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The 16 things you shouldn’t say to a CNBC (childless not by choice)

I don’t know if Ms. Manners, Martha Stewart or any other blond anal-retentive woman with a well developed Super-ego who is keen on handing out the rules of genteel and polite society has come out with a primer on things best not to say to women who have been pumped full of mind altering hormones, and endured an alphabet soup of invasive procedures(ART, IVFs, ICSI’s, IUI’s,), miscarriages and/or had failed adoptions.

So even though I am only a redhead who occasionally confuses my desert fork with my salad fork, I thought I would take this matter into my own hands and create a guide of what not to say to someone who is infertile, going through infertility treatment or has just had a miscarriage. Perhaps if I do this I and others who are in my position will stop enduring these comments that hurt more than a progesterone shot in the ass.

For those of you who have endured any or all of these statements you might want to print this and pass it out to all your family and friends to stop them from further inappropriateness. And, those who work in a reproductive endocrinologists office you might want to give copies of this to each patient and have them give it out to their friends and family as they begin treatment. I am only half joking about this. Really, people need to learn what is okay and not okay to women who have extremely high levels of stress and estrogen.

These following statements are just not okay:

1. “You must not really have wanted to have a child or you would have one.” Really, is that the problem? Me and Hillary, we just didn’t want it enough. Thanks.

2. “You must have some psychological block that is preventing you from getting pregnant.” I am guessing that means Jamie and Britney Spears are totally free and clear of psychological issues. Good to know.

3. “If you would just change your beliefs about all of this you would get pregnant. Have you seen “The Secret”? This question always makes me want to ask the well-meaning questioner if they have seen my middle finger? I believed I would get pregnant—-I mean I believed. I believed so strongly that I had names and furniture and preschools picked out. If I didn’t believe I wouldn’t have shelled out $100,000 in my attempt to conceive and I certainly wouldn’t have endured that kind of pain and suffering.

4. “If you would just quit trying you would get pregnant” or “if you would adopt you wouldget pregnant.” No, this anecdotal myth is just that, a myth. According to RESOLVE, “Studies reveal that the rate for achieving pregnancy after adopting is the same as for those who do not adopt”. I find the notion of adopting in order to get pregnant totally unconscionable. If you want to adopt then you adopt but you don’t do it as a means of getting pregnant.

And I will have you know that we haven’t been trying to get pregnant for almost four years and not once in all of these years of not trying have we managed to get even a little bit pregnant.

5. “God has another plan for you. God doesn’t want you to be pregnant” or, my personal non-favorite, “God wants you to be in service and if you had a child you couldn’t do God’s will.” Please, please, I beg you, unless God has phoned you up or shown up in your living room with choirs of angels, would you please do me a favor and not be a spokes person for any deity on my behalf. Oh, and if God has visited you and given you an inside scoop to my life purpose I would suggest you put your tinfoil hat on and find your way to the nearest psychiatric hospital.

6. Another of the God ones that needs to go unsaid, “Maybe God knew you wouldn’t have made a good parent.” Following this logic one would have to infer that all the people who have children are great parents. One trip to Mc Donalds will disprove this absurd theory. “God” gives all manner of incompetent people children. I know many parents that any higher power in its right mind would have never chosen to care for a houseplant let alone a helpless child.

7. “Do you want to throw me a baby shower?” No, I don’t. I love you. I love you very much, but I just cannot throw you a shower or even go to your shower. Sometimes the mere act of taking a shower makes me cry. Going to a party to celebrate someone else having a baby is out of the question. Also, I am not going to birthday party for children 0-12. Once they are 13 and are driving you to drink I will happily attend and I will come and celebrate your suffering. I hope you understand.

8. “I am thinking about having an abortion.” No, do not tell me this. I am all for choice. Really, I am. I just cannot hear about your choice just now.

9. “Do you want to go to Chucky Cheese, Disneyland, Toys R Us or to the American Doll store with me? No, no I don’t. I want to go to a bar and drink a bottle of Vodka and smoke a carton of cigarettes—and I want to end the evening with a Super Size Ambien, would you care to join me?

10. “I had six kids and as soon as I had them I realized I didn’t want to be a mother.” It was 6th child that made you realize this? When talking it is important to be aware of your audience. This is not something you say to a woman who was not able to have one child.

11. ” I have a very small family, I only have four kids.” Shut up.

12. “You can be a mother to your friends kids”. I know people mean well by this. But, to those of you who say such things, let me tell you that babysitting for your kids is not the same thing as being a parent. It just isn’t.

13. “Well, why didn’t you try and adopt?” I did and it hurt more than the IVF when the mother decided she had changed her mind and she would instead go on welfare and drop out of school so she could keep her child. I can’t do it again. And by the way even if I managed to adopt I would still be grieving the loss of not being able to have my husband’s child.

14. Or, the one I am getting a lot of lately, “Get over it”. No, I am not likely to get over it. This is a wound and emptiness that will be with me forever. Infertility is, as Shelagh Little writes, “like a low-level, lifelong bio-psychosocial syndrome. My physical inability to produce children has emotional and social consequences that I struggle with, at least to some extent, every day.”

15. “You are soooooo lucky not to have kids.” I can take this one now and then, but on the day after a failed IVF I could not stand to hear how lucky I was and how horrible kids are. I know it may be true. I know the statistics about how childless couples are happier and have more satisfying marriages—but we were going to be the couple with the house filled with kids, bikes on the lawn, and a tree house in the yard. We would not be the couple who spends holidays at others homes—we were going to have a family, or so I thought.

16. “Don’t ever give up. Keep trying. You can’t stop now. Maybe just one more IVF and you will get pregnant.” This is one that really gets to me.  I once asked a friend of mine who has worked with the terminally ill if when people in the late stages of cancer decide they can’t bare any more treatment if they are met with this same kind of attitude. She assured me that they aren’t. With cancer and other terminal diseases there seems to be a collective understanding that at some point that the compassionate thing to do is give up and die with dignity. The same kind of understanding does not seem to be there for us infertiles. I suppose that it seems to an outsider that there is always something more you can do and that if you “really wanted a baby you would do it”. We did IUI, IVF, and ICSI. That is as much as we could do. We could not do egg donor or hire a surrogate or attempt another adoption. There was a time when we could do no more. There was a point when trying to have a baby started to feel like it was killing my spirit, damaging my relationships and draining our finances. However since there are more
things we could have tried I often get the sense from some insensitive others that I don’t deserve to grieve over our childlessness. That we should keep going and only when we have exhausted every option do we then deserve to grieve.

Infertility treatment, according to the statistics, is likely to cause anxiety and depression equivalent to those with Cancer or H.I.V./ AIDS.  With infertility there is guessing, hoping and odds that are often different in theory than in practice. Infertility treatment takes a significant toll on your body, relationships and finances—and it is up to each individual to determine when they can take no more.

My suggestion on what to say when you learn that someone is suffering from infertility is very simple, if you find yourself at a loss what to say or an impulse to say any of the previous things that you shouldn’t, just say a heartfelt “I’m sorry”—that is plenty.

112 Responses to “The 16 things you shouldn’t say to a CNBC (childless not by choice)”

  • I have a good friend who went through all the IVF, actually I have a couple of good friends… One succeeded twice.. after much heart ache may I say. One succeeded once and keeps trying .. and one sadly has never been so lucky and at the age of 47 has reconciled to the fact she will be childless, and got the next best thing a dog. I love dogs so I can say that,I hope, without causing upset.
    I must admit, I was never desperate to be a mother, if it happened it happened.
    It happened first try with both kids.. I am extremely lucky….. I know that now.
    I have watched my friends go through sever heart ache and one severe depression. I always said to one friend that they were free and if you have never had you don't miss, I am sorry for this as although I meant it, it must have appeared very flippant xxxx

  • I was appalled by all those comments. I cannot believe people can be so insensitive to say those things..I am sorry you had to hear that, I am sure it made it all hurt even more.
    I send you a big hug.

  • I'm sorry, so sorry and this is incredibly useful and gives me a great insight into stepping into other peoples shoes. Thank you and I know all you've been through and your ability to be open, honest and share is amazing xxx

  • I love you, Belette. I wish I could say or do something to help ease the pain for you or to put that baby magically in your womb. I don't have any words to help or of wisdom as to why crap things happen to the best people. You're always in my prayers now whether you want to be or not. This is a glorious post. And I did remember you on Mother's Day and said a prayer for you as well.xx

  • Oh, my goodness. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Sometimes it's so hard for us just to say to another person who's in pain, "I'm sorry. That must be really hard." Or hold her hand, or hug her.

  • well done, you nailed it

  • Hi, I just read this post via SuperKawaiiMama's retweet on Twitter. I'm so sorry you've had to endure such pain for something you and your husband want so badly. I'm nowhere near having kids, though I would like to have some soon, so I cannot completely understand what you're going through. However, I was also appalled by comments people have made, especially the "Maybe you would've been a bad parent" one. How dare they! No one has any right to say something like that (or any of those comments, really), and you're absolutely right about many bad parents are out there yet are "blessed" with a brood.

    I do hope that you are somehow able to conceive and it will be an amazing miracle. Thank you so much for sharing all this and helping us understand.

  • I never cease to be amazed by the callousness and self-enforced ignorance of some people. (because in this day and age there is no excuse for ignorance)

    I was absolutely aghast when I read through the comments of the NY Times piece ("A Non-Mother's Day") you referred to in a previous post. Ranging from "just adopt" to "you haven't tried hard enough" to "life is hard, suck it up". I would dearly like the chance to "educate" each and every one of those people in person.

    I can't know what you've gone through, or what you still go through every day, but I am sorry.

  • I am sorry too. I think you would be a great mom. I am a mom and an animal lover. There are a lot of people who would have made great parents who are not blessed with children, you and your hubby included. There are also many horrible parents whose kids are basically bringing themselves up. This is not fair and the reason for it cannot be understood by mere mortals such as ourselves. I hope that you manage to rise above this pain and find a purpose to your life that has nothing to do with your ability to procreate. Even those of us with kids dont have them around forever. These days from the age of about 14 they dont need us much or in some instances they dont even want to have much to do with us at all. All of us have to dig deep especially if we have spent 20+ years donating our every waking hour to bringing up kids, to find that true meaning for ourselves. What we can do to contribute to the wellbeing of this earth and feel good about our contribution at the end of the day. Please please dont let this become the stumbling block that you cant get over. You are a worthwhile person in your own right, just as you are today.

  • 'I am sorry'….goes a long way. I think the worst comment when it comes to sorrowful subjects is…'I totally understand'… That really annoys me because most people have never been in the situation themselves and take on your sorrow as if it is their own and as if it is completely understandable. Nobody understands until they stand in the same shoes. xv

  • Hi LBR,

    I really appreciate this post … and I can understand what you are going through, in a way. I think that I have shared with you that I had a miscarriage in Sept. 07… We had been trying for a year and a half. That miscarriage (at 7 weeks) changed my life forever. I haven't been able to get pregnant since then and I really think I have some emotional/depression issues as a result..
    Anyone who has not gone through a miscarriage simply cannot understand what it is like to go through one… just as women who have not gone through what you have been through to get pregnant cannot fully understand what it's like…
    I think you are right about the response…. An "I'm sorry" is much better than all of the above responses you wrote about on this post.
    Take care,

  • LaBelette, you made me laugh, as usual (oh, that's starting to sound like a cliche) but on a more serious note, I am "childless by circumstances" (meaning, years went by, relationships came and went, stuff to do, moves, no babies). My circumstances do not remotely compare to those of women actually wanting a baby (I am totally ok with not having been a mother), but even I get odd comments from time to time. The most common one is:
    "I guess for some woman, a career is more important than a family". Bullshit, complete bullshit – these people just have no idea…yes, the reality is that people do say those thing to desperate women who try so hard, I have been within earshot of many such comments…a family member told me (not knowing whether I was in fact trying to be a mother or not) that if I "followed God's rules" I would be "rewarded" with a baby….so much for following rules…oxox AJ

  • Wonderful post.

    I'm so very sorry. A big hug from Sydney.


  • Absolutely…hear, hear, I think this is such a great idea to give these 16 things to one and all.. Maybe people don't realise but oh my goodness they NEED to!
    As one who went through 17 attempts at IUI and was extremely lucky at the 18th attempt and have my (now 19 year old) daughter may I add another point on a not quite the same but on a similar vein… Don't ever say to anyone – "So, just the ONE then?" Implying that I was selfish or unfeeling not adding a sister or brother for my daughter. Believe me if I could have I would have and would have done anything possible but it was just not to be. x

  • Ouch!

    That rings with my heart.


  • I know I would have never " gotten over it" if I couldn't have had children. I love it when I have been told to " get over it" when I was so depressed I couldn't get off the couch.

    My last encounter with such a sensitive person told me that antidepressants were a bunch of crap. I wanted to strangle her, but didn't have the energy to even address the comment. There isn't a pill for stupid and insensitive.

    Never ceases to amaze me how people know what someone else should or shouldn't do. Really?

    Sometimes I think people don't know what to say so they say really stupid things. Hopefully we, your lovely readers won't say such stupid things.

  • Such an important post, and should be read by everyone. I don't know anyone personally who has experienced infertility, or has gone through treatments, but know many who have miscarried. I'm shocked that anyone would say such things to you, but I'm not surprised. Seems like everyone, even perfect strangers, butts into my business and tries to tell me how to live my life. I experienced a few miscarriages and was finally blessed with our son. We had always planned for one child, and now, everyone, even the lady at the grocery store, or a mom I just met at school, makes sure to tell me how I'm being "selfish," "unfair to my child," "should have another to give him a playmate," "no one can ever afford children, so just have another one anyways," "don't you feel bad?" etc. Some family members, including my mother, share these type of sentiments. I find them hurtful and intrusive and unneccessary. I believe they have the best intentions, but think they should just mind their own dang business. We should build each other up, not tear each other down. Thank you for sharing this post and take care.

  • I am now going to hop into my time machine and go back to my innocent self of 5 minutes ago before I learned people actually say crap like this.

  • Wow. I am going to give people who say these things the benefit of the doubt and just assume that they are unthinking and not deliberately cruel. I have a feeling that this is one of those things that you have to experience to really understand the depths of it — or read some of your heartfelt posts on the topic.

    And I am sorry.

  • I'm appalled that anyone has said ANY of these things to you La Belette. Unfortunately, people can be shockingly insensitive. I'm sorry for your infertility, really. (I could write a similar post about what not to say after a suicide.)

  • Goodness, some of those things are shocking. And what's more, I suspect that they come from well-meaning people who have no idea how inappropriate they are being. Or I hope that they apologize instantly when they realize what they have said.

  • I'm sorry, Belette, I'm guilty of statement no. 15 to you. But I really think your life can be perfect also without them. I don't want to be sorry for you, because you are a beautiful, strong and lovely woman who should be admired and loved only. Hugs. Ciao. A.

  • Oh my, I find it shocking, terribly shocking what people say (and what they write as well, looking at the response to the article to which you linked). I am so so sorry. I think people underestimate the power of those words. I suspect many comments of that sort come from well meaning people, which makes it even more sad. They should know better, but that means facing the fact that one cannot control everything that happens in life.


    I think "I'm sorry" seem to be the among the most difficult words, and the most import.

  • Staggered by some of those comments. The "god" ones make me especially mad. I am so sorry Belette. I love your writing and your honesty.

  • Abso-fucking-lutely.

    People need to learn to stop at "I'm sorry." Unless they add, "next drink is on me."

  • My adoptive mother couldn't have children and I can't imagine the heartbreaking experience she went through for the 9 years that she waited for me. Although I can't sympathize I can truly say "I'm sorry".
    I waited 2 years to get pregnant and the frustration I felt seemed to go on and on, so my heart goes out to you. I can't imagine the true devestation that you must feel.

  • I wish I had had this list to hand out when we were trying to conceive. And since we have adopted, we get the old favourite "oh, i bet now you'll have one of your own", erm, my two are very much "my own" and last time i checked, it wasn't possible to reverse a premature menopause, thank you very much! Adoption was not a means to get pregnant but a way to have a family, and I am thankful it worked for us. You will never "get over" this loss in your life, but by reading your blog i can tell that you are surrounded by people who love you and they will help you to "get THROUGH" it xx

  • Belette – thank you so much for this. I have to tell you, sometimes I panic and I don't know what to say … I guess I don't need to say anything. I should shut my mouth and just listen. But its okay to agree that the cute ones are little sh*ts?

    My heart aches for you (it always has).

  • I am 100% certain that all of these things were said to you – and 100% certain that all are moronic. People can be unbelievably stupid.

    I am sorry.

  • As a fellow subfertile, thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Oh dear me…why do people blurt stupid sentences like those? Are they feeling awkward? Are they even thinking? I fear not….
    I have a very dear friend who has gone through much of what you have in the attempt to have a child and unfortunately has not been able to conceive…I have spent hours listening and supporting her through this emotional roller coaster and all I can say is you and my friend are made of tougher stuff than me.

  • You manage to be wry, even when you write about your most painful experience…

    I too am shocked that people say half those things. The one about not getting pregnant because you probably wouldn't be a good parent is just cruel – no one is that stupid.

    And Bel, I am SO sorry. Is it also ok to say "that situation utterly sucks"?

  • In a word: BRILLIANT!

  • I'm Sorry is so often the best words for situations and yet sometimes moronic humans think they need to come up with more. Don't. Just Don't. Seriously. I'm sorry is exactly what people want to hear when they are sad about something.

    I think you are phenomenal and am thinking happy thoughts for you today. This post is amazing.

  • Lovely LBR…when I first started reading the comments, I was more serious and really thinking what sort of dufuses would say such stupid things; as your reactions to the comments got more wild, I had to start laughing…I hope you don't mind. They are not at you, they are at imagining you actually saying what you say and doing it.

    When I was in school, in a state where women were valued by their ability to reproduce and not to get educated, I would always get comments suggesting that I would not be anyone unless I had a child, that my life would be worthless. I had to remind them that Jesus did not have children too and that I felt closer to him.

    The comments I read were lame and those people who make them should be slapped some sense into them.

    Have a great weekend!


  • After 15 years of infertility and 2.5 years in the adoption drama… I have been there, done that, heard all of these, and some others besides. I wish I could have handed a copy of this post to all the people who said these kinds of things. In the end I often found myself just shaking my head and quoting "forgive them, they know not what they do." Thank you for this excellent post! I am now child free by choice. Yes, after all these years, after everything I went through… *By choice…* grief and relief.

  • Terrible. Just terrible. I was relieved to see I have never once uttered any of these phrases. Anyone with common sense would never.

    I guess there are just a lot of insensitive people who feel your life is their business. Reading a few of them, I think they were well intentioned, but just don't "get" it.

    I want children someday and I live in fear that we won't be able to. It happens to SO MANY deserving couples. I can't fully understand what you are feeling, but I can imagine the pain is very strong and difficult to deal with.

    Bless you Belette!!!

  • The god ones are my favorite. I doubt you would, because it's not all that classy, but I hope whenever you've heard one of these phrases uttered towards you, you flipped them the bird.

  • Not only will I tell you I am sorry, I will join you for a vodka and Ambien cocktail.


  • I'm sorry. I really am. When I became pregnant with my son I felt very blessed indeed since through an earlier youthful mistake I'd been told I might never have children. It was a devastating possibility I lived with for nearly eight years.

    I read an article a few days ago that might interest you but hope it doesn't cause more anguish. You are a wonderful couple together and a beautiful woman all on your own.

  • Oh, dear. Now I'm agonizing over whether I ever accidentally said any variation of any of these to you in our conversations.

    If I did – I'm sorry!



  • I'm just catching up on your blog posts, lovely Belette. You always provide so many insights and wisdoms, and this post is particularly special. I think many people don't know what to say or perhaps have too much to say on CNBC, when a simple but thoughtful `sorry' (as well as just being able to listen with quiet support) is what's needed. Sending you love & light, dear one. xx

  • I saw a link to your post on Make Do Style's blog, its really struck a cord with me as yet again I have been diagnosed with ovarian cysts that has affected my fertility. Its been hard to see friends and family having children and feeling guilt at the jealousy I have felt. People's insensitivity has been hard at times when I've have been told that having a child will sort us out or that my free time is worthless because we haven't got children to spend it with. I am sorry for the hurtful comments you have had to deal with. xx

  • Some of thesee shocking! Starting with #1. Crazy!

    I think I am very guilty of the adoption thing though.

  • Here from Pamela's blog. This was a fabulous post. Thank you!

    By the way, an infertility counsellor I saw once told me that many (not all, but definitely some) "miracle" pregnancies (after a couple "gave up" or adopted) aren't really so miraculous — the couple simply shuts up & doesn't tell anyone they are going back for more treatments — & if/when there is a pregnancy — voila! everyone thinks a miracle has occurred!!

  • I am so so sorry. And I want to murder the welfare bitch. For real. I'll kill her if you want me to. I also understand a small part of what you have gone through. Whenever I am out with babyb, people ask if he's mine. If he didn't have brown eyes and long dark eyelashes my job would be much easier.
    I wish I could say that it will get easier, but it'll never get easier. As you can tell from your comments, you have so many people in your corner. We're all here for you, Belette.

  • Great Post!!! Due to my accident I have found myself in similiar shoes to yours … And if these people had an idea what it is like to wake up and have to give yourself a needle in the abdominal area day after day until the ultra sound shows that eggs are at same size before retreieval and after awhile the doctor will not even consider retrieval unless there are at least X number of eggs. The finacial strain is nothing compared to the emotional and hormonal stress and what ifs – what is I had tried sooner, what if I hadn't waited so long to speak to a specialist etc. etc.

    Oh is one to add to your list. "well, you are no getting any younger – so its probably good you aren't going to have a baby!" this one really gets to me.

    Thank you for voicing out!!!!
    Have a great week-end… and if you want a vodka partner let me know…

  • Do people actually say these things!?! Truly awful, ignorant and just plain mean.

    I'm childless by choice…the worst comment made to me was made by a family member…"you will never be a true woman if you do not have a child."


  • I have to think that people mean well when they make those rude comments, well, mostly, but are not very good at just listening and being supportive without an opinion or fix-it mentality. I used to get the "oh, just relax and have fun and go on vacation together" and "at least you know you can always adopt". It's no consolation. At all. It's like going up to someone with a belly that you don't know and asking "when are you due?".

  • i hope this isn't on your list of things not to say, but my heart goes out to you on wings. i am so sorry you can't have your own babies. that is a loss and deserves to be treated as such, not as a problem with your fucking perspective.

  • My mom and sister spent ten years {combined} trying to conceive babies. In the end, desperate & near crazy, they somehow got lucky. My mom, 5 times over lucky.

    I'm sorry. CNBC would **suck**. But know this: You are a light to many.

    Thanks for sharing your light & heartache on this. My mom, sister, and a dear friend of mine who nearly lost her hair & figure & life due to infertility drugs would sit and keep you company anytime.

    As would I. :)



  • I think that your 16 point list is a good, and thorough, one. At least for those people who are sensitive to the subject. From what you describe here, there must be many individuals who are not sensitive to the issue. Which makes me think that most people take the biological ability to reproduce for granted. It never occurs to them that it might not be a given for every man and woman on earth and that it might cause great anguish if it isn't.

    I'm sorry that you and your husband have been unable to conceive and birth a child together and that it has been, and continues to be, a source of great sorrow for you.

    I hope that articulating your list here has released some frustration, anger, and resentment toward those who have inadvertently or deliberately caused you pain. I cannot imagine that the list has given you any peace in the matter but it has most certainly given others a reality check.


  • What's even more shocking than the insensitivity of those sixteen things is how so many of them sound like "Old Wives Tales"! In an age where–I don't even believe this, actually–we're supposed to be enlightened and advanced through technology and science, we still hang on to myth and New Age Baby Boomer faith in order to explain the inexplicable.

  • Well done you for putting it up there in writing!

    And Yay! For Taz for commenting too as I thought of her when I read number 4!

    Where do people get off making any pronouncements about how other people should or shouldn't feel?

    If there is anything we learn from being on this earth and either having, or trying and not having kids is that we cannot judge another person for their experience. Because it is is theirs.

    So, I am sorry.


  • I honestly can't believe how heartless some people are in saying these things.

    This post was beautifully and often hilariously written. It deserves to be mailed out to every single person on the planet, but I doubt it would make a jot of difference because the people who say these things are just plain dumb and nothing can change that. They're the ones who really have something wrong with them!

    In the meantime, I am so so sorry you have to deal with them. Keep strong xxxxxxxx

  • Good grief, do people really say those things to you? Unbelievable, I'm sorry you've had to put up with that additional emotional pain.

    Btw, God just called me and says he never said any of those things.

  • I was going to say: "just say 'I'm sorry.'" but you already did. I think people just don't realize.

  • You would not get the 'God' crap over here, but most else I think would probably crop up.
    I learnt something from CSI which was that everyone says the same thing when someone dies, no creative permatations just a straightforward "Sorry for your loss" It's perfect and cut through all the gauche 'digging yourself into a hole' crap.

  • Belette, you certainly have a way with words. I enjoyed reading your post, and as a fellow "infertile" (and fellow failed adoptive mother) your observations brought a tear to my eye and giggle to my lips. You're one strong chick. I pray that unexpected blessings surround you and bring you and your husband joy in the months to come.

  • I'm sorry. I'm also sorry that some people STILL didn't get what you were saying…..(scream).

  • good lord, people actually say this stuff?!! How ridiculous.

  • I love #5, my favorite :) People don't know what to say most of time. I am awaiting my 1st IVF transfer as we speak (type). I have had people ask me if I have unresolved sin in my life that is causing this, that motherhood was a privelage and not a right, that I was playing God, etc…..WHAT PLANET ARE THESE PEOPLE FROM? Obviously a planet where the only means of reproduction is drinking the water. What a waste of space. I will pray for them :)

  • Thank you for this, particularly the point about quitting when there are, medically, options still on the table. The medical issues are only a tiny sliver. The emotional and financial issues, and the feeling that really enough is enough and it's time to get on with life and not be stuck is very powerful, but reproductively naive people don't appreciate it. They are living in a world in which everyone gets to decide for themselves how their life goes. I try to muster a frozen look and the retort, "Not everyone gets to decide for themselves how many children they have, or if they have them at all," but the clods just keep on prattling away.

  • I am so sorry, sweet friend. Hugs to you.

  • I am new reader of your site but one thing i realize one thing that the way you plot the matter in your post that is amazing i am appreciating that. Add me a feedback reader.
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  • I can understand why people say maybe a few of the comments, but the majority is a big OMG WTF. And it's a compilation of heartache, bravely posted for all those women going through the wrenching procedure of infertility treatments.

  • I'm also throwing in lots of hugs for you. LOTS.


  • My sister in law has struggled with infertility for years now. She never wants to talk about it, and I try to respect that. I can't imagine what she is going through. No one in my family has children yet, but both of her siblings got pregnant in highschool by accident.

  • You name it I did it, surgeries, treatments, adoption – waited 4 years.

    Husband couldn't take it anymore and is now with a nice girl who can get pregnant.

    Mother's Day is the worst. I try to join in, I love my Mom, I love my family but it really hurts, hurts deep in my heart that I will never have a macaroni necklace.

  • I hope you find peace some day. Thanks for sharing your story, you're so brave!

  • This is a great post! I haven't done IVF but I've had three miscarriages. I just hosted a baby shower on Sunday and it was hard. My Grandma said "Maybe you're meant to give people baby showers instead of having your own children." Yeah. How do you respond to that?

  • As a woman who never wanted children, and consequently never had any, I support the right to choose, and I am sorry that people are so insensitive. I hope you are able to have the children you so badly want.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. I only just discovered it as I was trawling back through to get a hard-copy of my blogs printed on Blog2print.

  • THANK YOU ALL!!! All of your comments, love and support mean so very much to me. I thank you for reading this whether or not you have been impacted by infertility. Even if you haven't most of us know someone who has. It would mean so very much to me if maybe this post might make a little difference and make people stop and pause before they say these stupid things. THANK YOU!!! xxoo

  • I've had pretty much all those comments.

    When I called the clinic to tell them IVF #2 was a bust, my niece was crying in the background. I explained the noise to the nurse, commenting on the irony that on that day of all days I was babysitting for my sister while she went for an antenatal scan. The nurse said, "Oh well, at least you can hand her back when she cries." Why did she think I'd just gone through two rounds of IVF in quick succession if I wanted to hand the baby back????

  • Brilliant list!!! Well done for putting it together… I have had so many of them in the past and some people still try now that I am finally pregnant! I swear people never stop.. why can't they keep their comments to themselves or just say nothing at all!!

  • Great post! I am a new follwer and can tell that I love your blog already!

  • I am applauding this post, your excellent writing and your courage.

  • I am a new follower to your blog and your wit and courage are admirable. Also, I’m sorry.

  • How about better yet, don’t comment on the status of someone else’s motherhood? Years ago, I was at a business supper with a young colleague (24) and a more senior one (43), both women. 24 asked 43 if she had children. 43 said no. 24 asked, “Didn’t you want any?” just as I started to kick her under the table. Fortunately, 43 did not burst into tears; she just answered, “We wanted them but it didn’t work out.” I later told 24 1. don’t ask about these things but 2. if you must and the answer is “no,” then DROP IT.

  • Hi. Wow. After a couple of exceptionally bad days in my professional life, where my childless not by choice life has been hitting me with a sledgehammer, I found your blog. Thank you.

    After 6 years on the rollercoaster, tons money and mind-altering, waiting for the long term diseases to happen drugs, we finally decided to stop. In between, our failed adoption was a “friend” lying to me for 7 months, telling me he knew about a girl, just wait for the lawyer to call…blah blah blah. He died a few years ago – I only hope it was painful.

    I’ve also heard all those and I want to add one more for those of us who are lesbians…”why doesn’t your partner try?” Just because she has a uterus doesn’t mean she wants to be pregnant!

    Thank you again for this blog. I hope we all find our peace

    • I am so glad you found this post. I am really glad if it helped. People can be so stupid when it comes to infertility. Can’t they?
      And, oh, sweet you! I am so sorry about your failed adoption. I know that pain. But to be lied to for 7 months. I can’t imagine. That is just evil. I ache for you.
      Thank you for your comment. I wish you that same peace.

  • Thank you for making me laugh. No, I know this is no laughing matter, but believe me, I am laughing with you, not at you. When you’ve been through this kind of hell, sometimes the only sane response (and people really do say these things) is to laugh like a lunatic. Thank you for this.

  • Hi,

    I too would like to excerpt some of your remarks for my blog (and link to yours of course). I have been dealing with infertility/childlessness for 18 years, and I COMPLETELY understand where you are! I have had every experience, remark, and emotion you spoken about. I’ve been on a mini-mission to educate people too. Some people understand, and some people react as if you’re an alien from another planet when you tell them their remarks and assumptions are totally off base. Of course, I try to do it with humor, but even that can be awkward sometimes.


    • Hi Vicki!!
      I would be absolutely delighted for you to share excerpts of my post on your blog. I do think that the world be better for us CNBCs if people wouldn’t say these things. Humour does help.
      Thanks, Vicki!!

  • I found your post through Life Without Baby and I also loved it and would like to re-post on my blog, with credit to you, of course. I am very happy to have found you, too, looks like you put out great thoughts.

    • Thanks so much for popping over. And I would love you to share this post with your readers. I am so delighted if this piece helps you or anyone. But all means re-post it on your blog. Please stop by again!

  • Very well said! The only thing someone needs to say is “I’m sorry” – why the heck is that so difficult????? Gheesh!!!

    I’m glad to know that probably most of us have learned to be more empathetic and use those words (and nothing else) when we hear of someone else going through a hard time.

  • I asked, not knowing she was having trouble getting pregnant, when my notoriously private sister was going to have a baby already. She will probably never forgive me.

    (I haven’t stopped apologizing. I’m her child’s godmother. I still feel terrible.)

    She’s perfect (she really is). I’m not.

    You’re a peach of a blogger. I’m adding you to my feeder, which is a compliment b/c I’ve only dropped people lately. ;)

  • This really touched me. Thanks for your honesty and candor and sense of humor.

  • I love this post. I was childless not by choice for a very long, long time- and I hated so many things that were said to me. I also went through the hurt of adoption-gone-bad – its just brutal. I was often just stunned by hearing many of the words you just blogged coming from people’s mouths. And, I am sorry, really sorry for your grief and loss.

  • I have not been through your fertility treatment hell – but I know and understand the ache and pain of childlessness. I am 47 and still single and no men on the horizon. I never got to the “let’s have a baby” stage with anyone. All my relationships failed. I am too old now.

    I feel angry, cheated and overlooked. I feel like a complete failure. I feel totally unfulfilled as a woman, in every aspect you can think of. My sister managed to have two children, and is about to get married again. My niece is engaged and will probably have a baby – and I, 20 years her senior, have neither. All these years of enduring painful periods … for what !???

    I ache for family life, to have a daughter. I sometimes fantasize that she is actually “in spirit” but never got a chance to come into a body to be with me. That my baby – or babies – are out there around me but I just didn’t get to give birth. A weird concept but sometimes it gives me comfort.

    I am so lonely and despair if I will find a suitable partner. So unlucky in love, I have been dating for 27 years, single this last stint for 13 years, despite trying internet, singles things etc.

    After 18 months of “no dating” and trying to get my head and heart mended, I am still terrified of failure.

    I feel so incomplete, I have a physical pain that rises up into my throat and every morning is a dreadful struggle to get out of bed. I also hate my job and find it tedious and meaningless. By now I wanted to be a wife and a mum, working part time and enjoying family life. Now all I have is an empty house, a crappy job and an aching heart. I feel like my life is a useless, empty gaping hole. I keep so much of this dark stuff to myself, yet people say I am attractive and very funny. If only they knew the deep pain I cannot share with them.

    My blessings to all you women out there struggling with the pain of loss.

  • I’m sorry you’ve encountered such ignorance during your struggles.

    I actually would like to point out that there’s an ad on the side of this blog for a place called It features a very stressed out/disappointed looking pregnant woman with the phrase “Pregnant and Need Help?” You might want to contact whoever can remove this since several points on your list state that women who express regret over being pregnant/having kids can cause an emotional trigger for those struggling with infertility. Hopefully it doesn’t upset anyone who may click on this link looking for comfort from what you’ve written.

  • Thanks for the article and congrats on the Huffington Post. I linked this article on my blog.

  • Can I use the code “CNBC” when talking to her? I think that code is VPTUBNVH ….
    (very practical to use but not very human)

  • Great post LBR!
    My wife and I battled through 6 miscarriages over the past few years and it really sucks when people feel the need to offer a solution – some people also feel the need to pump you for information which can be equally gruelling!

    I would add NEVER show off your ultrasound photos or thrust your newborn at me. No one beyond your immediate family needs to see those grainy silhouettes – many of us associate those images with deep trauma. As for newborns, I’m so happy for you and celebrate the miracle of birth with all my heart – but I may not be ready for such an intimate reminder of what I have lost.

  • I just read this on HP. It’s basically me and my husbands story in a nutt shell. We tried all fertility treatments for about 3 1/2 of the hardest years in our relationship. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel the reminder of this loss. It seems like all my FB friends are pregnant, or just had a baby these days. We finished state foster and Spaulding classes for adoption in December and still have not had a placement yet. It sucks to go to foster parent dinners where all the great kids run around, when all you can do is watch. I’m getting older, and don’t know how long it will be for adoption to happen, but all we do is wait.

  • I was appalled by the comments on HP and decided to add to what you started on my blog. I needed an outlet to respond to the insanity. It seemed a better choice than arguing with people on HP. Obviously, I wouldn’t get anywhere. It really is brilliant and I am so thankful you took the time to write it. I applaud your bravery and honesty!

  • As the husband of someone that cannot have children, I must say that I really appreciated reading this. My wife and I have tried five IVF cycles but things didn’t work out for us. Those were very stressful and emotionally taxing years. In that time we have heard all of the above comments and a few more. Some were said to my wife by “good” friends of hers, others were said by acquaintances that happened to know about our situation. The most interesting comment that I still can’t make sense of was one from one of my mother’s relatives. She told my wife, “Tell your husband to lose some weight and that will make everything work.” Admittedly, I am obese but it made my wife smile that someone thought for once that she wasn’t the problem and that it was me. I am happy to take some of the “blame” for not having kids, just to ease the burden and guilty looks that my wife has had to deal with over the years. We have come to terms with this fact. Occasionally I get sad about this. A little envious when I see my siblings growing into parenthood as my nephews and nieces get older. I don’t have an answer or advice for anyone going through this. The most I can say is to exhaust the options available to you. And if this does seem to be your “fate” (being childless), accept it and learn how to deal with it. A hole will always be there in your heart, a certain door is closed, and that door closing is a very painful and scarring experience. But there are other things in life, other opportunities, other doors, an other relationships that one should foster an learn to enjoy.

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About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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