Some tips about what's good to say in conversation if we don't want to make things worse.
When a husband and wife make it known that they’re trying to get pregnant, there are lots of things they may hear. First there’s the endless recommendations … specialists, herbs, diets, treatments … and then there’s the story heard a thousand times about “the couple who had no children and who, on the very day they started the adoption process, learned they were pregnant.”
Olivier Mathonat, assistant director of studies at Ircom (an institute of higher education in France), spoke about this in his testimony called “Wait and Hope, the Journey of a Couple Without Children,” recently given and published in French.
So what should we say to couples who are trying without success to have children? Aleteia met with Mathonat to learn more about what is helpful to couples who deeply feel “this absence that becomes too present.”
3 mistakes to avoid
For Mathonat, the first mistake consists in wanting to know absolutely all the reasons for this situation, and in particular the possible medical causes, which certainly can lead to indiscreet and hurtful questions. “Just because we talk about an intimate subject like infertility doesn’t mean that we are obliged to reveal everything about our intimacy,” he says.
The second mistake is that of proposing solutions: contacting a particular doctor, modifying their lifestyle, using a certain method … While we may think such advice gives us a certain authority, or a pretext to tackle the subject, it’s nonetheless usually unwanted and sometimes hurtful. “By the time a couple’s family and friends begin to wonder if the absence of a child might be making them suffer, the suffering has often been intense for several months already,” he notes. Not to mention that there is no miracle method that works for everyone. It’s a mistake to believe that what has “worked” for one couple will work for another.
The third trap is to minimize or brush aside the situation with remarks such as: “Stop thinking about it so much” or “It’s not a big deal; it will all work out.” This is simply a way of refusing to see the couple’s suffering, and dismissing it with a quick phrase.
An invitation to greater depth
On the other hand, we should not believe that these suffering couples don’t want to discuss the subject. They are often grateful if those around them would approach the topic with more empathy and depth. For this reason, Mathonat invites relatives to come and join the couple, to go beyond their first reactions to seek what the couple is really experiencing, to show a more attentive ear and more receptivity than telling the couple “you just need to do this one thing …”
“We need to be listened to more than just hear recommendations about what we should do, who we should see, and how we should do it. Nothing is more precious to us than an attentive ear, the sensitivity of someone who says, You’re in my thoughts, or, What do you need?,” says Mathonat. At the same time, it shouldn’t become the only subject of conversation. Let’s not reduce a couple who are trying to get pregnant to this desire alone. “We need to be listened to without judgment or advice, to feel that what we do always interests those we love, even if our lives are different.”