Before she had her first baby in 2011,Â Zahie El Kouri went through multiple rounds of IVF and suffered several miscarriages. She knows just how lonely it can feel to navigate fertility issuesâbut the writer from Austin, Texas, also knows the value of family and friends who offer a listening ear and kind words along the way. The love she received on her path to parenthood inspired her to write Donât Tell Her to Relax ($10, amazon.com). Below, weâve pulled five tips from her book on what not to say to your infertile loved one (ILO).
âThe minute you stop trying, youâll get pregnantâ
You want to ease your ILOâs anxiety, and provide a dose of optimism. But telling her to relax doesnât have that effect, El Kouri explains. To a woman panicked about her ability to have a child, a âchill outâ directive can sound glib and insensitive. Infertility is a medical conditionâand adopting a carefree attitude wonât remedy the underlying causes. A better way to show your support is to ask about her fertility treatments, El Kouri writes, and let her know youâre there for her whenever she wants to talk.
âI just know youâll be a mother soonâ
It may be especially tempting to say this when your ILO is in the middle of an IVF cycle. But promising motherhood isnât fair when there are no guarantees, El Kouri points out. âIn fact, depending on several factors, thereâs actually less than a 50 percent chance that the first cycle will give your ILO a baby,â she writes. Instead, let her know you're thinking of her by saying something like, "I'mÂ sending fertile thoughts your way."
âWhy donât you just adopt?â
âRemember, we live in an information age, so your ILO knows that adoption is an option,â El Kouri writes. She may have already ruled it out. Or maybe she or her partner doesnât qualify. (It's harder to adopt than you might think.) Broaching the subject so abruptly may make your ILO feel as if you doubt her choices. That said, if the two of you have already discussed her struggle in depth, you could gently ask, âIs adoption something you might be interested in?â
âDonât get pregnant with octuplets!â
An Octomom joke probably isnât the best way to get her to crack a smile. Your ILO has likely spent endless hours thinking about how many embryos to transfer in her IVF process. Itâs a complicated decision involving manyÂ factors, including the risk of complications with multiple births. While a joke isn't quite right, she may appreciate an opportunity to talk about it, El Kouri says in the book. Her suggested phrasing: âI hear it is hard to decide how many embryos to transfer. What number seems right to you?â
âIsnât it time to give up?â
You see the toll IVF takesâboth physically and emotionallyâand question whether itâs all worth it. But thatâs a decision that belongs only to your ILO. Many first IVF cycles fail, El Kouri explains, âand they often provide valuable information to your ILOâs doctor that will increase the likelihood of success with a second cycle.â The best thing you can do for your ILO is support her,Â every step of the way. Rather than asking if sheâs ready to throw in the towel, say, âWhat do you think you will do next?â