Please note on your readers that I have a new blog:

If you have any questions, you can email me at katieschaber (at)

Thank you for all of your support over the years! xo

Monday, June 20, 2011

watch your mouth

I've had some insensitive comments made to me over the last three years during our struggle to become parents. Yes - there are times when these comments are so insensitive that I get angry. But, in most cases, I simply let them roll off my shoulder or (if I'm feeling extra hormonal) I bite back with a snarky response. I'm prepared for people to say hurtful things to me. What I'm not always prepared for is people to say these things to Joey.

Twice last week, Joey had people tell him, "Happy Father's Day, if it applies to you." The first time was from a customer at work. The second time was at breakfast, on Father's Day, with zero children in sight.

Now let me first express that I in now way thought either person was trying to hurt Joey with those words. Joey feels that way, too, but it doesn't mean it didn't hurt. It does hurt. I know it hurt Joey, because it hurt ME to hear it.

I wish I'd had time to react. A million things went through my head while those harsh words still rang in my ears. "If it applies to you?" Well, what if it doesn't? What if the person on the receiving end, like us, can't have children? What if their child died yesterday, or a month ago, or ten years ago, and hearing that only reopens the wound?

I realize that people mean well. They want to extend good wishes to their fellow dads. I also realize that some people may not have been offended at all by this statement. Yet, it leads me to wonder about the level of sensitivity with which we broach certain subjects.

Infertility, while crappy, has made me see things at a different angle than I used to. I have a better idea of what may or may not be "too much" to say to certain people. As an example, I used to be the girl who would ask, "When are you going to get married?" I am no longer "that" girl. Because I know what it's like to be on the other end of an equally insensitive question: When are you having children?

I'm curious to know who else feels differently about interacting with others. How has infertility changed the way you approach people? What might you have said before that you wouldn't dare to someone say now?


Danielle said...

So much truth. I tend to be kind of a chatterbox, so when someone would come to me with a problem, I would try to give advice or tell them a comforting tale of "someone I knew who..." I no longer do that. Now I just say, "I'm so sorry. I'm here if you need anything," and hug them. I've learned through infertility that when people need to vent a problem, they just want a sympathetic ear, not a litany of advice.

amiracle4us said...

weird to add 'if it applies to you'. This year I had so many patients say Happy Mothers day and all I wanted to do was scream, but i'm not and it isn't due to a lack of trying!! I know they meant well and was trying to be sweet, but IF has taught me to keep my mouth shut and not wish people happy mothers/fathers day, and not ask when ar eyou going to have kids.

Serendipitie said...

Yeah, screw those people and their "If it applies to you, bullshit"

I'm with you, no longer do I bring up any of that crap. It's just a shame that more people can't learn the kind of sensitivity that comes with this kind of pain. (((HUGS))) said...

I did something horrible at my SIL's wedding to the Mr's twin brother. This was before I was TTC and I got shitfaced on wine at the intimate reception and I started taking bets on how long it would be before she got knocked up. I'm so embarrassed to tell you how obnoxious I was when I did it. I stood up on a chair and was all "attention everyone! how long before C starts spitting out kids? Over/Under on a year?" How horrible is that? Who does that????

Now, having experienced infertility, I would *never* ask someone at their wedding when they planned on getting knocked up.

I agree, most people mean well. We had the "if it applies to you" in the past and it's hard to swallow. People want to be polite but they don't know how to explain it.

missohkay said...

I'm more careful around my single friends about their dating life. I also talked to a lady the other day who had been waiting to adopt for 2.5 years and I didn't try to tell her about any friends of friends who'd had success after that long :)

Slackie O. said...

And my first thought about the comment at breakfast was... you should have looked around, turned to J. and said, in a loud, panicked voice, "OH SHIT! Where did we leave the kids?"

And then both run out of the restaurant without paying.

S said...

Infertility has definitely made me more mindful about asking others about their family plans. I used to think nothing of asking newlyweds, or anyone who'd been married a while, was childless and seemed stable when they planned to have children. In my ignorance, I guess it never occurred to me how hurtful that question might be to some people; I was usually just trying to be conversational.

Oh, and regarding the whole "Happy Father's Day" thing: even though my husband is not a father--and, as of yesterday, wasn't even an expectant father--when our server asked us last night after dinner if we had "two fathers at the table" because they were offering free chocolate cake to all fathers. . . . we kept mom about the fact that hubby isn't a dad. (Hey, I figured if the 20-year-old server wasn't bright enough to wonder where our kids were if we're out with my in-laws on Father's Day, that's her problem. LOL. Oh my gosh, I just realized: she probably thought we were old enough that our kids were away at college or something.)

Tammy said...

Infertility has changed me so much. I've always been sensitive to other peoples' feelings, but now I'm more aware of things that I didn't even realize could be hurtful. For example, what you said about asking when someone is getting married . . . that's such a good point that so many people don't even think about! It's a great skill, and one that I think everyone can improve upon, to really think before speaking and ask ourselves, "Could this hurt someone?" Great post. I'm really sorry for the insensitive Father's Day comments -- unbelievable . . . yet believable.

Logical Libby said...

I think it's changed everything about me. It has definitely made me kinder. I always stop and think just how a person could take a remark. However, it has also made me tougher, and more sure of myself. I know who I am, and now the things that used to destroy me I just view as coming from people who don't get it.

Carpenters said...

You are so right!
Last week I was 'thinking' out loud about possible games I could use for my best friends baby shower this weekend (that I am hosting alone and going to pray I do not start crying through....) and my other friend (who is 8 mths pregnant and so f'ing fertile) was trying to 'help' me figure out additional games. She said that at her first shower the mothers were asked to write down a tip or something to give to the mother. I said that I was not comfortable doing that. I would like to be sensitive to the people that aren't mothers...and would like to be. I said my sister will be there as well as I will be there (we both want children...and can't) and my friend just didn't get it. she just stared at me...and just didn't get what 'being sensitive' was all about. WTF???!!! I wish there was an international sign of "don't speak to me right now, unless you have something nice and sensitive to say". UGH.

someday-soon said...

So many questions I won't ever ask...are you dating someone? When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids? Are you going to have another baby? When are you going to retire? It seems like life just goes from one inappropriate comment to another!

Diana said...

I am totallllly with you on this one! I haaaaate haaate haaate being asked "sooooo when is it going ot be YOUR turn??" (to have a child)..

ugh... i just want to screeeeeam!! Maybe I should just put a sign on my head thats says "Don't ask! Mind your business!" :)

~C~ said...

I totally agree with you. I'm so much less likely now to ask the "When are you [life marker here]" questions. I'll still ask people I meet *if* they are married or *if* they have kids, but not when or why or why not or anything that's more probing than an equivalent question like what they do for a living or their favorite happy hour spot. And actually, I find I really never have to ask new acquaintances if they have kids. If they do, they either ask immediately if I do or they just start talking about their kids. It's always really awesome when they just launch into a story about their kids, then stop mid-story to ask if I have kids, and then wehn I say no, they waffle as to whether to continue the story or not. Because, for the eleventy zillionth time, the childless are totally clueless about kids.

I wrote a blog post about mother's day and my annoyance with it. Father's day is the same. Father's day is for celebrating one's own father - or father figure(s) - if one is lucky enough to have someone worth celebrating. It's not for celebrating every random dude with sperm and a woman he sleeps with.

Kelly said...

I know we talked about this before, but I still wanted to post to lend my support. Just absolutely, positively, ridiculous. I can only hope that one day, these people have their "oh shit" moment in life and will never make comments like this again.

Michaela said...

Before my miscarriage I had no idea how painful it was. I actually once said to a co-worker who had a miscarriage "Oh, maybe it's better this way" REALLY!! I know better now that nothing makes it right!

Marybeth said...

That is one thing infertility has done for me. It has made me think before I speak. I don't want to ask inappropriate questions without knowing all the facts. Because there are plenty of people out there that don't think before they speak. Even friends of mine that I would imagine understand my situation still say the most dumbass things that really sting. For instance: we're at a wedding a few weeks ago, and we're talking to a couple that also happened to be a bridesmaid & groomsman in the wedding. The groomsman's parents are also friends with the bride & groom so I asked why they weren't at the wedding. Bridesmaid replied that they were taking care of their child, but that she's having so much trouble with her parents & her husband's parents wanting to take care of their child. (Then the doozie:) "I'm thinking of having another one just so we can have one for each." REally!?! You just said that to ME? Think before you fucking speak people.

serenity said...

I had to tell myself all the time "people mean well. People mean well. People mean well." It was my mantra, my chant. Was really hard to accept a LOT of times. But I kept saying it.

Now? I don't often ask a lot of questions of someone. Ever. I just don't want to go poking my nose in someone else's potentially painful business.


Tarah said...

It's hard when you're in the dredges of it - to hear these things. People mean well, people who haven't "been there, done that" will never fully understand the pain.

I tried not to take my frustration and anger out on them just because they were the "lucky ones" who never had to deal with the heartbreak. It's not their fault, nothing they can say or do will fix it.

They believe they are being kind and helpful - not rude and hurtful.

findinganewnormal said...

People just say stupid things. Period. And no, the fact that they had good intentions does not make them any less hurtful. Sometimes I want to say to them "do you realize how hurtful that comment was"? Because truly I think people sometimes just don't get it and need a little wake up call.

That said, in retrospect, I now know that in my life I have been the one saying stupid things unknowingly. I think unless you are going through infertility, infant loss, etc. it is hard to recognize the things that might trigger sad feelings. I am embarassed but hope that I now do a better job of being sensitive and over analyzing before stuff leaves my mouth.

I am not as bitter as this may sound, but like you, I feel like I have received more than my share of dumb comments, and now it is time to gently help people become more aware.

I'm sorry that you (and DH) had to deal with this.

Geochick said...

I never ask anyone if/when they are going to have kids. I let them bring it up first. I also don't ask why they don't have kids if they appear to have chosen the child-free route. I also try to keep quiet when someone is talking about if and things their doctor is suggesting. Who needs an armchair quarterback in that situation?

Anonymous said...

The next time an insensitive asks me why I haven't yet had a baby (and makes reference to a ticking clock or some other ignorant cliche) I'm going to reply: I'm not sure. When are you still fat?

Anonymous said...

2 of my sister in-laws constantly post on facebook whinging comments about their children.
They have the most well behaved, beautiful and healthy children!
They also know what a struggle i am having to fall pregnant. I have been trying for 2 years!
Why don't people know how lucky they are? Why don't they think before the speak!