One of the most common questions I am asked is, “What can I say to [insert name of infertile friend/relative here]?” At first I struggled with the question, because there isn’t a magic formula of right words that will make that infertile person or couple in your life feel better. But I’ve begun to realize it isn’t what you can say that’s so important. It’s what *not* to say. There are some things that your infertile friends and relatives never want to hear.
The first I am going to borrow from my friend Kim, who has a real way with words on this one:
1. “Never tell a woman struggling to be pregnant that it’s because she’s not eating organic food only (or fill in the gap with the food religion of choice). Moms on crack, smoking and drinking diet Pepsi 24/7 get pregnant and have healthy babies.”
So, neither Kim nor I are advocating smoking crack as a fertility measure, but when Anna Nicole Smith could have healthy babies it’s a little hard to swallow that I’m not because I’m not organic or whole grain enough. This also applies to home chemicals and environmental issues. You might really believe that those things cause infertility, but don’t tell her that. She doesn’t need to hear it.
2. Never tell a couple struggling to conceive that children are a sign of God’s blessing. You are implying that they aren’t having children because they aren’t faithful enough, or obedient enough, or holy enough. Again, I refer you to Anna Nicole Smith, or Angelina Jolie. Children, like money, safety, rain and sunshine happen to the just and the unjust because God is a gracious God. The mere presence of fertility is not a sign of anything more than common grace.
3. In the same light, never tell an infertile woman that motherhood is the highest calling of women. It’s not true, and it just makes her feel like a second class citizen in God’s eyes. Godliness is the highest calling of women, regardless of circumstance. The single woman and the childless woman are called to the same pursuit of Godliness that is the mother of four, six, eight, or ten, and all must pursue it with vigor.
4. Don’t tell your infertile friends that you don’t want your kids. You might be joking, but it isn’t funny. Most infertile couples understand the moments of “These kids are driving me wild!” but statements about giving away or selling children or abandoning them in a public place aren’t funny. They hurt.
5. Never ask a woman if she’s infertile because she once had an abortion. This should seem like a no-brainer. Apparently it isn’t. Just don’t ask that question. Seriously.
6. And finally, if you have friends or relatives who have just gone through miscarriage (especially repeated miscarriages), don’t say, “Well at least you know you can get pregnant.” You would never tell a woman who had a seven year old die from cancer or a car crash, “Oh well, at least you know you can have another one.” Try to think of miscarriage in the same light as those deaths. This is a real child who has really died and they are really grieving. They aren’t thinking of another one. They are thinking of the loss of this one. Let them do that. Love them through that, before you encourage them to move on to another pregnancy.
I hope that helps. I hope it doesn’t sound like I have an axe to grind. I think the best way we can help childless and single adults within the church is to focus more on the universal pursuits of loving God and enjoying Him forever. If you can point your childless friends to the cross, and help them find their fulfillment in that, you have been a blessing to them. That’s what they need you to be.