Podcasts

"Dear Infertility" Episode 4: Insensitive Comments

"When are you going to have a baby?" "You're not getting any younger!" Anyone who has ever dealt with infertility knows all too well what it's like to face insensitive comments and questions from friends, family members, and even strangers about their family-building plans. In this episode, we take real questions from real fertility patients about navigating insensitive comments and share research-backed tips and strategies for how to cope. To learn more about Rescripted and to join our free fertility support community, head to our website at Rescripted.com.

Published on February 15, 2022

Rescripted _Ep4_Insensitive Comments: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Rescripted _Ep4_Insensitive Comments: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Hi, I'm Kristyn Hodgdon, an IVF mom, current IVF patient, and co-founder of Rescripted.

Ali Domar:
And I'm Dr. Ali Domar, a thirty-four-year fertility industry veteran, psychologist, and expert in the mind-body relationship between stress and infertility.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Welcome to Dear Infertility, the first-ever podcast that doubles as an advice column for those dealing with the daily stressors related to infertility and pregnancy loss.

Ali Domar:
We're here to answer your real-life questions related to the mental and emotional toll of infertility, while providing research-backed tactics and strategies for overcoming these dilemmas.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Now, let's dive in and help you find calm on this stressful journey.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the Dear Infertility podcast. I'm your host, Kristyn, and I'm here with Dr. Ali Donmar. Hi, Ali. How are you?

Ali Domar:
I'm good, Kristyn!

Kristyn Hodgdon:
So today we're going to be talking about insensitive comments from friends, family, strangers, when you're going through infertility and pregnancy loss, you know, it's happened to all of us. Our parents ask when we're going to make them grandparents, people say, you know, you've been married for two years, when are you going to have a baby? It's none of your business, but you feel compelled to answer. You know, how do we sort of combat these questions? How can? So that was the major question that we received from the community. How can I handle these insensitive comments from people who don't necessarily know what we're going through.

Ali Domar:
Or who you don't necessarily want to tell your whole life story about your infertility journey.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Exactly.

Ali Domar:
You know, my husband calls me a pathological optimist, but honestly, it is just shocking to me, every day the comments my patients tell me they've received from friends, family, co-workers, strangers, et cetera, I mean, first of all, it's no one's business as to when you are not going to have a baby. But people continue to make comments in person, on social media, it's just, you know, at the water cooler, so what I've come up with and I think this is something that's really important is what I call snappy comeback lines and snappy comeback lines are for people like me who if someone says something hurtful to me, I think of an answer three days later, I am not somebody who thinks on my feet. I just, you know, someone says something like, whoa, and then I spend three nights not sleeping, and then three days later, I'm like, oh, this is what I should have said back. So what I suggest to my patients is think of the five-six comments that bother you the most, whether it be when are you going to make me a grandmother? I hear a lot, you know, don't you think you should lose some weight or maybe drink a little less or things like that? So think of the comments that bother you the most, and then there are three kinds of responses that you need to memorize. The first one is a polite response. So when are you going to make me a grandmother? You can say, you know, when there's news will tell you, just very polite, you know, just shut them off, but it's not insulting, it's not demeaning, it's just a polite response. The second one is to educate. So if someone says, when are you going to make me a grandmother? The answer could be, you know, it's not as easy for some people as it is for others. You know, when we have happy news to share, we will. We're actually seeing a doctor, you know, we're trying to figure out what's going on, but to educate the person. And then the last one are, what I call zingers, and zingers need to be reserved for people where you suspect that the question is not being asked with as much kindness as you would appreciate. So, for example, from a competitive sibling, from a nosy relative. And so if your great aunt Martha says, you know what's wrong with you guys, why aren't you having a baby? You know, you can answer, you know, we're waiting to see how the dog turns out or something like that, that it's something that will shut them down. I mean, I've had patients say, you know, they'll say, Well, I'm not quite sure why that's your business or something that's slightly rude and would definitively discourage further conversation. And you need to sort of decide how you want to respond to someone. But if you, if you can figure out the questions or comments that bother you the most, just memorize a few snappy comeback lines. And that way, you're never going to be unarmed or unprepared.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
That's great advice, I love that, because I was the one that got caught off guard and, and just most of the time said, Oh, we're actually doing IVF, And then they had no idea how to respond to that! But a lot of community members wrote in about how they can kindly tell someone that their comments hurt without ruining the relationship, or is there a good way to respond that's non-confrontational. How do you actually tell someone that their comments hurt? What kind of prepared response would you recommend on that front?

Kristyn Hodgdon:
I would say, wow, you know, I wasn't expecting that question or comment from you. And, you know, I'm having a tough time right now and I'm just not prepared to answer it. I mean, that sort of shuts them down without insulting them. But, you know, people need boundaries. I mean, there are no boundaries in society right now. It's insane. And sometimes you need to be self-protective. And you know, I'm hoping the message people will get from me throughout this podcast is we are so worried about hurting other people's feelings, and we're so worried about how we present ourselves that we sometimes forget to protect ourselves. And, you know, certainly there are lots and lots of people going through infertility who are very happy to talk about their story and to talk about their diagnosis and talk about their treatment and talk about everything going on, and, you know, kudos to them if that feels comfortable to them, and they want to tell their story, and they want to post on social media, more power to 'em. I wish more celebrities would post the fact that they have infertility and pregnancy loss and have to use a surrogate or whatever. But a lot of people want to be private and don't want the world to know. And you know, I think back right after, right, you know, long before, actually it was, yeah, it was before I got married, I had really good friends who had been married for a few years and I was not in the field yet, I was still doing my post-doc and I was stupid. And I remember saying to her, you know, you guys have been married for a couple of years, you know, when are you going to make me an honorary auntie? And you know, thank God they actually were not going through infertility, they were like, you know, twenty-five years old at the time. And so they wanted to, you know, have some fun. But I still can't believe now that I did that. Luckily, it was innocent and it didn't cause harm. Now, obviously, I know better, but maybe we have to give most people out there a little bit of a break because I think unless they've been through infertility or know or love someone who's been through it, they may not understand how harmful this could be. And I think we all say and do things that are hurtful without meaning to. And I think we'd appreciate it, you know, if I say something that hurts somebody, I want to know about it, so I don't keep on doing it to other people.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Absolutely. I feel like infertility taught me how to be more empathetic of others in so many ways, but particularly, you know, not asking people intrusive questions or just saying, I'm sorry, like in my responses, instead of saying, you know, at least it was early or, you know, because that's, that's the other side of this coin is it's not just the questions, it's the, it's the responses in a lot of, a lot of ways. And you know, a lot of times it's just that they, they haven't been through a miscarriage and they don't really know what it's like, and so they're trying to use words to placate you or make you feel better. But you know, just being more knowledgeable about what you're saying, what you're, how you're responding and sometimes just listening and saying I'm sorry or I'm here for you, is better than trying to somehow make a bad situation better.

Ali Domar:
I think also people are uncomfortable. I remember when I had my miscarriage, a family member didn't do anything, no cards, no flowers, no calls, no nothing. And about, I don't know, a month later called. And one of the first things the person said was, was it a real miscarriage? I don't think, my first thought is no, it was a plastic one. I mean, what? What's a fake miscarriage and what a stupid question. And it took me probably about 10 years to think. I think this person was just really uncomfortable and didn't know what to say because this person had not been involved in the miscarriage and didn't, and it was just their ignorance and discomfort, not that they meant to be a jerk, but it took about 10 years to get through.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
After my chemical pregnancy, I sort of felt like, you know, I knew it was a real pregnancy loss, but I sort of felt like other people didn't perceive it as one. And that was hard because I was harder on myself for grieving when it was like, oh, you were only pregnant for like four days. But people just don't understand if they haven't been there.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
No, because as I said, the minute you're told you're pregnant, you're, you're having a baby. I mean, you're thinking names, you're thinking colleges, you're thinking, you know, what's the due date? How big is the baby going to be? All it takes is five minutes.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Mmhmm.

Ali Domar:
And you know, as I said a little while ago, I wish more celebrities would talk about theire, and I have to say, you know, for the last few years, I'm really impressed. You know that Meghan Markle wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times about her miscarriage and Chrissy Teigen, I mean, wow, she was so public about her IVF and infertility and pregnancy loss, and I think that's really helpful to people. And, you know, I think that's one reason why I'm such a huge believer in groups because there's something so comforting being with people who think the same way you do and cry at the same time as you do and understand how hard this is. And I think, you know, you're probably, everyone in the audience is probably too young to remember this, but years ago, when Gerald Ford was president, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and like within weeks, the vice president's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and up until that point, no one ever talked about breast cancer. You know, it was like hush-hush secret-secret. But the two of them came out, not came out, but they were very public about their breast cancer. They were very public about the treatment. They were very public about everything, and it revolutionized how people in this country think about. I mean, now football players were pink cleats in October. I mean, it's extraordinary that people just, you know, any time someone got diagnosed with breast cancer, they tell people, it's nothing to be ashamed of. And I'm kind of hoping that infertility quickly follows that same, but I've been hoping that for 30 years. People are, still now, by half of all people with infertility, never tell anybody. And I think, you know, there are a lot of people who are very private, and I respect that and a lot of couples where it's male factor, the male partner doesn't want anyone to know, because men tend to associate virility and sexuality with their sperm. Don't know why, but they do. But if you keep it a secret, you're also depriving yourself of a lot of potential support.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Absolutely. And that's why Rescripted exists, honestly is, you know, if you don't want to be open with your friends and family, that's fine. But be open with someone, you know, whether it's a stranger on the internet who becomes your best friend because you're both going through the same thing, getting that off your chest or your therapist. You know, getting it off your chest, being able to say, oh my, my aunt said, at least you were early and then being being met with a nod and like, yes, I get that, it's so frustrating, instead of your mom saying, oh, she meant, well, you know, it's really powerful to be around others who who just understand.

Ali Domar:
But it's also interesting with that comment like that how people try to minimize the pain. You know, at least you didn't know if it was a boy or girl, at least, at least, at least, they're trying to say that they're trying to comfort you to say, well, it was better for you this way.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Right. Or at least, you know, you can get pregnant, which I think is one of the worst.

Ali Domar:
Yeah. Although, as I said earlier in another podcast, prognostically, if you can get pregnant and have a loss, your odds do go up, as tragic as that might feel, that's a tiny little silver lining.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Yeah, no, it's, it's tough. And actually, our other question we had from our community members was about the workplace. So, you know, you can kind of easily shut down friends and family. But what about a colleague or even a boss?

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Mmhmm. I mean, if you've told them you're going through infertility and or you've told them you've had a loss and then they have insensitive comments, I mean, you know, in terms of a boss and HR would be all over them if they weren't sensitive. I mean, I think you can just be very kind and say, you know, this is really hard for me, and I'm just trying to keep my personal life separate from my work life, I so appreciate your concern. I'll let you know when there's good news to share.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
I like that. I'll let you know when there's good news to share. So, you know, I love to ask, how would you rescript the way people think about intrusive or insensitive comments related to fertility?

Ali Domar:
Well, you can be a pathological optimist like me and give them the benefit of the doubt and try to believe that they mean well. And most of the time, they probably are trying to mean well, which means you can give a polite or educated response. However, if you suspect or know that this is not coming from a good place, feel free to zing them.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Feel free to zing them, I love that. Well, thank you, Ali, as always, and thank you all for tuning in. We'll chat with you next time, bye!

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of Dear Infertility. We hope it helps you find calm during this incredibly stressful time. Whatever you're currently struggling with, Rescripted is here to hold your hand every step of the way. If you like today's episode and want to stay up to date on our podcast, don't forget to click Subscribe. To find this episode, show notes, resources and more, head to Rescripted.com, and be sure to join our free fertility support community while you're there.

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