"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Infertility Chat: The Trouble with Miracle Stories

As an infertile woman, I've heard my share of weird comments meant to be encouraging. And I get that it's hard to know what to say. I really do. There are some responses, however, that I find really difficult, so I'm addressing one of them right now: The miracle story.

If you've been dealing with infertility for a while, and even if you haven't, you've probably encountered this. You share your struggle, how hard has been for you, the ups and downs. The person responds with something like, "You know, my cousin's best friend was infertile. They tried for years and the doctors told them there was nothing more they could do, so they gave up. Then after eight years, they got pregnant and have a beautiful daughter. That could be you!"

Sounds encouraging right? Why wouldn't this help you in your dark time? Am I just over-sensitive for hating this kind of response?  Let's break it down.

Firstly, we have no idea what was wrong in this case. Years ago, my pastor was diagnosed with cancer, and I remember his wife saying once, "I get so tired of the cancer stories. Everyone has a cancer story to share." The reason behind her frustration was that every cancer is different. Every person's experience is different. It's not really encouraging to hear about so-and-so's great aunt's recovery from breast cancer when your loved one has bladder cancer. They aren't the same thing at all. There are so many differing variables. Telling me that someone who had unspecified fertility problems was able to conceive is not helpful if we don't have the same diagnosis.

Sarah and Abraham:* Just because they had a miracle child doesn't mean I will...

Secondly, and this probably sounds both selfish and superstitious, there are only so many miracle stories. A few people do experience amazing conceptions long after they'd given up hope, but most couples don't. Impossible conception stories are the exception rather than the rule. I think you get to a point where you hear about someone else's miracle makes you irrationally think that there is one less miracle open to you. Yes, it makes no sense, but if infertility does one thing, it is to make you crazy.

Thirdly, and this is the most important point, you have to listen to the words in that story. Read "eight years", "nothing more they could do" and "they gave up" again and again. If you haven't been through infertility, you might breeze past those phrases. I myself have told these kinds of stories in the past as a testament to the fact that miracles exist, but I don't do it any more. When you have been in the throes of fertility treatments and had to confront the question of how far to go, you cannot hear "they gave up" without understanding the tremendous grief that it takes to get to that point. To give up on your dream of being a parent is a heartbreaking tragedy. Yes, it's amazing if you eventually conceive later on, but don't ever breeze over the part that the journey must have been agonizing. If this is my story, I will of course rejoice in a miracle pregnancy, but I can't read it now without feeling deep sorrow for the couple that had to go through the terrible grief of abandoning all hope. Even if they eventually had their miracle baby, I can't imagine they will ever lose the wounds of that time of their life.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there is no place for these stories. I'm not saying that I'm not at times encouraged when couples who have been trying a long time get to hold their baby in their arms. And of course, I'm one person and I don't represent ALL people dealing with infertility. What I am saying, though, is to use those stories sparingly, and to think about how they may be received before throwing them out in conversation. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The best thing to say to your infertile friend is "I'm sorry you're going through this, and I'll be there for you any time."

Infertility humour*

PS I'm linking up this week with Amateur Nester's infertility link-up. So excited to get connected to others in this fight.

*Source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/82472236899285630/

*Image found at: https://dailybibleguide.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/isaiah-511-8/ 


  1. I feel you.

    Sometimes they give me hope. Sometimes they make me want to throat punch. It depends on what I'm going through at the time.

    I think it's possible to sometimes take comfort in miracle stories, but it's still annoying when people say them to your face instead of just saying "I'm sorry this is happening to you. You can talk about it as much as you want and cry a whole lo and then we'll watch Sleepless in Seattle 4 times in a row while drinking wine so you don't have to think about it for a while." Now THAT is a friend I wish I had. Instead my friends (ALL of whom have kids except for one who doesn't want any; my one IRL infertilibuddy texted me her sono photo last week) just say something positive about how I'll get pregnant when I finally relax/adopt/least expect it/insert magic formula here, and then change the subject.

    So. I feel you.

    1. Yes, a thousand times yes to your comment. These comments CAN be helpful when I come across them, but it hurts when they are used instead of actual support. If I lived closer, I'd totally watch Sleepless In Seattle four times with you. And I'd bring the wine. :)