It’s always uncomfortable when we interact with others who make insensitive remarks and comments that can be interpreted as disrespectful. It’s even more frustrating and painful when couples who are facing infertility issues are on the receiving end of inconsiderate comments from friends, co-workers or even well-meaning family members.
Dr. Rayna Markin, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and associate professor in counseling at Villanova University. She explains, “Culturally, there is a large taboo about pregnancy loss and infertility. Unfortunately, the grief that couples experience is not really validated as an actual ‘loss’ on a societal level. I think there are powerful cultural forces in place that stop people from seeing how traumatic and painful the experience often is for couples. These unintentional remarks can feel dismissive, and there is nothing wrong with feeling sad or anxious about that.”
She continued, “Because often we don’t really talk about pregnancy loss or infertility in our society, most people don’t know what to say in these situations. In our culture, we are taught to minimize the grief and trauma that couples go through when dealing with these issues.
Many couples may cringe when they hear statements that feel dismissive, such as
“just relax” or “time heals all wounds” or “you’ll be okay…you can try again.” According to Dr. Markin, every couple has a different way of dealing with this problem when it arises. Some may try to educate or engage with the person making the comment. Others may choose to ignore the person completely or avoid being in their company. There is no right or wrong way to handle these remarks, but it’s good to be aware where they are coming from.
Dr. Markin explains, “When friends or relatives say insensitive things, it’s not necessarily because that they are bad people or want to hurt you. It comes from your friend or relative feeling helpless and trying to make to person feel better. Keep in mind those comments are coming from others who probably don’t understand pregnancy loss or infertility.”
Although couples may try, it’s not realistic to not be able to entirely avoid uncomfortable situations. Dr. Markin points out that it’s normal to have these feelings and it’s important to focus on self-care during this time. “For some women, it might make sense to avoid social media for a bit if you don’t want to see birth announcements; or perhaps don’t attend baby showers for a while if those situations may cause anxiety.”
She added, “A lot of people want to help and just don’t know how. My advice to support persons would be to not try to take away the couple’s or woman’s pain. It’s important to simply be there and empathize. Often, couples feel isolated and they need to feel like they are not alone.”
Dr. Markin recommends, “Overall, seeking out healthy social support is always a good idea. It is incredibly helpful to connect with at least one or two other persons who have gone through this situation. It’s also important to take a step back and understand that most of those insensitive comments are coming from a place of concern. And most of all, be sure to take care of yourself during this challenging time.”