized that you have to visit people in grief. Only experience gave me that insight. In the same way, struggling to have a child gives you tremendous insight and thank you for helping us know what to do.

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My email is


Teisia Mark said...

Am Taisia from USA. After being in relationship for seven years,he broke up with me, I did everything possible to bring him back but all was in vain, I wanted him back so much because of the love I have for him, I begged him with everything, I made promises but he refused. I explained my problem to someone online and she suggested that I should rather contact a spell caster that could help me cast a spell to bring him back but I am the type that never believed in spell, I had no choice than to try it, I mailed the Dr CAFAi, and he told me there was no problem that everything will be okay before three days, that my ex will return to me before three days, he cast the spell and surprisingly in the second day, it was around 4pm. My ex called me, I was so surprised, I answered the call and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that happened, that he wanted me to return to him, that he loves me so much. I was so happy and went to him, that was how we started living together happily again. Since then, I have made promise that anybody I know that have a relationship problem, I would be of help to such person by reffering him or her to the only real and powerful Dr CAFAi who helped me with my own problem and who is different from all the fake ones out there. Anybody could need the help of the spell caster, his email you can email him if you need his assistance in your relationship or anything..

Susan Moore said...

Dr Okoh God will continue to bless you more abundantly, for the good works you are doing in peoples life, I will keep on writing good and posting testimonies about you on the Internet, I’m Susan moore from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was tested HIV positive, I saw a blog on how Dr Okoh cured people, i did not believe but i just decided to give him a try, I contacted him and also got my healing, i am so happy. If you have any problem or you are also infected with any disease, kindly contact him now with his Email: or call him on +2348110745051

PATRCIA said...

give almighty praise to DR OLUBAOLUBA who help me

to cure my HIV/AID, please help me to give thanks to him he is a great
man who God send from heaven to save people’s life, when i contacted
this deadly virus i thought that was the end of the world for me little
did i know that there is a man called DR OLUBAOLUBA OF AFRICA who has
made a

breakthrough in the cure of HIV and cancer cure with herbs when i
confided in a friend here in south Africa he told me about this man
called DR OLUBAOLUBA and how he cured the mum and dad of HIV after two
of living with this deadly diseases he told me of the cost and procedure
i felt it was worth a try after i have been spending so much in the
drugs to make me live like every normal human being so i contacted DR
OLUBAOLUBA and did as he commanded without missing words he did all he
to do and sent me the herbs here in south Africa i took it as he
directed it was exactly seven days as DR OLUBAOLUBA has spoken when he
me and told me to go for a check up again and i went to my greatest
surprise it was negative i felt it was a dream so i went to three
different hospital and it was still negative then i cried out in a loud
voice and people gathered in the hospital and i told them my story in
tears how this man called DR OLUBAOLUBA have saved my life and they
demanding for his mail to contact him it was only last week my friend
Vanessa who was HIV positive came back from visiting DR OLUBAOLUBA as a
healthy woman i told her about DR OLUBAOLUBA you can reach him through
emai address
he never fails hold on my friend dont cry no more when our helper is here i
believe in him he am sure you will be lucky as i am too just email him
or +2348050354815 he is a savior of life

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