I’m infertile. There are a lot of unexpected emotions that come up when you’re infertile. I’ve been described as ultra-confident, and I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy for not being able to reproduce.
It can be tough to know what to say when you find out that someone is infertile. Here are a few common responses I’ve received, and why they’re problematic…
“That’s no big deal, you can foster or adopt kids”
Society puts so much pressure on women to have children. If they can’t physically produce their own, they’re expected to adopt or foster someone else’s. If you want to adopt or foster, that’s great! But it’s also okay to just want kids of your own.
Also, duh? You think that an infertile person doesn’t know that fostering/adoption is an option? I don’t even understand why people bother to say this to me all the time when they find out I’m infertile, as if I’m going to respond with, “Adoption? What’s that? Tell me more!”
“You don’t want kids anyway, so your infertility doesn’t matter, right?
Never assume that infertility isn’t a big deal to someone. It likely is. Hormones are powerful, and, even though I don’t want kids, I still feel an almost mourning sometimes when I’m reminded of my permanently barren womb. There’s something about not having the option of carrying a child of my own that makes me feel empty inside, even if it’s not an option I would choose. I also struggle with feeling like “less of a woman,” or like I’m intrinsically broken because I can’t carry out a biological function that our society places a huge amount of importance and value on.
I don’t want kids for a huge number of reasons. But that doesn’t mean that my infertility doesn’t affect me emotionally, or that I don’t get triggered by images of children or pregnancy sometimes and feel sad.
“Does your husband know you’re infertile?”
This one always baffles me. People have asked me this several times, and each time I’m absolutely flabbergasted. It’s like they want to know why my husband would bother marrying someone who can’t give him children, and assume that my infertility must be a secret I kept from him to trick him into marrying me.
Asking me if my husband knows that I’m infertile just reaffirms society’s widely-accepted, hugely problematic idea that the value in women lies in their ability to reproduce.
“Why did you get married if you can’t have kids?”
Marriage and kids don’t always go together. Obviously. You can have one without the other. There are tons of reasons to get married that have absolutely nothing to do with having children… I fell in love. I wanted to make it official with a wedding and all the accompanying hoopla. I wanted the tax breaks, his great insurance, and all the other financial benefits that come along with being married. The fact that people are so brainwashed into thinking that you can’t possibly have any real purpose or value in your marriage beyond reproducing is sad.
So what should you say?
When someone reveals to you that they suffer from infertility, just accept it as a part of them, and move on. Don’t try to give them life advice. Infertile people need your support, understanding, common sense, and compassion.